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Outside of CBS, Cowboys Rank in Middle of the Pack in Power Rankings

The Cowboys were a 6-10 team last season, and at times the team looked like it firmly belonged among the worst seven or eight teams in the league. Dallas signed some of its own important free agents, let go of aging and declining players, and brought in new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

The result from the power rankings perspective is that most think Dallas falls somewhere right in the middle.

The exception: Pete Prisco of CBS, who put Dallas at #7.

We’ll start with him.

CBS Sports (Pete Prisco) 

Prisco has the usual teams in the top six—Green Bay, New England, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Diego, New Orleans. You might expect to see Philadelphia, Baltimore, or either of the New York teams next.

However, Prisco put Dallas at #7.

They have Tony Romo back and they will have an improved, aggressive defense under Rob Ryan. The offensive line is young, but there is talent to overcome it.

This was posted on September 6, before Tyron Smith went down with a knee injury. The likely starter at right tackle: Jermey Parnell.

ESPN (staff) 

ESPN’s take on the Cowboys is more consistent with most opinions.

With no offseason to speak of, it might take awhile for the defensive players to get used to Rob Ryan’s schemes. Once they do, the Cowboys could be scary good on defense. (Fox)

Scary good is…well, good.

Fox (Brian Billick)

I was not aware that Billick wrote anything for Fox, but he wrote this week’s power rankings.  One thing that plays in the Cowboys’ favor: their schedule.

Will talent finally prevail? I’m worried about keeping Tony Romo healthy, with raw rookie right tackle, Tyron Smith. He has all the skills, but he’ll experience a noticeable learning curve. Their schedule, including the anemic NFC West, will help.

Some bad news if WhatIfSports is accurate at all. According to the simulations run by that site (and published on Fox), Dallas only ranks 21st.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from September 7, 1985

“Old man” John Dutton, age 34, appeared on the cover of the Sept. 7, 1985 issue

A reader named Bruce Lombard earlier this year most generously sent me a stack of copies of the old Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from the 1985 season and 1986 offseason. Each Wednesday, we will take a look at some interesting tidbits in these issues.

The focus this week is in the issue published on September 7, 1985.

Tex Schramm: Get Used to Television Screens at Stadiums

One reader noted that a bunch of fans at Texas Stadium spent more time watching the DiamondVision screen rather than the action on the field. The reader asked Tex Schramm whether this might be a distraction. Tex’s response:

Large television-type screens, whether DiamondVision or another product, are going to become standard features in most stadiums. Attending a game in person should be as entertaining and informative as staying at home and watching the television set….You are going to see the players, particularly those on the bench, glancing up to watch the replays….Once these large screens have become a routine enhancement at all sports events, I don’t believe it will prove to be a distraction to the players. It will just be something they will have to learn to live with and overcome.

[Can’t help but note that Tex never lived to see the screen at Cowboys Stadium, but he would hardly be surprised]

Undefeated Preseason

The Cowboys beat the Houston Oilers 17-10 in the final preseason game to give Dallas a perfect 4-0 preseason record. It was the third time in team history that the team had accomplished this feat (1966 and 1971 were the other two).

Jesse Penn continued to impress, picking off his second pass of the preseason. Running back Robert Lavette also looked good, gaining 61 yards on 9 carries.

Of the 50 players who suited up against the Oilers, 18 had never played in a playoff game.

Cowboys Gear Up to Face Redskins in Opener

For the second time in three seasons, the Cowboys would open their season against the Redskins. Washington had won three straight games, including two in a row at Texas Stadium. The three-game streak was the longest for the Redskins in the history of the rivalry.

Strength: Short Yardage Defense

The Cowboys were especially confident of their short-yardage defense heading into the 1985 season. According to Everson Walls,

The short yardage was the strongest thing we had, even last year. Not many people did very well against us. We stopped lots of people on third down, and sometimes fourth down. So that’s a carry over. We’ve always played well on short yardage and goal line.

John Dutton: “Elder Statesman”

John Dutton was the most experienced player on the 1985 Cowboys. He entered the league in 1974 with the Colts and joined the Cowboys in 1979.

His experience made him the team’s “elder statesman,” and the magazine said that we should “now praise older men.”

Dutton was 34 at the time.

Bleh.

Cowboys Crack the Top 10 in NFL Poll

The Cowboys Weekly published a poll of the top 10 teams heading into the 1985 season. Those polled included writers from a number of large newspapers across the country. Dallas ranked 9th, tied with the L.A. Rams.

The list was as follows:

1. San Francisco

2. Seattle

3. Miami

4. Washington

5. Denver

6. L.A. Raiders

7. Chicago

8. St. Louis Cardinals

9. (tie) Dallas

9. (tie) L.A. Rams

According to oddsmakers in Nevada, the Cowboys had between 10:1 and 12:1 odds to win the Super Bowl. The favorites were San Francisco (3:1) and Miami (4:1). Chicago had 10:1 odds in Las Vegas, while New England’s odds were 50:1.

Tuesday Trivia: The Last Time the Cowboys Traveled to Play the Jets

This week’s trivia question focuses on the Cowboys’ 17-6 win over the New York Jets in 2003. That was the last time that the Cowboys faced the Jets at the old Meadowlands.

Here is the question:

The Cowboys trailed early in the game, 3-0, when one of the Jet players fumbled and the ball was recovered by a Dallas linebacker. That play set up a 31-yard touchdown run by Troy Hambrick, and the Cowboys never trailed again.

Who was the Jet player who fumbled, and which Dallas linebacker recovered?

* * *

Before the game in September 2003, there was an interesting exchange between former Jet coach Herm Edwards and former Cowboy coach Bill Parcells.

Parcells had returned to the Meadowlands in two consecutive weeks (with a bye in between), as the Cowboys beat the Giants in a thriller in week 2 and then came back to play the Jets. Edwards was in his third season with the Jets, having led the team to the playoffs for two consecutive years.

Edwards was 49 at the time, and he said he would not last as long in the NFL as Parcells, who was then 62.

”I promise you, I won’t do it to myself,” the 49-year-old Edwards said. ”I don’t have enough energy to last that long. I sleep four hours a day. I give everything I can to this team. You won’t see me at 60. In New York, it’s like dog years. I’ve been here three years, it’s really been six. When you start off like we start off, it’s like 10 years.”

Parcells didn’t buy it, replying:

‘Herm said no way he could be coaching when he’s 60?” Parcells said. ”You tell Herm that I made that statement, only it was 50. You get into the game, it beats you down and it eats you alive and then you find out. At some point, the game ceases to be a job and it becomes your life. And at some point, you no longer are ashamed of that. You say, ‘I can do it one more time.”’

Of course, Parcells had been involved when Edwards came on board because Parcells was still the Jets’ general manager. Edwards’ offensive coordinator in 2003 was, incidentally, former Cowboy offensive coach Paul Hackett.

Edwards lasted three more seasons in New York and then spent three years in Kansas City. His final season as a coach was 2008 when he was 54. Parcells coached until the end of the 2006 season when he was 65.

Both Parcells and Edwards went on to work at ESPN.

Monday’s Lurker Summary: Nonsense About Garrett on the Hot Seat

Notable comments from my forum lurking…

Pokes12 on CowboysZone asks whether there is any point to listening to Jerry Jones.

If you heard Jerry Jones during he Dolphins game you were told that M. Holland showed great and surprising stamina and would be a great contributor to the team this year.

Now he is gone. JJ has no clue about the team he is the Emperor and he hasNO clothes.

Our great GM missed numerous times to improve the team. Merriweather would have been an upgrade…..latest best available that JJ could not complete.

In the age of the Great Purge wouldn’t it be great to get rid of the biggest Pant Load of them all???

* * *

A writer for Yahoo! pondered whether Jason Garrett could be on the hot seat if the team fails again this year. The Dallas Morning News then posted about it. A commenter going by Raz07 responded:

Yeah, this is what critics like this guy fail (or avoid) to look at…

There’s a ‘clean up’ phase that Cowboys have to go through. Maybe if there was a full offseason, they’d be past it, but it’s most likely going to last for much of this season.

And we may only be mediocre at best this year. But you know what? that’s what happens when you have to clean house a little bit and re-build your system (not talking about rebuilding the team).

If you ask me, this is about a 2 year project for Jason Garrett to get this franchise where it needs to be.

I know we’re in the “win now” league, but honestly the teams that have spent more than a season building their teams are the ones that stay on top for years and years.

And given the mess we’ve had for years because of Jerry, it’d be foolish for anyone to think we can fix everything and be in the same category as Patriots or Steelers after just one year.

Sorry. Reality Check.

* * *

A relatively new blog known as ChiaCrack’s Cowboys Blog noted that Cowboys have signed former Atlanta and St. Louis receiver Laurent Robinson.

I have always been intrigued by Laurent Robinson, especially in fantasy football ( I know corny). He has good size and great speed, he ran a 4.38 40 at the NFL Combine back in 2007. He has had some injuries, a broken fibula in 2009 that set him back. He came back and had a decent season with the Rams last year, 34 catches 2 TD’s.

I love the signing because this gives a player the chance to succeed. Robinson is a guy who has a lot of talent (3rd round pick by the Falcons in 2007) and just has never lived up to his hype. I think in this system, he could become a big play guy. Somebody is in trouble, whether that is Jesse Holley or Kevin Ogletree we don’t know yet.

Love the signing Jerry, Stephen and Jason, great job guys. According to Robinson’s Twitter he is a Cowboy, I haven’t heard anything confirming it yet elsewhere.

It turns out, though, that the team is just bringing Robinson in for a workout. There had been talk that the Cowboys could bring in former first-round pick Donnie Avery, who is still a free agent.

* * *

ween22 on the Classic Cowboys Forum at True Blue Fan Club wrote a post in 2009 about the Cowboys’ record on opening day. A poster named the emperor added an update for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Here is the information:

All time record on opening day: 34-16-1 (.676 winning percentage)

Record By Decade:
1960-69: 6-3-1
1970-79: 10-0
1980-89: 6-4
1990-99: 8-2
2000-09: 4-6
2010 — : 0-1

Record By Coach:
Tom Landry:  22-6-1
Jimmy Johnson:  3-2
Barry Switzer:  3-1
Chan Gailey:  2-0
Dave Campo:  0-3
Bill Parcells:  1-3
Wade Phillips:  3-1
Tidbits:We have outscored our opponents on opening day by a total of 1264-920 (an average of 25-18 per game)

We won an astonishing 17 consecutive season opening games from 1965-81, and 21 out of 22 from 1965-86

During that 22 game stretch we outscored our opponents by a total of 643-285 (an average of 29-13 per game)

We are 7-1 in opening games in seasons when we played in the Super Bowl.  The only loss came in 1993 when Emmitt was a holdout.

We are 14-2 in seasons where we played in the NFL (pre 1970) or NFC Conference Championship Game

In the 30 seasons where we made the playoffs we are 25-5 in the opener

Out of the 21 seasons we did not make the playoffs we are 9-11-1 in the opener

Our largest was margin of victory was against the Detroit Lions in 1968: 59-13

Our worst statistical loss was against the New Orlean Saints in 1989: 28-0

Our most embarrassing opening day loss (in my opinion) came in 2002 to the Houston Texans; their first ever NFL regular season game…maybe one of our worst non playoff losses ever

The most consecutive opening day losses was 5 from 2000 to 2004

Since 2007, we have won 3 out of the last 4 games

Current and Former Cowboys Fare Well in Rating Contest

Pro-Football-Reference is running a poll to establish a community-based rating system for all players in NFL history. The description of the system is as follows:

The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in two-player games. The creator of the system, Arpad Elo, was a professor of physics at Marquette University who wanted an improved chess rating system. Although the system has its roots in chess, today it is used in many other games.

At various times, members of the Cowboys have ranked in the top 10 on both offense and defense. As of today, though, only two—Randy White and Bob Lilly—rank in the top 10 in defense. Time for Cowboys fans to get on that site to boost ratings.

Offense

Emmitt Smith ranks #13 on the list, winning 76.8% of his contests. That is four spots ahead of Roger Staubach and five spots ahead of Tony Dorsett.

Other Cowboys among the top 100 include Lance Alworth (#22), Rayfield Wright (#57), Larry Allen (#60), Drew Pearson (#65), Terrell Owens (#70), Mike Ditka (#85), Jason Witten (#92), and Troy Aikman (#96).

Here is a complete list:

Defense

White has edged out Lilly by one position among defensive players. Mel Renfro is close at #14, while Deion Sanders is as #20.

Also making the top 100 include Herb Adderley (#22), Too Tall Jones (#23), Charles Haley (#35), Chuck Howley (#42), Cornell Green (#43), Zach Thomas (#70), and Cliff Harris (#86).

The complete list is below. I should note that some who appear on here were actually offensive players, including Forrest Gregg and Otto Graham. I suspect that this is an automated system, and since those players played on both sides of the ball, they are showing up as defensive players.

Friday Fun: Word Search Game with Dallas Cowboys Kickers

The Cowboys have to decide which among the four remaining kickers will kick for the team starting one week from Sunday.

From Mickey Spagnola:

Kicker: The Cowboys had so many kickers they could have fielded a starting five for a rec league basketball team. That’s right, five before trimming to four by placing rookie Kai Forbath on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List, meaning they have bought themselves at least six weeks, and as many as 10 to make a decision on his rights. So the kicking job, or jobs since Jerry Jones suggested keeping two kickers is not out of the question, comes down to David Buehler, rookie Dan Bailey and recently-signed veterans Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner. Some might suggest none of the above, but the guess here is Buehler and … meaning a second guy just in case. Frankly, no one, if you look at the combination of kickoffs and field goals, has unseated the incumbent Buehler, who seemingly has recovered from his strained hip-flexor. Remember, the past week of practice counts, too, and we didn’t get to see those.

So there’s no better time than to feature a word search game with names of former and current kickers of the Dallas Cowboys. Either of you who might like this stuff, please enjoy.

Dallas Cowboys Kickers: Word Search game » word search puzzles

Miami 17, Dallas 3: Even More Kicker Drama

Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano meet after the Dolphins beat the Cowboys 17-3 in the final preseason game.

The Cowboys ended their preseason on Thursday night with a boring 17-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

You wouldn’t know it from the score, but the Cowboys had a fine game on paper. Dallas outgained Miami 389-278. Starting QB Stephen McGee hit 21 of his 25 passes for 233 yards. This included 48 yards on a screen pass to DeMarco Murray in the first quarter. Dallas also only had one turnover (a McGee interception early in the game that led to nothing) and only five penalties.

However, both David Buehler and Dave Rayner missed field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards, and Rayner missed a 36-yarder from the dirt in the infield late in the game. Buehler gave the team its only points on a 20-yard attempt at the end of the first half. Dallas will have a kicker, but good luck guessing who it is.

Murray had more than a quarter of the team’s yardage, gaining 32 on the ground and another 64 in the air. Phillip Tanner added 28 on the ground. Owner Jerry Jones said during the game that Tanner had made the squad, which was good news.

Bad news was that after a good preseason and a good game against Miami, Raymond Radway appeared to suffer a broken ankle or leg. He was jumping up to catch a pass in the end zone but came down very awkwardly on it. He was on the field for several minutes and was carted off with his leg in an inflatable cast.

So that does it for preseason. The team will make its final roster cuts on Saturday.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from August 31, 1985

Randy White made the cover of the Aug. 31, 1985 issue.

A reader named Bruce Lombard earlier this year most generously sent me a stack of copies of the old Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from the 1985 season and 1986 offseason. Each Wednesday, we will take a look at some interesting tidbits in these issues.

The focus this week is in the issue published on August 31, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm

A reader asked Tex Schramm what his opinion was about illegal college recruitment. Schramm offered a few ideas, but he generally thought that it would be difficult to stop the practice.

The desire to win and the pressure to win is so great! I was talking not long ago to a new president of a small but established college in the midwest. After being named president, he took a tour of the state. When he returned, he told me, the first thing he did was call in his football coach and inquire, “What kind of team are we going to have this year?” He said wherever he went, nobody wanted to discuss the new library, or the status or calibre of the professors in this department or that. They wanted to know if the football team was going to win.

So long as that was the case, Schramm wrote, it would be tough to stop illegal recruiting.

Dallas 15, Chicago 13

Rafael Septien’s 24-yard field goal with three seconds left lifted the Cowboys to a 15-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Gary Hogeboom started in place of an injured Danny White and helped the Cowboys gain 256 yard through the air. Tony Dorsett saw his first action of the summer, gaining 36 yards on nine carries.

The game was marred by several fights. Per Tom Landry:

It was an interesting night. I don’t think I’ve seen that many fights in one game, but it was competitive. Everybody was out after everybody.

Randy White

In an effort to stop opponents from double-teaming Randy White, Dallas planned to modify its defense so that White lined up in different places. In fact, he lined up in an upright stance in the first preseason game against San Diego, which confused commentators Pat Summerall and John Madden. Some wondered whether Dallas had installed the “Manster Defense.”

Still Talking About Jesse Penn

Rookie linebacker Jesse Penn was still turning heads. Linebackers coach Jerry Tubbs said Penn was the best athlete at the position since Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.

Suicide Joke in a Letter to the Editor

John Creicar of Manitowoc, Wisconsin apparently had a dry sense of humor. He wrote the following to the editor:

I was thinking commiting (sic) suicide the other day; but then I remembered I’d never again see the Cowboys win another Super Bowl, let alone another game. Needless to say, I changed my mind in a second. I guess I literally do live for the Cowboys.

Seriously now, I can’t remember ever being as anxious for the season to start as I am this year. It must be because we missed the play-offs last season. If not for the vacation in Buffalo and the unbelievable happenings in the second Redskin game, we would have been right there. So let’s start this year off right and do a hatchet-job on those nasty ‘Skins.

My 2011 response to John: I hope you survived not only the 1985 season, but also the down years that followed. If you were going to kill yourself over the 1984 Cowboys, the 1989 team would probably lead you to bury yourself alive.

Tuesday Trivia: What Team Other Than Dallas Nearly Took Andre Gurode?

Check out the video below to find out which team other than Dallas nearly drafted Andre Gurode in the first round of the NFL draft.

Andre Gurode Went from Bust to Among the Best in Dallas

The Cowboys released yet another Pro Bowler on the offensive line by letting Andre Gurode go.

It was not a shock—but it was at least a surprise—that the Cowboys released Andre Gurode today. That means that Dallas will have three new linemen starting in 2011, and the Cowboys lose a five-time Pro Bowler.

Gurode played both center and guard while playing at Colorado, and some expected him to replace Kelvin Garmon at right guard. However, Mark Stepnoski’s second stint with the team ended after the 2001 season. Whether he played guard or center, though, most thought he was a solid pick. One scouting report from 2002:

Gurode has spent most of his career at Colorado playing center but has spent some significant time at guard as well. He will probably be used as a center in NFL. He is a physical and athletic player who has the size and strength needed to be a dominant pro. He has very long arms that he uses to his fullest in pass protection. Gurode is very strong, especially in his upper body. He is both a road-grader in the running game and a very effective shield in pass protection. He also has a mean streak to him, and is always going for the knockout punch on his defender. He has had knee problems in the past but appears to have moved past those disabilities. Gurode tends to rely too much on his strength and may get sloppy at times, but he will likely make some team very happy as their anchor in the middle.

Gurode played at both right guard and center during his rookie season and played right guard in 2003 and 2004 while Matt Lehr and Al Johnson manned the center position. Gurode only started two games in 2005 after the team brought in Marco Rivera. It looked as if Gurode may have been yet another bust, until…

Gurode took over the starting center duties from Johnson in 2006 (the first year without Larry Allen), and Gurode started 78 of the next 80  games. Of course, many remember Gurode for being Albert Haynesworth’s victim during a Dallas win at Tennessee in 2006, but during the same season, Gurode was selected to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls.

Gurode had his weaknesses, such as snapping in shotgun, but he was a consistent anchor of the line for the past five years.

His five Pro Bowl selections equal the total of Stepnoski, though two of Stepnoski’s selections came while he played for the Oilers. No other center in team history came close in terms of accolades. Ray Donaldson made two Pro Bowls in Dallas at the end of his long career, while Dave Manders only made one during his ten-year career. Neither Tom Rafferty nor John Fitzgerald ever made a Pro Bowl.

Who was the greatest center in team history?

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My pick: Stepnoski. By most accounts, Fitzgerald and Manders were good centers on good football teams, but neither really stood out, especially compared with others on the line. Rafferty’s best years may have come when he played guard; he never managed to stand out as a great center. That leaves Stepnoski and Gurode, and Stepnoski has to have the edge. Stepnoski was a major part of the team’s Super Bowl teams in 1992 and 1993, and he was sorely missed when he jumped ship after 1994. Gurode was a solid anchor on what I think was an overhyped line in the late 2000s. I think Gurode belongs in this conversation, but overall, neither he nor the line he anchored accomplished what Stepnoski and his line accomplished.