That Strange Up-And-Down Thing The Dallas Cowboys Used To Do


Football fans from the 1970’s and 80’s especially will remember a unique maneuver done primarily by the Dallas Cowboys. Sometimes referred to as the “Landry Shift”, as it was developed and put into practice by then Cowboys coach Tom Landry, it baffled some fans who were forced to wonder what its purpose was as no other team did it.

The maneuver worked like this: the Cowboys would break huddle and come up to the line of scrimmage and set up in their initial offensive formation. Simultaneously all five offensive linemen would then stand up vertically and then go down to their three-point, or otherwise assigned, stance. The purpose of this was to disguise the realignment of the running backs that was going on at the same time. For instance the Cowboys offense might line up in an I-formation and then shift, partially obscured by the tall offensive linemen that were standing up at this point, into a split backfield or offset I-formation.

The idea was that even if you could delay the defense by half a second in seeing what formation you were running a play from, you might gain an advantage. The value of this maneuver is debatable as although the Cowboys were successful while using it, no other teams put it into practice and the Cowboys may have been just as successful without it. The truth though is that while Landry was with the Cowboys they did have 20 consecutive winning seasons (1965-1985) and the “Landry Shift” may have been partly responsible.

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