New York Giants: 15 G-Men who changed the game forever

Odell Beckham, New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Odell Beckham, New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
6 of 17
New York Giants
Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys. New York Giants. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

12 – Tom Landry

No one questions the contributions legendary Cowboys head coach Tom Landry made to the NFL. Well before he went to Dallas, Landry was a true blue New York Giants legend. First as a player from 1949 – 1955 and then assistant coach from 1954-1959. Yes, that reads correctly, he was a player-coach for two years under Jim Lee Howell.

A former Army Air Corps officer and engineering student at the University of Texas, Landry did a little of everything during his playing career. He was a hard-hitting defensive back, served as the team’s punter (1952 he led the NFL in punting yardage), and returned both punts and kickoffs. Landry even stepped in as quarterback for two games in 1952 when Connerly and his backup Fred Benners were unable to play.

As an assistant coach/defensive coordinator, Landry’s units were among the NFL’s best. When he went to Dallas is when the NFL began to see his innovation. He was an early proponent of the 3-4 defense, but Landry modified it into the “Flex.” It’s was a complex defense that is almost impossible to explain. All-Pro safety Charley Waters once told D Magazine:

"“You’ll never understand it. If you and I went off and discussed only the Flex for five years, you still wouldn’t understand it.”"

Landry was also an innovator on offense as well. While they didn’t invent it, Landry’s Dallas Cowboys brought the modern shotgun snap to the league. Now it’s used on the majority of NFL plays. He would be higher on this lift if his major accomplishments were done while he was with the Giants.