Although Landry and his large staff have prepared charts and schedules to cover everything the Cowboys do from running back kickoffs to catching the stadium bus, the team remains a collection of individuals, some of them very much so. At least three have been arrested in the past two years, two or three have gone bankrupt, several were very active on behalf of opposing candidates in a recent Texas gubernatorial election, several travel on motorcycles and one rides wild bulls for fun. Meredith and former Flanker Pete Gent have been writing novels about their experiences on the Cowboys, and Lance Rentzel wrote an autobiography that was 2,800 pages long before it was edited. But one of the usual criticisms of the Cowboys in the years when they were coming close to the top and failing in the big games was not that they were too weird to win but that they were too soft, that Landry's Christian gentleman notions robbed them of a certain meanness that success in pro football demands.
"This criticism was leveled at us because we didn't win at the right times," Landry said. "But it was a lack of maturity on our part, not a lack of character. Mentally, you have to be competitive. This game is played with the heart. You don't have to drink or swear or hit people in the face when they're not looking, but you do have to be tough to win. When you take on the Cowboy team today, you won't find them too easy. They'll strike you.
"Eventually, character is a real controlling factor in man's success a large amount of the time. Maturity and experience are key things, too. Nobody gave us much credit for being where we were in 1966 and 1967, in championship games against great Packer teams that had been there before. We weren't quite seasoned enough to take them, but we played well against them.
"Criticism that we would always lose the big ones wasn't valid, but it was so strong that it caused our poor Cleveland games of the next couple of years," Landry went on. "The criticism pounded on our people and they finally started playing as if they believed it. But two years ago this team turned it all around. For two years this has been as good as any football team I've ever seen. Before this, people couldn't find a reason we weren't champions, so they started putting their fingers on reasons that never existed."
Another reason frequently mentioned was Landry's supposed lack of emotion. In contrast to Lombardi, on the sidelines Landry looked as if he were watching a game of dominoes. "Tom hides his emotions," says Murchison, the owner of the Cowboys. "Just because he doesn't rant and scream and shout doesn't mean he's unemotional. This is a business, and he's concentrating like a golfer on the next shot." Alicia Landry says, "Tommy is certainly not unemotional at home. He's witty, has a great sense of humor, goes into giggling fits. He doesn't jump up and down on the field, but he was very emotional during our playoff win over San Francisco last year and toward the end of the Super Bowl."
"Listen," Landry said with a bit of an edge, "none of the Cowboys' troubles have been because I am unemotional. In 1966 we were like the Mets. We might have pulled it off, beaten Green Bay, but we probably wouldn't have done it the next year. It's like the Mets or the Jets who couldn't do it again. We weren't mature and experienced enough yet to win year after year.
"I have strong emotional feelings. The reason I take on the appearance of being unemotional is I don't believe you can be emotional and concentrate the way you must to be effective. When I see a great play from the sidelines, I can't cheer it. I'm a couple of plays ahead, thinking. But look at me in the highlights film of 1970, at the end of our playoff game with Detroit, and you'll see emotion. Week in and week out I stay engrossed in the game. I have to.
"Lombardi was winning, and he was emotional, but his style of play was very different from ours. The Green Bay system of offense—we call it the basic system—was that you were going to run the power end regardless of what the other team put against you. Run that play over and over. It was all execution. So Lombardi had to develop the players to an emotional pitch, keep them doing their best all the time against a defense that knew what was coming. Once Lombardi's players slipped down, they had problems. Emotion didn't distract them from their jobs because they knew in their sleep what to do, but they had to stay very high emotionally in order to do it.
"Our system is different. We run a multiple offense and must take advantage of situations as they present themselves. Everything we do from every formation doesn't work against every defense, so we have to concentrate, we have to think. Our defense also is quite complicated. It depends on reading movements and formations and knowing where to go. Therefore the nature of responses from the sidelines must be very different for us than for a Lombardi-type team. The players don't want to see me rushing around and screaming. They want to believe I know what I'm doing."
This opinion is endorsed by Lee Roy Jordan, the Dallas middle linebacker. "Tom gets excited like all of us," Lee Roy says, "but it's not verbal. You can look at him and see agony and joy in his face, if you know how to read him. If we thought he was throwing tantrums and screaming, we might lose control. He projects confidence, poise and composure to us. It doesn't bother us that he's not always patting us on the back. He has unbelievable knowledge of the game, and he tells us what we have to do to win. It's up to us to get emotional on the field. If Tom says 'damn it' we know something severe has happened. He lets us know how he feels. He doesn't show the writers and fans, but back in the locker room he tells us. The important thing is how we feel about each other, not what the outside people think we feel. Tom is not the type you can be buddy-buddy with. But no successful head coach can hang around and drink with his players and be their pal. That relationship is bound to spoil."