Gil Brandt, the Dallas Cowboys’ original director of scouting, who helped coach Tom Landry and General Manager Tex Schramm build the franchise from its inception in 1960 into America’s Team and a world-wide sports brand, died on Thursday morning.
He was 91.
Brandt, born on March 4, 1932, followed Landry and Schramm into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Both preceded him in death.
Brandt ran the Cowboys scouting department from 1960-1989 and provided the players who were the foundation of a championship legacy with 20 consecutive winning seasons, five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles during that time.
He is considered the godfather of modern scouting, as he pioneered many of the scouting techniques used by NFL teams today.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.
He was the first one to use computers for scouting and talent evaluations, the first one to use psychological tests to evaluate the mental makeup. Brandt and the Cowboys were the first to scout other sports for talent and the first to look outside of the United States for players.
A native of Milwaukee, Brandt attended the University of Wisconsin.
It’s was well-chronicled how Cowboys onwer Jerry Jones fired Landry, Schramm and Brandt when he bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989.
Landry and Schramm likely went to their graves carrying some disdain for Jones.
But time healed old wounds for Brandt and Jones.
Jones inducted Brandt into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2018, in what was the last induction before DeMarcus Ware goes in this year.
And when he took his long-awaited, but rightful place alongside Landry and Schramm in the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a member of the class of 2019, Jones was his presenter.
Jones said Brandt was as deserving as any and has long been in his Hall of Fame for his contribution in building the Cowboys championship teams from 1960 until he bought the team in 1989.
Brandt was part of the original triplet brain trust with Schramm and Landry that won two Super Bowl titles and laid the foundation in Dallas. for “America’s Team.”
“When I got involved I had so much that had Gil Brandt’s fingerprints all over it,” Jones said. “Obviously they talk about Tom Landry and Tex Schramm, but I know how much Gil contributed to what the Cowboys are about today in the foundation that I took over. So he’s been in my Hall of Fame for a long time. But I’m glad he’s getting recognized by the NFL.”
Brandt interestingly started his professional career as a baby photographer before becoming a part-time scout for the Los Angeles Rams in 1955 and being tapped by Schramm to join him with the Cowboys five years later.
He was the Cowboys’ chief scout from 1960-1989, helping build the franchise from its inception into its America’s team championship legacy with 20 consecutive winning seasons, five Super Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles during that time.
He is considered to be the godfather of modern scouting, as he pioneered many of the scouting techniques used by NFL teams today.
He was the first one to use computers for scouting and talent evaluations, and the first one to use psychological tests to evaluate the mental makeup. Brandt and the Cowboys were the first to scout other sports for talent and the first to look outside of the United States for players.
Brandt drafted or signed 12 future Hall of Famers during his tenure with the Cowboys, including quarterback Troy Aikman, receiver Michael Irvin, running back Tony Dorsett, linebacker Chuck Howley, safety Cliff Harris, linebacker Randy White, tackle Rayfield Wright, cornerback Mel Renfro, wide receiver Bob Hayes, wide receiver Drew Pearson, quarterback Roger Staubach and defensive tackle Bob Lilly.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what he meant to the Cowboys, coming in being part of the original organization that got the Cowboys going,” Pearson said. “And then just see his contributions from that opportunity and he brought the innovation to the game. He brought that to the game and then with the computers and studying the talent on the college level. It’s something that the NFL hadn’t done. I came in the league and 73 and the first things I had to learn after making the team was how to read a computer printout.
“The Cowboys were using the computer extensively then and Gil Brandt brought it to the Dallas Cowboys on every level, whether it’s the business side or the football side, and Coach Landry embraced that.”
Dorsett tweeted: @Gil_Brandt a visionary and innovator who was a big part of my career as a @dallascowboys
Former Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls, one of final undrafted gems, remembered Brandt fondly during a visit the team headquarters on Thursday.
“I don’t think a lot of the guys here appreciate what Gil Brandt did for the Cowboys,” Walls said. “He was able to change the game itself. The way he recruited, the way he scouted.“He was a guy who was legendary for the NFL game.”
It was Brandt who started the trend of turning basketball players into football players when he signing six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Cornell Green as an undrafted free agent out of Utah State in 1962.
“He got people interested in more than the obvious measurables,” Pearson said. “He looked for other things that might others might not see in these athletes including myself. You know Cornell Green basketball player, but he saw something in him that would make him a good defensive back. You know, Bob Hayes. People said, ‘he can’t play football day.’ But Bob Hayes was a football player before it he was a track guy. Brandt knew that. Drew Pearson played quarterback before he moved to receiver. Even though I didn’t catch a lot of passes, 55 in two years. What he saw was I didn’t drop anything and had a 21 yards per catch average..
“He wanted to draft [NBA legendary coach] Pat Riley, who never played football but it was a basketball player at Kentucky but he saw something in him that might make them a football player that other people might not see.. So he was able to eyeball that kind of talent.”
Brandt forever beamed with pride about Green as well as turning an expansion Cowboys team into champions. But he is most proud of how their success helped repair the national image of Dallas following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
“I am so proud we were so fortunate to bring Dallas five Super Bowls, and what we did more than anything is we got rid of the stigma on Dallas because of the death of the president. It’s because of the Dallas Cowboys
“I take all the pride in the world. I am a big Cowboys fan. I love to see them be successful.”
After being fired, along with Schramm and Landry, when Jones bought the team in 1989, Brandt remade himself as an NFL historian, consultant and media personality in what is now a career in pro football that spanned more than 65 years.
But Brandt was a Cowboy at heart and always will be. It all started with him, Schramm and Landry.
“I think you have to thank (then owner) Clint Murchison, Tex Schramm and Tom Landry,” Brandt said. “What we did was revolutionary. Clint supplied the money. Tex was all go with anything that was new and Tom was okay with implementing playing basketball players.
“I think probably Tex, and Tom, and myself had our disagreements, but they were never in public. They were aired in a room. After we left the room, everyone was on the same page.”
And now the original Cowboys’ triplets are all in the same rightful place creating another dynasty.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones released a statement on Thursday:
“We are so deeply saddened by the passing of Gil Brandt – a true icon and pioneer of our sport. Gil was at the very core of the early success of the Dallas Cowboys and continued to serve as a great ambassador for the organization for decades beyond that. His contributions cemented his spot in the Ring of Honor. He was my friend and a mentor not only to me, but to countless executives, coaches, players and broadcasters across the National Football League, which rightfully earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame where his legacy will be celebrated forever.
He was an innovator and set the standard for excellence in player acquisition. From the creation of the NFL Combine to revolutionizing the NFL Draft, Gil finished his over six-decade NFL career with an eye towards the future of the league and teaching fans about the sport he loved as a radio broadcaster. Gil was as good a storyteller as it gets, with a memory as sharp as a tack. His dedication to, and passion for, this game left a lasting impact on generations of Hall of Fame players and coaches. There are very few people that have been able to have the kind of generational impact that he did. Gil was as dedicated to growing this league and sport as anyone ever was, and we are all grateful and better for it.
Our hearts go out to Gil’s wife, Sara, his son Hunter and all of Gil’s family and friends.”
Statement from the Pro Football Hall of Fame President Jim Porter:
“You can’t tell the story about the success of the Dallas Cowboys and their two-decade run of winning seasons from the mid-1960s to mid-1980s without mentioning Gil Brandt,” said Jim Porter, President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“His innovative approach to scouting and player evaluation helped the organization find players others overlooked. The result was discovering future Cowboys from smaller colleges, or even off college basketball or track teams. He is credited with advancing the use of computers in the front office of pro football teams, but the real computer was the one in his own head, where he stored an incredible amount of information that he loved to share with anyone who appreciated the game like he did.”
-- Courtesy Clarence Hill, Ft. Worth Telegram