Dallas Cowboys History
now browsing by category
Nobody would seriously doubt how important Gil Brandt was to the development of the Dallas Cowboys as a consistent contender for more than two decades.
However, by the 1980s, Brandt’s magic was not what it was. Consider how the Cowboys approached the 1982 Draft.
Dallas had the 25th overall pick. Brandt referred to the draft as “unpredictable” that season, with player ratings varying greatly from team to team.
One player who stood out as a possible choice was Iowa linebacker Andre Tippett. However, Brandt apparently agreed with NFL scouts who thought that Tippett would not be able to grasp the Cowboys’ complicated defense.
Instead, the Cowboys took Kentucky State defensive back Rod Hill, who lasted two seasons in Dallas before leaving as one of the worst first-round busts in team history.
In the second round, Dallas took Yale linebacker Jeff Rohrer, who was presumably smart enough to master the team’s complicated defense.
Rohrer played six years in Dallas but hardly reminded anyone of Lee Roy Jordan.
How did Tippett do? Well, he went to the New England Patriots in the second round. He apparently figured out New England’s schemes, making the Pro Bowl five times. He was also elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008.
That is a bit better than Hill and Rohrer. The best player the Cowboys found that year was Notre Dame tackle Phil Pozderac. We can talk about him later…
The 1982 Draft did have one upside: the other name thrown around for the Cowboys was Arizona State tackle John Meyer. Brandt did not want to spend another high draft choice on an offensive lineman, having spent first-round picks on linemen in the 1979 (Robert Shaw) and 1981 (Howard Richards) drafts.
Meyer went to Pittsburgh in the second round but never played a down in the NFL. According to an Arizona State blog, the Steelers tried to convert him to defensive end, but his knees gave out on him.
Try to imagine Tony Romo making less than not one but two backup quarterbacks on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. Now consider this—
The Cowboys lured quarterback Don Meredith from SMU in 1960 by offering him what “was considered one of the finest in the history of professional football.”
Five years later, the team gave him a “slight raise” to about $27,000 per year when he signed a new contract.
Meredith was reportedly happy. He said, “I got what I wanted and I hope the club gets what it wants next season.”
The team selected quarterback Craig Morton in the first round of the 1965 draft, and Morton would make more as a rookie in 1965 than Meredith made even with the raise.
But what was even stranger was that another backup, Jerry Rhome, also made more than Meredith did. Rhome was a 13th round pick in 1964.
Of course, those were long before the days of free agency, so players had no real bargaining power. Moreover, Tex Schramm and the Cowboys were notorious about underpaying even the best players on the team.
I’m guessing Jerry would be quite jealous.
Here’s a quote about one member of the secondary.
He’ll be an outstanding player at safety, whether he makes his move there this year or next season.
Trivia question: Who was the player?
This may help—
On the same day Tom Landry made this statement, the Cowboys announced they had traded Craig Morton to the New York Giants in exchange for New York’s number one draft pick.
The Giants finished 2-12 that season, meaning the Cowboys held the second overall pick the follow season.
The Cowboys selection? Hall-of-Famer Randy White.
The Dallas Cowboys played in their fourth Super Bowl after the 1977 season as heavy favorites against the Denver Broncos, who were making their first trip to the big game.
Of course, the Dallas defense was ferocious for much of the game, forcing eight turnovers and recording four sacks. The highly touted Denver defense forced six Dallas fumbles but only managed to recover two of them.
Dallas won, of course, 27-10, giving Tom Landry his second and final world title.
Leading to our quote of the day. Who said this after the game?
Orange Crush is soda water, baby. You drink it. It don’t win football games.
Thirty-six seasons later, the Broncos are heading to their seventh Super Bowl thanks to their 26-16 win over New England on Sunday.
The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for their third consecutive appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have done a whole bunch of nothing since losing to the Eagles to end the season. Pretty good chance we will continue to see a whole bunch of nothing.
My prediction on Facebook:
Anyway, for lack of anything else to discuss at the moment, here is a video from 1996 on ESPN’s Primetime showing the Cowboys’ 20-17 win over the 49ers. The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 6-4 in a season where Dallas pulled out another NFC East title.
Ah, memories. Distant, distant memories.
Three hours before the season finale against the New York Giants on December 19, 1965, Bob Hayes gave his thoughts about the game. His quote:
Yankee Stadium, man. It’s going to be fun.
Dallas Morning News writer Gary Cartwright’s reply: “Fun? It was a genuine riot.”
The Cowboys blew out the Giants, 38-20. The win allowed Dallas to finish with a .500 record at 7-7, marking the first time in franchise history that Dallas did not have a losing record. The Cowboys advanced to the 1965 Playoff Bowl, where Dallas lost to Colts, 35-3.
Hayes caught two touchdown passes from Don Meredith in the win. Meredith only completed 8 passes, but three were for touchdowns.
The trivia question for today is below—
It has become easy to forget that the Dallas Cowboys were supposed to have turned a corner in 2009 when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in back-to-back games. The first win clinched the NFC East title for Dallas. The second gave the Cowboys their only playoff win since 1996.
Here are the video highlights. Some faces are the same, but you will see quite a bit of Marion Barber and Patrick Crayton, along with big plays by Felix Jones, Doug Free (on Jones’ touchdown run), and Jay Ratliff.
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the Cowboys’ 1991 playoff loss to the Detroit Lions.
In real life…
In 1991, the Cowboys ended a six-year playoff drought by winning their final five regular-season games. The team then won its first playoff game since 1982 by defeating the Chicago Bears 17-13 at Soldier Field.
It was not Troy Aikman who led the Cowboys during this winning streak. After Aikman suffered a knee injury in a win over Washington on November 24, Steve Beuerlein took over. He was not sensational; in fact, he failed to throw for 200 yards in three of his five starts, and he never threw more than one touchdown in any game. However, he used his weapons, including Michael Irvin, effectively.
Dallas travelled to Detroit to face the Lions at the Silverdome. Although Aikman was able to play, Jimmy Johnson went with Beuerlein. The magic was no longer there, though. Dallas fell behind early, and with the team trailing 17-6 at halftime, Johnson went with Aikman. The change did not make a difference, as the Cowboys fell 38-6.
The Lions faced the Redskins at RFK Stadium in the NFC Championship Game but lost in a rout, 41-10.
Here are some highlights from the Cowboys-Lions game:
What if the Cowboys had beaten the Lions?
Admittedly, this is not a great what-if piece (and see below regarding an alternative what-if regarding Barry Sanders). Few expected the Cowboys to be a playoff contender in 1991, so getting one win made this a feel-good season.
1. The Beuerlein-Aikman Debate Would Have Continued.
By 1991, Aikman had accomplished almost nothing. He had not played a full season and had won only 14 games as a starter. Although he had led the Cowboys on a four-game winning streak earlier in the 1991 season, he did not yet look like a franchise quarterback.
Beuerlein was simply effective. He did not put the team on his shoulders during the streak, yet the team seemed to have a confidence it had lacked at times, even in 1991. The fact that Beuerlein had led the team to its first playoff win in 9 years played in his favor.
Had Beuerlein led the Cowboys to a win over the Lions, the team would have had a difficult time avoiding a quarterback controversy heading into the 1992 season, no matter what happened in the NFC Championship Game.
2. The Cowboys Would Not Beat the Redskins.
The 1991 season turned out to be Joe Gibbs’ last during his first stint in Washington. The team had finished 14-2 after starting the season at 11-0.
The first team to beat Washington in 1991 was Dallas in the game where Aikman suffered his knee injury. Dallas jumped out to a 14-7 halftime lead, and thanks to Beuerlein’s touchdown pass to Irvin early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were able to hang on for a 24-21 win.
The odds that the Cowboys would repeat are minimal, no matter who started at quarterback. I ran simulations on What If Sports using both Aikman and Beuerlein as starters. After 20 attempts, the Cowboys still had not won a simulated game.
3. The Dynasty Would Have Happened Anyway.
The Cowboys’ 1991 season was not great because the team expected to reach the Super Bowl. It was great because the team finally mattered again. A win over the Lions would have extended the good feelings, but few would think it would have had any effect on the Cowboys’ dynasty that began in 1992.
A BONUS WHAT-IF
Yes, we have a bonus what-if this week.
Let’s ask: What if the Cowboys have drafted Barry Sanders instead of Troy Aikman in the 1989 Draft?
This move would have made no sense in 1989, though. The Cowboys already had a franchise running back in Herschel Walker, but Walker was not able to help the Cowboys to win more than 3 games in 1988. The Lions lost their first 5 games in 1989 with Sanders playing running back, and when the Lions won their first game in week 6 that year, Sanders did not play. (To be sure, Sanders ended the season while playing great, rushing for 382 yards and 6 touchdowns during 3 wins in the final 3 games.)
Dallas did not need an individual talent like Sanders. The Cowboys needed a franchise quarterback and many other pieces to the puzzle. The team was fortunate to find a franchise back one year later when the Cowboys took Emmitt Smith.
And here’s why I did not focus on drafting Sanders in 1989—would anyone want to think about the Cowboys’ of the early 1990s with Steve Walsh and Barry Sanders instead of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith? I thought not.
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the 1980 NFC Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
In real life…
The label of quarterback Danny White as a failure began with the Dallas Cowboys’ loss in the 1980 NFC Championship Game.
White was, however, anything but a failure. He led the 1980 Cowboys to a better record than the 1979 Cowboys had posted with Roger Staubach at the helm. And one week before the 1980 NFC title game, White threw two late touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons in one of the great games in NFL history.
White’s magic ran out at Veterans Stadium on January 11, 1981. In 12-degree weather, White completed only 12 of 31 passes for 127 yards with an interception.
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead with Wilbert Montgomery’s most famous play:
Although the Cowboys tied the game before halftime, Dallas could not overcome a 10-point third quarter by Philadelphia. Dallas lost 20-7.
The Eagles turned around and lost to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Neither the Eagles nor the Cowboys made another Super Bowl during the 1980s.
What if the Cowboys had defeated the Eagles?
1. The Blue-Jersey Curse Would End
Ask a Cowboys fan over the age of 40 about origins of the blue-jersey curse. Many would point to the 1980 title game.
(Of course, older fans would point to SB V, when Dallas lost to the Baltimore Colts while wearing blue.)
A big win at Philadelphia would have ended the curse, and it is possible that the Cowboys might have worn blue more often. Instead, most of us don’t want to see those blue jerseys.
2. White Might Have Avoided Comparisons with Roger Staubach and, later, Tony Romo
Many fans like to compare current QB Tony Romo to Danny White because both lost big games.
The comparison is not fair because of the big games involved.
Fans during White’s era also liked to compare him to Roger Staubach, and the comparisons were almost always negative towards White.
White led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC title games and five playoff appearances in six years. A win at Philadelphia might have done wonders to avoid these comparisons.
3. A Sixth Trip
The Cowboys would have made Super Bowl XV with a win over Philadelphia. It would have been the Cowboys’ sixth Super Bowl appearance since 1970 and their second Super Bowl trip to the Superdome in four seasons. Moreover, the Cowboys would have played a Super Bowl in New Orleans for a third time.
The other two trips to New Orleans? Wins in SB VI and SB XII.
I ran 10 simulations of a Super Bowl XV between the Cowboys and Raiders on SimMatchup Football. It does not look good. Oakland won 8 of the 10 simulations by an average score of 22-17.
I cannot express my disappointment clearly enough.
5. And So No, White Would Not Avoid Comparisons with Roger Staubach or Tony Romo
Do Cowboys fans remember Craig Morton fondly? He was, of course, the first Dallas QB to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl.
The answer is no. And if Danny White led the Cowboys to Super Bowl XV and lost 22-17 to the Raiders, nobody would remember White or the 1980 season fondly.
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on Mike Shanahan, who became available as a head coach after the 2008 season.
In real life…
The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders in 2008. The team had gone 13-3 in 2007 before losing to the eventual champion Giants in the playoffs. The team a deep pool of talent in 2008, and many predicted the Cowboys would take the next step in their evolution.
Some fans and some in the media called on Jerry Jones to fire Wade Phillips after the playoff loss in 2007 because he had allowed players to vacation during the off week.
When the ’08 Cowboys lost 44-6 to the Eagles in the final week of the season and missed the playoffs, few could believe that Phillips would return. And when Mike Shanahan was fired as the Broncos head coach, many thought Jerry Jones should fire Wade and bring in Shanahan.
Instead, Shanahan took a year off before becoming head coach of the Redskins.
What if the Cowboys had fired Phillips after the 2008 season and hired Shanahan?
The argument in favor of hiring Shanahan was that the team needed a high-profile coach to coach the high-profile Pro Bowl players. Shanahan had won two Super Bowl titles in Denver, so it stands to reason that he would repeat his success in Dallas. Right?
1. The Cowboys under Shanahan would have no better success in finding and developing talent.
Between 1996 and 2005, Shanahan had great success, including two Super Bowl titles and seven playoff appearances.
Between 2006 and 2008, the team had no playoff appearances. The team had some talent with quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Brandon Marshall, and the likes of Champ Bailey and Elvis Dumervil, but to the extent Shanahan was involved with personnel decisions, the team was not improving its talent significantly in the last few years.
The Cowboys still had talent in 2009, but several key players were starting to age. The team needed to rebuild its line, find new skills players, and so forth.
It’s hard to believe that Jerry would give up the right to make personnel decisions, so Shanahan likely would just had a voice. And unless his voice made the Cowboys change their draft strategy in 2009, the results probably would have been the same.
2. Shanahan’s magic would not rekindle in Dallas.
The Broncos fired Shanahan after the team started the 2008 season at 8-5 but lost the final three to finish at 8-8. The Broncos missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
So the Cowboys were going to solve their annual December woes by hiring the coach of a team that had blown its playoff chances by losing three straight?
A big part of the reasoning behind hiring someone like Shanahan is that a coach who has been to the top before will know how to get there again. And, to be sure, managers in baseball, coaches in basketball, and even coaches in college football have been able to repeat success elsewhere.
For whatever reason, that has rarely happened in the NFL. No head coach has won a Super Bowl with multiple teams.
Sure, Shanahan’s Redskins beat the Cowboys to make the playoffs in 2012. His record in the other seasons in Washington, though, is 12-24, and he has made a number of questionable decisions during his tenure.
3. The Rams would have hired Jason Garrett has head coach and fired him three years later.
Jason Garrett nearly left the Cowboys after the 2008 season to become the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Instead, he stayed in Dallas and eventually became head coach.
The Rams were a mess in 2009, finishing at 1-15.
Garrett is smart, but Garrett would not fix that mess. He would have been back on the street after the 2011 season.
4. The Cowboys would have another head coach by now—Jason Garrett.
It is entirely possible that that Jerry would have grown tired of 8-8 seasons under Shanahan had fired him after the third season in 2011.
In hunting for a new coach, Jerry turns to…
Jason Garrett, who was recently fired as head coach of the Rams in our alternative universe.