Tom Landry

Tom Landry

NFL PlayerCoach
Name=Tom Landry

DateOfBirth=birth date|1924|9|11|mf=y
Birthplace=Mission, Texas
DateOfDeath=February 12, 2000 (age age|1924|9|11|2000|2|12)
College=Texas, Houston
DraftedRound=20 / Pick 184 (By the New York Giants)
Position=Head Coach Cornerback
Record=250-162-6 (Regular Season) 20-16 (Postseason) 270-178-6 (Overall)
SuperBowls=1977 Super Bowl XII 1971 Super Bowl VI
Championships=1978 NFC Championship 1977 NFC Championship 1975 NFC Championship 1971 NFC Championship 1970 NFC Championship
Career Highlights=Y
Awards=1975 UPI COY 1966 AP Coach of the Year 1966 Sporting News COY 1966 UPI COY
Honors=Dallas Cowboys ROH
Records=Dallas Cowboys Career Wins (250)
years=1949 1950-1955
teams=New York Yankees (AAFC) New York Giants
coachingteams=Dallas Cowboys

Thomas Wade Landry (September 11, 1924February 12, 2000) was an American football player and coach. He is legendary for his successes as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He is ranked as one of the greatest and most innovative coaches in NFL history. Under coach Landry the Cowboys enjoyed a streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons.

Early life, World War II service, college

Tom Landry was born in Mission, Texas, the son of a mechanic (and volunteer fireman). He attended the University of Texas in Austin as an industrial engineering major, but interrupted his education after a semester to serve in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Landry earned his wings and a commission as a 2nd lieutenant at Lubbock Army Air Field and was assigned to the 493rd Bomb Group at RAF Debach, England, as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber co-pilot in the 860th Bomb Squadron. From November 1944 to April 1945 he completed a combat tour of 30 missions and survived a crash landing in Belgium after his bomber ran out of fuel.

Following the war, he returned to the university and played fullback and defensive back on the Texas Longhorns' bowl game winners on New Year's Day of 1948 and 1949. At UT, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He received his bachelor's degree from UT in 1949. Landry also earned a bachelor's of science degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston in 1952. He was a member of The United Methodist Church.

NFL playing career

Tom Landry became a defensive back in the AAFC in 1949 for the New York Yankees, then moved in 1950 across town to the New York Giants. In 1954 he was selected as an all-pro. He played through the 1955 season, and acted as a player-assistant coach the last two years, 1954 through 1955. Landry ended his playing career with 32 interceptions in only 80 games.

NFL coaching career

For the 1956 football season, Landry became the defensive coordinator for the Giants, opposite Vince Lombardi, who was the offensive coordinator. Landry led one of the best defensive teams in the league from 1956 to 1959. The two coaches created a fanatical loyalty within the unit they coached that drove the Giants to three appearances in the NFL championship game in four years. The Giants beat the Chicago Bears 47-7 in 1956, but lost to the Baltimore Colts in 1958 and 1959.

In 1960, he became the first head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and stayed for 29 seasons (1960-88). The Cowboys got off to a rough start, recording an 0-11-1 record during their first season and 5 or less wins in each of their next four. Despite this early futility, in 1964 Landry was given a ten year extension by owner Clint Murchison. It would prove to be a wise move as Landry's hard work and determination paid off, and the Cowboys improved to a 7-7 record in 1965 then in 1966, they surprised the NFL by posting 10 wins and making it all the way to the NFL championship game. Dallas lost the game to Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, but this season was still a display of what lay ahead: A span of 20 winning seasons from 1966 to 1985.

During this run, he won 2 Super Bowl titles (1972, 1978), 5 NFC titles, 13 Divisional titles, and compiled a 270-178-6 record, the 3rd most wins of all time for an NFL coach. His 20 career playoff victories are the most of any coach in NFL history. He was the NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 and the NFC Coach of the Year in 1975. But one of the most impressive accomplishments is his record for coaching a team to 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985), an NFL record, and one of the longest winning streaks in all of professional sports.

Throughout his tenure, Landry worked closely with the Cowboys general manager, Tex Schramm. The two were together during Landry's entire tenure with the team. A third member of the Cowboys brain trust in this time was Gil Brandt.

The 4-3 defense

Tom Landry invented the now-popular "4-3 Defense", while serving as Giants defensive coordinator. [cite web | url = | title = Building America's Team | publisher = Dallas Morning News | accessdate = 2007-01-29] It was called "4-3" because it featured four down lineman (two ends and two defensive tackles on either side of the offensive center) and three linebackers — middle, left, and right. The innovation was the middle linebacker. Previously, a lineman was placed over the center. But Landry had this person stand up and move back two yards. The Giants' middle linebacker was the legendary Sam Huff.

:"Landry built the 4-3 defense around me. It revolutionized defense and opened the door for all the variations of zones and man-to-man coverage, which are used in conjunction with it today." - Sam Huff [cite web | url = | title = Describing 'The Innovator' | publisher = The Sporting News | accessdate = 2007-01-29] Landry also invented and popularized the use of keys — analyzing offensive tendencies — to determine what the offense might do.

When Landry was hired by the Dallas Cowboys, he became concerned with then-Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi's "Run to Daylight" idea, where the running back went to an open space, rather than a specific assigned hole. Landry reasoned that the best counter was to take away daylight.

To do this, he refined the 4-3 defense by moving two of the four linemen off the line of scrimmage one yard and varied which linemen did this based on where the Cowboys thought the offense might run. This change was called "The Flex Defense," because it altered its alignment to counter what the offense might do. Thus, there were three such Flex Defenses — strong, weak, and "tackle" — where both defensive tackles were off the line of scrimmage. The idea with the flexed linemen was to improve pursuit angles to stop the Green Bay Sweep — a popular play of the 1960s. The Flex Defense was also innovative in that it was a kind of zone defense against the run. Each defender was responsible for a given gap area, and was told to stay in that area before they knew where the play was going.

It has been said that, after inventing the Flex Defense, he then invented the offense to score on it, reviving the man-in-motion and the shotgun formation. But Landry's biggest contribution in this area was the use of "pre-shifting" where the offense would shift from one formation to the other before the snap of the ball. While this tactic was not new — it was developed by Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg around the turn of the 20th Century — Landry was the first coach to use the approach on a regular basis. The idea was to break the keys the defense used to determine what the offense might do. An unusual feature of this offense was Landry having his offensive linemen get in their squatted pre-stance, stand up while the running backs shifted, and then go back down into their complete "hand down" stance. The purpose of the "up and down" movement was to make it more difficult for the defense to see where the backs were shifting (over the tall offensive linemen) and thus cut down on recognition time. While other NFL teams later employed shifting, few employed this "up and down" technique as much as Landry.

Beyond the NFL

Landry was known as a quiet, religious man, unfazed by the hype that surrounded the Cowboys, then being billed as "America's Team"." He was in a comic book promoting Christianity in 1973. Landry was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Landry was a friend of the Reverend Billy Graham, speaking at many of his crusades. In fact, one of the suit coats Landry commonly wore was a gift from Graham.

Landry's departure came shortly after the Cowboys were sold to Jerry Jones before the 1989 season. Jones hired Jimmy Johnson, his former teammate at the University of Arkansas, from a position coaching the University of Miami football team. When Landry met with his players two days later, to tell them how much he would miss them, he began to cry. The players responded with a standing ovation. [] Landry's unceremonious dismissal by Jones was denounced by football fans and media as totally lacking in class and respect. In the years since, while most fans retain their support for the team, there persists significant levels of derision towards Jones over his mistreatment of Landry.

Landry's success during nearly three decades of coaching was the impetus for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, less than two years after his last game. Landry was inducted into the "Ring of Honor" at Texas Stadium in 1993. Landry had declined several earlier offers by Jones to enter the Ring of Honor before accepting in 1993.

Landry died in Dallas of leukemia on February 12, 2000. He was interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. The Cowboys wore a patch on their uniforms during the 2000 season depicting Landry's trademark fedora.

A bronze statue of Landry stands outside of Texas Stadium. The section of Interstate 30 between Dallas and Fort Worth was named the Tom Landry Highway by the Texas Legislature in 2001. The football stadium in Landry's hometown of Mission, Texas was named Tom Landry Stadium to honor one of the city's most famous former residents

A cenotaph dedicated to Landry, complete with a depiction of his fedora was placed in the official Texas State Cemetery in Austin at the family's request. []

Tom Landry in popular culture

In Fox's animated sitcom "King of the Hill", the local middle school is named after Tom Landry, and Landry is a personal hero of the show's main character Hank Hill. He mentions being "mortified" because he went to work on the date of Landry's death after his friends had previously tricked him into thinking Tom Landry had died, and he thought it was a repeat of that prank. Hank also has a Tom Landry Ceramic plate that he sometimes consults in times of need, on one occasion saying "Where did I go wrong, Tom?"

In an episode of "The Simpsons" ("You Only Move Twice"), Homer Simpson buys Tom Landry's trademark fedora in an effort to improve his leadership qualities, and is shown in several later episodes wearing the hat. Landry was also featured in Season 7 episode ("Marge Be Not Proud") as one of the Christmas carolers introduced by Krusty early in the episode.

The series Friday Night Lights features a character named Landry hinted to be named after Tom Landry, given the town's obsession with football.

In Chunky soup commercials, they list the players as colliding at Halas and Landry. This is also a reference to George Halas, of the Chicago Bears.

In the Mark Wahlberg movie "Invincible" Tom Landry is portrayed.


* "When you want to win a game, you have to teach. When you lose a game, you have to learn."
* "Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control."
* "Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve."
* "If you don't know if your shoes are tied, look at your shoes."


External links

*"Pro Football Hall of Fame:" [ Member profile]
* [ The Sporting News archive]
* [ Football card gallery]

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