The Tragic Death of Legendary Cowboys Coach Tom Landry

There have been many figures in NFL history that made a significant impact on the league. Among those was Tom Landry, who served as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for nearly three decades, helping them become recognized as “America’s Team.” The coach roamed the sidelines with the patent look of a fedora, sports jacket and tie established himself as one of the all-time greats at his craft that has secured his legacy in his Hall of Fame career. However, his life after his time roaming the sidelines had a sad end.

Tom Landry’s NFL playing career

Before Tom Landry took to coaching, he found his way onto a football field as a punter and a safety as he played for the University of Texas.

That saw him work his way into earning the selection as the 128th overall pick of the 1948 AAFC Draft by the New York Yankees. He played just one season with the team, and before that was taken with the 184th overall pick by the New York Giants in the 1947 NFL draft.

Landry spent seven seasons playing professionally with his six seasons in the NFL all spent with the Giants. That saw him lead the NFL in punting yards twice that helped him earn a Pro Bowl selection and a First-Team All-Pro nod. He also finished with 32 interceptions that saw him tallying at least three touchdowns in his brief career.

At the tail of his career, he started acting as a player-assistant coach in his final two years. Once he stepped away from the game as a player that led to his coaching career sprouting quickly.

Tom Landry’s NFL coaching career

Tom Landry’s retirement led to a smooth transition into being the Giants’ defensive coordinator, which is a spot that he held through 1959.

During that time, Landry played a pivotal role in helping create the 4-3 defense that has become a stable in the NFL over the last several decades. Landry received an opportunity to coach the Cowboys in 1960, but he struggled to find success through his first six years at the position that saw the team fail to secure a winning season.

Things clicked in 1966 as the Cowboys became a consistent playoff team, which included 20 consecutive seasons with a winning record with a pair of Super Bowl wins (Super Bowl VI and XII), five NFC championships, and 13 division titles in his 28 years with the team. Landry garnered a 270-178-6 record, which is currently the fourth-most wins in NFL history for a head coach. Meanwhile, his 20 career playoff wins are the second most behind only Bill Belichick. He also has an NFL Coach of the Year award and an NFC Coach of the Year honor.

Landry had legendary players take the field for him such as Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Tony Dorsett, Calvin Hill, Chuck Howley, and Rand White. Beyond his success with the Cowboys, Landry has a high-profile list of coaches that he had under his wing such as Mike Ditka, Dan Reeves, Gene Stallings, Raymond Berry, and John Mackovic.

Tom Landry’s death


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Following his nearly three-decade coaching career all spent with the Cowboys, Tom Landry settled into retirement over the next decade-plus.

That saw him earn an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and into Cowboys’ ring of honor in 1993. Landry’s last few years of his life were rough as he dealt with Leukemia that he passed away from on February 12, 2000, at age 75.

Landry’s legacy has been cemented as one of the greatest coaches in league history that left an ever-lasting mark on the Cowboys. His run saw the team rise to prominence that helped the franchise become what it has become in the years following his iconic career.