The last of the original Dallas Cowboys triplets has passed from this life and, along with him, the last remaining tie the franchise has to any of its long-ago greatness. Gil Brandt, the longtime Director of Player Personnel, died yesterday at 91.
Brandt came to Dallas in 1960 with Tex Schramm and Tom Landry and together they built a football dynasty and forever changed the NFL. Brandt is the pioneer of computerized scouting systems and the first to use psychological tests to evaluate players. It was his idea to bring college players together in a scouting combine. During his 29 years with the Cowboys, Brandt evaluated and the Cowboys drafted 41 Pro Bowlers, 9 Hall of Famers, and 15 members of the Cowboys hallowed Ring of Honor.
Sure, you and I would have drafted guys like Staubach, Dorsett, Lilly, and Aikman. No brainers. But Brandt evaluated and discovered the hidden gems who would become the cornerstone of championship teams, guys like Mel Renfro, Randy White, Cornell Green, Rayfield Wright, Drew Pearson, Cliff Harris, Bob Hayes, Michael Irvin and a long list of others. Brandt was an invaluable part of the brain trust that oversaw 20 straight winning seasons, five Super Bowl appearances, and two championships.
For a well done five-minute tribute video from the NFL, click here.
I met Gil Brandt between Christmas and New Year’s 1988, at a UCLA football practice at Texas Stadium. Troy Aikman’s Bruins were playing Arkansas in that year’s Cotton Bowl, UCLA was practicing that week at Texas Stadium, and a couple of the practices were open to the public. Well, everybody knew the Cowboys were going to draft Aikman with the number one pick, so my brother Keith and I took the opportunity to see the future up close. After practice, Brandt was hanging out on the field, just talking to random people, and I approached him for an autograph. I wasn’t prepared. He had to use his own pen to scribble his name on the back of a flyer/advertisement I picked up off the ground. But he was great. Very personable. Happy to talk to a fan.
I have no idea when or where I lost that piece of paper.
Less than two months after that chance encounter, Jerry Wayne bought the Cowboys and fired Brandt. A couple of months later, Jimmy and Jerry drafted Aikman to join Brandt’s last number one pick, Michael Irvin.
I talked to Gil Brandt several times during the course of my mediocre radio career. He would always appear at a few Cowboys training camps and in-season practices every year, and he was a constant during Cotton Bowl and Fort Worth Bowl weeks and Big 12 media days. He could give you a quote about any player you asked about and he was always available. The last time I talked to Brandt was when Tex Schramm died in 2003. I interviewed him via telephone for KRLD. He had given me both Danny White’s and Randy White’s home phone numbers the week before so I could call them with the news when it happened. Gil Brandt was a hustler, an innovator, a people person, and he went out of his way to help others. I always appreciated that about him.
They’re all gone now. The original architects of the Dallas Cowboys. Brandt was the last one.
Somehow it’s fitting that on the day Brandt died, Forbes released their list of the most valuable NFL franchises, and Jerry’s Cowboys are number one again, valued at over $9-billion. Brandt’s Cowboys never went more than six years without an NFC Championship Game appearance. Ever. Jerry’s Cowboys are working on 28 straight seasons without a single divisional playoff win. And counting. Rest in peace, Gil. You don’t have to watch this train wreck anymore.