Comparing events, people and situations over time is a funny business. No matter how similar the facts seem, the plots are never quite the same from generation to generation. While moments may seem like copies of each other, when held up to the light the differences become obvious.
Nevertheless, follow along with me on this football story.
A young man, the product of a Texas family that built a fortune in the oil business, owned a professional football team.
His club was going through a tough patch, losing far more often than it won. This wasn’t just one bad year, but several. The talent level of the team was low and what good players were on the roster were young and inexperienced.
The fans were grumbling. OK, they weren’t just grumbling, they were staying away. Attendance and interest were falling.
That natural reaction for any owner in this situation was to fire the head coach. But this owner happened to like the guy, liked what the coach stood for and liked his ideas on building a strong team that would contend for the playoffs over many seasons. The coach was defensive minded and the owner knew from football history that strong defensive teams tend to be more competitive for longer periods of time.
The owner also¬†had a strong general manager to oversee the franchise and the G.M. was completely in the coach’s corner.
The situation called for action.
That’s just what the young man did.¬† He took action.
On February 5, 1964, Clint Murchison Jr. (below) gave the head coach of his Dallas Cowboys a 10-year extension on his contract. Up to that point, over four seasons Tom Landry had led the Cowboys to a record of 13-38-3. With one more year to go on his original contract, Landry now had an 11-year contract. It was something unheard of in the world of sports at the time.
The rest of the story is one of the great tales in the history of sports.¬† In 1964, the Cowboys went 5-8-1. The next year Dallas was 7-7. With the 1966 season, the Cowboys finished 10-3-1 and made the playoffs. They would end up making the playoffs 16 of next 17 years, with 11 appearances in the NFL/NFC Championship Game, five Super Bowl trips and two Super Bowl championships. Tom Landry was the head coach for all of those games.
Now that you know this bit of pro football history, let’s bring the picture back to the present. Another young man from an oil family has a struggling football team and a head coach who is drawing fire from fans for the poor play of his team. Some are calling for his firing.
So far it doesn’t sound like Clark Hunt is ready to pull the plug on Herm Edwards.
Despite losing 18 of the team’s last 19 games and racking up a 14-28 record over the last three years, Hunt has been nothing but supportive of Edwards. Remember just a few weeks ago he told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: “I think we’re headed in the right direction. It certainly isn’t going to be a straight line; there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs on this road. But I think Herm is the right type of coach to take us through the rebuilding.” Then, this week Hunt told the Kansas City Star: “… I’m encouraged and very interested to see the last six weeks and how we do in those games.”
Far be it for me to pass along advice to Clark Hunt. This is his business and he understands all angles of the franchise far better than me or anybody in the media. But if he really likes Edwards ideas and his way of rebuilding the franchise, then he should step forward and make it obvious.
With the money coaches make today, 10-year contracts will never happen. But Hunt could make a major statement by announcing tomorrow that he’s given Edwards a five-year contract extension. Along with the final year of his first deal, that would take the head coach into the 2014 season.
Wouldn’t that announcement blow the minds of all the Herm Haters in town?
In a business where firing the head coach is considered the right thing to do in troubled times, Hunt could strike a blow for stability and old-fashioned values by backing Edwards.
But only if he has the same feelings about Edwards that Murchison had for Landry. The Cowboys owner said at the time of the extension: “This is in line with my philosophy that once you get a good man, hold on to him.”
Herm Edwards is a good man. Right now only Clark Hunt can determine if Edwards is the right man for the job. But if he believes in him, why not settle the question. Would it be popular? At this time, probably not. Do you think Murchison’s decision on Landry was popular in Dallas after the team had done nothing but lose for four years? Hindsight tells us Murchison was a very smart man.
Clark Hunt does not have the luxury of hindsight or foresight. But he could make a similar declaration and extend Herm Edwards’ employment.
And then he could shock everyone by announcing that he was asking Carl Peterson to stay on as general manager for an indefinite period.
Jack Harry’s head would explode with that one.