Dallas Cowboys History
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Rookie Dak Prescott is making the Dallas Cowboys’ brain trust look very good thanks to his first-half performance against the Rams on Saturday night. Jameill Showers had one very nice play to salvage a third-down. His overall performance was weak, however, compared with Prescott.
The Cowboys historically had good backups ready to take over in case injuries occurred to their starters. This has continued to be the case for the most part under Jerry Jones, but Jones is less willing to develop younger players.
Here is a quick look at situations where Dallas had to roll the dice with unproven backups.
1964, John Roach: During the Cowboys’ first four seasons, they had both Eddie LaBaron and Don Meredith. When LaBaron retired, though, the backup job went to John Roach, an SMU graduate who had started 16 games in six years for the Cardinals and Packers. Roach started four games for the Cowboys that year but lost all four. One year later, the Cowboys drafted Craig Morton, and Roach was out of football.
1975, Clint Longley: I’ll go ahead and throw this one in here. The Cowboys traded Morton midway through the 1974 season, leaving only Clint Longley as the backup. We all know that Longley was the savior on Thanksgiving Day in 1974, but he was still relatively unproven when he served as the backup in 1975. He started one game that season, leading Dallas to a 31-21 win over the Jets.
1980, Glenn Carano: Carano had been the team’s third-string quarterback since 1978, but he had never thrown an NFL pass in a regular season game. The Cowboys drafted Gary Hogeboom in 1980, but Carano was the team’s second-string QB in 1980 and 1981.
1986, Steve Pelleur: The Cowboys traded Hogeboom to the Colts in 1986, leaving Steve Pelleur and his eight career passes as the backup. When the 6-2 Cowboys lost White for the season with a broken wrist, Pelleur led the team to a 1-7 finish.
1988, Kevin Sweeney: White was the backup to begin the 1988 season, but he had nothing left in the tank. Sweeney was Tony Romo before there was a Tony Romo in Dallas—exciting to watch in preseason, and fans wanted to see what he could do as the starter. Well, two starts, two losses, and a passer rating of 40.2 ended the Sweeney era.
1990, Babe Laufenberg: The Cowboys entered the 1990 season with Steve Walsh as the backup, but Dallas traded Walsh to New Orleans early in the season. This left Babe Laufenberg and his 2-4 career record as a starter with the Chargers. When Aikman went down with a season-ending injury and the playoffs were on the line, Laufenberg’s performance guaranteed that the Cowboys would watch those playoffs from home.
1993, Jason Garrett: This one falls under the same category as Clint Longley. Dallas had success with Steve Beurlein as the backup in 1991 and 1992, but he signed with the Cardinals. That left Jason Garrett. Although most fans remember Garrett for leading Dallas to a comeback win on Thanksgiving Day in 1994, he first served as the second-stringer in 1993. With the Cowboys trying to defend their Super Bowl title, Jones signed Bernie Kosar midway through the season, and Kosar came through in the playoffs to help Dallas secure a win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Garrett needed a few more years to develop.
2001, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner: The starter named to replace the retired Troy Aikman was Quincy Carter. When Carter was injured, Dallas went through a cycle of players who had no business starting, including the infamous first-round bust Leaf and former Arkansas Razorback Stoerner. Of course, Wright and Stoerner both one games that season, and their two wins were one more than Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore managed in 2015.
2002, Chad Hutchinson: The Cowboys signed former baseball player Hutchinson as something akin to buying a lottery ticket. He wasn’t ready to start in 2002, but the Cowboys decided to start him anyway after Carter struggled. Dallas went 2-7 with Hutchinson, and he threw only two passes the following season as Carter’s backup.
2004, Drew Henson: Dallas was not finished buying lottery tickets in the form of former baseball players. Henson had started at Michigan, and when Dallas went 3-7 under Vinny Testaverde, Bill Parcells decided to start Henson on Thanksgiving Day. Henson completed only four passes, and Parcells decided he had seen enough and sent Testaverde back in. Henson never threw another pass for the Cowboys.
2005, Tony Romo: Yes, Romo worked out quite well, but he had never played a down in a regular season game before becoming the backup to Drew Bledsoe in 2005. He did not play a down in 2005, either, but he was firmly entrenched as the starter by the middle of the 2006 season.
2015, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore: Weeden and Cassel don’t quite fit the “unproven” label, but I’ll throw this summary in here. The Cowboys had brought in several veterans to back up Romo between 2007 and 2014, including Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton. Weeden was a veteran, but he was generally unproven even though he had started 20 games for the Browns. After he led the Cowboys to three losses, the team signed Cassel, another veteran, but Cassel went 1-6. Moore finished out the season but could not lead the Cowboys to a win in two starts.
2016: Dak Prescott (presumably): Unless Prescott really falls apart in the remaining three preseason games, it looks if the backup job is his to lose. Hopefully, we see much more of this…
This is another post in a short series focusing on the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. This blog launched on August 20, 2006.
A few stories about the Cowboys during their training camp in August 2006…
Vanderjagt Doesn’t Like His Holder
The Cowboys signed kicker Mike Vanderjagt during the offseason in 2006, but he did not get off to a good start.
According to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Vanderjagt blamed his struggles on having a new holder—backup quarterback Tony Romo. His comment:
It’s a transition because he is a quarterback. He doesn’t have a lot of time for me. We are going to have to work to find time and work the kinks out. In the past, I have had a punter. We can hang out all day and kick field goals. Tony is going to have to find time for me.
What actually happened: Vanderjagt made only 13 of 18 field-goal attempts in 2006 before being cut after ten games. Romo remained the holder after Dallas signed Martin Gramatica. Sadly, Romo botched the hold of a short field goal attempt late in the playoff game against Seattle, and the miss lost the game for Dallas.
Romo Getting Plenty of Work
Romo did not have much time to work on his holding because he was taking plenty of snaps at QB.
Bill Parcells said Romo had shown promise, but Parcells did not trust Romo to play during a regular-season game in 2005. Parcells commented:
I’ve got to decide where he is. Our plans are to play him a lot. I’ve been around him for three years now. I see a guy that’s pretty smart. It looks like in practice, he’s making fewer and fewer mistakes. Had we just thrown him to the wolves two years ago or something, it probably would have ruined his career. But now he’s got enough background and enough knowledge and enough training and enough understanding that it’s time to go forward.
What actually happened? Romo’s preseason performances in 2006 once again excited fans, and he took over the starting QB position from Drew Bledsoe six weeks into the season.
Would It Be Julius Jones‘ Season?
Bill Parcells generally required his running backs to start performing around year 3.
Julius Jones was entering his third year in 2006 and needed to put up better numbers.
It’s a big year for me. Parcells likes to see what a player can do in their third year. He gives you three years to prove something. I still have something to prove.
What actually happened? Jones started all 16 games and became the first running back not named Emmitt Smith to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Herschel Walker in 1988.
Know Your Dallas Cowboys is nearly ten years old. In light of the forthcoming anniversary, and given that the blog has been on life support this offseason, I figured now would be a decent time to start a new series.
Let’s look back at what was happening a decade ago before I decided the blogosphere needed yet another Dallas Cowboys blog.
On July 23, 2006, the Cowboys were preparing to open their training camp in Oxnard, California. The team planned to move its training camp to San Antonio in 2007, and it was not clear whether the Cowboys would return to California again.
The team was trying to improve on their 9-7 finish from 2005 and hoped that Bill Parcells recreate some of his past success.
What actually happened…The Cowboys alternated between Oxnard and San Antonio for several years. They have held training camp in Oxnard each year since 2012.
(Backup) Quarterback Controversy
Drew Bledsoe entered his second season as the starting quarterback. He threw for more than 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2005, but not all fans were happy with him. Nevertheless, few thought the team would roll the dice with one of the inexperienced backups.
Regarding the QB race, former Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Archer wrote the following:
The skinny: Bledsoe is the starter, but Parcells has said Romo will get plenty of work in preseason. Bledsoe, 34, is in fine shape, but Parcells doesn’t want to overwork him. Henson was decent in NFL Europe, his first extended game action since 2000, but he’ll need to impress early to push Romo. Jeff Mroz, a free-agent pickup, could be a long-term project.
What actually happened?… Do I really need to tell you that Tony Romo became the starter in 2006?
What about Jeff Mroz?…He never made the team. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, but also failed to make that team. According to his LinkedIn page, he is the co-founder of a nutrition company.
A Record, Long-Term Deal for Jason Witten
Many fans focused on the offseason signing of Terrell Owens (and we will address him later).
Less memorable is the fact that the Cowboys signed Jason Witten to a long-term deal. The team announced the contract extension on July 23, 2006.
What actually happened?…The Cowboys have never been in danger of losing Witten, and he has remained productive throughout his long career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 before having an all-pro season in 2007. His base salary in 2006, after the signing, was $500,000. By comparison, his base salary in 2016 is $6.5 million.
One player had a poor year in 1974 after being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1973. He said he played with injuries and was almost ready to hang up his cleats. However, he signed a two-year deal and returned in 1975.
The player’s quote appears in the quiz question below.
The “Randy” that appears in the quote above was Randy White, whom the Cowboys had drafted in 1975.
The player quoted above noted the following about White:
“He’s got great quickness and movement. No hangups about moving around in there. And those 250 pounders won’t be knocking him around like they do me.”
White played linebacker before being moved to defensive tackle in 1977. Of course, that was the year he shared co-MVP honors with Harvey Martin after the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII.
Fifty years ago, the Dallas Cowboys were heading into a season trying to improve on a 7-7 record from 1965. Dallas was stacked on both sides of the ball and would finish the 1966 season with a record of 10-3-1.
During the offseason in 1966, the Cowboys announced that one of the defensive players from the previous year was going to move over to the offense. Here is a quote from Tom Landry, with the player’s name removed:
“We can’t hope to have as good a defense without _________. But we think we can offset his absence in several ways. We can improve our pass rush to take some pressure off the secondary, and we can offset it with our own offense. If ________ can bring our offense up from eighth (in the NFL) to about fourth…and he’ll have to bring it up that much to be value received…then we’re a contender.”
(1) Who was the player?
(2) Did this player play offense or defense in 1966?
From the files of “I wasn’t born until 1971, so I would have no memory of this…”
The article that contained the quote above in 1966 also had the cartoon below.
The NFL and AFL had announced the proposed merger of the league on June 8, 1966, and this agreement explains part of this cartoon. What I did not understand was the reference to the United States Football League. After all, the USFL did not exist until 1982, or so I thought.
It turns out that during the summer of 1966, former Notre Dame football coach Frank Leahy announced that a group of well-financed businessmen were going to form a 10-team league called the United States Football League. A person who figured prominently in the planning was a Dallas investor named Chester L. Brewer, who was the son of a former head coach at Michigan State.
At the time of the announcement, Leahy said the owners were willing to pay big money for top talent, which could have led to more bidding wars. That was the point of the cartoon.
In August, the league announced that Brewer had been awarded a franchise, but it would be based in New Orleans. Other cities to have franchises would have been Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, Atlana, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Akron. The league was supposed to announced additional franchises in the fall of 1966, with league play scheduled to begin in the spring of 1967.
The last reference I could find to this league appeared in late August 1966. Leahy had resigned as commissioner, but league sources said the league would still begin in the spring. Obviously, it never happened.
Brewer was later convicted of securities and mail fraud and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
The Dallas Cowboys did not participate in the NFL Draft in December 1959. The team instead chose players in an expansion draft that took place later.
The first NFL draft in which the Cowboys participated was the one during the offseason between the 1960 and 1961 seasons. Unlike modern drafts, those old drafts took place earlier in the year.
The 1961 Draft actually took place on December 27 and 28 in 1960. The draft then was not the spectacle it is today, but it did receive news coverage.
Dallas had traded its rights to the second overall pick to Washington in exchange for the rights to Eddie LeBaron. The Cowboys traded back into the first round by sending Paul Dickson and a first-round pick in 1962 to Cleveland in exchange for the 13th overall pick.
With that first-round selection, Dallas took defensive tackle Bob Lilly. In the second round, Dallas took linebacker E.J. Holub.
The Cowboys expected a bidding war with the Dallas Texans to see who would sign Lilly and Holub. The Cowboys, of course, signed Lilly, while Holub became a standout linebacker with the Texans/Chiefs franchise.
The rest of the 1961 draft was not a great one for the Cowboys. Nine of the seventeen players taken never played a down in the NFL. The Cowboys did find a future hall-of-famer in guard Billy Shaw, but he played his entire career in Buffalo of the AFL.
A veteran NFL scout thought the Cowboys had done a good job in the draft, asking “What are you going to do with all those ‘hosses.”
Here’s the subject of today’s trivia question. In addition to Lilly and Holub, to whom was the scout referring in the quote below?
“You’ve got a real good draft there with Lilly, Holub, and __________. I like them.”
Different kind of trivia from the files of “I didn’t know that.”
On the front page of the Dallas Morning News during the draft in December 1960, the front-page headline announced that President-Elect John F. Kennedy had named a Secretary of the Navy.
It was John B. Connally.
About three years later, it was Connally who was riding in the limousine with Kennedy when Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas. By that time, Connally was serving as the Governor of Texas.
The Cowboys have had at least one first-round pick during each of the past six drafts. Between 2000 and 2009, however, Dallas traded away its first-round pick four times (2000, 2001, 2004, and 2009).
Below is a graphic showing the first-round picks since 2000.
The late Pete Gent is well-known for his book, North Dallas Forty. He played for the Cowboys for five seasons between 1964 and 1968.
Although he was never a full-time starter, he had a pretty good season in 1966. He started ten games that season and caught 27 passes for 474 yards and a touchdown. Dallas had its first winning season that year, finishing 10-3-1 before losing to Green Bay in the NFL Championship Game.
Because the Cowboys did so well that year, several publications featured the team. One publication quoted Gent, who was often very quotable.
Below is a quote. Can you fill in the blank?
“What I lack in speed, I make up for in _____________________.”
Here’s a bonus quote trivia item.
The same publication also featured some quotes from placekicker Danny Villanueva.
Calling Villanueva “invaluable” (with a FG% of 54.8% that season!), the publication notes the following:
“[Villanueva] makes a grand showing of avoiding tackling at all costs on the grounds that he is a “______________ _____________.”
Below is a quote from Tex Schramm.
“I’m still not sure if we’re doing the right thing by playing this game.”
During which season did Schramm make this comment, and what was the context?
While you’re pondering that one..
Most know that the Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to a two-year contract worth $3.5 million contract.
In four seasons in Washington, Morris rushed for 4713 yards and 29 touchdowns.
He did especially well against Dallas. In eight games, Morris rushed for a total of 710 yards. This included three games where he rushed for more than 100 yards and one game where he rushed for 200.
The other player signed was defensive end Benson Mayowa, who played in Oakland in 2014 and 2015 after spending one year in Seattle. The Raiders never faced the Cowboys while Mayowa played there. He has recorded a total of two sacks during his NFL career.
Mock drafts have the Cowboys taking any of a number of players at #4. A few names:
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Todd McShay, ESPN, among many others)
Jalen Ramsey, DE, Florida State (Bleacher Report)
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (Sports Illustrated)
Dallas Cowboys fans are suffering through the team’s longest losing streak since the first year that Jerry Jones owned the team.
Maybe Jerry will sell the team, and these losing streaks can be suitable bookends?
Perhaps the current streak ends against Tampa Bay on Sunday, but now is a good time to compare previous losing streaks with this one.
Then (1960): The Cowboys opened their inaugural season with a ten-game losing streak. That streak ended on December 4 when the Cowboys tied the Giants.
Then (1989): The Cowboys opened the season with an eight-game losing streak and finished with a seven-game losing streak. In between was an unexpected 13-3 win over the Washington Redskins.
Now (2015): Unlike the 1960 and 1989 squads, these Cowboys were expected to contend for the NFC title. Instead, an injury to Tony Romo caused the club to tank. A 2-0 start turned into a 2-6 record at the season’s midway point.
Then (1960): The Cowboys had a future Ring of Honor player in Don Meredith at QB, but veteran Eddie LeBaron was the starter for most of the year.
Then (1960): The Cowboys had future Hall of Fame player Troy Aikman, but he only started 11 games due to injury.
Now: (2015): The Cowboys have a future Ring of Honor player in Tony Romo but have had to start Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel because of Romo’s broken clavicle.
Then (1960): The team’s leading rusher was a six-year veteran named L.G. Dupre, who was out of the league after 1961.
Then (1989): The team’s leader rusher was three-year veteran Paul Palmer, who was out of the league after 1989.
Now (2015): The team’s leading rusher is Darren McFadden, who may be back next year.
Then (1960): The team ranked dead last in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys had 50 giveaways compared with 26 takeaways for a ratio of -24.
Then (1989): The team ranked dead last in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys had 42 giveaways compared with 17 takeaways for a ratio of -25.
Now (2015): The team ranks 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys have 13 giveaways compared with 4 takeaways for a ratio of -9.
Then (1960): First-year head coach Tom Landry led the Cowboys to the playoffs by 1966 and a Super Bowl championship in 1971.
Then (1989): First-year head coach Jimmy Johnson led the Cowboys to the playoffs in 1991 and a Super Bowl championship in 1992.
Now (2015): Sixth-year head coach Jason Garrett has led the Cowboys to one winning record and one playoff appearance.
No fan of the Dallas Cowboys could possibly be happy with the fate of the 2015 team thus far. A 2-0 start has disintegrated into a 2-4 start, and the team could be out of the playoff race before Tony Romo returns later in November.
The Cowboys have been in a similar situation in the past. The team of the 1970s was nearly a dynasty, and by 1974 Dallas had been the playoffs eight consecutive years. Moreover, Dallas had at least made the NFC Championship Game in each season between 1970 and 1973.
The 1974 season was, however, one to forget. As you can see below, that season and the 2015 season have some similarities.
Then (1974): The Cowboys had reached the playoffs each season between 1966 and 1973. The team had reached the Super Bowl in 1970, won the Super Bowl in 1971, and reached the NFC Championship Game in 1972 and 1973.
Now (2015): The Cowboys have not had recent success like the 1970s Cowboys did, but Dallas reached the playoffs in 2014 and beat Detroit in the first round.
Then: Dallas dominated the Atlanta Falcons before losing consecutive games against the Eagles and Giants. Dallas also lost to the Vikings and Cardinals, leaving the Cowboys with a 1-4 record.
Now: Dallas recorded wins over the Giants and Eagles before losing to the Falcons. Additional losses to the Saints, Patriots, and Giants have left the Cowboys with a 2-4 record.
Then: Dallas rebounded with a 31-24 win over the Eagles in week 6. Dallas eventually won four straight to get back into the playoff race with a 5-4 record.
Now: Dallas faces the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in week 8.
Then: The Cowboys had a good backup QB with Craig Morton, but the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants early in the season. When Roger Staubach went down with an injury against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, backup Clint Longley entered the game. In one of the most famous games in team history, Longley threw two touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind in a 24-23 win.
Now: Dallas lost starting QB Tony Romo in week 2, and the team did not have a good backup. The team lost three straight games with Brandon Weeden, followed by a fourth loss with starter Matt Cassel.
Then: The Cowboys still had a quality starter at RB with Calvin Hill. However, Hill would leave the team after the 1974 season to join the World Football League. In 1976, Hill returned to the NFL, joining the division rival Washington Redskins.
Now: The Cowboys had arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2014 with DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left via free agency to join the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Then: Although the Cowboys finished with a winning record in 1974, the team missed the playoffs. Nevertheless, a strong draft in 1975 helped Dallas to rebuild quickly, and the team reached the Super Bowl in 1975.
Now: Jason Garrett’s teams have reached the playoffs just once since he took over as the head coach of the Cowboys. A feel-good season in 2014 has evaporated into a distant memory, and unless the team can turn things around in a hurry, the Cowboys will have another disappointing finish in 2015.