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Innovative Cowboys Leave Mark On NFL

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Head coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys watches from the sideline during a game in the 1988 season. Tom Landry coached the Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, leading them to two Super Bowl victories. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

DALLAS – The Cowboys have been the most innovative team in the long history of the NFL. Here a a few items the Cowboys pioneered….

  • the computer (using IBM’s model in the ’60′s)
  • advanced scouting
  • the position of Player Personnel Director (Gil Brandt)
  • scouting small colleges
  • bringing in hundreds of undrafted free agents (it was here they would find Drew Pearson and Cliff Harris…among many others)
  • a weekly team specific game plan
  • multiple shifts on offense
  • Tom Landry carrying a laminated game plan on sideline while coaching -the head coach weekly press conference on every Tuesday.
  • specific position coaches (like special teams coordinator) -strength and conditioning coach
  • team dieticians and psychologists
  • employing a dedicated position for both kickers and punters (until then, all teams used other position players to also handle kicking duties)
  • signing players from other sports (Cornell Green and Pete Gent were college basketball players…Bob Hayes was primarily a track person…they even drafted (though didn’t sign) Pat Reilly and speedsters Jim Hines and Carl Lewis)
  • first team where players wore European soccer shoes, jettisoning traditional football cleats
  • their own team cheerleaders
  • staying in hotel the night before home games
  • the very complicated and successful flex defense
  • gloves and mandatory knee braces for offensive lineman
  • stadium ring of honor

Two items that the Cowboys didn’t invent…but brought back and perfected..

  • the screen pass
  • the shotgun formation

Here are a few rules that Cowboys players heavily influenced in implementing….

  • Michael Irvin rule–wide receiver push-offs
  • Emmitt rule–prohibits players from removing helmets on field
  • Roy Williams rule–outlawed horse-collar tackles
  • Eric Williams rule–no hands to face by offensive lineman
  • Bob Hayes…he singlehandedly was responsible for the invention of zone defense in the secondary

Fun Note…Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson was the first ever NFL player to dunk the ball over the goal post after scoring a touchdown.

As the most influential figure in NFL history, general manager Tex Schramm revolutionized the sport and recognized the importance of television.

Here are a few items he brought forth…

  • wind direction socks on goal posts
  • moving goal posts to end zone line, not goal-line
  • having goal posts painted the vivid yellow
  • red line on 50 yard line and both 20′s (hence the phrase ‘red zone’)
  • arrows pointing to end zone so viewers can follow action on TV
  • hash marks moved in to open up more offense
  • scouting combine
  • instant replay on TV
  • NFL films to act as league historian
  • mics on referees
  • overtime and sudden death…no more ties
  • wild cards for teams in playoffs other than the traditional division winners
  • revenue sharing from owners…this would allow small market teams to operate on even playing field. The main item here was the sharing of all TV money.

Schramm also was the driving force (along with fellow Dallasite Lamar Hunt) to merge the NFL with the upstart AFL…the initial and most productive talks were conducted under the Texas Ranger statue at Love Field.

Another innovative item from Schramm…the Cowboys iconic blue and metallic silver color scheme was developed and born by the fact that those colors projected well and were most vivid on T…for he knew the future was viewers from home.

And it must be noted that upon buying the Cowboys in 1989, Jerry Jones was the first to recognize the importance of mass marketing his own team. Until then, the league controlled all team likeness and logos. Jerry quickly moved away from the notion and all teams followed suit, with the results being untold millions in additional revenue.

Jerry also directed a new TV rights deal in 1994 that almost tripled the former agreement. This also ushered in FOX as the primary network, an idea that most owners were leery at first.

Jerry also brought forth the Sunday Night Game, to compliment the normal Sunday action and situate another game in prime time.

Now, if only the Cowboys can harken back on their tremendous history and success and start WINNING again………

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