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Paul Zimmerman
March 06, 1989
The first time I saw Tom Landry was in September 1949, and he was lining up as a defensive halfback—they didn't call them cornerbacks in those days—for the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference. The Yankees were playing the Los Angeles Dons, a flashy team with a 6'4" single wing tailback named Glenn Dobbs. Early in the game, Dobbs ran a sweep to Landry's side, there was a big crash, and Dobbs did a flip. The back of his head was the first part of him to hit the ground.
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March 06, 1989

The Other Tom Landry

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Students of technical football will remember Landry for his innovations: the Flex defense; the shifting spectrum of multiple sets and formations, with players in motion in all directions (he was doing that as far back as 1960); his "influence" blocking scheme that relied more on guile than sheer power. In 50 years they might look at Landry's old playbooks and say what an intriguing mind the guy had—solidity and power on defense, trickery on offense. If there's a criticism of his thinking, it's that he relied too much on dazzle, a throwback to the early days when the Cowboys didn't have the personnel to outmuscle anybody.

But Landry's real legacy will be something deeper. In his prime he stood for a coach's control of all things football, the offense, the defense, the makeup of his squad, everything. The loneliness of command. It got the Cowboys into five Super Bowls. Few coaches had the ability to take on such complete control.

Landry never played the political game. He always went his own way, and maybe that's why he's out of a job today. It's sad.

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