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.


50 Seasons Series: Jim Jeffcoat Highlights 1983 Cowboys Draft

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

The story of the 1983 draft for the Cowboys was a familiar one. Having lost three consecutive NFC championship games, and with many of most talented players nearing retirement, the Cowboys really needed a strong draft to restock.

The Cowboys got Jim Jeffcoat. You really know your Dallas Cowboys if you remember the others.

Jeffcoat played in 227 games for the Cowboys and recorded the most official sacks in team history (well behind the totals of Harvey Martin, Randy White, and Too Tall Jones, but the sacks those players recorded were not official.

Three of the remaining eleven players played for the Cowboys, but none contributed in a significant way.

1(23): Jim Jeffcoat, DE, Arizona State
2(50): Mike Walter, LB, Oregon
3(77): Bryan Caldwell, DE, Arizona State
4(108): Chris Faulkner, TE, Florida
5(135): Chuck McSwain, RB, Clemson
6(162): Reggie Collier, QB, Southern Miss
7(189): Chris Schultz, T, Arizona
8(220): Lawrence Ricks, RB, Michigan
9(246): Al Gross, DB, Arizona
10(273): Eric Moran, T, Washington
11(300): Dan Taylor, T, Idaho State
12(331): Lorenzo Bouier, RB, Maine


* Walter had a long career but only played one season with Dallas.  Dallas released him, and the 49ers picked him up on waivers. After moving from outside LB to inside LB, Walter became a starter and won three Super Bowls.

* Caldwell played one season for Houston. Dallas apparently thought highly of Arizona State’s defensive line, but Caldwell never saw action with the Cowboys.

* Faulkner played for the Rams and Chargers.

* McSwain was a returner with the Cowboys and later saw action during the scrub games in 1987.

* Collier eventually played for the Cowboys in 1986. He lost his only start.

* Schultz played in 1983 but suffered a knee injury in 1984. He bulked up and came back in 1985, starting nine games. His knee problems continued, though, and he ended up out of the NFL. He played several years in the Canadian Football League.

* Ricks played for the Chiefs in 1983 and 1984.

* Gross became a starter at safety with the Cleveland Browns. He never played for the Cowboys.

* Moran played three seasons in Houston.

The Cowboys could have had…

Dan Marino, QB (1st round, Miami)
Darrell Green, CB (1st round, Washington)
Henry Ellard, WR (2nd round, Rams)
Wes Hopkins, DB (2nd round, Philadelphia)
Leonard Marshall, DE (2nd round, Giants)
Darryl Talley, LB (2nd round, Buffalo)
Roger Craig, RB (2nd round, San Francisco)
Albert Lewis, CB (3rd round, Kansas City)
Dave Duerson, DB (3rd round, Chicago)
Richard Dent, DE (8th round, Chicago)
Mark Clayton, WR (8th round, Miami)
Karl Mecklenburg, LB (12 round, Denver)


50 Seasons Series: Changing of the Guard in NFC East Begins After 1982

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

Between 1970 and 1981, the Cowboys simply owned the NFC East. They won eight division titles in thirteen years, and with the exception of the 1974 season, they were always in the division race. Even during the early 1980s, most presumed that Dallas would take the division. In 1980, the Eagles and Cowboys finished with the same record, and only a strange tiebreaker based on points scored decided the division. And in 1982, the Cowboys had beaten the Redskins rather soundly during the regular season even though the Redskins pulled away to take the top seed in the NFC playoff bracket.

Dallas was not completely done after the 1982 NFC Championship Game, but the power was certainly shifting in the NFC East. Washington was a dominant force throughout the decade and could have easily been the team of the decade had it not been for a loss in Super Bowl XVIII and San Francisco’s dominance late in the decade. Hate the Redskins as we may, but Joe Gibbs was a master coach during the 1980s and early 1990s, relying on four different starting quarterbacks to take his team to the playoffs. Three of those quarterbacks won Super Bowls.

The Giants stumbled to 3-12-1 under first-year coach Bill Parcells in 1983, but he soon built a championship team. The Eagles and Cardinals limped along throughout much of the decade, but both teams gave the Cowboys fits. The Eagles were another power by the end of the decade.

We’ve alluded to this several times (both in my posts and in the great, insightful comments by Tim Truemper, Fred Goodwin, and Mike Little) that the Cowboys’ talent base was already eroding in 1982. It would get worse. 1983 would be the final season for Harvey Martin, Drew Pearson, Billy Joe DuPree, and Pat Donovan, and slowly but surely, the Cowboys talent level started falling toward mediocrity.

50 Seasons Series: Landry-Era Dynasty Ends in 1982

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

Between 1966 and 1982, the Cowboys appeared in 12 conference (or, prior to 1970, NFL) title games and five Super Bowls. During that time, the Cowboys never had a losing season and missed the playoffs just once. In 16 trips to the playoffs, the Cowboys won at least one playoff game 12 times.

Having defeated the Buccaneers and Packers in the 1982 playoffs, Dallas traveled to Washington to face the Redskins for the NFC championship. The Cowboys fell behind 14-3 in the first half, thanks in part to dominant performances by the Washington offensive line and defense. More problematic, though, was the poor performance of the Dallas special teams units, which gave up a fumble on a punt and allowed a 76-yard kickoff return. Before halftime, Dexter Manley knocked quarterback Danny White out of the game, leaving the Cowboys to rely on backup Gary Hogeboom to attempt a comeback.

Hogeboom threw touchdown passes to Drew Pearson and Butch Johnson to close the gap to 21-17 in the third quarter. However, Hogeboom threw two costly interceptions that led to the final 10 points for the Redskins. The Cowboys failed to score for the remainder of the game, and the Redskins were on their way to Super Bowl XVII.

For Dallas, the Cowboys would return to the playoffs two more times, but the team never won another playoff game during the Tom Landry Era. Sports Illustrated referred to the Washington game as the end of the Landry-Era dynasty. It was.

More references…

Box Score

Redskins Super-ior to Cowboys (DMN)

'82 Cowboys Down Tampa Bay and Green Bay in Playoff Wins

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

1982 Playoffs

First Round: Dallas 30, Tampa Bay 17

For the second consecutive year, the Cowboys faced Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Tampa had rebounded from an 0-3 start (including a loss to Dallas) to finish at 5-4. The Cowboys in the meantime had lost momentum down the stretch.

Tampa Bay took a 10-6 lead in the game thanks to a fumble return by 60-yard Hugh Green. Dallas regained the lead by halftime, but the Buccaneers once again moved ahead, thanks to a 49-yard touchdown pass from Doug Williams to Gordon Jones.

Early in the fourth quarter, rookie defensive back Monty “Big Game” Hunter made the only significant play of his short Dallas career when he intercepted a Doug Williams pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown (see the clip above; Hunter is #34).

The Cowboys put the game away later in the quarter when Danny White hit Timmy Newsome on a 10-yard touchdown pass. Here it is:

White was suffering from an infected tooth and also injured his hand during the game. However, he managed to complete 27 of 45 passes for 312 yards. The Dallas defense held Tampa Bay to 218 total yards.

Box Score

Cowboys in Super Hunt, 30-17

Second Round: Dallas 37, Green Bay 26

In the first playoff matchup between Dallas and Green Bay since the Ice Bowl in 1967, the Cowboys led for much of the contest. However, Green Bay continued to come back, and Dallas could not put the game away until Robert Newhouse scored with less than two minutes remaining.

Green Bay had 466 total yards, including 308 net passing yards. Dallas countered with a strong effort by Tony Hill (7 rec., 142 yds.) and Tony Dorsett (27 carries, 99 yards). Both teams had interception returns for touchdowns.

With the win, the Cowboys advanced to their 10th NFC Championship Game in 13 years. It would be their last, of course, for the next decade.

Box Score

Cowboys Pack for Washington

Playoff Drought

The Cowboys’ 37-26 win over the Packers marked the Cowboys’ last playoff win under Tom Landry. Dallas would not win another playoff game until nine years later. Who could imagine a longer drought?

We can. Right now.

Years Between Playoff Wins

3. 7 years: 1960-1967

Dallas did not win a playoff game until after the 1967 postseason, when the Cowboys beat the Browns in the game that preceded the Ice Bowl.

2. 9 years: 1982-1991

Dallas lost to the Rams in the Cowboys’ only two remaining playoff games during the 1980s. The Cowboys did not manage another playoff win until Dallas beat Chicago in the 1991 playoffs.

1. 13 years: 1996-present.

And, of course, counting.

Cowboys Finish '82 Season at 6-3 After Player Strike Ends

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

The Cowboys returned from the player strike of 1982 on November 21. The remainder of the season was odd to say the least, given that teams were rusty from the two-month hiatus. With so many games canceled, the league came up with a modified playoff format under which eight teams from each conference made the playoffs. The Cowboys secured the number 2 seed in the NFC playoff tournament by finishing with a 6-3 record.

November 21: Dallas 14, Tampa Bay 9

Dallas trailed the Buccaneers 9-7 in the third quarter, but a Robert Newhouse touchdown in the third gave Dallas the lead. The Newhouse score was rather ironic. He was the team’s union representative and was booed by the small crowd of under 50,000 (the game marked the first home non-sellout in 45 games).

With just a five-point lead, Dallas held off Tampa Bay to pull out the win. The Buccaneers outgained the Cowboys by nearly 200 yards.

November 25: Dallas 31, Cleveland 14

The Dallas offense looked sharp against the Browns, gaining 299 rushing yard in routing Cleveland, 31-14. Tony Dorsett had 116 yards on 20 carries.

December 5: Dallas 24, Washington 10

In a preview of the NFC Championship Game, Dallas travelled to Washington and beat the Redskins 24-10. The Dallas defense sacked Joe Theismann seven times, and Ron Springs had the longest touchdown run of his career when he scampered 46 yards for a touchdown that put the game away for Dallas. Washington had been unbeaten prior to game, but both teams stood at 4-1 after the Dallas win.

December 13: Dallas 37, Houston 7

Danny White threw three touchdown passes, including two to Butch Johnson, as the Cowboys destroyed the Oilers, 37-7. White finished with 279 yards passing.

December 19: Dallas 21, New Orleans 7

Dallas scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, enough to give Dallas a 21-7 win over the Saints. Tony Dorsett scored two of those touchdowns to go along with 105 rushing yards. The win secured a playoff spot for Dallas.

The bad news was that Dallas played a poor second half, and the sloppy play continued for the rest of the regular season.

December 26: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 20

Dallas ran out to a 20-14 lead over the Eagles, but a Ron Jaworski touchdown pass to Harold Carmichael in the fourth quarter gave the Eagles the lead. The Eagles extended their lead to 24-20 in a Tony Franklin field goal, and Dallas could not come back.

January 3: Minnesota 31, Dallas 27

In a game that the Cowboys and Vikings were supposed to play on September 26, Dallas lost thanks to a Minnesota comeback. Dallas had a 10-0 lead thanks to a Dennis Thurman interception for a touchdown, but the Vikings roared back to take a 24-13 lead. With the Cowboys backed up to their own one-yard line in the third quarter, Tony Dorsett burst through the Minnesota defense for a 99-yard touchdown run, which is (of course) the longest in NFL history. Dallas took a 27-24 lead later in the 4th quarter on a Ron Springs touchdown run, but Tommy Kramer brought the Vikings from behind to win 31-27.

The shortened season resulted in Tony Dorsett failing to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. However, he managed to lead the NFC in rushing for the only time in his career, even though in finished with just 745 rushing yards. Here is a link to a YouTube video showing a few of Dorsett’s most famous Monday Night Football plays, including the 99-yarder against the Vikings.

More references…

Box Scores

DMN Stories

'82 Steelers End Cowboys' Opening Game Win Streak at 17

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

The Cowboys in 1964 lost their season opener to the St. Louis Cardinals. That was the last time that Dallas fans had to endure an opening-game loss for the next 17 seasons. The Cowboys’ opening-game streak remains one of the most impressive feats of a professional sports team.

Here is a look:

Week 1, 1964: St. Louis 16, Dallas 6
Week 1, 1965: Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 2
Week 1, 1966: Dallas 52, N.Y. Giants 7
Week 1, 1967: Dallas 21, Cleveland 14
Week 1, 1968: Dallas 59, Detroit 13
Week 1, 1969: Dallas 24, St. Louis 3
Week 1, 1970: Dallas 17, Philadelphia 7
Week 1, 1971: Dallas 49, Buffalo 37
Week 1, 1972: Dallas 28, Philadelphia 6
Week 1, 1973: Dallas 20, Chicago 17
Week 1, 1974: Dallas 24, Atlanta 0
Week 1, 1975: Dallas 18, L.A. Rams 7
Week 1, 1976: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 7
Week 1, 1977: Dallas 16, Minnesota 10
Week 1, 1978: Dallas 38, Balimore 0
Week 1, 1979: Dallas 22, St. Louis 21
Week 1, 1980: Dallas 17, Washington 3
Week 1, 1981: Dallas 26, Washington 10
Week 1, 1982: Pittsburgh 36, Dallas 28

The 1982 Cowboys had Super Bowl aspirations heading into their opener against the Steelers, but after the loss, the team had a bunch of questions. Pittsburgh ran out to a 33-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, and though Dallas closed the gap to 33-28, a Gary Anderson field goal late in the game sealed the win.

Box Score

Steel Curtain Closes on Cowboys

Week 2, 1982: Dallas 24, St. Louis 7

Tony Hill caught eight passes for 101 yards, and Danny White threw touchdown passes to Doug Cosbie and Drew Pearson, as the Cowboys beat the Cardinals, 24-7.

Box Score

The teams played on September 19, and the NFL would not play another game until November 21 due to the players’ strike.

Strike Cancels Some Key Games in 1982

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

In its preview of the Cowboys in 1982, Sports Illustrated noted that the Cowboys’ defense had slipped a bit in 1980 and 1981. Rather disconcerting was Tom Landry’s comment about the defense that the Cowboys had run on the fateful third down play from the Dallas 6 in the NFC Championship Game the previous season.

On the flight home from San Francisco Tom Landry was asked about his
defensive alignment when the 49ers had scored their winning touchdown,
a six-yard, third-down pass play. Why had the Cowboys been in their
regular defense instead of the nickel, the pass defense? “I don’t know
why Ernie had that defense in there
,” Landry said, reminding people
that it was Defensive Coordinator Ernie Stautner who called the

SI still predicted that the Cowboys would take the NFC East with an 11-5 record, narrowly beating out the Eagles and Giants. SI likewise thought that San Francisco would finish at 11-5, setting up a possible rematch in the NFC title game. The magazine predicted that Washington would only manage an 8-8 record.

The Dallas schedule looked pretty tough. In October, the Cowboys were scheduled to host the Giants and Redskins, followed by a three-game road stretch when the Cowboys would face the Eagles, Bengals, and Giants. To begin November, Dallas had to host St. Louis and then travel to San Francisco for a rematch with the 49ers.

Here’s a look (the canceled strike games are in italics)

September 13: vs. Pittsburgh
September 19: at St. Louis

September 26: at Minnesota
October 3: vs. N.Y. Giants
October 10: vs. Washington
October 17: at Philadelphia
October 24: at Cincinnati
October 31: at N.Y. Giants
November 7: vs. St. Louis
November 14: at San Francisco

November 21: vs. Tampa Bay
November 25: vs. Cleveland
December 5: at Washington
December 13: at Houston
December 19: vs. New Orleans
December 26: vs. Philadelphia

In 7 games, the Cowboys would face all four of their division rivals, along with the reigning AFC Champion and the reigning Super Bowl Champion.

Of course, these games never took place. Dallas started at 1-1 before the strike wiped out nearly half of the schedule. The week three matchups were rescheduled for January 2 and 3, so the Cowboys traveled to Minnesota on January 3 rather than September 26 as originally scheduled.

* * *

Want to know how hated the Cowboys were in 1982? Read Dallas Can Have ‘Em.

Dallas Cowboy haters, like New York Yankee haters, flourish in every
corner of the U.S. “Don’t get me started on the Cowboys; we have to
play ’em,” says Pittsburgh Steeler Linebacker Jack Lambert. “Talk to
anyone around the league and they’ll tell you, ‘We don’t care who wins,
as long as it isn’t the Cowboys.’ “

The Draft Busts Continue in 1982

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

In 12 rounds of the 1982 draft, the Cowboys had 16 picks. Only five of these picks ever played a down for the Cowboys, and not one of these picks was especially talented. With the old guard on the team nearing the end of their careers, the Cowboys needed an injection of talented youth. Instead, the team got Jeff Rohrer and Phil Pozderac.

Here’s a look:

Round (Pick): Player, Position, College

1(25): Rod Hill, DB, Kentucky State
2(53): Jeff Rohrer, LB, Yale
3(81): Jim Eliopulos, LB, Wyoming
4(101): Brian Carpenter, DB, Michigan
4(109): Monty Hunter, DB, Salem
5(137): Phil Pozderac, T, Notre Dame
6(143): Ken Hammond, G, Vanderbilt
6(165): Charles Daum, DT, Cal.-Poly-San Luis Obispo
7(193): Bill Purifoy, DE, Tulsa
8(216): George Peoples, RB, Auburn
8(221): Dwight Sullivan, RB, North Carolina State
9(249): Joe Gary, DT, UCLA
10(277): Todd Eckerson, T, North Carolina State
11(295): George Thompson, WR, Albany State
11(304): Mike Whiting, RB, Florida State
12(332): Rich Burtness, G, Montana
* Gil Brandt apparently thought that Hill was a steal from a small school, but Hill never made much of a mark. He returned kicks for two years before Dallas traded him to Buffalo. He is one of the worst first-round picks in team history.
* Rohrer was the highest draft pick from Yale since Dallas took Calvin Hill in 1969. Rohrer became a starter by 1985, and he spent three seasons as a starter. However, a back injury ended his career.
* Another small-school player, Hunter played only one season in Dallas. He played for the Cardinals in 1983.
* Pozderac was a very tall (6’9″) tackle who started 37 games for the Cowboys. Few, however, can forget his holding penalties in 1986 (which we’ll get to later).
* Peoples had 22 rushing yards in his only season with the Cowboys.
Perhaps there is something good to say about the 1982 draft for the Cowboys, but I’m not going to try to figure out anything positive.
Here are a few of the other players available in 1982:
LB Andre Tippett (2nd round, Patriots)
RB Joe Morris (2nd round, Giants)
WR Mark Duper (2nd round, Dolphins)
DB Vann McElroy (3rd round, Raiders)
LB Mike Merriweather (3rd round, Steelers)

“The Catch” Is Still a Sickening Sight

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

The Cowboys had plenty of opportunities to win the 1981 NFC Championship game, though what most people remember is Joe Montana hitting Dwight Clark in the right corner of the end zone with 51 seconds left in the game. The touchdown capped off an 89-yard drive and gave San Francisco a 28-27 lead.

Care to watch?

Danny White’s opportunity to develop any sort of legacy died on the Cowboys’ last possession. White hit Drew Pearson on a 31-yard pass that gave Dallas the ball at the San Francisco 45. It turned out to be Pearson’s only reception of the game, but he nearly pulled out another Hail Mary. Had Eric Wright not grabbed a piece of Pearson’s jersey, Peason likely would have scored.

On the next play, White was stripped by backup defensive end Lawrence Pillars. Lineman Jim Stuckey recovered, securing the win for the 49ers.

It is easy to forget that White put the Cowboys in position to win the game. His 21-yard touchdown pass to Doug Cosbie was the second TD pass of the game and gave Dallas the 27-21 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter.

The Dallas defense forced six turnovers in the game (3 ints., 3 fumbles) but could not stop San Francisco on that last fateful 49er drive.

Dallas recovered in a sense, making the NFC Championship game yet again in 1982. However, the scars from this game did not heal until more than a decade later.

The Cowboys’ Biggest Playoff Rout: Dallas 38, Tampa Bay 0 (1981)

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

12695616.jpgThe Cowboys have won some playoff games in blowout fashion, including the 52-14 win over Cleveland in 1966, the 37-7 destruction of the Rams in the 1975 NFC Championship Game, the 28-0 shutout of the Rams in the 1978 NFC title game, and the 52-17 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.

The biggest rout, though, had to be the divisional playoff win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 2, 1982. 
Tampa Bay made the 1981 playoffs as the NFC Central champions but only had a 9-7 record. That said, the Buccaneers had won four of their last five to pull out the division title.
Dallas harassed quarterback Doug Williams all day, sacking him four times and forcing four interceptions. The Dallas passing attack had trouble getting going, but the team was effective on the round, gaining 212 yards and rushing for four touchdowns. Three of those touchdown runs came in the third quarter, putting the game away.
With the win, Dallas planned a trip to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Things certainly seemed to look promising for Dallas.