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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

AMERICA'S TEAM

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
The Dallas Cowboys, dubbed America's Team in 1978 by Bob Ryan, editor of NFL Films, really are East Texas' team. That is because the first owners, Clint Murchison Jr. and Bedford Wynne, were East Texans.

The Cowboys were the first "expansion" team from the National Football League's long-time lineup of twelve teams, mostly clustered in the Northeast and Midwest with two teams located on the West Coast. The expansion, mostly undertaken to combat the insurgent American Football League, occurred in January 1960. Murchison and Wynne paid $600,000 for the franchise.

The owners hired Tex Schram as general manager, Tom Landry as head coach, and Gil Brandt as head scout and director of the annual NFL draft of former college players. The Cowboys did not win a game during their first season, but won the NFL's Eastern Conference championship in 1966 before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the NFL's title game.

The next year they lost again to Green Bay in the championship game, known as the Ice Bowl because the teams played in such cold conditions-13 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

Landry and the Cowboys remained perennial winners for more than a decade with field leadership by quarterbacks Don Meredith and Roger Staubach and running backs such as Tony Dorsett, Dan Reeves, and Walt Garrison. Landry popularized soccer-style kicking and coaches sending in all plays and reintroduced the shotgun formation to the NFL and eventually to other levels of the game as well. His teaching enabled the Cowboys to enjoy twenty winning seasons, including two NFL championships, and two Super Bowl victories or five appearances.

The Murchison family sold the Cowboys franchise to a partnership led by Dallas banker H.R. "Bum" Bright in 1984, but the team began to fare badly. Bright sold the team to Arkansas oil man Jerry Jones in 1988, who fired Landry and hired his old friend Jimmy Johnson, coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes, as the Cowboy's new coach. Behind excellent draft picks, especially quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and receiver Michael Ervin, Johnson led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. After disagreements between Johnson and Jones, Barry Switzer became coach, followed by Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, and then Bill Parcells, but none have resurrected the team.

Still, the Cowboys are America's team, and annual marketing of NFL-related merchandize with the Cowboy logo outsells all other professional teams combined. That also means they are America's most hated team, especially in Philadelphia and Washington, arch Eastern Conference rivals.

Despite a long-time challenge from the Houston Oilers and now the Texans, the Cowboys are also East Texas' team.
Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical >
September 11, 2006 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.
 
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