1989 Review: Jerry Jones Fires Tom Landry
For 29 years, the Dallas Cowboys had one head coach, one general manager, and one head scout. On February 26, 1989, news official broke that Jerry Jones had not only purchased the team from Bum Bright but had also fired Tom Landry.
According to the story published by the Dallas Morning News:
Tex Schramm’s eyes filled with tears. Then his voice cracked and he cried. It was almost too much to comprehend: Tom Landry is no longer the only coach the Cowboys have ever had. Landry was fired Saturday by the Cowboys’ new owner, Jerry Jones, who named University of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson to succeed him.
Schramm and Jones flew from Dallas to Landry’s vacation home near Austin on Saturday afternoon and Jones broke the news to Landry that he was out. Then, at a news conference at Valley Ranch team headquarters that began shortly after 8 p.m., Schramm broke down.
“It was a very difficult meeting,” Schramm said. “It’s very, very sad. It’s tough when you break a relationship you’ve had for 29 years. That’s an awful long time.”
Landry was not available for comment. “For Tom, he was emotional,” said Schramm, who stood red-eyed and solemnly to the side during most of the news conference.
Jones said he told Landry, “I’m here and so is Jimmy.” He said their meeting was “very awkward, and I was basically just trying to say something you just can’t say.”
Those were the two words that Landry thought he would never hear: You’re fired. It is the most dramatic and emotional story in the history of Dallas sports.
In retrospect, most of us know this move had to happen. Landry wasn’t going to go anywhere unless he was forced to go, but the team wasn’t going to go anywhere with him at the helm. The circumstances of the firing were quite unfortunate, leading some decry the “callous end” to Landry’s glorious career.
Shock. Disbelief. Anger.
These are just a few of the feelings boiling over this week as the public tries to understand the manner in which “the only coach the Dallas Cowboys ever had’ has suddenly and unceremoniously been shown the door.
In his 29 years as the Cowboys’ head coach, Tom Landry created a cool image of professionalism that will forever be intertwined with memories of Dallas teams that made it to the Super Bowl five times. There simply is no easy way to remove coach Landry ‘s unemotional facade on the sidelines from the vision of the Dallas Cowboys.
And that is why new Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ‘ sudden firing of coach Landry over the weekend before bothering to discuss the matter with him should stun and infuriate people who don’t even follow professional sports.
In a society where there still is a sometimes naive belief that great performance and loyal service will be rewarded, the callous dismissal of the Dallas Cowboys coach stings like the snap of a wet towel.
Yes, the Cowboys have fallen on hard times. Yes, coach Landry ‘s game strategies and single-mindedness during the past couple of years have left him open to public criticism.
But Mr. Jones ‘ unfeeling treatment of the coach who built this team from nothing to world champion indicates he still has a lot to learn about the relationship between the Cowboys and their fans.
Arkansas oilman Jerry Jones has promised to deliver the winner that the public wants. He said that the hiring of the University of Miami football coach Jimmy Johnson and his hands-on approach to team ownership will provide victories that will bring crowds swarming back to Texas Stadium.
That’s fine. But in his exuberance and self-assurance, Mr. Jones has overlooked the fact that pride and tradition also are a strong part of the Dallas Cowboys. By mishandling the coaching change, he runs the risk of alienating those fans who have not yet forgotten the Cowboys glory days.
This is now Jerry Jones ‘ team. He has the right to run it in any way he sees fit. A few winning seasons probably will ease the pain of the current transition. But Mr. Jones can speed up the healing process by acknowledging the lack of respect he has shown for one of pro football’s most respected coaches and making a public apology. A good step toward making amends was suggested during Mr. Jones ‘ news conference Monday — the renaming of Texas Stadium for Tom Landry . That would be a fitting tribute for someone whose name always will be linked with the Dallas Cowboys.
Almost immediately, the city of Dallas and fans everywhere forgot about the team’s decline during the 1980s. What was left were great memories of the legend in the fedora who build America’s Team.