When he and Schramm huddled to select players from the shallow pool made available by the other clubs in the league, they decided they must concentrate on picking as effective an offensive team as possible. The formula arrived at by the other owners protected the existing clubs first. Of the 36 players then on each team's roster, the first 25 were held out of the draft. Dallas was allowed to buy up to three of the remaining 11 from each team.
"We chose players for their offensive ability first," Landry said, "because we needed an exciting team. We were competing with the Dallas Texans. Playing against established NFL clubs, we knew we wouldn't win many games, but we wanted to give the customers a show, at least. We didn't have time or material to build a strong defensive club."
Landry had the nucleus of a good offense, starting with Quarterbacks Don Meredith, obtained from the Chicago Bears at considerable expense, Eddie LeBaron (from the Redskins) and Halfback Don Perkins (from the University of New Mexico). Ends Frank Clarke and Bill Howton also were part of this nucleus. Then the Cowboy scouting system came up with Amos Marsh, from Oregon State, who developed into a topflight running back. By 1962, after acquiring most of the rest of the offensive line on trades, the Cowboy attack was set.
Not so the defense. Middle Linebacker Jerry Tubbs and Corner Back Don Bishop are the only players left from the 1960 defensive team. Schramm and Landry have added youth and ability as quickly as possible via the draft and trades, but the building process is necessarily a slow one. Six of the original defenders left after the 1960 season, and six more changes were made in 1961. This year, for the first time since the club originated, the Cowboys went into spring training with roughly the same defensive unit as finished the previous season.
This may seem a rather cold consolation, considering the 1962 record, but that record is deceptive. While the Dallas offense was scoring 398 points, the Dallas defense gave up 402. Each time LeBaron or Meredith called a play for the Cowboys, it gained an average of six yards, which tied for high in the league. But each time the opposing quarterback called a play, it gained 6.3 yards. The Cowboy attack ran up the handsome total of 4,912 yards, second only to the New York Giants, but the Dallas defense leaked 5,184 yards.
How, then, is it possible to say that defense may win for Dallas? Landry can explain. "After a defensive team is set, it takes about three years working together before it reaches its peak," he says. "The first year is the year of confusion. That was 1962. During the second year, you begin to see some success as the players learn their assignments well enough to carry them out instinctively. During the third year the team gains confidence and pride and the defense is mature."
Landry is a tall, soft-spoken young man who, given a bit more hair, would be handsome enough to play the lead in a TV western serial. He drives himself and his assistant coaches during the season and the players also find him a hard taskmaster. He asks them to report to camp in condition, and he has a tough test to determine whether they have done so. When the three Cowboy players from the College All-Star team reported to the Cowboy training camp at Thousand Oaks, Calif, immediately after the All-Star Game, the first thing they were required to do was prove their fitness and endurance by running.
Timed by an assistant coach, they set off on a mile run. Sonny Gibbs, the big rookie quarterback, had to break six minutes for the mile; the two linebackers, Lee Roy Jordan and Jim Price, were asked to run under 6:30. Jordan, a lean, hard 210 pounds, finished under 6:15; Price, an unwieldy size for a miler at 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, had to stop twice on the final lap to recuperate, finished in over seven minutes—and got stiff conditioning penalties as a result. The long-legged Gibbs won the race in a little over six minutes.
Jim Ray Smith, the all-pro guard obtained from Cleveland in an off-season trade, found he had escaped from a Paul Brown frying pan into a Tom Landry fire when he reported to the Cowboy camp. Leg-weary after three weeks of hard, two-a-day practice sessions, Smith grumbled, "There's too much waste motion in this camp. That's why we work so long." But the waste motion he referred to was exercise and agility drills designed to harden the Cowboys. Their condition is attested to by the few injuries the club has suffered.
In sharpening his team to a regular-season edge in camp, Landry overlooked no opportunities. All coaches studied movies of exhibition games. Landry had Larry Karl, the Cowboy publicity man, perched on a platform with a movie camera filming scrimmages, as well. Karl was informed by walkie-talkie where each play would be run, shot the scrimmage, and the film was rushed to Hollywood, processed and returned to camp in time for the coaches to go over it that night.