Head coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys watches from the sideline during a game in the 1988 season. Tom Landry coached the Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, leading them to two Super Bowl victories.
Our sports world changed forever 25 years ago. At, of all places, an Uptown Tex-Mex joint called Mia’s.
Walk in there today and you can sit in history. At the table against the wall where on Feb. 24, 1989, two Arkansas buddies celebrated a relatively significant purchase.
The photo still hangs on the wall: Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson, toasting their new careers with the Dallas Cowboys.
At the time I was a spry, snot-nosed little 24-year-old reporter, fresh out of UTA covering college football for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I lived in an apartment complex on Randol Mill Road in Arlington, across the street from an empty field which would one day host AT&T Stadium. On February 25, 1989, I had no idea that my life – my sports world – was about to crumble.
As a kid our family’s household happiness revolved around the Cowboys. I grew up a huge Tom Landry fan. His class and cool and championships provided me a sports role model. And then, just like that, he was fired by the goofy oil man from Arkansas.
On the afternoon of Feb. 25, 1989, I got a phone call from my FWS-T editor for "all hands on deck" at Valley Ranch, where Jones was introduced as the new owner of the Cowboys. At that press conference - dubbed by some as "The Saturday Night Massacre" - Jones announced he was firing Landry for Johnson.
I was crushed. I found myself writing quotes, and fighting tears. Afterward, I could think of nothing better to do than to drown my sorrow at the old Crystal Chandelier in DeSoto. It was a long, surreal night. Felt like a bad dream, punctuated by a horrible hangover.
People conveniently forget that it was time for the legendary Landry to go. The Cowboys sucked in his final years, going an abysmal 3-13 in 1988. But now, a quarter-century later, even Jones has regrets about how it all went down.
He told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine last weekend, “If I had a chance to do it over again I would've waited a year and just got my feet on the ground a little bit more and probably just gone with the staff that we had and then later made the ultimate change that I made.”
Jerry ultimately made peace with Landry, inducting him into the Ring of Honor. But there are those who still consider the first bullet point on Jones’ resume to read:
*Fired Tom Landry.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.