Sat. Sep 19th, 2020

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Classic matchup – Dallas Cowboys’ ‘America’s Team’…

10 min read
Classic matchup - Dallas Cowboys' 'America's Team'...

With their win last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots guaranteed a 19th straight winning record and closed in on a Dallas Cowboys‘ mark that is among the most treasured in franchise history.

From 1966 to 1985, the Cowboys never had a losing record, a 20-year run that is an NFL record. Dallas won 13 division titles and played in two NFL Championship Games, 10 NFC Championship Games and five Super Bowls — winning twice. They finished first or second in their division 18 times. During the two seasons they did not make the playoffs, the Cowboys finished 8-6 (1974) and 9-7 (1984).

On Sunday, behind Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the organizations with the longest runs of success in NFL history will meet at Gillette Stadium at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox). The interconference matchup between the Cowboys (6-4) and Patriots (9-1) could conceivably be a preview of Super Bowl LIV.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt was one of the architects of the Cowboys’ success, and even he has to bow to the current streak put together by Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots’ record of 264-90 since Belichick became coach in 2000 is the best in the NFL over that span, and the franchise has appeared in nine Super Bowls, winning six. They have played in the AFC Championship Game 13 times.

“It’s a lot harder today to do what they’ve done than what we did because everybody is so much better,” Brandt said. “The competitive balance is so much better than before.”

Belichick’s appreciation for the Cowboys’ success goes back to his days as an assistant coach, competing against Tom Landry’s teams into the 1980s and seeing Jimmy Johnson return the Cowboys to Super Bowl glory in the 1990s. Also, it didn’t hurt that Belichick grew up watching Roger Staubach practice at Navy, where his father, Steve, coached.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Cowboys organization, the history there, what they’ve created,” Belichick said. “Obviously, they’re probably the premier franchise in all of pro sports. That’s no accident. That didn’t happen overnight. With what Jerry [Jones] and Stephen [Jones] and the rest of the organization have put together there, and the history going back to Coach Landry and Coach Johnson, those are standards that I’d say all of us in the profession aspire to, look up to and aspire to meet the levels of success that they have achieved.”

There are similarities between the runs — from strong head coaches who defined their eras and quarterbacks who played their best on the biggest stages to defenses that wrote their own history and personnel folks who seemed to have all the answers. As the winning continued, the jealousy and contempt for both organizations grew louder than the appreciation of their successes.

The coaches

Brandt said Belichick reminds him of someone in particular: “I always call him a young Tom Landry.”

The former Cowboys executive said Belichick “understands the game in its entirety. He’s like [Landry]. He knows how to have the long-snapper snap the ball and correct it if it’s wrong. He knows how to play coverages. The amazing thing to me is week to week you never know what you’re going to get against him. … He’s the most amazing guy in the world. I don’t know how he finds time to do everything he does. I tell ya, this guy, if it were croquet, he’d find a way to win, or if it’s horse shoes, he’d find a way. The guy is the most amazing person I’d been around. I always thought Tom Landry was, but he’s on equal footing with Landry. The guy’s just utterly amazing.”

Bill Belichick

If the Patriots beat the Cowboys on Sunday, Belichick will extend his NFL record of 17 consecutive 10-win seasons. For context, former San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert is second in NFL history with eight straight 10-win seasons. This has been a milestone season for Belichick, who earned his 300th career victory as a head coach (regular season and postseason combined) on Oct. 27 against the Cleveland Browns. He is the third coach to reach that mark, joining Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324). Brady said one of the things that best defines Belichick is his “competitive stamina.”

Tom Landry

Landry is among the NFL’s most iconic figures. He served as the Cowboys’ coach for 29 years, winning two Super Bowls. The Cowboys appeared in two NFL Championship Games ,as well, yet Landry was named the coach of the year only once. Known for his famed fedora, he was innovative on both sides the ball, introducing the flex defense and the motion offense. In today’s football, Landry never would have had the opportunity to develop his program. The expansion Cowboys went 0-11-1 in his first season and did not have a winning record until his seventh campaign.

The quarterbacks

Tom Brady

One of the great, clutch leaders in NFL history, the 18-time team captain is on the cusp of becoming the first 42-year-old quarterback to start every game in a regular season. This season, he became the oldest quarterback to start on kickoff weekend. Warren Moon had held the record after starting opening day for Seattle in 1998 at age 41. Brady’s sustained success and pursuit of excellence is captured in his answer when asked about his favorite Super Bowl ring: “The next one.” Brady has six, becoming the only player in league history to reach that number. Now in his 20th season with the franchise, he joins Darrell Green (20, Washington), Jackie Slater (20, L.A. Rams) and Jason Hanson (21, Detroit) as the only players with at least 20 NFL seasons played with one team.

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