Since the Dallas Cowboys saga began in 1960, there have been only six head coaches—men chosen to lead America’s Team into championship after championship, Super Bowl after Super Bowl. Some of these coaches have had the privilege to bask in the limelight of a Cowboys’ victory, while others have not.
And now there’s a new face on board—Bill Parcells. We’ll see if he joins the ranks of Landry, Johnson, and Switzer as head coaches who have lead the ‘Boys to Super Bowl victory. But before we take a look at him, let’s review the past.
The first Cowboys coach was Thomas Wade Landry, born in Mission, in 1924. His image as a cold, unemotional person was a misconception taken from his demeanor on the sidelines, where he maintained intense concentration on the game. Landry was known for keeping his mind on the field and the trademark fedora on his head.
He led the ‘Boys to five Super Bowls and two Super Bowl victories. Let’s not forget the twenty consecutive winning seasons that the Cowboys had with him, including making it to the playoffs eighteen of those years. All totaled, he won 270 games, making him number three on the NFL All-Time list.
Landry’s first Super Bowl victory was January 16, 1972, against the Miami Dolphins. To commemorate the win, the Sam Wing Company gave Landry a custom carved mahogany office door. Wood-carver Ray Kelley detailed the door with images of the Cowboys helmet, the Super Bowl trophy, and Texas Stadium. Landry took the door with him whenever the location of his office changed.
Landry was the first head coach Jerry Jones ever fired. The day Jones bought the Cowboys from Clint Murchison, Jr., in 1989, was the day Landry took his trophies, awards, and door, and left. After 29 years of coaching the ‘Boys, Landry was replaced by Jones’ longtime friend Jimmy Johnson.
Johnson, a native of Port Arthur, was the first head coach that Jones ever hired. As the first order of business, the new head coach moved the Cowboys’ training camp from Thousand Oaks, California, to Texas, because Jones wanted the team closer to its regional fan base. Johnson believed the move would be good because he wanted the team to experience playing in the stifling Texas heat.
Experiencing the Texas heat didn’t do the team a lot of good when it lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1989. Eagles’ fans pelted snowballs at the Cowboys and at the sidelines, where a policeman took one in the face for Johnson.
Johnson proved a tough coach, and led the Cowboys to two consecutive Super Bowl victories against the Buffalo Bills. Shortly after his Super Bowl win in 1994, Jones and Johnson had a lengthy breakup, widely televised from Valley Ranch. Johnson left the Cowboys organization in March 1994, and as a nice parting gift, Jones gave him $2 million.
The next man to fill the position stepped into the role of head coach in 1994, after stepping out of his bath towel at his home in Oklahoma. When Jones offered Barry Switzer, an Arkansas native, the job over the phone, Switzer reportedly dropped his towel, surprised at the offer.
Switzer’s famous first words at a preseason press conference in 1994: “I don’t give a damn about perception.” He was referring to an incident in which Jones was caught invading Switzer’s “coaching box” during a game.
Apparently he really didn’t, as the players and the fans were soon to find out. Switzer’s first words rang true when he was arrested in August 1997 at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for possession of a loaded, unlicensed revolver. He claimed he forgot that he’d put a handgun in his carry-on baggage. Yeah, how often does that happen, Barry?
Despite his not giving a damn, Switzer took the ‘Boys to their last Super Bowl appearance to date, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1996.
After Switzer was shown the door, Chan Gailey walked in. The Georgia native was the first Cowboys head coach to be promoted into his new position from NFL coordinator ranks.
He was called the “thinking man” because he paid close attention to the details of every play, and he was known for his unconventional play-calling.
Gailey’s run with the Cowboys was brief, ending in January 2000 after Jones fired him (according to Gailey, the first time he had ever been fired from a job). He was the first Cowboys head coach to be fired with out having a Super Bowl victory under his belt.
Jones followed one NFL coordinator-turned-head coach with another—Dave Campo.
Campo has the distinction of being the first Cowboys head coach to be fired with a losing record—three straight seasons of at least ten losses. He was also the first head coach to never lead the Cowboys to the playoffs, or win a division title.
Now we get to the newest, and perhaps the most promising head coach the Cowboys have seen in a while—Bill Parcells, who was hired just three days after Campo was given the boot.
Parcells is the first head coach in Cowboys’ history with prior NFL head coaching experience (and a $17 million four-year deal).
As an assistant coach for the New York Giants, Parcells was given the nickname Tuna, because after being subject to several practical jokes, he asked if he was “Charlie the Tuna” from StarKist. After he was announced as the Cowboys new head coach, T-shirts that said “The Big Tuna in Big D” and “Dude, We’re Getting a Tuna” were made available for sale on the team’s official Web site.
Parcells is the first coach since Johnson to be allowed to bring his own staff to Valley Ranch. Prior to Parcells, head coaches always had to work with the staff already there, or the staff hired by Jones.
It’s been said that Parcells’ hiring illustrates a “change in philosophy” for Jones, who is used to running the entire show. Jones has been careful to say that he really wants this relationship to work. Supposedly, he’s finally decided to let the head coach really be a head coach, and now he just