When the NFL granted the city of Dallas a franchise in 1960, it was the Big D’s second chance at pro football. The first try, the woeful Texans, lasted just one season — 1952. They were the typical expansion football team — a motley crew of other team’s rejects who were prone to stumbling and bumbling and with a fetish for being beaten handily every Sunday. By the midway point of the season, the Texans became wards of the league and didn’t even play any home games. Players’ paychecks bounced like rubber balls with regularity. Yet strangely, several players from that Texans team made up the core of the great Baltimore Colts (the Texans moved to Baltimore in ’53) teams from later in the decade.
So it’s doubtful that the new Dallas team — the Cowboys, they’d be called — made any splash in ’60 with the news that their first head coach would be a young secondary coach from the New York Giants named Tom Landry.
Yet Landry and his fedora would remain on the Cowboys sideline for 29 seasons.
Quick, now — name me the original coach of the Nashville Predators, now in their 9th NHL season. (cue the “Jeopardy” theme)
It’s a trick question, of sorts. Sorry about that.
The man who stands behind the Preds bench today is the same one who did so when the puck was first dropped back in October 1998. None other than Barry Trotz.
Trotz, like Landry before him, is among the most rare of coaches: the leader of an expansion team who survives longer than a couple of wretched seasons.
Of course, I still think Landry’s achievement is more impressive. The Cowboys went 0-11-1 in 1960, and didn’t put together a decent season until 1966, their seventh campaign. The odds against expansion teams in the ’60s and ’70s, in all sports, were terribly skewed. Only in the last 10-20 years have new teams been given more of a fighting chance, with more equitable rules for filling their rosters, and more money to work with to attract free agents.
Still, the fact that Barry Trotz remains the Predators’ only coach in Year Nine is pretty impressive. Certainly more impatient ownership would have found reason to can him sometime in the early 21st century. It’s not like the Predators came out of the womb with 90-point seasons.
Trotz: rarely precedented job security for an expansion coach
But the playoffs are becoming less of a novelty in Nashville lately. This appearance against the Red Wings in Round 1 is the Preds’ fourth straight post-season. Still, they’ve never won a playoff series.
Landry’s Cowboys, by their ninth year, had already won three divisional titles and had played in two championship games. They put it all together and won Super Bowl VI in their 12th season.
Barry Trotz has had highly unusual job security as the coach of an expansion team. But he’d better start winning some playoff series soon. There’s no telling how much more time he’ll buy if his team upsets the Red Wings this month. Heaven forbid.