An arresting, assaultive appraisal of Tom Landry, which damns with faint praise the stone-faced coach who, having helped to make the Dallas Cowboys one of the NFL's premier teams, stayed too long at the fair. With no pretense of objectivity, the author (who has covered the Cowboys for over a decade as a sports columnist) furnishes a revisionist version probing the darker realities behind the club's vaunted image. In many respects, his appreciation of pro football in the Big D is even bleaker than the fictional nightmare visions offered by Peter Gent in North Dallas Forty and The Franchise During much of his tenure, Bayless concludes, Landry was something less than a gridiron mastermind. Indeed, by the author's tellingly detailed account, he was an oft-befuddled, panic-prone field commander whose successful quarterbacks (in particular, Roger Staubach) largely ignored his play selections. Bayless is at a loss, however, to reconcile Landry's born-again Christianity with his callous attitude toward players and tunnel-visioned acceptance of front-office goings-on. Nor do the coach's coconspirators escape indictment. Sometime owner Clint Murchison, for example, emerges as an indefatigable womanizer, while Tex Schramm, the hard-drinking CEO, appears as a world-class manipulator--albeit one with foresight enough to grasp the commercial potential of pro football in the city, state, nation, and, perhaps, world. Chief scout Gil Brandt, though, gets short shrift as a mere hustler whose inability to adjust to changing times was a principal reason the club's talent well ran dry during the 1980's. With his well-developed sense of irony, Bayless considers Landry's awkwardly handled and very public firing by Jerry Jones (who bought the Cowboys early in 1989) a fine career move. Despite lackluster results in recent seasons, he was able to bask as a martyred myth in the veneration of fans who remembered him fondly for the good times. By contrast, his associates have simply faded away--as have the crowds at Texas Stadium. A savvy, dirt-dishing exposÃ‰ of a pro football franchise that, for a time, parlayed a demonstrably mediocre record into unrivaled status as America's Team. Fine fare for armchair strategists who appreciate the implications and importance of what goes on off the field.