50 Seasons Series
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Review each year in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, starting with the planning stages in 1959 and through the present day.
For the first 28 years of the Cowboys’ existence, the team took an annual trip to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. Dallas dominated the series with St. Louis during that time, going 32-18-1 . However, Dallas had a more difficult time winning at either Sportsman’s Park (the first Busch Stadium) or Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium. In road games against the Cardinals, Dallas only managed a 14-11-1 record.
During the mid-1970s, the Cardinals had several strong teams and won three in a row at Busch Stadium against Dallas. The 1977 Cardinals were not as strong and headed into a week 4 matchup with Dallas with only a 1-2 record. On the other hand, the Cowboys were 3-0 and on their way to an 8-0 start.
Despite their struggles, the Cardinals gave the eventual Super Bowl champions a good game. When defensive tackle Charles Davis returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown, St. Louis took a 24-16 lead.
Dallas cut the lead to 24-23 on a Tony Dorsett touchdown early in the fourth quarter. On the next drive, the Cardinals faced a 3rd-and-9 from their own 40. That is where the video below begins.
The touchdown pass from Staubach to occurred with 13:15 left in the game, but neither team was able to score again. Dallas held on for the 30-24 win.
The table below shows the Cowboys’ record on road games in St. Louis against the Cardinals.
As defending Super Bowl champions in 1978, the Cowboys ran into some problems. They stood at 6-4 after ten games, but then the team went on a tear. By Thanksgiving, both the Cowboys and the Redskins stood at 8-4, and the winner of the Thanksgiving Day game would take control of the division.
It wasn’t much of a game. Dallas stormed to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to two Rafael Septien field goals along with a touchdown by Scott Laidlaw. Then, with just over 12 minutes left in the first half, Roger Staubach hit Drew Pearson on a 53-yard bomb that basically put the game out of reach long before it was over. Dallas cruised to a 37-10 win, as Laidlaw scored twice and rushed for 121 yards.
Here is a video of a pregame interview with Staubach, a clip of Pearson’s touchdown reception, and a postgame interview with Tony Dorsett:
Dallas did not lose another game during the regular season on the team’s way to an appearance in Super Bowl XIII. Meanwhile, the Redskins did not win another game and missed the playoffs.
A couple of years ago, I drafted a post about classic articles focusing on former Dallas quarterback Dandy Don Meredith. I concluded the post with:
Cowboys’ fans almost always rank Meredith among the greatest Cowboys, and any disappointment with the team’s performance in the 1960s has long since vanished. He did not attend the ceremony after the final game at Texas Stadium, one of the few surviving members of the Ring of Honor who did not show up. But that is precisely what has become the norm for Meredith, for he doesn’t need the applause.
Today is a sad day, as Meredith died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 72 on Sunday.
Matt Mosley wrote a nice piece about Meredith, noting:
I never had the opportunity to meet Meredith, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He lived his life in the spotlight as a star quarterback at SMU and then as the quarterback of the Cowboys under coach Tom Landry in the early days of the organization. He then became one of the more celebrated TV analysts in the country with his work on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” He was actually more of an entertainer than an analyst, and he was the perfect complement to Howard Cosell’s acerbic approach in the booth.
Those in my generation remember Meredith as the Monday Night Football personality, but his place as a Cowboy great was never lost. Mosley again has captured the sentiment:
Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman are certainly the best quarterbacks in the history of the franchise. But I don’t think either one of those guys will argue with the statement that Meredith will always be the most beloved. There are a lot of Cowboys fans of a certain age today who will have trouble fighting back the tears.
This is a profound loss to the organization. And even those of us who never had the pleasure of knowing Don Meredith will miss him.
Below is a video showing Meredith’s highlights.
Yesterday’s post about the Cowboys’ 42-17 loss to the Saints in 2006 was hardly positive. So today, we’ll focus on a better time period.
In 1978, the Cowboys ran into some trouble out of the gate. Dallas lost to Washington in week 5 to fall to 3-2 overall, which was two games behind the 5-0 Redskins. Dallas later lost two consecutive games to fall to 6-4, but a win over the Packers in week 11 improved the Cowboys’ record to 7-4. Meanwhile, Washington began a free fall and only had an 8-3 record at that point.
In week 12, the Cowboys hosted Archie Manning and the Saints, while the Redskins hosted the Cardinals. Dallas and Washington would face off on Thanksgiving Day.
New Orleans had some offensive talent in 1978, featuring not only Manning, but also Tony Galbreath, Chuck Muncie, Wes Chandler, Ike Harris, and Henry Childs. However, the Saints did not rush the ball very effectively, and the defense was mediocre at best. New Orleans still had a 5-6 record with hopes that the team could record its first winning season in franchise history.
The Cowboys had little trouble with the Saints that day. Tony Dorsett rushed for 152 yards, allowing him to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row. Billy Joe DuPree was the biggest receiving threat, catching 3 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.Dallas won 27-7.
Here is a video showing one of the TD drives:
The Cardinals beat the Redskins that week, meaning that the Cowboys and Redskins were tied at 8-4 on Thanksgiving. Dallas crushed Washington 37-10 en route to another NFC East title.
Tony Romo started his first NFL game in week 8 of the 2006 season. Thanks to his solid play, Dallas was able to turn around a 3-3 start and had an 8-4 record heading into a week 14 showdown with the New Orleans Saints, who were also 8-4.
The game wasn’t close. Dallas had no answer for anything that Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense did, including the Saints’ use of fullback Mike Karney, who scored three touchdowns.
Perhaps the greatest indignity—the Saints could have score even more than 42 points, but rookie head coach decided to spare his mentor, Bill Parcells, from further embarrassment.
The game took place during my first year of blogging. My comment about the defense had a tone to it similar to what we saw this year from the Cowboys.
I have no confidence that Dallas will– on a week-to-week basis– put together a game plan that will stifle an opponent. It’s either that, or this team does not have the talent that many thought. What the Giants were able to do on their last drive last week– you know, the one where the Cowboys’ defense could have ended it– New Orleans did all game. 536 total yards for the Saints.
Here are the video highlights from that game:
Following the loss, Dallas managed a win at Atlanta to clinch a playoff berth. However, the Cowboys did not win another game in 2006, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle.
The 2010 season isn’t the first time that the Cowboys have faced the Lions on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. In 2005, the Cowboys and Lions faced off at Texas Stadium where the 4-5 Lions were trying to get to .500.
Dallas had struggled early and stood at 4-3 after a frustrating loss at Seattle. Dallas returned home and beat Arizona before a week 9 bye. In week 10, the Cowboys had to travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Dallas pulled off an improbable 21-20 win thanks to a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Roy Williams.
The Lions had young talent in its skill positions, including quarterback Joey Harrington; receivers Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, and Mike Williams; and running back Kevin Jones. Dallas had some older talent in the form of quarterback Drew Bledsoe and receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn. The Cowboys moved the ball much more effectively on the ground, though, with Julius Jones and Marion Barber combining for 145 rushing yards. Barber also added two touchdowns. The Lions didn’t help their cause by committing 17 penalties for 129 yards.
The loss for Detroit began a five-game slide. The Lions only managed to win one more game that season and finished at 5-11. Detroit fired coach Steve Mariucci after a loss to the Falcons four days later and replaced him with Dick Jauron.
As for Dallas, the Cowboys weren’t able to take advantage of the momentum from the three-game winning streak. Dallas lost to Denver on Thanksgiving Day and finished the season at 9-7. The Cowboys missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
Here’s a video showing the highlights from the 2005 season.
The new book America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys features a listing of the team’s Golden Anniversary Team. In a previous post, I noted that there were a few mild surprises. Here is the complete list, which also notes the members of the Silver Anniversary Team who didn’t make the cut a quarter century later.
Roger Staubach, 1969-1979
Troy Aikman, 1989-2000
Didn’t make the cut: Don Meredith, QB, 1960-1968
Tony Dorsett, 1977-1985
Emmitt Smith, 1990-2002
Don Perkins, RB, 1961-1968
Didn’t make the cut: Walt Garrison, 1966-1974
Michael Irvin, 1988-1999
Bob Hayes, WR, 1965-1974
Didn’t make the cut: Drew Pearson, 1973-1983
Jason Witten, 2003-present
Didn’t make the cut: Billy Joe Dupree, 1973-1983
Mark Stepnoski: 1989-1994, 1999-2001
Didn’t make the cut: John Fitzgerald, 1971-1980
John Niland, 1966-1974
Larry Allen, 1994-2005
Didn’t make the cut: Herb Scott, 1975-1984
Rayfield Wright, 1967-1979
Erik Williams, 1991-2000
Didn’t make the cut: Ralph Neely, 1965-1977
Bob Lilly, 1961-1974
Randy White, 1975-1985
Ed Jones, 1974-1985
Harvey Martin, 1973-1983
Chuck Howley, 1961-1972
Lee Roy Jordan, 1963-1976
DeMarcus Ware, 2005-present
Didn’t make the cut: D.D. Lewis, 1968-1981
Mel Renfro, 1964-1977
Everson Walls, 1981-1989
Cliff Harris, 1970-1979
Darren Woodson, 1992-2003
Didn’t make the cut: Charlie Waters, 1970-1981; Cornell Green, 1962-1974
Mat McBriar, P, 2004-present
Didn’t make the cut: Danny White (as a punter) 1976-1985
Rafael Septien, K, 1978-1985
Deion Sanders (as a punt returner), 1995-1999
Bill Bates (as a special teams player), 1983-1997
Tom Landry, 1960-1988
The Cowboys for many years were the most innovative team in terms of their approach to the collegiate draft, and for that reason the team has not had many horrible drafts. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few bad ones. What’s more troubling have been some of the poor drafts that have taken place during the past 10 years.
Of particular concern right now is the 2009 draft, which thus far has produced a kicker with a big leg and accuracy problems; a third tight end who is on injured reserve this year; a third-string quarterback who ran the option until his senior year in college and who has not played a down in the NFL; and a backup linebacker. With the Cowboys’ release of Jason Williams this week, 7 of the team’s 12 picks have been cut, though Robert Brewster and Manuel Johnson are still on the practice squad.
So the question of the day is whether the 2009 draft was the team’s worst. It may be a tough call, but rather surprisingly, there have been few worst drafts. Here’s a look. Please make your selection in the form at the bottom of the post.
First-round pick Tody Smith only played two years in Dallas before moving on to Houston. Eighth-round pick Ron Jessie never played for the Cowboys but became a Pro Bowl player in Los Angeles. Defensive lineman Bill Gregory remained with the team until 1977 before becoming a starter in Seattle. Otherwise, most players taken in this draft were completely forgettable.
First-round pick Larry Bethea never played like a high draft choice and only lasted six years in Dallas. Of the team’s 12 picks overall, only five played in the league. The best player of the bunch was tight end Todd Christensen, but he never played a down in Dallas. The only noteworthy Cowboy among the bunch was 11th-round pick Dennis Thurman.
The Cowboys had 16 picks in the 1982 draft but could only produce the likes of Rod Hill, Jeff Rohrer, and Phil Pozderac. Rohrer and Pozderac became starters, but it was only because the team’s talent level had decreased so much by the middle part of the decade.
This was the infamous backup draft, where the Cowboys picked players based on their projected roles as backups. The draft produced running back Sherman Williams, tight end Kendell Watkins, cornerback Charlie Williams, tight end Eric Bjornson, and cornerback Alundis Brice. They were, as you can imagine, backups.
Jerry was hell-bent on finding a defensive back to replace Deion Sanders in 2000. He found Dwayne Goodrich, Kareem Larrimore, and Mario Edwards. Only the latter of the three was worth anything. Running back Michael Wiley was not entirely awful coming out of the backfield, but he certainly wasn’t good either.
Jerry didn’t have a first-round pick for the second year in a row thanks to his trade for receiver Joey Galloway. He traded picks for picks for picks for picks before finally getting quarterback Quincy Carter and safety Tony Dixon in the second round.
This was the year of Barbie. That is, Bobby Carpenter. Everything about Bobby screamed BUST from early in his rookie season. The Cowboys found some better players in tight end Anthony Fasano, Jason Hatcher, Pat Watkins, and Pat McQuistan, but Fasano and McQuistan have had much better pro careers in Miami than in Dallas. The Cowboys cut Watkins during training camp in 2010 and miss him on special teams. Of the players taken in 2006, only Hatcher remains.
Jerry apparently didn’t learn anything from the Joey Galloway trade because he gave away the team’s first-round pick in 2009 to acquire receiver Roy Williams. Dallas then traded out of the second round to try to get more later-round picks. The big question on everyone’s mind as the team finally made selections: who is that?
My choice: I’m going to go with the 2000 draft for now. The Cowboys were headed downward fast and needed new talent. Instead, Dallas had only five picks and tried to corner the market on mediocre to bad cornerbacks. Other teams found a number of solid players in the first five rounds. Edwards and Wiley weren’t the worst picks ever, but when they are the only two contributors in an entire draft, it’s a pretty bad draft.
Over the weekend, I am going to post a review of Jeff Sullivan’s America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys. Among the book’s great features is the unveiling of the Cowboys’ Golden Anniversary Team.
In January 2009, I posted a list of those who made the 25th Anniversary Team, along with the names of several of those who have played since 1984 and who might make the Golden Anniversary Team. There were a few mild surprises. Here are some highlights:
1. Dandy Don Didn’t Make It
Don Meredith is the only player in the Ring of Honor who did not make the 50th team. It won’t take much guessing to figure out who did.
2. Moose Lost Out to Don Perkins
Many younger fans would expect Daryl Johnston to make the team as the fullback. However, that honor went to Don Perkins.
3. Irvin Is the #88 on the 50-Year Team
Drew Pearson has been left out of not only the Hall of Fame, but also the Ring of Honor. Now he hasn’t even made the 50th team. The other #88 did, as Michael Irvin joined the list.
4. Erik Williams Instead of Ralph Neely?
Erik Williams was a good offensive tackle for the Cowboys from 1991 to 2000. He dominated Reggie White few others. However, was he really better than Ralph Neely? Neely was named All-Pro three times compared with Williams’ two selections.
5. Darren Woodson over Charlie Waters
Charlie Waters made three Pro Bowls and had some of the great playoff games among any defensive player in team history. But this one had to go to Woodson, who made five Pro Bowls and was dominant at a time when Dallas was at the top of the league.
6. Danny White Doesn’t Make It as a QB or Punter
No surprise at all that Danny White didn’t make the list as a quarterback. But it was a bit of a surprise that he didn’t make the list as a punter. That honor went to Mat McBriar.
7. Deion Made It. And So Did Bill Bates!
The 50th team had more slots for special teams players. Bill Bates made the team under the label “Special Teams.” As for Deion, he did not make it as a cornerback, but he did make it as the best punt returner in team history.
The rest of the list is interesting, but the details will need to wait a couple of days. The team is pretty well balanced between the 1970s Cowboys and the 1990s Cowboys, with a few from the 1960s and 1980s throw in. Only two current Cowboys made the team—Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware.
In 2003, Jerry Jones proved his commitment to returning the Dallas Cowboys to prominence by convincing Bill Parcells to return to the sidelines. Parcells inherited a team that had only managed to win 15 games in the previous three seasons.
In his four seasons with the team, Parcells built what is still the nucleus of the team. Two of the drafts were especially critical, as the team in 2003 and 2005 picked up the likes of Terence Newman, Jason Witten, Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Marion Barber, and Jay Ratliff.
Then there were the other two drafts. In 2004, Dallas thought it was getting the team’s next great running back by taking Julius Jones, but he never managed to make people forget about Emmitt Smith or Tony Dorsett. Two years later, Dallas took a chance with Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter while teams below Dallas took players such as Antonion Cromartie, DeAngelo Williams, Nick Mangold, Joseph Addai, and DeMeco Ryans. The Cowboys traded Carpenter during the off-season in 2010, and he has since been released by two teams, including Miami, for which Parcells now serves as a consultant.
Here is a complete list of the drafts under Parcells:
1(5) Terence Newman, CB, Kansas State
2(38) Al Johnson, C, Wisconsin
3(69) Jason Witten, TE, Tennessee
4(103) Bradie James, LB, LSU
6(178) B.J. Tucker, DB, Wisconsin
6(186) Zuriel Smith, WR, Hampton
7(219) Justin Bates, G, Colorado
2(43) Julius Jones, RB, Notre Dame
2(52) Jacob Rogers, T, USC
3(83) Stephen Peterman, G, LSU
4(121) Bruce Thornton, DB, Georgia
5(144) Sean Ryan, TE, Boston College
7(205) Nate Jones, DB, Rutgers
7(216) Patrick Crayton, WR, NW Oklahoma
7(223) Jacques Reeves, DB, Purdue
1(11) DeMarcus Ware, LB, Troy
1(20) Marcus Spears, DE, LSU
2(42) Kevin Burnett, LB, Tennessee
4(109) Marion Barber, RB Minnesota
4(132) Chris Canty, DE, Virginia
6(203) Justin Beriault, DB, Ball State
6(209) Rob Petitti, T, Pittsburgh
7(224) Jay Ratliff, DE, Auburn
1(18) Bobby Carpenter, LB, Ohio State
2(53) Anthony Fasano, TE, Notre Dame
3(92) Jason Hatcher, DE, Grambling State
4(125) Skyler Green, WR, LSU
5(138) Pat Watkins, DB, Florida State
6(182) Montavious Stanley, DT, Louisville
7(211) Pat McQuistan, T, Weber State
7(224) E.J. Whitley, C, Texas Tech
The Cowboys certainly would not have had the success they did in the later part of the decade without the two solid drafts, but one can only imagine how good the team could have been if the drafts in 2004 and 2006 had been better.