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Will the 2008 Draft Go Down as a Bust as Well?

The last month has not been kind to the 2008 draft class for the Dallas Cowboys.

The team cut Tashard Choice, who was the fourth-round pick that year. Many would like to see Dallas rid itself of Martellus Bennett, who has managed only nine receptions this year and who has not been a big factor in the running game as a blocker.

Felix Jones may have lost his starting job for good to DeMarco Murray. Mike Jenkins has been out as well, and though he’s been missed more than Jones, it is more because the team’s reserve corners have sometimes struggled than because of Jenkins’ play earlier this year.

Orlando Scandrick had an interception vs. Washington on Sunday, but he was also called for holding on a key third-down play late in the game.

The remaining player was linebacker Erik Walden, who has become a starter with the Packers this year.

So this class may not be as bad as the 2009 draft, but it may turn out to be a bust. What do you think?

Was the 2008 draft a bust?

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Another Look Back to the Cowboys-Redskins Game in 1991

There have been many memorable games at Washington over the years, but one of the greatest took place in 1991. Dallas had started the 1991 season at 5-2 but had lost three of four games to fall to 6-5. Their twelfth opponent was Washington, which was 11-0 heading into the game.

Few gave Dallas a chance, but the win turned out to be pivotal as the team make a playoff run and eventually became the dynasty of the 1990s.

Here is a video clip of the 1991 game:

* * *

The 2011 Cowboys have a similar record, but Dallas heads to Washington this year with momentum and a two-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Washington is struggling, having lost five straight after starting the season at 3-1.

Here is a preview of the game from CBS Sports.

* * *

And just to round out the videos, here is one about the Dallas-Washington rivalry.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from November 16, 1985

Jeff Rohrer: Escaping the Stereotype

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

The focus this week is in the issue published on November 16, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm: Tom Rafferty’s Secret

One reader noticed that center Tom Rafferty wore an older style of white jersey while the rest of the team wore a more modern version. Tex Schramm seemed impressed that the reader noticed the difference.

[You] are pretty observant. Tom Rafferty does wear a slightly different jersey than the other players. This is because he plays center, and therefore, has different requirements of his jersey than other offensive linemen. The jerseys wore by the regular linemen are normally worn as tight as possible. This, of course, is done to make them more difficult for the defensive linemen to grab. The defensive linemen can use their hands to grab the offensive linemen in an attempt to throw him one way or the other.

Rafferty, playing center, must have the flexibility of being able to snap the ball. Therefore, his jersey is custom designed and produced by a special company. The arms are made of a different material, which is probably what is most noticeable. Our secret is out.

Cowboys Edge Redskins in Rematch

The Cowboys would have preferred to manhandle the Redskins in another 44-14 blowout when Dallas visited Washington in week 10. Nevertheless, the team managed to pick Joe Theismann off three times in a 13-7 win. Though Dallas only managed the 13 points, the team outgained Washington 338 to 267.

Dallas was able to take a 13-0 lead in the third quarter thanks to a 48-yard pass from Danny White to Tony Dorsett. Washington came back early in the fourth when Theismann hit Gary Clark on an 11-yard score. However, the defense made several stops late in the game to help the Cowboys secure the win.

Bears Showdown Awaits

The Cowboys and Bears were considered the top two teams in the NFL heading into their week 11 showdown. Dallas had won six straight over Chicago, including a 23-14 win at Soldier Field in 1984.

According to Chicago linebacker Mike Singletary:

I”m just looking forward to playing against a great football team—and going against a great coach and a great offense.

Cowboys Announce Christmas Video

Several Cowboys participated in what resulted in the first of two infamous Christmas videos. You might recall that this blog posted a few from the 1986 edition.

In 1985, two of the “hit” songs included “12th Day of Christmas” and “I Don’t Want to Be Home for Christmas.” A sampling of the lyrics:

12th Day of Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…

Twelve surfing Cowgirls (Mike Saxon, Fred Cornwell), 

Eleven quarterback sacks (Ed Jones),

Ten thousand yards (Tony Dorsett),

Nine million fans (Tony Hill),

Eight touchdown passes (Danny White),

Seven one-hand catches (Mike Renfro),

Six interceptions (Everson Walls),

Five Super Bowl rings (several players)…

Four big hits (Bill Bates), 

Three down the middle (Rafael Septien),

Two turf shoes (Phil Pozderac),

And a new hat for Coach Landry (various players).

I Don’t Want to Be Home for Christmas (Chorus)

I don’t want to be home for Christmas

It’s that playoff time of year.

I’d rather be on the sideline., 

with the Gatorade and the gear.

Someday the chestnuts by the fire

would be perfect at Christmas time.

But I don’t want to be home for Christmas this year.

Jeff Rohrer: Shaking the Ivy League Image

The cover boy for the November 16 issue was Jeff Rohrer, who starred at Yale before joining the Cowboys. He was trying to overcome the stigma of playing for an Ivy League school.

“Stigma” in this case means, according to the article, “smart-enough-but-not-tough-enough.”

Rohrer started 13 games in 1985.

John Dutton Has a Fan

With a line that featured Ed Jones, Randy White, and Jim Jeffcoat, it was easy to forget defensive tackle John Dutton. He had at least one fan, though—Carlos Bocanega of Corpus Christi. He wrote:

I’m writing to say a few words about John Dutton. It seems like he is mentioned only when he is called for a penalty. I think John Dutton is a good defensive tackle, because quietly he always does his job and is always in the line-up week in and week out So I hope you don’t overlook his great part of the team.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from November 9, 1985

Ed Jones and Mike Hegman were longtime teammates and were featured in the November 9, 1985 issue of Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly.

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

The focus this week is in the issue published on November 9, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm: NFL Teams Picking Their Own Schedules

Someone asked Tex Schramm why NFL teams weren’t given a date or two per season to schedule their own games.


Schramm responded that teams did so during the preseason but that teams would be so focused on winning that they would schedule games that would put them in the best position to win. And this would not include scheduling tough, emotional rivalries.

Cowboys Blow a 10-Point Lead at St. Louis

The Cowboys did not have an easy schedule in weeks 9 and 10 of the 1985 season. They had to travel to St. Louis on a Monday night, followed six days later by a trip to Washington.

The St. Louis trip could have at least gone better.

Even playing in what Tom Landry called “the dullest first half I’ve ever seen,” the Cowboys led 10-0 at halftime.  However, the Cardinals rallied behind two Neil Lomax touchdown passes, and St. Louis won 21-10. The loss dropped Dallas to 6-3 and into a first-place tie with the Giants.

Jones and Hegman: Longtime Teammates

By 1985, Too Tall Jones was in his 11th season with the Cowboys. For 10 of those seasons, one of his teammates was Mike Hegman, who was drafted by the Cowboys one year after the team had picked Jones. The two had also been teammates at Tennessee State, where Jones was an All-American and Hegman was among the team leaders in tackles.

Both were still going strong in 1985. Jones already had seven sacks at the midway point of the season, and Hegman ranked fourth in the team list of tackles.

Players Talk about Cowboys-Redskins Rivalry

The issue included a number of comments from current (then) and former players and coaches about the rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins. A few of the better ones are below.

Harvey Martin, on the Cowboys’ 35-34 win over Washington in 1979, keeping Washington out of the playoffs: “They got nothing; they deserve to go home for Christmas.”

George Allen, on Tex Schramm: “Tex and Dallas are always carrying the Holy Grail.”

Roger Staubach, on George Allen: “You go golfing with him and he’s diagramming plays on a napkin.”

Ed Jones, on trailing the Redskins 28-0 in 1974: “I was thinking if I were home watching this thing on TV, I would have thrown something through the set.”

Clint Murchison, to President Jimmy Carter after Carter told everyone how “great” the Redskins’ win over Dallas was in 1978: “It was lousy.”

Roger Staubach Thought the Jury was Still Out on the Chicago Bears

Heading into week 10, the Chicago Bears were 9-0 and looked unstoppable. Roger Staubach thought, however, that nobody had really tested the Bears. “(Y)ou don’t really know if they can keep this pace.”

(We’ll get to a certain game against the Cowboys in a couple of weeks…)

New Punter Having a Solid Season

The Cowboys had a new punter in 1985. He was cut by the Detroit Lions in 1984 but made the Cowboys’ 1985 squad as a free agent. By midseason, he had a 45.0-yard average.

At the time of this issue, Saxon was dating a model named Sheri Monson from California. The couple liked to go out with Steve and Diana DeOssie after games.

(No idea whether Saxon married Monson, though. They planned to get married in 1987).

Quiz: Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor

With the Cowboys celebrating the induction of Drew Pearson, Larry Allen, and Charles Haley into the Ring of Honor on Sunday, here are 10 questions about members of the Ring of Honor.

Who hold the record for most consecutive games played, with 196?

Which team originally drafted Chuck Howley?

How many 1,000-yard seasons did Drew Pearson have?

What position did Mel Renfro play at Oregon?

This member of the Ring of Honor ranks 7th in team history with 32 interceptions

How many times did Charles Haley make the Pro Bowl as a member of the Cowboys?

Larry Allen made 10 Pro Bowls in 11 seasons. During which season did he fail to make the Pro Bowl?

Larry Allen replaced which player when he started his first NFL game?

Drew Pearson's last 100-yard game came against which team and in which year?

Charles Haley recorded four sacks in a single game only once in his career. Against who did he accomplish this feat, and in which year?

Reaction to Tom Landry: A Football Life

Tom Landry: A Football Life debuted on Thursday night on NFL Network.

NFL Network debuted a one-hour show tonight entitled Tom Landry: A Football Life, which is part of a series that has also featured the likes of Bill Belichick and Mike Ditka. If you knew little about the details of Landry’s 29-year career with the Cowboys, this is a concise biography about the man in the fedora.

However, I was a little bit disappointed that much of it was rehashed from other features that I had already seen.

Here’s part of the description in the Producer’s Notes on the NFL Films blog:

Landry was always a larger than life figure cloaked in mystery. Even his players had a hard time understanding his sphinx-like persona. Halfback Duane Thomas dubbed him a “plastic man” and John Facenda said that Landry, with his gunfighter stare, looked like a regional director of the FBI. So, as we set out to document Landry for A Football Life, we faced two challenges. First, how do you separate the man from the myth? Beneath that stoic façade, who was the real Tom Landry? And second, how did the myth come to be? How did a flesh and blood person wind up being the mythic figure enshrined in football’s pantheon? How, exactly, does the magic of myth work?

The show provides a fairly balanced view of Landry, with a number of those interviewed noting how seemingly distant and detached he appeared to be to his players. Those interviewed included the likes of Roger Staubach, Mel Renfro, Bob Lilly, Drew Pearson, Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris, and Hollywood Henderson. Also included were Brad Sham and other commentators.

Among the other commentators was Skip Bayless, which was a bad choice. I don’t think it was poor judgment to have a critic on the show, but I would have preferred to have heard a comment from someone like Frank Luska two minutes into the show rather than Bayless.

I was also disappointed that the show did not feature any of the Cowboys of the 1980s, such as Danny White, Everson Walls, Tony Dorsett, or even Herschel Walker. These were the players trying to keep the team in contention while the foundations of the franchise were crumbling around Landry’s feet. The commentator noted that the younger players at the end of Landry’s tenure (more so in 1987 and 1988 probably) didn’t look up to Landry as the legend that he was, but it would have been interesting to hear something new from the players who were around at the very end.

Instead, the final several minutes focused on the circumstances surrounding Landry’s firing, with plenty of commentary from Jerry Jones. I had frankly seen and heard nearly all of this before, including several of the interviews and all of the original press conferences from 1989. The only part that was really new were comments from Landry’s wife and son, but neither added much to what others have said.

Overall, the show was worth watching, but it could have been considerably better.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from November 2, 1985

Jim Jeffcoat: New Force Up Front

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

The focus this week is in the issue published on November 2, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm: The Shovel Pass Could Emerge Again

A reader asked Tex Schramm why the team didn’t use the shovel pass, which was popular during the days of Preston Pearson.

Tex’s response:

In our offense, the shovel pass has generally been used when we are in the shotgun formation. The ball is centered directly to the quarterback and he will then flip the ball forward to a running back coming across just behind the line of scrimmage. If the offensive linemen have charged when they should, the runner will cut upfield in the space that the defensive linemen left.

Since you generally go into the shotgun on long yardage situations, trick running plays or even a draw play, are a gamble because if they don’t break clean, you might make a few yars but not enough for the first down. A pass can be a better percentage play.

I’m sure we still have the shovel pass in our arsenal. You’ll probably see it before the season is over.

Cowboys Beat Atlanta on Big Plays by Dorsett and Hill

Dallas improved to 6-2 by beating the Atlanta Falcons, 24-10. Dallas trailed 10-0 early, but big plays by Tony Hill and Tony Dorsett gave the Cowboys the lead. Hill’s 35-yard touchdown reception cut the lead to 10-7. Then, midway through the second quarter, Dallas lined up at its own 40. Dorsett found a huge hole up the middle and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.

Tom Landry on the Dorsett touchdown:

It was a draw play (fake pass) and they came on a blitz. One of their guys came so hard he ran right by Dorsett. He could really have nailed him. And downfield they were playing man-to-man so he just ran between everybody.

With the win, the Cowboys improved to #2 on the Top Ten NFL Poll. Chicago remained #1, while Denver moved up to #3. That meant that teams coached by Mike Ditka, Tom Landry, and Dan Reeves were #1, #2, and #3. Ditka and Reeves, of course, played and coached under Landry.

Legends Play Flag Football Game

A number of Cowboy legends showed up at halftime of the Dallas-Atlanta game to play flag football. It was supposed to be a matchup of quarterbacks Roger Staubach (white team) and Craig Morton (blue team), but Morton injured his knee the night before at a party. Blue team captain Bob Lilly had to rely on Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris, and Mike Montgomery to play QB, and their performances gave the white team a distinct advantage. Staubach led his team to three touchdowns in a 21-7 win.

Staubach’s white team consisted of Harvey Martin, Don McIlhenny, Robert Newhouse, Drew Pearson, Jethro Pugh, and Duane Thomas. The blue team consisted of Waters, Harris, Montgomery, Billy Joe DuPree, Preston Pearson, Mel Renfro, and Larry Cole.

A real treat: Tex Schramm served as the referee. Proof:

According to Drew Pearson, Schramm’s gig as  referee was terrible. “The only good thing about him was his uniform.”

Before the real game between the Cowboys and Falcons, Staubach received his Hall of Fame ring.

Run Defense a Key to Success

The cover story featured Jim Jeffcoat, a key member of a defense that had improved considerably between 1984 and 1985. By the midway point of the 1985 season, Dallas was giving up only 87 rushing yards per game at 3.2 yards per attempt. Those numbers were better than any Dallas defense over more than a decade.

David Ponder Likes Living in the Suburbs

This issue featured a rookie defensive tackle named David Ponder, who had been cut in training camp in 1984 but made the team in 1985. His fascinating story: he leased an apartment in Arlington, planned to buy a television stand and a vacuum cleaner, and likes to watch TV and listen to the stereo. He also spent the previous summer playing water volleyball at some of the nearby apartment swimming pools.

(This just isn’t the kind of stuff you get from the Dallas Morning News, now is it? At any rate, Ponder played in four games in 1985 and registered a half-sack. He never played in the NFL again.)

2008 Draft Class Isn’t Living Up to the Hype

After two underwhelming drafts in 2006 and 2007, the team needed a solid draft in 2008 to help give the team a boost for what was supposed to be a Super Bowl run. That Super Bowl run never happened, of course, and now that 2008 draft isn’t looking very strong.

The 2008 draft marked the second time in four years that Dallas had two first-round picks. In 2005, the team had one of its strongest drafts in year, picking up the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Marion Barber, Jay Ratfliff, and Marcus Spears.

Dallas went with both offense and defense in the first round of the 2008 draft, picking RB Felix Jones (#22 overall) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (#25). The Cowboys took a chance on talented tight end Martellus Bennett in the second round and then snagged running back Tashard Choice in the fourth. DB Orlando Scandrick and DE Erik Walden were the final two picks.

Jones and Jenkins have shown flashes during their time here, as Jenkins has been a starter since 2009 and Jones took over the lead running back duties this year. However, neither has turned the corner to become a great player. Jenkins has talent, but he is nothing close to a shutdown corner, while Jones hasn’t proven that his body can handled the pounding associated with 20 touches a game.

Bennett has turned out to be a notorious underachiever. Scandrick is a good nickel corner, but he hasn’t been the key playmaker that some said he would be coming from Boise State. Walden had bounced around a bit, playing for four teams. He is now a starter in Green Bay.

Choice looked at times like he could become a feature back, but he made too many mistakes in the last couple of seasons. He had one very good performance in 2010 (100 rushing yards vs. Indianapolis), but he otherwise has not looked like the player we thought he might be when he rushed for 472 yards with a 5.1 average as a rookie in 2008.

Dallas decided to cut ties with Choice today, ending his time with the team after less than four seasons. Some speculated that the team might also release Bennett, but that may not come until later.

So what looked like a solid draft now doesn’t look quite as good. And if DeMarco Murray ends up taking the reins from Jones, and if Jenkins continues to decline, the 2008 draft class as a whole might be considered nothing more than disappointing.

Remember When…? Cowboys Avoid 1-4 Start in 1996 by Beating Eagles

Sherman Williams had 27 rushing yards in the Cowboys 23-19 win over Philadelphia in 1996.

The Cowboys’ 1-7 start to the 2010 season was the most disappointing in team history, but it was not the first time that a Dallas team with Super Bowl aspirations had struggled out the gate.

In 1996, the Cowboys were defending Super Bowl champions and were trying to become the first team in NFL history to win four Super Bowls in five years. A 1-3 start wasn’t going to help.

Of course, that was the season that Michael Irvin had to serve a five-game suspension, and the team looked lost without him. The Cowboys had lost a dreadful 10-7 game at Buffalo in week 4 and were heading into a Monday Night Football game at Philadelphia. The Eagles were 3-1 and looking to put the Cowboys away early in the season.

Things went from bad to worse in the first quarter, as the Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Somebody needed to give the team a spark, and that somebody was…

Herschel Walker. The former Viking, Eagle, and Giant had returned to Dallas in 1996 and served as a kickoff returner. His 49-yard return in the first quarter set up a Dallas touchdown, and the Cowboys went on to score 20 consecutive points.

From there, the Dallas defense stood tall, forcing five turnovers and knocking starter Rodney Peete out the game. The only Philly points a return of a Troy Aikman fumble by defensive lineman Rhett Hall and a deliberate safety taken by Dallas punter John Jett with eight seconds left in the game.

The Cowboys won three more straight games after the win, putting the team back in contention for the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from October 26, 1985

Glen Titensor: The Cowboy Nobody Knows

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

The focus this week is in the issue published on October 26, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm: Did Tex Originally Have a Timetable for Success?

One reader asked if Tex Schramm had a timetable for success when he took over as the Cowboys’ general manager in 1959. His response:

I had no timetable, but I had confidence that we would eventually be successful. The methods and philosophies I had learned during my ten years with the Los Angeles Rams had provided me with what I felt was a pretty good formula for success. And I had the opportunity to look at the operations of other NFL teams during the three years I spent with CBS. Probably those three years were very important because they enabled me to step back from being involved in just one pro football operation and judge the things others were doing.

Schramm also noted the importance of the scouting system and the use of computers.

Cowboys Blow Game at Philadelphia

The Cowboys had been on a roll when they traveled to Philadelphia for a week 7 matchup. The 5-1 Cowboys held a 14-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter against the 3-3 Eagles, but Philadelphia scored twice in the final quarter to pull out a 16-14 win. Ron Jaworski’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Jackson proved to be the game-winner. Jaworski finished with 380 passing yards.

Gary Hogeboom filled in for the injured Danny White. Tom Landry later said that White could have played but that the team didn’t want to take a chance with White’s injured ribs.

Dorsett Chases Payton and Brown

The player many thought might end up with the record for most career rushing yards was Tony Dorsett. He surpassed the 10,000-yard mark faster than any player other than Walter Payton and Jim Brown. By the middle of the 1985 season, Dorsett ranked #6 on the all-time list.

The Unknown Starting Lineman Named Titensor

The cover boy for the October 26 issue was guard Glen Titensor (TIGHT-en-sir). He was a third-round pick in 1981 and had become a starter by 1984. At the age of 27, he was hitting his prime, but few outside Dallas knew who he was.

What we learned in the Oct. 26, 1985 issue: Titensor modeled a fur coat at a fund-raiser with other Cowboys; he married his wife Sherry in 1984 and lived in Carrollton; he had a golden retriever named Bubba; and his wife gave him a model airplane as a birthday present.

(As it turned out, he only started one more season before suffering an injury and sitting out the 1987 season. He now owns a golf course.)

Cowboy Connections with the Falcons

The Cowboys were getting reading to face the Atlanta Falcons on October 27. Atlanta had three executives with connections to the Cowboys: Eddie LeBaron, the former Dallas QB, was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer; Tom Braatz, a former Dallas LB, was the General Manager; and Bob Fry, a former Dallas tackle, was a scout.