Nine men have served in the position of head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Deciding who the top two were took about half a second. But sorting out which two of the remaining seven have earned a spot on our Mount Rushmore of coaches produced a surprising result.
The Man In The Hat
Tom Landry was the Cowboys' first-ever head coach. He's also the longest-tenured at 29 seasons in the position. It's safe to say no one will ever coach the Cowboys that many years again.
Over nearly three decades he compiled a record of 250-162-6 (.607) in the regular season. His teams went 20-16 (.555) in the playoffs and won two out of five Super Bowl appearances.
After missing the playoffs in his first six seasons, the Cowboys — under Landry — would only miss the playoffs in five of the next 23 seasons.
Landry took an expansion team in 1960 and turned it into America's Team.
Were it not for the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys likely win the NFL Championship in 1966 and 1967. The Cowboys would have played the Chiefs and the Raiders in the first two Super Bowls instead.
Between 1970-1982 Landry guided the Cowboys to 10 NFC Championship games. His three Super Bowl losses were by a combined total of 11 points.
His departure from Dallas remains a sore spot for long-time Cowboys fans.
Yes, three straight losing seasons were reason enough for a change at the top. But Landry deserved to go out on his own terms.
He should have been allowed to retire, as Roger Staubach did, with a nice press conference in Texas Stadium.
Landry shouldn't have been fired via press conference.
He only got a face-to-face meeting with Jerry Jones after the news was out.
Landry was the eighth man, and first non-player, added to the Ring of Honor in 1993. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
And he will forever be the greatest head coach in Dallas Cowboys history.
His face is chiseled into our monument and coated in titanium.
How ‘Bout Them Cowboys
After winning a national championship at the University of Miami in 1987, Jimmy Johnson followed that up with an 11-1 campaign.
The only reason why Miami did not win back-to-back titles was due to an October loss to the eventual champions, Notre Dame.
Then, in 1989, Jones bought the Cowboys, named Johnson his head coach and the rest is history.
After a forgettable first year (1-15) the Cowboys started to show promise with a 7-9 finish in 1990, followed by an 11-5 mark in 1991.
The Cowboys lost their Divisional round playoff game to the Lions that year, but the league had been put on notice: The Cowboys were back.
Over the next two years Johnson would lead Dallas to a 25-7 regular season mark (.781) and cap each year with a Super Bowl win over the Buffalo Bills. It looked like a dynasty had been born.
In just five years, Johnson had matched Landry in Super Bowl wins.
The team looked unstoppable. But then…
No matter which version of what went down in the days following that second title, egos were bruised and Johnson was no longer the head coach.
Barry Switzer was named as his replacement and went on to win a Super Bowl two years later. But the win in the Super Bowl XXX victory should be credited to Johnson.
Righting The Ship
While he was not able to win a Super Bowl in Dallas, Bill Parcells accomplished one thing during his four-year run.
He stabilized the franchise.
Between 1997 — Switzer's final year — and 2002, the Cowboys had three different head coaches. Chan Gailey, who was fired despite going 18-14 in his two years, and Dave Campo, who went 5-11 in each of his three years.
Parcells led the team to two playoff appearances and was 34-30 overall.
But while he came up short in Lombardi Trophies, he at least reminded the organization what it would take to start being contenders again.
And The Fourth Face Is…
…waiting to be carved. Neither Switzer, Gailey, Campo, Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett, or Mike McCarthy have earned a place on our coaching Mount Rushmore.
McCarthy might be able to claim the final spot if he can deliver a Super Bowl to Dallas.
So, for now, the fourth face is waiting to be earned.