Today, we have the last of our Final Four match-ups, a contest between to men who represent forty years of Cowboys history yet, like two ships passing in the night, never were Cowboys at the same time. Top-seeded Tom Landry, he of the 29-year coaching resume and a briefcase of innovations, faces second-seeded Troy Aikman, not only the most accurate passer in Cowboys history but, according to many knowledgeable observers, in NFL history. Aikman was, of course, Dallas' first round draftee in 1989, arriving in late April, two months after Landry had cleared out his office. While Aikman represented a new era, its too bad that he and Landry's careers never overlapped; I think the man in the Fedora would have loved Number Eight's demeanor and approach to the game. Which man will move to represent the Roger Goodell Regional in the Final Four? Read the bios and comments and watch the video goodness, then cast your ballots, faithful readers!
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Player: Tom Landry
Position: head coach
How he got here: defeated John Fitzgerald, 802-15; defeated Calvin Hill 597-13; defeated Bob Hayes, 565-52
|Name||Years||Career AV||Pro Bowls||All-Pro||RoH||HoF|
|Thomas Wade Landry
Bio: In 1960, Landry was hired to be the expansion Cowboys first head coach. The expansion team started inauspiciously, sporting an 0–11–1 record during their first season and five or fewer wins in each year from 1961-64. Despite the team's early struggles, owner Clint Murchison Jr. gave Landry a 10-year extension in 1964 - a move that proved to be inspired. The Cowboys improved to a 7–7 record in 1965 and, in 1966, they surprised the NFL by posting 10 wins and making it all the way to the NFL Championship game, where they fell to the Packers. The 1966 season began a streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons, an NFL record.
Landry proceeded to coach the Cowboys for 29 consecutive years, an NFL record. In that time frame, Landry compiled a 270-178-6 record, the third-most all-time, and led the Cowboys to thirteen division titles, five NFC titles and two Super Bowl wins. From 1966-'82, a span of 17 years, Dallas played in 12 NFL or NFC Championship games; in the 13-year span from 1970 to 1982, Landry's teams played in 10 NFC Championship games. As these number suggest, his 20 career playoff victories are the second most of any coach in NFL history. Landry was named the NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 and the NFC Coach of the Year in 1975.
As impressive as his record is the long list of his innovations. Landry invented the 4-3 defense, along with the use of "keys" for players to react to the flow of a play. To stop the Packers' famed power sweep, he later refined the 4-3 defense by "flexing" two of the four linemen off the line of scrimmage to improve pursuit angles. In Landry's "Flex" defense, each defender was responsible for a given gap area, and was told to stay in that area before he knew where the play was going. On offense, he revived old single-wing concepts like motion, the shotgun, and multiple pre-snap shifts, including the famed "up-and-down" offensive line shift designed to make it more difficult for defenders to see where the backs were shifting, thus cutting down on recognition time.
He also was the first coach to develop a strength and conditioning program and to introduce the notion of "quality control"; watching extensive film to chart opponent's tendencies so that the Cowboys could be better prepared. Working closely with Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, Landry helped to revolutionize scouting, both in terms of how players were evaluated and graded and where they looked for talent. The Cowboys were one of the first teams to draft players from small schools and HBCUs and to target athletes from other sports. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1990 and inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1993.
Landry may be the greatest mind football has ever seen. He revived the shotgun, formed the 4-3 defense, invented the Flex, came up with "gadget plays," coached and played during his mid-career with the Giants, and was instrumental along with Gil and Tex in drafting. He belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of coaches, and for me, he’s the greatest of all-time....He embodied toughness, courage as he was a bomber in WWII, man, he was something else.
Landry is my man all the way to the end.
Wasn’t it great seeing the young pup OL use the Landry shift last year in tribute to Landry and our team’s great history? That’s the kind of class and awe Landry inspired. There has never been a more RKG than him, and we’ve seen a lot of them in these brackets.
Player: Troy Aikman
How he got here: defeated Clint Murchison, 705-113; defeated Ralph Neely, 662-42; defeated Rayfield Wright, 624-113
|Name||Years||Career AV||Pro Bowls||All-Pro||RoH||HoF|
|Troy Kenneth Aikman
Bio: Aikman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 draft,but his status with the team was uncertain for his first few seasons in Dallas. Jimmy Johnson used a first round pick in the 1989 supplemental draft to select his University of Miami quarterback, Steve Walsh (who was traded to the Saints in 1990). That uncertainty was erased as soon as the Cowboys hired Norv Turner to be their offensive coordinator in 1991. Although Aikman only played ten games before injuring a knee that year, he still made the first of six consecutive Pro Bowls.
In 1992, Aikman played all sixteen games, set career highs in completions (302), passing yards (3,445) and touchdown passes (23), and led the team to a 13-3 record and the first of three Super Bowl titles (Super Bowl XXVII). During the Cowboys' 1992 playoff run, Aikman was spectacular, completing nearly 70% of his passes, breaking Joe Montana's record of 83 passes without an interception, tossing eight touchdowns, and boasting a 126.4 quarterback rating. He was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII.
Aikman was known for his precision as a passer; his ability to hit receivers in stride was legendary. In 1993, he led the NFL in completion percentage, at 69.1% and, from 1991-96, never dipped below 63%. He was also a quiet but fiercely competitive leader, and set the mark as the winningest quarterback in a single decade, with 90 wins in the 1990s. On opening day, 1999, he caped off his decade of excellence by throwing for five touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, in a come-from-behind win over the Redskins. Games like this and the 1994 Championship Game were evidence that Aikman could have put up Dan Marino-like numbers had the system required that he do so. But, as he noted in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he sacrificed numbers for wins.
Aikman retired with 47 different Cowboys passing marks, including wins by a QB, pass attempts, completions, completion percentage, touchdowns, passing yards, and interception percentage. During his career he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection (1991-96), led the team to three Super Bowl victories, and was the Super Bowl XXVII MVP. In 1996, he was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Aikman was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2005 and elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.
And make sure you watch this highlight reel of his awesomeness...
He should have been All Decade.
Heck, he’s being underrated by some on this board because he played in a system that didn’t allow him to rack up huge numbers in many quick glance volume categories. But with a big game on the line I’d take Aikman over Favre or Elway any day.
Now we are getting down to the rings. Aikman has a few of them.
Alright, BTBers, which man advances to the Final Four?