Hats Off: In Thankful Memory



Thanksgiving and football are like Tom Landry and his hat; they just go together.  Football on Thanksgiving Day is an annual tradition in America, and so are the Dallas Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving. America’s team has played on Thanksgiving 45 times since the 1966 season and has a combined record of 28-16-1 historically on the day.

Today we say “Hats Off” to legendary Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach, Tom Landry, who won his first Thanksgiving game with the Cowboys on November, 26, 1966 with a decisive 14-26 win over the Cleveland Browns. It was a memorable win because it was the first Cowboys’ game on Thanksgiving ever. Not surprisingly, Landry went 14-6-1 on Thanksgiving, which was common for Landry’s winning ways.

So today we salute my favorite football coach, Thomas Wade “Tom” Landry (September 11, 1924 – February 12, 2000) who was one of the greatest and most innovative coaches in National Football League (NFL) history, creating many new formations and methods. He invented the now popular 4–3 defense, and the “flex defense” system made famous by the “Doomsday Defense” squads he created during his 29 year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. His 29 years as the coach of one team are an NFL record, along with his 20 consecutive winning seasons.

Landry would go on to build the Cowboys from an undermanned expansion team into an NFL power, first with a stunning array of offensive formations and maneuvers, then with a solid organizational structure.  In 29 seasons under Landry, Dallas won two Super Bowls, played in three other title games and went 20 consecutive years with a winning record. He ranks third in career NFL victories, with 270. In his 40-year pro career Landry was vital in forging a brand of football that the NFL could hang its hat on.

So hats off to Tom Landry. He was a faithful, committed Christian whose faith and fortitude were a positive force behind making him a football icon. Landry became an endearing, beloved figure on the Cowboy’s sidelines, not just because of his wins, but because of his inner strength.  He told interviewers after his fifth and final Super Bowl appearance in 1979 that he believed his destiny always had been controlled by a power greater than the Cowboys’ ability to win football games. “As a Christian, I know my life is in God’s hands,” Landry said then. “He has a plan for me. Therefore, I never worry about tomorrow or never worry about winning or losing football games. That knowledge gives me a lot of composure in tough situations.”

Landry and Staubach

On this Thanksgiving, we say “Hats off” to the man who was victorious on and off the field because he depended on God and put his life in His hands.   

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