Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks: Their First Starts

So now that Tony Romo won his first NFL start, anyone wonder how other Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks have fared in their first start?  I did, but I’m boring like that.

Eddie LeBaron and Don MeredithTurns out, this was sort of tough because Tom Landry substituted quarterbacks so freely.  Thus, even though Don Meredith did not take over as full-time quarterback until 1963, he and Eddie LaBaron rotated at quarterback for much of 1962.

But here is a look at games where significant Cowboys quarterbacks took over as full-time starters.

Eddie LeBaron, Dallas 28, Pittsburgh 35, September 24, 1960: Dallas fell to the Steelers Eddie LeBaron35-28 in the Cowboys’ inaugural game. LeBaron finished with three touchdown passes in the game.

Though LeBaron, the smallish veteran from the Redskins, was the loser of the pass-pitching battle, he actually threw for more yardage than Layne, posting 348 yards on 15 of 28 passes, while Layne got 288 out of his 14 completions in 25 attempts.

Don Meredith, Dallas 21, Pittsburgh 27, October 28, 1963: Dallas lost to Pittsburgh Don Meredith27-21 in Meredith’s first game as the team’s number one quarterback.  Prior to this game, Meredith rotated with LeBaron.

Don Meredith delivered a strong performance Sunday in his debut as Dallas’ No. 1 quarterback. But he found that the Pittsburgh Steelers could deliver even stronger.

After firing the Cowboys toward an apparent solid victory, Meredith saw the Dallas pass defense crumble under a Steeler counter attack which pulled put a tingling 27-21 victory before 19,047 in rain-splashed Forbes Field.

Craig Morton, Dallas 21, New Orleans 17, September 29, 1969: Roger Staubach Craig Mortonstarted the first game of the 1969 season due to an injury to Morton.  Morton came back in the second week and led Dallas to the win.  Though Morton had started some games prior to that, he became the full-time starter when Meredith retired following the 1968 season.

Morton, who hadn’t played since dislocating a finger (which still has a huge knot on it), was obviously rusty. He missed his first five passes, though he dumped one and was hit while throwing two others. But he finished strong in the final period and seemed to have regained his timing. Craig, in fact, hit a respectable eight of 14 passes for 122 yards.

Roger Staubach, Dallas 16, St. Louis 13, November 7, 1971:  Staubach was originally Roger Staubachscheduled to start the first game of the season, but suffered a leg injury and had to sit out.  Landry rotated Staubach and Morton for much of the first half of the season, until the Cowboys found themselves at 4-3.  Staubach played the entire game for the first time all season, sparking a 10-game winning streak and the club’s first Super Bowl title.

Roger Staubach, for the first time this season, went all the way. Again, despite its sound and fury of netting 372 yards, Dallas could push across only one touchdown. But Staubach threw extremely well, using the sideline about 80 per cent of the time and operating the Cowboys’ conservative game plan almost to perfection between the 20’s. Roger finished with 20 completions in 31 attempts for. 199 yards. He had one dropped and no interceptions. Lance Alworth had eight catches, his top day this year.

Danny White, Dallas 17, Washington 3, September 8, 1980: The Danny White era opened with a Monday Night Football win at RFK Stadium.

Cowboy quarterback, Danny White, hitting just 10 of 18 for 107 yards (and giving up two interceptions), never was sacked, while a collection of Cowboy rushers gained 177 yards averaging 4.0 per carry.

Gary Hogeboom, Dallas 20, Los Angeles Rams 13, September 3, 1984: Hogeboom at least started pretty well.

The Gary Hogeboom era began in a record-breaking way Monday night, and with it could be the end forever of the Quarterback Controversy.

“Obviously,” coach Tom Landry said, “Gary was outstanding.”

Hogeboom broke one Cowboys record in the season-opening 20-13 victory over the Rams. It’s the second straight year the Cowboys have gained partial revenge in the season opener against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs the year before.

Steve Pelleur, Dallas 13, L.A. Raiders 17, November 9, 1986: Worth forgetting.  Pelleur started as a result of Danny White’s broken wrist.

The most important reason, of course, was the Cowboys’ charity in the first half, which included three of Steve Pelluer’s five interceptions. The Cowboys were presented with a half dozen scoring chances and they made the least out of it. Five times they reached the Raiders’ 30 without scoring. Two touchdowns were wiped out by penalties and Herschel Walker’s midair fumble above the goal line erased another.

Troy Aikman, Dallas 0, New Orleans 28, September 10, 1989: Aikman’s career Troy Aikmanstarted in a forgettable effort in New Orleans.

“It was just a frustrating day for the whole offense,” said Troy Aikman, who completed 17 of 35 passes for 180 yards but was intercepted twice in his first NFL game.

Aikman suffered from dropped passes but did appear to have put Dallas on the board with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin late in the fourth quarter. Never mind. Offensive tackle Dave Widell was called for holding.

Randy Galloway, then with the Dallas Morning News, stood up for the rookie:

His receivers were dropping passes like somebody had handed them a hot bowl of gumbo.

His No. 1 offensive weapon, Herschel Walker, might as well have been just another tourist on Bourbon Street.

His defense was shucked and devoured faster than a raw oyster in the French Quarter.

Welcome, Troy Aikman, to life at the bottom of the NFL.

Quincy Carter, Dallas 6, Tampa Bay 10, September 9, 2001: The Cowboys kept the game closer than many expected.

Quarterback Quincy Carter’s interception with 1:17 remaining allowed Tampa Bay, one of the favorites in the NFC, to escape with a 10-6 victory Sunday at Texas Stadium before a crowd of 61,521.

Chad Hutchinson, Dallas 14, Seattle 17, October 27, 2002: Hutchinson’s first start featured Emmitt Smith breaking the NFL’s all-time rushing record.  But that did not translate into a win.

There were near misses on long passes. Chad Hutchinson, making his first NFL start, had a hail-mary slip through the fingers of Ken-Yon Rambo on the final play of the half. Joey Galloway had Seattle cornerback Shawn Springs beat for a would-be touchdown on a deep crossing route midway through the third quarter, but Hutchinson’s pass was slightly underthrown, allowing Springs to break it up.

Vinny Testaverde, Dallas 17, Minnesota 35, September 12, 2004: The Dallas defense fell apart in a loss to the Vikings.

Drew Bledsoe, Dallas 28, San Diego 24, September 11, 2005: Leading a team to a win in his first game brought promise to Bledsoe’s career in Dallas.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe made his Dallas debut with 226 yards passing and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Keyshawn Johnson with 3:06 left, and the defense stopped San Diego on four plays from the Dallas 7-yard line in the final minute.

Tony Romo, Dallas 35, Carolina 14, October 29, 2006: Not bad.  Big Shot Blurbs:

Romo should be proud of the way he played against Carolina. He showed incredible poise and confidence, and it was important for his teammates to see him deliver in such a critical game, even if he’s already won them over in preseason and practice.

[tags] Dallas Cowboys, Don Meredith, Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Tony Romo, Drew Bledsoe [/tags]