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.
By January 28, 1960, Clint Murchison had already hired Tex Schramm and Tom Landry to run the proposed Dallas Rangers, but the team was not officially “born” until owners approved the franchise officially at a meeting in Miami. Today thus marks the 50th anniversary of the team’s official founding.
By the middle of January, the team (which would be renamed the Cowboys in March) already had more than 30 players under contract. Landry hardly seemed impressed. When told that he already had 36 players (the number was actually 31), he replied, “Thirty six! What kind of players? I don’t know anything about that.”
Murchison and Bedford Wynne went to Miami to try to convince owners to approve the team. Chicago Bears owner George Halas had previously promised that Dallas would receive a club, but this was hardly set in stone during the January 1960 meeting.
One big problem was that the league was considering realigning, and the owners were squabbling over where teams would fall. The powerhouse Baltimore Colts did not want to move into the league’s Eastern Conference, which was the conference that contained the New York Giants. Giant co-owners Jack and Wellington Mara were unsure about how they would vote.
You might recall that Washington owner George Preston Marshall was originally the one opposed to a new Dallas franchise. Murchison and Wynne famous made a power play by buying rights to the Redskins’ fight song, “Hail to the Redskins,” which led Marshall to change his mind. Marshall was noticeably absent from part of the January owners meeting in 1960.
The owners squabbled in Miami for more than a week about the expansion issue. Owners were likewise at a stalemate about the election of a new NFL commissioner to replace Bert Bell. On January 27, things started looking better for the Dallas club, as owners approved the appointment of Pete Rozelle as commissioner.
One day later, owners awarded a franchise to Murchison and Wynne while giving a franchise to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the 1961 season.
The 1984 season might have been more acceptable had it been a rebuilding season. However, that was hardly the case. The Silver Season demonstrated that the Cowboys’ remaining stars were getting older, and few of the younger players looked as if they were capable to stepping up.
The Cowboys lost more veterans after the 1984 season, including lineman Herb Scott and middle linebacker Bob Breunig. As for the MLB position, talk about stability—between 1960 and 1984, the team had only four middle linebackers, including Jerry Tubbs, Lee Roy Jordan, Breunig, and Eugene Lockhart. The latter started several games in 1984 and took over for Breunig for most of the rest of the 1980s.
The ’84 team featured three Pro Bowlers, including veterans Randy White and Doug Cosbie. The third became a staple of the Cowboys for many years to come—Bill Bates that season became the first player to earn a Pro Bowl berth based on his fearless play on special teams.
The changing of the guard in the NFC wasn’t immediate, but several teams were on the rise that year. Dallas managed to beat the Bears in 1984, but Chicago turned around and made a playoff run featuring a win at Washington. And the Cowboys were swept by a Giant team for the first time in two decades.
Anyway, before you solve the puzzle below, imagine the last person you might expect to hold an ’84 Cowboys jersey. Have fun.
The second half of the 1984 season for the Cowboys was memorable, but for mostly all the wrong reasons. The Cowboys had a streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances on the line, and when the team improved its record to 6-3, it looked like the streak would extend to ten seasons. However, the team suffered some tough losses and watched the ’84 playoffs from home.
Week 9: Dallas 22, Indianapolis 3
Danny White started his first game of the season in a 22-3 rout of the lowly Colts, who were suffering through a long first season in Indianapolis. White threw touchdown passes to Doug Cosbie and Tony Hill in the win.
Week 10: N.Y. Giants 19, Dallas 7
For the first time since 1963, the Cowboys were swept by the Giants. The quarterback carousel returned in Dallas for the first time since the Staubach/Morton debacle in 1971. Landry alternated White and Gary Hogeboom throughout the game, but neither was effective.
Week 11: Dallas 24, St. Louis 17
Hogeboom completed only 12 of 33 passes for 147 yards, but his touchdown passes to Ron Springs and James Jones helped the Cowboys to a win over the Cardinals. The win kept the Cowboys in a tie for the NFC East lead.
Week 12: Buffalo 14, Dallas 3
In what was probably the biggest embarrassment to the franchise during its first 25 years, the 7-4 Cowboys were unable to stop rookie running back Greg Bell and lost to the previously winless Bills, 14-3. The defeat ended the Gary Hogeboom experiment.
Per Tony Dorsett: “We’re the laughingstock of the NFL right now. Everybody is sitting around the league and laughing at us.”
Week 13: Dallas 20, New England 17
The Patriots erased a 17-7 Dallas lead during the second half, but Danny White led the team on a drive during the final two minutes to set up the game-winning field goal by Rafael Septien. The Dallas defense recorded 10 sacks in the game.
Week 14: Dallas 26, Philadelphia 10
The Cowboys guaranteed that they would have a winning record for the 19th straight year by beating the Eagles, 26-10. The Dallas defense continued to play well, as Dennis Thurman scored on an interception return for a touchdown and John Dutton recorded a safety by sacking Joe Pisarcik in the end zone.
Week 15: Washington 30, Dallas 28
The Cowboys looked like they might be able to pull out the NFC East title when Dallas ran out to a 21-6 halftime lead against the Redskins. But the Cowboys turned the ball over four times in the third quarter, including an interception by Darrell Green that resulted in a touchdown. The Cowboys regained the lead in the fourth quarter on a 43-yard pass from White to Hill, but John Riggins scored with 6:34 left, and the Dallas offense could not get into field goal range for the rest of the game.
Week 16: Miami 28, Dallas 21
For Dallas to make the playoffs as a wildcard, they needed a bunch of help, followed by a win over the Dolphins in Miami. It marked the first time in team history that the Cowboys had to win in the final week of the season to make the playoffs, but it wasn’t to be.
Miami took a 14-0 lead, but the Cowboys managed to tie the game on two Timmy Newsome touchdown runs. The Dolphins regained the lead on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Mark Clayton, but the Cowboys answered on a prayer of a play—a 66-yard touchdown pass from White to Hill on a tipped pass.
With 51 seconds left, Clayton got free over the middle on a 3rd-and-1 play, and Marino hit him for a 63-yard touchdown pass that ended the Cowboys’ season.
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A few more notes about the 1984 season:
- Dallas had not lost seven games since the 1965 season, when the team went 7-7.
- The Cowboys had finished every season since the NFL/AFL merge ranked in the top 10 in both points scored and yards gained. In 1984, the Cowboys’ offense fell to 18th in points scored and 11th in total offense.
- The Cowboys had a positive point differential every season since 1964. In 1984, the Cowboys scored exactly the same number of points as their opponents.
Tom Landry’s decision to replace Danny White with Gary Hogeboom wasn’t met with enthusiasm by all, though it was clearly motivated by the team’s support for Hogeboom. An article from August 29, 1984 quoted Ron Springs as follows:
The coach finally listened to us. Hogeboom was the most respected on the team. Danny had great stats but his confidence was lacking. Players don’t like ot hear things like that but it’s the truth. We expect great things from Hogeboom.
Landry was not reportedly not as enthusiastic about making the change.
The Cowboys coach was visibly upset at the prospect of supplanting his longtime No. 1 quarterback. Landry was so jittery at a news conference that at first he said the quarterback replacing White was “Pozderac,” an offensive lineman also known as Phil.
Landry corrected that to “Hogenbloom,” misprounouncing the name of his new field leader.
White had at least one supporter in his corner, and that was Roger Staubach. This is a piece written by Tim Cowlishaw shortly after Landry’s announcement.
Roger Staubach understands the pressure that goes with being the No. 1 quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He has heard the boos that come with anything less than a Super Bowl season.
But when it comes to Danny White, his 4-year reign as the Cowboys’ top man, and now his exile to the sidelines to make room for Gary Hogeboom, has Staubach shaking his head.
“I’ve had a hard time understanding why a quarterback that I feel is in the top two or three in the league has taken the abuse that he’s taken the last couple of years,’ Staubach said. “Of course, Gary Hogeboom has worked hard, but this has nothing to do with him. Danny has produced winning records.’
In the four years White has led the Cowboys since Staubach retired, Dallas has compiled three 12-4 records and a 6-3 mark in the strike-shortened 1982 season. In the NFL’s passing efficiency ratings, White ranks second only to San Francisco’s Joe Montana among all-time quarterbacks. In 1983, White broke or tied eight Cowboy passing marks.
But the numbers that fans care about are Super Bowl trips and, in four years with White at quarterback, Dallas has made none.
“Can’t win the big one? That’s baloney. This guy has been a winner all his life. They (the Cowboys) let a team go 90 yards in the last two minutes,’ Staubach said, referring to the 1981 NFC championship loss in San Francisco. “Who’s to blame for that, the quarterback?
“I just think the jury’s still out on this thing right now. Danny has taken a step backward, but that doesn’t mean he won’t step forward soon. Talk to Terry Bradshaw about what happened after he was replaced by (Joe) Gilliam in 1974. All Bradshaw did after that was win four Super Bowls.’
Staubach said he was not second-guessing Landry’s decision to start Hogeboom against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. ”
“I think his career over the last four years is a good one. I feel for him. There has been an undercurrent with the players, too, that I don’t understand. Who knows? It’s a tough racket,’ Staubach said.
“It’s tougher than real estate.’
This post marks the return of the 50 Season Series. From January through October 2009, this series covered the years from 1960 through the beginning of 1984. The next two posts will cover the 1984 season, which will lead into the second 25 seasons. The Cowboys, incidentally, celebrate the 50th anniversary of their founding on January 28.
The last post about the 1984 Cowboys noted that the team failed to retool during the 1984 offseason. The beginning of the season also marked a big change, as the Tom Landry decided to replace starter Danny White with Gary Hogeboom. Hogeboom was more popular in the locker room with other players, and the team suffered through four seasons of playoff losses under White.
The move was not a complete disaster, but Hogeboom did not turn out to be the answer. The Cowboys looked impressive in their opener against the Rams and started the season at 4-1. By mid-October, however, the Cowboys had fallen to 4-3, and White eventually earned his job back.
Week 1: Dallas 20, L.A. Rams 13
The Cowboys overcame a 13-0 deficit to pull out a 20-13 win in Anaheim. Hogeboom completed 33 of 47 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown, while Tony Dorsett picked up 81 yards on the ground with one score. The win avenged a loss to the Rams in the 1983 playoffs.
Week 2: N.Y. Giants 28, Dallas 7
The Cowboys fell behind 21-0 in the first half, and the Giants never looked back. Phil Simms threw three touchdowns, and the New York defense forced four turnovers.
Here is an article about the game from Sports Illustrated.
Week 3: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17
The Cowboys used a razzle-dazzle play to pull away from the Eagles. Leading 16-10 late in the third quarter, Hogeboom threw lateral to receiver Mike Renfro, who tossed a 49-yard touchdown pass to Doug Donley. The Eagles cut the lead to 23-17, but Dallas held on for the win. Hogeboom finished with more than 300 yards for the second time in three games.
Week 4: Dallas 20, Green Bay 6
With the Packers using both Lynn Dickey and Randy Wright, Green Bay only managed to complete 11 of 35 passes, as the Cowboys improved to 3-1 with a 20-6 win. Timmy Newsome and Tony Dorsett scored for the Cowboys.
Week 5: Dallas 23, Chicago 14
Despite allowing 155 rushing yards to Walter Payton, the Cowboys managed a 23-14 win at Solider Field. Tony Dorsett had the biggest play of the game, taking a screen pass 68 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Week 6: St. Louis 31, Dallas 20
Prior to this game, the last time that Dallas lost to the Cardinals at home was 1977, in a game where Jim Hart hit Mel Gray on a 49-yard touchdown to help St. Louis to a win. In 1984, receiver Roy Green was the threat, as he caught touchdown passes of 70 and 45 yards from Neil Lomax to help the Cardinals pull out the win. Landry’s confidence in Hogeboom looked shaken, as the coach replaced Hogeboom with White late in the third quarter.
Week 7: Washington 34, Dallas 14
The Cowboys fell behind 17-7 in the first half against the Redskins, then watched Joe Theismann completed an 80-yard touchdown to Calvin Muhammad in the third quarter that increased the Redskin lead. By the fourth quarter, Dallas was behind 34-7. Hogeboom threw two interceptions and was replaced again by White.
Dallas Morning News quote: “How can something that started so good turn so bad so quickly and for so long?”
Week 8: Dallas 30, New Orleans 27
The Cowboys managed to remain above .500 at the midway point of the year with an amazing comeback win against the Saints. The Cowboys fell behind 27-6 in the third quarter and looked dead in the water. However, reserve running back Chuck McSwain blocked a punt in the fourth quarter, which set up a short touchdown run by Tony Dorsett. From there, White (who replaced an injured Hogeboom) continued the comeback by hitting Renfro on a 12-yard touchdown pass to cut the New Orleans lead to 27-20.
With just under three minutes to play, Randy White sacked Ken Stabler and forced Stabler to fumble the ball. Jim Jeffcoat recovered the ball for a touchdown, and the game was tied. Dallas was unable to score in regulation, but a Rafael Septien field goal in overtime gave the Cowboys their fifth win of the season.
At the midway point of the 1984 season, Dallas, St. Louis, and Washington each had 5-3 records, while the Giants and Eagles both stood at 4-4. However, Dallas had lost to three of the four division rivals.
The Cowboys can’t overcome losses to the Bills and Giants and miss the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
I am fully aware that this means nothing in the long run, but the 2009 season has been so eerily similar to the 1991 season, it is hard not to hope that next year follows the same pattern.
Here are points of comparison.
Four-Game Winning Streaks
1991: The Cowboys started at 1-2 but then went on a four-game winning streak to improve their record to 5-2.
2009: The Cowboys started at 2-2 but then went on a four-game winning streak to improve their record to 6-2.
Ends of the Winning Streaks
1991: The Cowboys ended their winning streak by losing to a northern team (Detroit) on the road.
2009: Same, except the loss occurred at Green Bay.
Upsetting Undefeated Teams
1991: On November 24, the 6-5 Cowboys were coming off a two-game losing streak, with one of those losses occurring on the road against the Giants. Dallas faced the 11-0 Redskins at Washington. The Cowboys pulled off the huge 24-21 upset, giving the team momentum down the stretch.
2009: On December 19, the 8-5 Cowboys were coming off a two-game losing streak, with one of those losses occurring on the road against the Giants. Dallas faced the 13-0 Saints at New Orleans. The Cowboys pulled off the huge 24-17 upset, giving the team momentum down the stretch.
Learning from Previous Year’s Mistakes
1991: The Cowboys needed to win one of their last two games against the Eagles or Falcons to make the playoffs in 1990. Dallas lost both games. In 1991, the Cowboys faced the Eagles and Falcons again in the last two weeks, and Dallas won both games, securing a playoff berth.
2009: The Cowboys needed to win one of their last two games against the Ravens or Eagles to make the playoffs in 2008. Dallas lost both games. In 2009, the Cowboys faced the Redskins and Eagles in the last two weeks, and Dallas won both games, securing a playoff berth.
1991: The Cowboys finished with an 11-5 record and finished in second place in the NFC East.
2009: The Cowboys finished with an 11-5 record and won the NFC East.
Playoff Droughts Ended
1991: Dallas had not won a playoff game between 1982 and 1991. That streak came to an end when the Cowboys beat the Bears on December 29, 1991.
2009: Dallas had not won a playoff game between 1996 and 2009. That streak came to an end when the Cowboys beat the Eagles on January 9, 2010.
Blowout Losses in a Dome in a Northern City
1991: Dallas traveled to Detroit to take on the Lions in the 1991 playoffs. Dallas expected to have to stop running back Barry Sanders, but instead, Erik Kramer destroyed the Dallas secondary in a 38-6 Detroit win.
2009: Dallas traveled to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs. Dallas expected to have to stop running Adrian Peterson, but instead, Brett Favre destroyed the Dallas secondary in a 34-3 Minnesota win
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There are some other parallels and points of comparison, though some of these will need to play themselves out in 2010 and beyond.
Emerging Triplets (?)
1991: Troy Aikman was in his third season, Emmitt Smith was in his second season, and Michael Irvin was in his fourth season. Smith and Irvin emerged as Pro Bowlers in 1991, but Aikman was a year away from proving he was the real deal.
2009: Tony Romo is in his fourth season as a starter, Felix Jones is in his second season, and Miles Austin has emerged as a starter. Austin became a Pro Bowler, and Jones emerged as the team’s best running back at the end of the season. Romo got over one hump by beating the Eagles in the playoffs, but he needs more playoff wins to truly prove himself.
1991: Jimmy Johnson was in his third season as head coach after replacing Tom Landry. Playoff wins as of 1991: Landry 20, Johnson 1.
2009: Wade Phillips is in his third season as head coach after replacing Bill Parcells. Playoff wins (for Dallas) as of 2009: Phillips 1, Parcells 0.
1991: Favre was a little-known backup with the Atlanta Falcons. He was on the team that lost to the Cowboys in the final game of the regular season.
2009: Favre is probably the best known football player on the planet. He signed with Minnesota in August, leading the Vikings to a #2 seed and a playoff win over the Cowboys.
1991: Galloway was columnist with the Dallas Morning News. His column after the Cowboys’ 38-6 loss to the Lions:
They had come this far, this fast, but then they lose like that. Every defensive wart exposed. Every coaching move trumped. Every angle covered by the other guys.
They had come this far, this fast, but then they depart the playoffs looking Sunday like a ringer that had slipped past NFL security.
2009: The comment above could describe the Cowboys’ loss to the Vikings, except the focus of his piece in 1991 was on Jimmy Johnson’s response to the loss. He’s since moved on to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where the focus of Galloway & Hate this week most likely won’t express confidence in Wade Phillips.
Okay, so the pictures are from 1992 and 2006. You get the idea (KNIFE).
The Following Year
1992: Dallas goes 13-3 and wins Super Bowl XXVII.
2010: We can only dream for now.
When the 1971 Cowboys prepared to meet the Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs, one big concern was the weather at the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. In the picture above, head coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach looked over the field on the day before the game. The picture below is even more unusual, for it appears that Bob Hayes might not have seen snow in his life.
It turns out that the snow had little to do with the Cowboys 20-12 win over the Vikings. From the Sports Illustrated Vault:
Five times on the unseasonably warm afternoon the cold Vikings made a gift of the ball to Dallas, and the Cowboys turned three of these presents—a fumble and two pass interceptions—into two field goals and a touchdown. Late in the third period, on their only prolonged drive, an eight-play, 52-yard march, the Cowboys added another touchdown, their final score in a 20-12 win.
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The 2009 Cowboys have a few things in common with the Cowboys of the early 1970s. As the Cowboys prepared to face the Vikings on Christmas Day in 1971, Bob St. John of the Dallas Morning News wrote an article entitled “No Team Like the Present.” See if this sounds a little bit applicable to the Cowboys of the present:
Since 1966, the Dallas Cowboys have gone into the NFL playoffs in most every way known to man. They have been a young, enthusiastic team… a confident veteran team… a psychologically burdened team… and a team that scrapped for everything it got.
And they have been a team that you could never underrate and a team you could never overrate.
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As for the 1975 Hail Mary game, it is being replayed on NFL Network at 9:30 a.m. (CST) on Thursday. For more about the Hail Mary Game, check out the Web special at the Dallas Morning News site.
I may be the only one who is interested in this (covered here and here recently), but the Cowboys finished 50 regular seasons with the best winning percentage of any team in the league. This was thanks to the Cowboys’ win over the Eagles and the Dolphins’ loss to Pittsburgh in the final week of the 2009 season.
Here are the top five franchises, including the Cowboys’ opponent on Sunday:
Dallas Cowboys: 434-314-6 (.580)
Miami Dolphins: 387-281-4 (.579)
Chicago Bears: 693-507-42 (.577)
Green Bay Packers: 654-518-36 (.558)
Minnesota Vikings: 407-326-9 (.555)
With the Cowboys’ playoff berth, Dallas tied the New York Giants with the most seasons in the playoffs. This is pretty good, given that the Giants were formed in 1925 and the Cowboys were not born until 1960.
Most years in the playoffs:
1(tie). Cowboys: 30
1(tie). Giants: 30
3. Browns: 28
4. Rams: 27
5(tie). Vikings 25
5(tie). Packers 25
5(tie). Steelers 25
With their win over the Eagles, the Cowboys improved their playoff record to 33-24. Since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970, the Cowboys and Steelers have won the most games during the divisional round of the playoffs, with each team winning 14. The Cowboys improved their record in wildcard games to 5-5.
The Cowboys have long playoff histories against several different franchises. Saturday’s game against the Eagles was reminiscent of the Cowboys’ home playoff wins over Philadelphia in 1992 and 1995 (and fortunately nothing like the 1980 NFC Championship Game).
Another notable playoff rivalry in the past was with the Minnesota Vikings.
Much of the focus this week will be on the Hail Mary game in 1975, but also remember the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl championship season of 1971, during which the Cowboys beat Minnesota in Bloomington in a 20-12 game. The Cowboys and Vikings faced off every other season between 1971 and 1977, with Dallas winning in 1971, 1975, and 1977. The Vikings advanced to Super Bowl VIII in 1973 by beating the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game.
Two decades later, the Cowboys and Vikings met again in the playoffs, though neither team went anywhere after that. In 1996, the Cowboys beat Minnesota 40-15 but then lost the following week at Carolina. Three years later, the Cowboys were unable to take advantage of opportunities and lost 27-10 to the Vikings. Minnesota lost the Rams the following week.
Now that the Packers are out of the playoffs, a Dallas-Green Bay matchup won’t happen. However, the Cowboys will face Brett Favre this Sunday. During the 1990s, Favre came to Dallas each year in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995. On each occasion, Dallas came away with a win.
Dallas has never played the Saints in the playoffs, but the Cowboys could face the Cardinals if everything goes well. Wins over the Vikings and Cardinals will avenge the last two playoff losses of the 1990s, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The Waco Tribune-Herald had a great story recently about Chuck Howley, the former Cowboys linebacker who was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Howley was a six-time Pro Bowler and was named all-pro six times. His name only occasionally comes up during conversations about the Hall of Fame, though his teammates have advocated on his behalf, as the article notes.
Howley is best known as being the only player in NFL history to be named MVP of a Super Bowl as a member of the losing team. He picked off two passes and recovered a fumble in the Cowboys’ 16-13 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl V. One year later, Howley had a key interception that set up a Dallas touchdown.
“It was hard to enjoy being MVP of that game,” Howley said. “How do you celebrate that? I remember some of the other guys saying, ‘Chuck, that’s fantastic.’ But it was very difficult to be enthusiastic. I just felt like we left some unfinished business out there.”
The Cowboys finished the job the following year when they blew away the Miami Dolphins, 24-3, for their first Super Bowl championship. Though Staubach was named MVP, Howley delivered another tremendous performance, returning an interception 41 yards and recovering a fumble.
Now that Bob Hayes and Rayfield Wright have made the Hall, it isn’t likely other Cowboys from the 1960s and 70s will receive serious consideration any time soon. Howley is one of those players who is being overlooked.
Howley’s career highlights:
The Cowboys’ official site has more.
The other Dallas players not currently in the Hall have similar credentials. Safety Cliff Harris, receiver Drew Pearson, and defensive end Harvey Martin were each named as members of the all-decade team of the 1970s, and Harris is a member of the Ring of Honor. However, none of the three are members of the Hall of Fame. Howley played during a great era for linebackers and was not named to the all-decade team of the 1960s.
This question might be debated endlessly (and indeed, it has been debated), but which of these players is most deserving of a Hall of Fame bid. Here’s a quick recap:
Chuck Howley, LB: 6 Pro Bowls, 6-time All-Pro, Ring of Honor
Cliff Harris, S: 6 Pro Bowls, 4-time All Pro, All-Decade Team (First Team) for the 1970s, Ring of Honor
Drew Pearson, WR: 3 Pro Bowls, 4-time All Pro, All-Decade Team (First Team) for the 1970s
Harvey Martin, DE: 4 Pro Bowls, 4-time All Pro, All-Decade Team (Second Team) for the 1970s