The 1969 Cowboys Crash. Hard.


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The end of the Cowboys’ first decade as an NFL team should not have been this disasterous. In four seasons, the Cowboys managed a combined regular season record of 42-12-2, including the 11-2-1 record in 1969.

The team’s playoff record during that time: 1-4, not counting Playoff Bowl appearances. The fourth loss came on December 28, 1968 in a 38-14 drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Browns.

2009-04-08_223306.gifAgainst the Browns, more than 69,000 fans watched Craig Morton struggle to complete a pass, leading those fans to call for Roger Staubach to come into the game. Morton completed only 8 of 24 for 92 yards and two interceptions. He threw a pick in the fourth quarter that was returned 88 yards for a touchdown by Walt Sumner, giving the Browns a 38-7 lead.

2009-04-08_223028.gifThose fans watched rookie cornerback Otto Brown struggle mightily against receiver Paul Warfield, who caught eight passes for 99 yards.

At the end of the game, the fans saw kicker Mike Clark completely miss the ball on an onside kick attempt after the Cowboys scored to make the final score 38-14.

[Incidentally, Clark is best known for (a) kicking the shortest field goal in Super Bowl history; and (b) missing the ball on a meaningless onside kick. Too bad for a player who lasted ten years in the league and made a Pro Bowl]

The Dallas Morning News headline: Swell! Another Cowboy Booby Prize

The box score from Pro Football Reference isn’t any better.

The Cowboys appeared in one more game following the 1969 season. On January 3, 1970, the Cowboys welcomed a new decade by suffering the first shutout in team history: a 31-0 loss to Los Angeles, which hardly resembled a game.

Good news item #1: Nobody really considered the Playoff Bowl to be a game that counted. When game is known as the Runnerup Bowl, Jam Bowl, and Loser Bowl, most would prefer to forget it.

Good news item #2: The Cowboys had a pretty good decade during the 1970s, to say the least.

  • Mike W

    Hey Matt, excellent job on this 50 seasons series. Keep up the great work.
    “A Cowboys fan in Giantville”

  • Tim Truemper

    This was one terrible game. Why Morton had it so tough is still a mystery. One important aspect to Matt’s description is the defensive tactic used by Landry to stop Warfield. During most of the season, Phil Clark was the starting left CB. He had struggled and Landry put the rookie Otto Brown in to start. The idea of using Mel Renfro, who had played safety that season, as the CB on third down situations and moving Otto Brown to safety failed miserably. Renfro actally covered Warfeld fairly well, but Warfield made several tough catches to keep drives going. Whenever he was not open, the rest of the coverage was not so good with Otto Brown struggling to play safety on third down. This game, for me, is one of the top 10 all time bad losses in Cowboy history and it represented a start for change in the way Landry began to coach players (I said a start–it woould take a couple of more seasons). Interestingly, after the game Lee Roy Jordan was critical of the Landry approach without mentioning Landry. I kept the article for years in a scrapbook as it was rather telling about player discontent about some of Landry’s methods.

  • I was in the 9th grade at the time — I don’t remember much about the game, just feeling sick and empty afterwards.

    I don’t recall Lee Roy’s specific comments, but it could be that his comments led to anti-Lee Roy feelings by Tex Schramm, and Tex keeping Lee Roy out of the ROH until Jerry took over.

  • Steve

    What I remember about this game is the Cowboys’ defense held the Browns on their first possession and forced a punt. The whole team was psyched remembering how the Brown’s had manhandled Dallas the year before. But Cleveland’s punt struck a young Rayfield Wright in the back and was recovered by the Browns. The Cowboys’ confidence evaporated immediately under the weight of those painful playoff losses the three previous years.

    This loss was a further reinforcement of the label “Next Year’s Champions”. Unfortunately, there would be another devastating playoff loss the following year to Jim O’Brien’s Colts before we made it all the way in Super Bowl VI.