Dallas Cowboys History
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During various times in the 1960s and early 1970s, Tom Landry was rather notorious for swapping starting quarterbacks. Whether it was Eddie LeBaron vs. Don Meredith, Don Meredith vs. Craig Morton, or Craig Morton vs. Roger Staubach, Landry did not seem to shy from quarterback controversies.
Of course, once Staubach led the team to the promised land in 1971, those controversies ended. And when Staubach retired after the 1979 season, Danny White took over without any real competition.
By 1984, the Cowboys had lost in the playoffs during four consecutive seasons. The focus of the news during training camp in 1984 was on the QB position, where Gary Hogeboom was trying to unseat White as the starter.
Landry made a decision 30 years ago to move Hogeboom into the starting position. Landry hardly gave Hogeboom a full vote of confidence.
Landry said the Cowboys’ quarterback position, like all others on the team, would be evaluated on a game- by-game basis as part of what he called a ”reshaping” process. That process begins at Anaheim, Calif., Monday night, when the Cowboys open against the Los Angeles Rams.
”This is not like quarterback decisions I’ve made in the past,” said Landry, who was visibly nervous during the Dallas news conference at which he announced the change. ”If we were going to rebuild this team, we would not be thinking about making the playoffs. But we are going to be reshaping this team. We still have the players to make it to the playoffs. We can be in contention this year. But it is going to take a lot of hard work.”
Landry would give no specific reasons for switching from the 32-year- old White, a starter in the last four seasons, to the 26-year-old Hogeboom, who has never started a regular-season game in the N.F.L. but who said earlier this summer that he would seek a trade if he were not given the starter’s role.
”For my own reasons,” the coach said, ”I have a feeling that Gary is right for this game. My feeling is the same about Danny White. He is an excellent quarterback and will continue to be an excellent quarterback. I have coached this game. I have played this game. I have to go on my feelings.”
Of course, White was angry, while Hogeboom had to look over his shoulder. Both players saw action throughout the first half of the season, during which the Cowboys went 5-3. White eventually returned to the starting role. The team was 9-5 heading into the final two weeks of the season, and the Cowboys could have made the playoffs with wins in either week. But Dallas lost both games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
* * *
Something that really caught my attention in the N.Y. Times article was this blurb about Franco Harris:
The Dallas Morning News reported that Bart Beier, the agent for Franco Harris, had called the Cowboys and told them that the accomplished running back was available to play for them at an annual salary of as little as $330,000. That is about $50,000 less than what Harris would have earned this season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who waived him last week because of a contract impasse. According to the Dallas newspaper account, Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ vice president for personnel development, rejected the offer out of hand, without even discussing it with Landry.
The year was 1961. The Dallas Cowboys were preparing for their second year in the league after going 0-11-1 in 1960.
The Cowboys had their training camp at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. The team was looking for some talent.
Found it did they (Yoda speak) in a little receiver from Oregon. Standing at just 5’4″ and weighing only 147 pounds, this player looked “like a loose helmet on the ground until he starts moving,” according to Dallas Morning News writer Charles Burton.
Moreover, Tom Landry called him a key to the Cowboys’ chances that year. More on that below.
The player caught everyone’s attention in camp with a 71-yard touchdown reception from Don Meredith during a scrimmage.
The player? Cleveland “Pussyfoot” Jones.
The DMN later noted that Pussyfoot’s legend grew “rather large” during training camp. But alas, the team cut him on August 28, 1961. He played in two preseason games but never touched the ball.
Apparently, news of Pussyfoot’s release travelled quite slowly. On September 6, 1961, more than a week after the Cowboys cut Pussyfoot, the Miami News published a piece entitled “‘Pussyfoot’ Key to Dallas Hopes.” The author of the piece was, of course, head coach Tom Landry.
Two of our biggest weaknesses last season were an inexperienced defensive secondary and lack of speed on offense.
We traded for veteran Dick Moegle during the off-season. Dicky has been a big help to us through training camp, although he was out of action for neary a month with an injured leg.
He has given our young defensive halfbacks and safeties some valuable pointers and has helped get them in a keen competitive frame of mind.
Offensively, we’ve found some pleasant surprises. Two of them are free agents we signed from Oregon State. [MC: Marsh played at Oregon State, but Jones played at the University of Oregon]
One is Amos Marsh, who was an end and sprint champion in college. We put him at fullback the first day of camp and nobody’s been able to get him out of that position yet.
The other is Cleveland (Pussyfoot) Jones, who towers 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 147 pounds. He’s a quick, clever pass receiver as a wingback and he’s willing to take on any big man his blocking assignment calls for. He’s a real key to our chances.
Perhaps needless to say, Pussyfoot never played in the NFL.
The other players did have decent careers. Marsh played in Dallas from 1961 to 1964, plus another three years in Detroit. Moegle started 14 games in Dallas in 1961, but that was his final season in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys opened their first training camp in Forest Grove, Oregon in July 1960. The team was a mix of cast-off veterans from other teams along with free-agent rookies that other teams did not want.
The two prized rookies on the roster were quarterback Don Meredith and running back Don Perkins. When the team arrived at camp, players had to run a mile in six minutes. He gave linemen an extra 30 seconds.
Total number of players who met this goal: zero.
Of course, keep in mind this was long before the days where players had year-round training programs.
Here is part of an article published on July 12, 1960.
Cowboys Greeted by Landry’s Mile
by Charles Burton
News Staff Writer
The six minute standard survived the stubborn assault of the Dallas Cowboys Monday in the Tom Landry Mile.
The race which will become a fixture in the annual training camps of the National Football League club was run and sometimes staggered over a grass course laid out around the Pacific University gridiron. Landry had warned his athletes by mail that he would expect backs and ends to gallop the distance in a flat six minutes with linemen granted an additional thirty seconds for a satisfactory rating. None met the goal.
* * *
Don Meredith, the stork-legged first-year quarterback from Southern Methodist, finished with a weak spurt and a strong smile at 7:43….Don Perkins, the highly regarded halfback from the University of New Mexico, a reputed 10 second man in the 100-yard dash, was the only player who was given no time. He collapsed just after starting the fifth lap of the six lap endurance grind but after resting for a few minutes he regained his wind and walked and trotted to the finish.
“If they had been in better condition I believe they could have made it in six minutes,” commented Coach Landry.
* * *
* Landry’s reason for a six-minute mile? Roger Bannister had broken the four-minute mark in 1954, and track runners were still aiming to break that mark by 1960. Landry said he just added two minutes.
* The player with the fastest time (6:19) was Greg Altenhofen, a rookie end from the University of Oregon. He did not make the team and never played in the NFL.
* The article notes the center Bob Griffin “would have to be timed with a calendar” because he was so slow. Griffin also did not make the team in 1960 after having played five years with the Rams during the mid-1960s. He did, however, play in five games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1961.
* Three players failed to show up for camp and were cut. The players were Norman Denny (North Texas State), Larry Deuitt (Rice), and Leon Manley (West Texas State).
Pro-Football-Reference.com has engaged in a project for some time now that allows users to vote on the all-time rankings of every NFL player. The project is known as Elo Rater.
Cowboys’ fans will not be happy to see the current rankings, as no Dallas player appears on the top 10 list for offense and only one player appears in the top 10 on defense.
Before I point out some B.S., here are the Cowboys rated in the top 50 for offense and defense:
17. Roger Staubach
26. Larry Allen
(I am not counting Lance Alworth, though he was a member of the Cowboys towards the end of his career. He ranks 10th.)
9. Bob Lilly
49. Deion Sanders
(Similarly, I am not counting Forrest Gregg as a Cowboy.)
Now for the criticism.
How many real experts would place Len Dawson in the top 20 offensive players of all time? Yes, he is a Hall-of-Fame player, but #15 overall?
Jim Brown ranks at #3. Gale Sayers is #5. Walter Payton is #6. Barry Sanders is #9. Emmitt Smith, who outrushed all of them? He ranks #130 behind the likes of Chuck Muncie, Calvin Hill, Bob Vogel, James Brooks, Jim Hart, and Jim Langer.
I am somewhat less critical of the defensive rankings, though I would rank Darren Woodson higher than #245 overall.
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—