Tom Landry

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Tom Landry paces thesideline.In his mind, he'salready ahalf-dozen playsahead ofthe gameon the field. See more pictures of football.

Tom Landry was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for the first 29 years of their existence.

During that time, he delivered 13 division championships, five NFC titles, and Super Bowl victories in January of 1972 and 1978. Landry's Cowboys, dubbed "America's Team," also played in the 1971, 1976, and 1979 Super Bowls.


The always-stoic Landry began his coaching career as a player-coach with the New York Giants in 1954 and 1955.

A former University of Texas standout, Landry (born 1924) became a Giants full-time defensive assistant in 1956.

By the time he became the head coach of the expansion Cowboys four years later, he was already widely recognized as one of the sharpest young coaches in the game.

As expected, it took a few years before the Cowboys experienced a winning season. But once they did, it seemed they'd never again falter.

Under Landry, the Cowboys posted 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966-85.

"That's probably the single most amazing accomplishment of his career," said former Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm.

Landry's coaching career was full of amazing accomplishments. He perfected the "flex defense," a variation of the basic 4-3 alignment, which he used while an assistant coach.

Later, when teams copied his system, he simply came up with multiple offense schemes to attack the very defenses he developed.

In the 1970s, the innovative coach borrowed a page from the San Francisco 49ers' play book of the early 1960s and gave new life to the "shotgun" formation. Roger Staubach, the Cowboys' shotgun trigger man, flourished under the system.

In the 1980s, Landry embraced and helped develop the "situation substitution" concept of inserting players on certain downs for specific assignments.

Landry's coaching career came to an abrupt end early in 1989, when a new Cowboys owner decided to bring in his own coach. Even then, Landry showed his class when he said, "There's always life after football."

He compiled a 270-178-6 lifetime record, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

To learn more about football greats, see:

  • Great Football Players
  • Great Offensive Football Players
  • Great Defensive Football Players
  • Great Football Coaches