Revisit the ins-and-outs and hows-and-whys of the worst stretch of yearly misfortune that America's Team has ever endured, all under the leadership of Jerry Jones. From the infamous Dave Campo years, to Bill Parcells four-year term in Big D', all the way to present day and the many obstructions that Jason Garrett is faced with, Decade Of Futility offers compelling insight and stories about why the Dallas Cowboys have failed to succeed in the 21st century.
Monday, February 24, 2014
The Saturday Night Massacre - 25 Years Later, Tom Landry's Firing Still A Day Of Infamy
Bum Bright was a cold, hard Texas businessman who wouldn’t hesitate to
throw tradition to the wind if there was a dollar to be made.So in 1988, with his portfolio diminishing
before his very eyes and creditors breathing down his neck, Bright placed the
Dallas Cowboys on the open market.
It wasn’t until the following winter that negotiations
became serious between he and an ambitious oilman from a neighboring
state.After several days of closed door
meetings which consisted mostly of squabbling over pennies, Bright produced the
What happened next was, in the words of William Oscar
Johnson of Sports Illustrated, “a new
low in insulting a living legend.”
A moment in time unlike any other, February 25, 1989 will
always be associated with arrival and departure, with an abrupt greeting and a
farewell that never was.It was the day
of a Tex, a
Tom, and an Arkansas Jerry.It was the
day when a bleak evening meal in Austin gave way
to an impromptu gathering in Dallas
which earned the permanent stain of being a massacre.
Not just any massacre, but only “The Saturday Night
Tacos & Insensitivity
If the gravity of the situation had not been so intense, Tom
Landry might have laughed out loud at the picture in front of him.He, after all, was expecting news of a
Landry had learned the day before that the position which he
had held for twenty-nine consecutive seasons was, in all likelihood, about to
be taken from him by a new owner and a new regime.
Always well dressed, always dignified, and always in
control, Landry was, to many, a real man.An invincible man.And, maybe he
was all of that.But those infamous Saturday
morning headlines…they must have shaken Landry to the core.
After quietly ironing out the details of a bill of sale for
the Dallas Cowboys football franchise behind everyone’s back, Arkansas oilman Jerry Jones had hit the
front page of the morning paper in grand style.There, in one of Landry’s favorite restaurants, sat Jones and the man
rumored to be his replacement, Miami Hurricanes head coach Jimmy Johnson, at a
booth eating tacos and apparently celebrating.
Not one to worry over something that was so obviously out of
his control, Landry dismissed the bad news and duly flew to the state capital
with his wife to spend a day with his family on a golf course.
Only a few hours later, Landry’s friend and business
colleague, Tex Schramm, was to make the short plane ride from Dallas
to Austin with
Jones to make the news official.Schramm, the Cowboys’ long-standing General Manager, and the man
responsible for hiring Landry way back in December of 1959, had come south to
watch one of the longest standing partnerships in all of sports come to an end.
For both Landry and Schramm, the moment was especially
difficult.After serving as co-captains
of the Cowboys franchise for so long, they were suddenly helpless to defend
their positions.Jerry Jones was now in
A forty-minute meeting in a sales office of the Hidden Hills
Golf Course near LakeTravis was all Jones
needed to dismiss Landry.Not that it
was easy for him, as Landry came very near to crying during the announcement.
Witnesses said when Jones emerged his face was white as a
sheet.He later was to remark, “It was
the most inadequate I’ve ever felt.”
Obviously shaken, Landry went to have a somber dinner with
his family.Jones and Schramm were
headed back to Dallas
for the nightcap.
A Sad Christmas
In a rare moment of sound judgment, Jones followed Schramm’s
advice to get Jimmy Johnson out of town.
The media assembled for this press conference, though
critical of Landry during the previous two seasons, were a somber group that
night, fraught with emotions and reflections for a coach they shared a deep
respect for.For them, to see an
outsider break in and shove Landry aside was irreconcilable.
Schramm, ashen-faced, walked up to the podium at the team’s
Valley Ranch training complex and spoke into the microphone, “I want to
introduce you to Jerry Jones, the new owner of the Dallas Cowboys.”
About thirty of Jones’ friends and family members immediately
stood up and loudly applauded.This
inappropriate outburst was met by a host of silent, icy stares from bystanders.
“It had the same effect as laughing or cheering at a
funeral,” wrote Bob St. John in his 1990 book, The Landry Legend.
Brandishing a Texas-sized grin with eyes glittering like
tinsel on an evergreen, Jones then progressed to jump head-first into his
“This is like Christmas to me,” said Jones.“The Cowboys are America.They are more than a football team…”
After spending several minutes informing his pro-Landry
audience of what a fine coach Jimmy Johnson was, Jones finally got around to
acknowledging the monument that was no longer gracing the Dallas skyline.
“I gave no consideration in retaining Landry, even for one
season,” allowed Jones.
A few more words, graced by another ill-timed outburst from
the cheering section, and the party finally broke up.At long last, the massacre was complete, the
deed done.Tom Landry had joined the
land of the unemployed, with Schramm soon to follow.
The Cowboys would never be the same.
“It’s the end of an
era, our era,” stated former Cowboys defensive tackle Bob Lilly.“A lot of old Cowboys are crying tonight.”
Every soul that ever followed the path of Landry’s life and
career can sympathize.Tom Landry was a
man worth crying for.
You can read more about Jerry Jones & The Saturday Night Massacre in Ryan Bush's new book "Decade of Futility."