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On This Date in Sports February 26, 1989: An New Day in Dallas

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Tom Landry, the only coach in the first 29 seasons of the Dallas Cowboys, is fired. The move came just two days after Jerry Jones purchased the Cowboys. Jones, who played college football at Arkansas, names his teammate Jimmy Johnson, a top NCAA coach with the University of Miami. Landry’s Hall of Fame resume saw him post a record of 250-162-6 with two Lombardi Trophies.

Tom Landry, born September 11, 1924, in Mission, Texas, was the right man to lead a professional football team in the Lone Star State. A defensive back at the University of Texas, Landry had modest success playing with the New York Giants. After his career ended, he went to work on a coaching staff that included Vince Lombardi while winning the 1956 NFL Championship and appearing in the NFL Championship Games in 1958 and 1959.

In 1960 Tom Landry returned home to Texas as the first head coach of the expansion Dallas Cowboys. Landry and the Cowboys had their growing pains that first season, going 0-11-1. However, through patience and hard work, Landry made the Cowboys a success as they played in the NFL Championship Game in 1966 and 1967, losing heartbreakers to the Green Bay Packers.

While the Cowboys fell short of making the first two Super Bowls, they soon would become one of the premier teams in the NFL, as they made playoffs 18 times in 20 years between 1966-1985. A stretch in which the Cowboys posted a winning season every year. During this period, the Cowboys won 13 division titles and went to the Super Bowl five times, winning Super Bowl VI and XII. The Cowboys' success led to them becoming the most popular team in the NFL, earning the nickname “America’s Team.”

The Cowboys hit hard times in 1986, losing seven of their last eight games and a 7-9 record for their first losing season since 1964. The Cowboys also suffered a losing record in 1987, going 7-8, while they went 3-13 in 1988. Meanwhile, the Cowboys struggled on the field. Their owner Bum Bright hit hard times financially due to the Savings and Loan crisis. Bright sold the Cowboys on February 24, 1989, to Jerry Jones for $124 million.

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Upon buying the Cowboys, Jones, who played football at the University of Arkansas, wanted to hire his friend and former teammate Jimmy Johnson to become the Cowboys' new coach. Without any ceremony, the decision was made. The decision was met with heavy resentment by most fans in Dallas, as they felt Jones had lacked respect and understanding of professional football with the way he dismissed Landry without even meeting with the Cowboys' longtime coach.

Jimmy Johnson, like Landry, had a difficult first season with the Cowboys, posting a record of 1-15. However, Jones and Johnson made shrewd moves off the field that would quickly turn Dallas into a dynasty. The Cowboys would win three Super Bowls in four years, though the partnership of the two friends fell apart after the first two Super Bowls as Jimmy Johnson left after the 1993 season over a dispute on who deserved more credit for the Cowboys' success. The Cowboys have not won a Super Bowl since but have become the most valuable sports franchise in the world, valued at $4.2 billion.