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So these diverse, divergent personalities are The Dallas Organization, and because of them the dynamo hums, the computers whir and the Cowboys win and win and win. What's the secret? Brains? Religion? Money? Longevity? Luck? Cunning? Salesmanship?
Well, it's some of all of that, as we shall see, but mainly, The Organization is nothing more than a happy cosmic coincidence. As Murchison says, "Another year, another group of people with slightly different backgrounds, and none of this would have happened."
Nothing is more important to the Dallas success story than Tex Schramm's 10 years with the Rams. When he arrived in Los Angeles, the NFL was just emerging from its prewar Dark Ages. There were no high-powered organizations in the league. Schramm recalls, "Coaches were paid six months of the year. George Halas ran a sporting-goods store—and went to work there. The Chicago Cardinals' office was on the fifth floor of a printing company, and I had to take the freight elevator to get there. There was no TV, and barely any radio. You had to beg to get a story about the NFL in the papers. In L.A. there were five newspapers, and I had to go by each one, talk the sports editor into running a story, then sit down and write it myself. I also had to write the headline. On the road, I'd write three or four different stories—each with a different angle on the same game—and file them back to L.A."
In 1952 Schramm moved up, becoming assistant to the Rams' president, the mercurial Dan Reeves, and learned about organization. "The Rams were miles ahead of other clubs, thanks to Reeves," Schramm says. "L.A. was the first NFL club to have a paid scout. The rest of the league was like a family that relied on friends and nephews and former players to feed them information on prospects. Not Dan Reeves. He paid a few top college coaches $500 a season to give us information on players in their areas. He also had a huge payroll of assistant college coaches at $50 a year feeding us material. We always had twice as many free agents in training camp as other teams. We tapped small schools, too. We invented Tom Harmon's Little All America team and sent out questionnaires to dozens of small schools. That gave us invaluable stuff about hundreds of unknown players.
That sort of thoroughness is today the trademark of The Dallas Oranization. In an era when every team spends heavily on scouting, the Cowboys keep introducing new wrinkles. For instance, they openly court college basketball coaches and used to offer them a paid vacation in Hawaii in return for recommending a basketball player who made the Cowboys.
The Rams' operation also taught Schramm ways of not doing things. The ownership was in chaos because there was no majority owner. "Reeves was a big drinker," says Schramm, "and there was lots of bickering. One thing I learned at L.A. above all else: You've got to be strong at the top. There can be no question where the authority lies." In 1957 Tex left to go to work for CBS Sports.
In late 1959 Murchison was pretty sure that the NFL would give Dallas a franchise, and he began to look for someone to run it for him. George Halas suggested Schramm to Murchison. Schramm recalls, "When I met Clint I said to him that he really should buy the Chicago Cardinals for $2 million instead of risking an expansion franchise. He said, 'Why should I spend $2 million when I can get the Dallas franchise for $500,000?' I knew from L.A. that the losses in Dallas would be horrendous. I said, 'You're going to lose a lot more than $2 million, believe me.' " Murchison believed him, but instead of buying the Cards, "I merely revised my loss plan a little and went ahead. I'm not only a very fervent football fan, I'm also an optimist."
In January 1960 the NFL owners voted Dallas a franchise. At that same league meeting the owners made a stunning and controversial choice to replace the late Bert Bell as NFL Commissioner—the 33-year-old general manager of the L.A. Rams, Pete Rozelle. Thus were launched two of pro football's most enduring and most ennobling entities—Rozelle and the Cowboys.
In his early meetings with Murchison Schramm demanded a contract that spelled out the philosophical foundation upon which The Dallas Organization still stands. Murchison recalls, "Because of the Rams, Tex was very sensitive to the question of who had what authority. He wanted it written in the contract that he hired the coach, and I wasn't to negotiate at all. He also insisted that the coach's contract would clearly give the coach complete authority over everything that had to do with the players. I believe in a great deal of hands-off with my managers in all my ventures. It's probably a little more pronounced in the Cowboys, however."
Schramm considered only two men to be the Cowboys' first coach: Tom Landry, the brilliant defensive coach of the New York Giants, and Sid Gillman, who had been the Rams' head coach in the mid-1950s. Landry got the offer, but he wasn't at all sure he wanted to accept it. "I really didn't want to be a head coach," Landry says. "I could have been the Giants' head coach, I suppose. Vince Lombardi had already gone to Green Bay, and Jim Lee Howell was sick of it. But my wife and I had decided to move back to Dallas and go into business. I had degrees in business and industrial engineering. I was well prepared to go into industrial management. When Schramm asked me to take the job, we said, 'Well, heck, we have a "house in Dallas, we might as well try it for a while.' I figured there was no way I'd survive because very few expansion coaches ever did. I never thought coaching had any future to it, anyway."