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THERE ARE NO HOLES AT THE TOP
William Oscar Johnson
September 01, 1982
The Dallas Cowboy Organization is the NFL's best because of the four men who have ruled over it since the team's inception in 1960: Coach Tom Landry, General Manager Tex Schramm, director of personnel Gil Brandt and owner Clint Murchison
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September 01, 1982

There Are No Holes At The Top

The Dallas Cowboy Organization is the NFL's best because of the four men who have ruled over it since the team's inception in 1960: Coach Tom Landry, General Manager Tex Schramm, director of personnel Gil Brandt and owner Clint Murchison

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So the major pieces of The Dallas Organization were in place—each its own odd-shaped, queer-sized self, each with zigs and zags and knobs and gnarls which somehow—miraculously, magically—came to fit together. As Landry says now in wonderment, "There was no way to foresee the meshing of these three personalities. No way at all."

Brandt came on at the start, too. Schramm hired him and sent him to Dallas to open up the first Cowboy headquarters, two rooms in an insurance salesman's office. So Brandt became a fixture in The Organization, and not much later the next fixture for which the Cowboys became known was brought into the scouting empire: the computer.

Jim Finks, general manager of the Chicago Bears, has said, "I don't know if the Cowboys were actually the first to use a computer, but they were definitely the first to brag about it." The Cowboys and computers have come to be about as closely associated in the public's mind as Tom Landry's head is with his hat. There is no doubt that the Cowboys were the first NFL team to use computers to sort out the immense mass of scouting information they collected each year. They were also the first sports organization—anywhere, anytime—whose owner went out and started his own computer company in order to give his team constant access to the newfangled contraption.

The Cowboys' original computer-scouting program was created by one Salam Qureishi, a small, shy native of Aligarh, India. Brandt recalls wryly, "Salam didn't know whether a football was full of air or full of feathers." When first contacted by the Cowboys, Qureishi worked for IBM's Service Bureau Corporation. A computer genius, he proved to the Cowboys he could create a program for evaluating football players. Murchison hired him and eventually started his computer company, called Optimum Systems, Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif.

Despite The Organization's computer image, the Cowboys' offices in Dallas have never housed a computer. The printouts from the Cowboys' computer program, however, remain an essential factor in the Dallas operation. But the computer has never been more than an additional tool in the process of picking players.

The final authority in any Dallas draft decision is Tom Landry. Period. As Brandt says, "The computer gives us a little edge. Just an edge. Maybe a five or 10 percent advantage, no more than that."

Every team uses computers now, so the Cowboys are out to find another edge. They have developed a series of tests of athletic skills and reflexes, utilizing 90 pounds of portable electronic devices, so would-be Cowboys can be tested on their college campuses. These tests, says Brandt, led to Dallas' signing a walk-on free agent last year, one Everson Walls, who, as a rookie, became an All-Pro defensive back. The Cowboys' world-shocking decision to spend their 1982 second-round draft choice on Jeff Rohrer, a linebacker from Yale, was based in large part on these tests, too.

The Cowboys have also tried to steal a march on their rivals by creating a psychological test that will evaluate a man's emotional makeup and how it stacks up in terms of his becoming a great football player. This test has been less successful—and very expensive. "We've spent close to a million bucks trying to develop a psychological test," says Schramm. "But how do you test mental toughness? How do you find out why a man likes to hit other men? What's the difference between a sadist and a guy who loves contact? We've never gotten consistent results. We've tested our own players, and sometimes it has come out dead wrong." As Brandt says, "When a test flunks men like Lee Roy Jordan and Larry Cole for being psychologically wrong for the NFL, you know you're barking up the wrong tree."

Still, with all this fiddling with electronics and emotions, the strength and the success of The Dallas Organization really shows up in one place and one place only: the football field. And here we come into the cool, distant reign of Tom Landry. Now, it's said by everyone—and Landry particularly—that the main secret to his success is that Murchison never, never, never interferes. But can this be? Never?

Well, there was a time when Murchison interfered with Landry's career—and it probably saved The Dallas Organization for posterity to admire and emulate. It came at the nadir of those dismal early losing seasons—in February 1964. There was a lot of pressure on everyone then. Murchison was losing around $600,000 a year. Players were discouraged, angry, frustrated. Attendance was pitiful. Critics of Landry were baying like wolves, and it seemed that the only thing to do was to prescribe the age-old, conventional medicine for losing football teams: Fire the coach. Instead, after the 1963 season—a typical 4-10 bummer—Murchison up and interfered with Tom Landry by giving him a 10-year contract! This was unheard of in the NFL. No one had 10-year contracts. Not Vince Lombardi, not Pete Rozelle—and particularly not a head coach with a lifetime NFL won-lost percentage of .255!

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