Had you forgotten who not only minds the store but runs it? Who's really in charge? Who's more responsible for what the Cowboys are than anybody else?
Only one man can shake, rattle and roll the Cowboys as they've been doing in recent days. The resulting tremors signify the biggest in-house shuffle in the franchise's 26-year history.
A new passing offense coach with dynamic credentials, Paul Hackett, has come on board. Gil Brandt's authority has been redefined, if not diluted. A search is under way for the club's first pro personnel director. Whether altered or expanded, the duties of a relatively obscure vice-president, Joe Bailey, are of consequence.
The fingerprints of Tex Schramm can be lifted from all of the above. Each carries potential for long-term impact, the moves involving Hackett and Bailey in particular. The speculative mind can run rampant with them--and will later.
First, something to keep in mind. Schramm does not work in mysterious ways. He can be secretive, but subtlety is not a natural trait. Things don't happen with the Cowboys through whim or chance. They are very calculated.
Schramm is not a gambler. He doesn't enjoy any form of it recreationally. One reason is that he doesn't like to lose at anything, and the gambler sooner or later always does. Schramm likes to be sure. He prefers leaving as little as possible to vagaries of chance.
Other aspects of his personality are well-known. He is emotionally open and prone to volcanic reaction in times of majestic failure. If a recent mystery has attached itself to Schramm, it's why his gasket hasn't blown long before. In a certain sense, it now has.
Schramm has suffered in silence--for him, anyway--in recent years. His team was drifting. It wasn't getting much better or much worse. But drift is fatal because, if not checked, it increases the probability of getting worse in a hurry.
Schramm may even regret not acting sooner. But that is his way: Be sure, then strike hard. Except for an expletive mutter here or there, the depth of his displeasure went unrecorded. But he was thinking and making mental notes, which eventually led to definite conclusions.
Among them that Brandt was stretched too thin. He had too many jobs. He drafted, scouted, signed vets and rookies, made trade talks. None was being done at optimum efficiency.
Brandt also had alienated too many people. The very nature of contract dealings, often an exercise in conflict, made him unpopular with players. Other NFL teams complained that in trade discussions, Brandt always sought an advantage at the expense of an even-up deal. His rapport with other NFL front offices therefore dwindled.
Thus, a niche for the unnamed pro personnel director to work possible trades. Schramm does not let one shoe fall and then listen for the sound of the other. He has begun preliminary hiring talks with his prospect. The new man will have a big-time identity and insert high on the corporate ladder.
Either this incoming exec or Bailey, the 40-ish administrative vice-president, will assume contract-signing duties. Was it chance that the Cowboys (read Schramm) enrolled Bailey in the Harvard Business School last spring? Bailey wasn't there to learn how to negotiate NFL contracts, but the experience broadened his scope about someday running an NFL corporation.
Schramm determined something else. Tom Landry's coaching staff needed younger, inquisitive minds with new ideas. Aides who would challenge and even quarrel with the head man. Many had been picked as head men elsewhere in recent years--Dan Reeves, Mike Ditka, John Mackovic and, on Monday, Gene Stallings, who went to St. Louis.
Which brings us to Hackett, 39 and a comer interviewed by the Houston Oilers for their head-man vacancy. Landry hired Hackett, but in doing so remarked that he'd only met the fellow 10 days earlier. What does that tell you?
Someone fingered Hackett for Landry. Someone told Landry to check this guy out. What are the chances it was Schramm?