The Greatest Cowboys Coaches; Landry, Johnson, and…Garrett?


When talking about the great coaches of the Dallas Cowboys you find that the conversation can turn extremely serious, extremely fast; much like discussing bi-partisan politics.   Why?  Most likely this stems from a lack of patience from the fan base towards the recent string of mediocre Cowboys coaches.  Pretty understandable considering it’s been almost two decades since “America’s Team” has come close to seeing a Superbowl from anywhere other than a couch.  Ask any fan and they’ll typically point out; to be world champs again, the Cowboys have to find another coach like Landry or Johnson.  But, what about a Jason Garrett?

Sure, with only three seasons under his belt it’s kind of early to start erecting that bronze statue of “Red” in front of Cowboys Stadium, but it’s an interesting debate when you break down the numbers.  Not the championships; as Garrett is lacking in that department, rather by wins versus losses.  “But Landry and Johnson have way more wins that Garrett” you might say; and overall you’d be right, except you’re looking at Landry’s and Johnson’s resumes after their Cowboys coaching careers were over.  Remember, Garrett has only been the Cowboys Head Coach for just under three seasons.

Feb 5, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; General view of the snow on the statue of Dallas Cowboys former coach Tom Landry (not pictured) outside of Cowboys Stadium before Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 6, 2011. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

First let’s start with the Great Tom Landry.  Coach Landry was well known for his defensive innovation as a coordinator for the New York Giants from 1954 – 1959.  During his tenure he helped to make the Giants one of the most feared defensive teams in football and had appearances in three championship games.  Opportunity came knocking in 1960 when Landry was hired to coach a newly formed expansion team called the Dallas Cowboys.  Success eluded Coach Landry for the following five seasons.  Despite this, he was offered a ten year contract extension in 1964.  We know now that extension was one of the best decisions ever made as Coach Landry went on to have an extremely successful 29 year career as the Dallas Cowboys Head Coach, netting two Super Bowl Trophies and record number of play-off wins.  However; as previously mentioned Coach Landry’s first three seasons were a failure, posting a dismal record of 9 – 28 – 3.

Nov 1, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Former Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes head coach Jimmy Johnson is seen on the sidelines during a game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Johnson became the Dallas Cowboys second Head Coach in 1989 after Jerry Jones purchased the franchise for 140 million.  Coach Johnson had great success leading the Miami Hurricanes but not many Cowboys fans were enthusiastic about him taking the wheel after the controversial dismissal of Coach Landry.  Johnson’s first season posted a record of 1 – 15 – 0 and did little to boost the fan base’s optimism.  In fact, it only confirmed the feelings most Cowboys Fan’s had, “Jimmy got the job ‘cause he’s Jerry’s buddy”.  Again, we all know how the story ends.  Coach Johnson soon becomes one of the most successful coaches in the 90’s, leading the Cowboys to two Lombardi Trophies and posting an overall winning percentage of .550 as well as an astonishing post season winning percentage of .875.  Coach Johnson became one of the greatest head coaches of the Dallas Cowboys; but his first three seasons were less than great with a losing record of 19 – 29 – 0.

Nov 22, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during the game against the Washington Redskins during a game on Thanksgiving at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Garrett came to the Dallas Cowboys as a bright and innovative offensive coordinator in 2007.  He quickly coached the Cowboys Offense to second best in the NFL and over the next couple of years kept them in the top ten offenses overall.  After the Cowboys failed to produce wins under Wade Phillips halfway through the 2010 season, Wade was out and “Red” was anointed as the sixth Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys.  His story remains incomplete but his first three seasons top the two (undisputed) greatest head coaches in Cowboys history.  Even though he’s posted a winning record of 21 – 19 – 0; you’ll find that Garrett remaining the Head Coach in 2013 is as polarizing a discussion to most Cowboys Fans as Tony Romo continuing at Quarterback.  Maybe it’s the fan’s lack of confidence in Jerry’s ability to find a good head coach.  Not counting Garrett, Jones is one for six when choosing a successful coach (most agree that Switzer won with Jimmy’s team).  Plus, didn’t Jerry allow Sean Payton to get away.  Maybe it’s because Garrett has the emotions of a sea bass.  Regardless of the reason, the numbers don’t lie.  Coach Garrett has managed to do in three seasons what Johnson and Landry couldn’t …WIN.