Tex Schramm is the president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. In this role he has directed a massive personnel turnover of the Cowboys.
"Nobody has ever reached the Super Bowl with different teams," said Schramm, referring to Dallas' two previous appearances and their present contending status with so many new faces.
"Miami, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, they did it with the same people," he continued. "Even Minnesota, all the times it has gone, has been basically the same team with Eller, Pager and Tarkenton."
For the Cowboys, he noted proudly, a return this year would be the product of the latest Cowboy rebuilding job.
The Oakland Raiders made it to Pete Rozelle's grandest football game, in 1967, and then with a different team in 1977. But, that's a decade apart, some of the Raiders were in diapers in '67.
What Schramm must have had in mind (for never, oh never, would he slight the cunning of his Oakland counterpart, Al Davis), was that the cowboys made it to the Super Bowl twice in modern times, 1971 and 1975. Yet this season's team is new.
"In '71 we had Bob Lilly and George Andrie, Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley, Calvin Hill and Dwayne Thomas," Schramm said. "In '75 most of those men were gone and we got to the Super Bowl - but we were lucky, and it took a unique enthusiasm to do it. SOme of this year's players were rookies then, and they're now becoming more symbolic of this new Cowboys team."
New? What's new? Like all the Cowboys of the past decade, these guys win. The first six seasons after Dallas joined the NFL, it didn't have a winning year. For the last 11, though, the Cowboys are averaging more than 11 victories a season and going into tonight's game with the Cardinals, were 1977's only undefeated team.
Maybe no chore in sports is more difficult than that which faces a winning organization. Upon arriving at the top, the temptation must be great to sign and plop down in an easy chair. But success once earned is no guarantee to future sweetness, for the great players of today are tomorrow's creaking journeymen. They must be replaced at thr right time. Remember the glory of Green Bay? And whatever happened to Kansas City? Long years of pain preceeded Baltimore's renaissance, and Miami only now has made itself half the team it was in '73.
The Cowboys, once on top, have transforemd their team - and yet kept winning. They won 61 games and lost 25 since the 1971 season Super Bowl.They've done it. Schramm said, by (a) drafting players who have character and intelligence to be part of a Cowboy tradition, and (b) building an organization that is stable.
"Our philosophy is that we bring in young players through the draft, players who are solid citizens with good character and intelligence, and we develop them in our system," Schramm said. "They grow into the tradition of the Cowboys as well as into our mechanics.
"We want the young player as a backup to an established, older player, so he's able to step in when the transition is necessary. We want the older player to go out in style, with some class, gracefully. We want them to go out with pride. We don't want anymore saying, "This guy is too old, let's get rid of him."
"We want a natural evolution, because it is important to the idea of a real team. The younger player sees how we treat the older one and they know that they can look forward to be treated with class. That's what gives them a close feeling to the Cowboys. We don't want anyone saying, 'Hell, they use you and the first thing that goes wrong, you're gone.'
"We draft for the best athlete avalable and one with character and intelligence.If he's an athlete, he can play somewhere. And because our goal every year is the Super Bowl, we think about those three playoff games. Players that normally make mistakes under pressure are the least intelligent players. They jump offsides, they miss a coverage. In a playoff game, that one mistake can beat you."
Schramm is the only general manager the Cowboys have ever had. Tom Landry is the only coach, Gil Brandt is the only scouting director. The ticket manager has never changed and Schramm's original secretary is still with the Cowboys. A sense of permanence is attached to the Cowboys and Schramm likes that because he thinks it help win important games.
"We're not a talkative organization. We don't give speeches about tradition. It's more a sense of the way the entire organization functions. The results, the way things happen. That's a lot stronger than any relationship based on personalities. We want an organization that is so strong, so good, that when we do get into trouble, all our people have confidence the organization will resolve it.
"We don't cater to individuals, because we believe the whole is more important than the parts. Miami got all the publicity, but we lost the most players to the World Football League. We refused to destroy our salary schedule for a certain few people and we never will."
All this is not to say the Cowboys have the exclusive secret to sustained victory. Certainly, George Allen has won a lot of games with the Redskins and he ignores virtually every precept Schramm preaches (whether Allen can win forever as the Cowboys will, is another story for another day). Schramm acknowledges, for instance, the work of Al Davis, the Raiders' genius.
"Oakland is different from us," Schramm said, his eyebrows raising to punctuate the understatement. The Raiders are a collection of free-agent rogues, while the Cowboys are practically saints. Davis resembles nothing if not a dead-end kid, while Schramm could pass for a kindly grandfather. "But Al and John Madden have a chemistry. Nobody can say, 'Do this and you'll win.' You have have to work at it."