"Frankly, I didn't really appreciate it at the time," Landry says, "because I wasn't desperate to continue as head coach of the Cowboys. I was still fully prepared for—and very pleased with—the idea of going into business." Obviously, Landry made his peace with being a lifetime football coach, and there are plenty of people who think that without Landry the Cowboys would be just another bunch of also-rans. One is Mike Ditka, for nine years a Dallas assistant and now the Bears' head coach. "The glue that holds it all together is Tom Landry," he says. "He's the reason they're a great organization." Says Dick Vermeil of the Philadelphia Eagles: "Landry's the strength of their leadership."
Everyone is quick to say—and it's true—that if the Cowboys weren't such a winning team, The Dallas Organization wouldn't be the widely envied machine it is today. Still, there is no doubt that The Organization has developed a myriad of other flashy, fascinating and wholly original facets which dazzle the eyes of the more mundane operations in the NFL. And the dazzle of Dallas is all due to Schramm—no one else. "It's one thing to win a lot of football games," says Schramm. "It's another to win them in an aura that reeks of class."
America's Team? Tex Schramm made it so before the nickname was conceived. He has hustled at every opportunity to put his team on national television. Thursday night? Sunday night? "We were among the first to play on those nights. We'll do anything to play on a national hookup," says Schramm.
Because of this exposure, Cowboy novelties, posters and bobble-head dolls marketed by NFL Properties outsell those of all other NFL teams by far. The Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly circulates in 50 states and several foreign countries and has a paid circulation of 100,000-plus at a hefty $15.95 annual subscription. The paper was Schramm's idea, and he says proudly, "We're the largest newspaperlike sports weekly in the country except for The Sporting News—and if you count our Spanish-language edition, which has a circulation of more than 360,000 and is given away as a newspaper insert all over Texas and Mexico, no one else comes close." The Cowboys have a radio network of 200 stations, the NFL's largest by far.
"All of this isn't because we're on an ego trip," says Schramm. "Everything we do is for the betterment of the team on the field. Kids grow up hearing about the Cowboys and watching them on TV. That has a practical value from a competitive standpoint. First, free agents may want to play for us instead of for other teams. Second, we think new players will be more anxious to adopt our system and methods because they think of ours as the successful way. And then there's the old thing about the Yankees, that people play better when they put on pinstripes. Maybe a player will do better with us than he has before."
The glamorous Cowboy image that Schramm loves to promote is displayed nowhere so openly as it is by the Dallas cheerleaders. In their sexy, foxy way they're a mirror image of what Cowboy football represents: entertainment dealt with as very serious business. Suzanne Mitchell, 39, runs the cheerleader branch of The Organization, a full-time executive position, and if there's any doubt about the significance of that position, note well that her office is the closest of any Cowboy executive to the corner office of Tex Schramm at Cowboy headquarters on the 11th floor of the Expressway Tower Building on North Central Expressway in Dallas.
Suzanne explains her operation: "I run it as a little football club. We have our training camp, our tryouts, our cuts. We study films, and we have three or four hours of training—rehearsals—every night. This past spring we had close to 2,000 girls audition. It's their ultimate dream. I understand that where little girls used to dream of being Miss America, now they dream of becoming a cheerleader for the Cowboys instead."
Once anointed a Dallas cheerleader, a woman is paid $15 a game. She's sent to a Dale Carnegie personality-enhancement course, and given weekly quizzes about Cowboy games. "If a girl is on a personal appearance and a kid asks why did Tony Dorsett run around left end when the right side was wide open, she has to know what it's all about," says Mitchell. "She can't look stupid about the team she supports." Dallas cheerleaders aren't allowed to fraternize with the players, on pain of expulsion. They are required to get an unlisted phone—this despite the fact that Tex Schramm himself has his phone number listed in the Dallas directory.
Each year for the past four, there also has been a Little Miss Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader contest. Last year 40,000 girls between the ages of four and 12 entered. There are other spin-offs—a line of Dallas cheerleader children's clothes, costume jewelry, coloring books, trading cards and a book called The Decade of Dreams, to be published to celebrate last year's 10th anniversary of the cheerleaders.
Well, it's all nothing if not impressive—and successful. The Dallas Cowboy Organization! Even in the eyes of its peers and competitors, it's most remarkable. Jack Steadman, president of the Kansas City Chiefs, says, "I see more and more successful organizations structured the way the Cowboys are. Based on their consistent record, they are the best." Vermeil chimes in, "I'm not embarrassed to say that my criteria all year are based on what we do to find a way to beat Dallas."