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Schramm Saddles Up, Changes the Tune

June 21, 1989|KEN DENLINGER | Washington Post

If Tex Schramm and the other suddenly former Cowboys follow wisdom they dispensed in happier times, chatter about the house will include: "I don't know whether to shoot myself or go bowling." In regards to the no-class blowhard who kicked them into exile, they might sing: "If the phone don't ring, I know it's from you."

America's Team under Schramm, Tom Landry, Gil Brandt and some others was not always as it seemed. The alleged computer Cowboys had more than a touch of whimsy, as well as lots of players with playful and non-conformist minds.

To anyone with interests beyond hang time and the number of sacks a particular lineman had accumulated, Cowboys literature included the stats and The List, a compilation of the oddest lyrics in country music:

"She's actin' single; I'm drinkin' doubles." "It's commode-huggin' time in the valley." Anything especially wild from Loretta, Willie, Dolly and some other originals. (I've long had an idea for a Washington-oriented tune that would have as its theme: "You're in my out box.")

The football list that made the Cowboys so popular was, from 1966 to 1985: 20 straight winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, five times in the Super Bowl and two Super Bowl victories. A shorter, but telling, list lately included missing the playoffs four of the last five years and finally being saddled with the worst season record in the league.

Cowboys fans had gotten angry at Tex and Tom--and only someone with enough gall to match his fortune could turn them from football sinners to saints almost overnight. Such a man, Jerry Jones, came striding into Dallas less than three months ago--and still makes sure Tex's people know there is an "ow" in Cowboys.

Before and during his first minicamp this week, Jones could be seen strutting here and trashing there. About new coach Jimmy Johnson: "He's worth more than five No. 1 draft choices and five Heisman Trophy winners." About the organization he inherited: "They had 120 people doing what the Bengals did with 30."

Jones said he and Schramm once argued about who was the better businessman and Schramm rose and leaned on the desk that separated them. Jones said he told Schramm: "Tex, I'm 46; you're 67. Don't come over that desk."

That got Schramm to laughing, Jones said. Schramm denied any such incident, though it would be true to his occasionally bellicose mood. Jones also bore in on Cowboys staffers, saying they arrived at 9:30 a.m., worked out and read the papers before, tra-la, leaving at 4 p.m.

Some Cowboys managers recall their initial meeting with Jones and his saying: "There will be no more changes. I need y'all." Several people who heard that soon were fired.

Initially, anyone neutral about it could understand what Jones was doing, if not how he was going about it. A new owner wants his own coach. Fine. And his own management team. Fine. Landry has fired hundreds of men in his time; Schramm knows about front-office politics.

But Jones simply will not allow any significant length of time to pass without continuing this knockfest. Not that Landry, Schramm and Brandt are athletic icons, but Jones seems the sort who would buy Augusta National and proceed to bomb Amen Corner.

Asked by a Dallas reporter if he might temper some of his recent remarks, Jones said: "I don't play games. I don't leave things unsaid because they don't look good in print or sound good on television. I'm honest. All my life I've said things I've made myself accountable for."

Schramm's response: "I think it's time for him to build his own future. I'm part of the past."

It's entirely possible Jones and Johnson will build a formidable team, that their Cowboys will reclaim glory's loftiest level. Johnson's stunning collegiate record at Miami generally came against high-quality teams, so he might well be long-term compared to Chuck Fairbanks and Dan Devine in the NFL.

All indications are that Jones and his staff drafted wisely, from UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman with the first pick through that second-round trade with the Raiders that got them a bruiser of a fullback, through selecting players in later rounds they were familiar with from college.

Deciding to pay Aikman $11.2 million over six years hardly made Jones popular with his new NFL lodge brothers; silly was Jones when he insisted the other day about Aikman: "He has got to make our team." Especially when the incumbent quarterback, Steve Pelluer, has asked to be traded.

This new and leaner Cowboys management will be "very busy, busy, busy," Jones said, "because I've got fellows who were doing two things now doing seven things."

One of those doing much is head coach Johnson. He ramrodded the draft and is negotiating player contracts and the deal for a television show. Johnson even had time the other day to pull the comp tickets from a former longtime Cowboys official now retired.

Schramm and about a half-dozen other officials and staff Jones forced out occupy offices between Texas Stadium and the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. The phone greeting, a cheery "Worldwide American Football," alludes to Schramm's selling the NFL abroad.

Longtime Cowboys haters are finding the transition to Jones easy and pleasant. Fears that an agreeable chief executive officer would replace Schramm proved unfounded.

To those who remain with Jones, a former co-worker has a message gleaned from The List: "I'm ashamed to be here, but not ashamed enough to leave."

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