Trivia and Stats
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One surprise was the selection of Efren Herrera’s 1977 season as the greatest ever. I call this a surprise because Herrera only hit 62.1% of his field goals that season (and missed two extra points), and he was gone one year later. (I would have picked Rafael Septien’s 1981 season.) Nevertheless, Herrera was an all-pro selection in 1977, so it was not as if he didn’t deserve consideration.
Now for some trivia: why did the Cowboys trade Herrera to Seattle?
The short answer is that Herrera was demanding too much money. In fact, he wanted to double his salary from 1976.
Double means going from about $40,000 per year to about $80,000 per year. In 2016 dollars, that would be like Herrera asking for a raise from $159,000 to $318,000. Of course, the current minimum veteran salary for a fourth-year pro (which Herrera was in 1978) is $760,000.
Salary of current kicker Dan Bailey in 2016? $3.3 million, including his prorated signing bonus.
Dallas traded Herrera to Seattle on August 14, 1978, in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. He played for Seattle for four years and became somewhat famous for his involvement with trick plays. In fact, he caught two passes for a total of 29 yards.
He played part of one season in Buffalo. He was signed by a couple of USFL teams but did not play in that league.
After the trade with Seattle in 1978, Dallas was left with unheralded Jay Sherrill and Skip Butler at kicker. Fortunately, the Cowboys were able to sign Septien as a free agent about two weeks after trading Herrera.
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 “______________ _____________.”
Here is an animated GIF showing a play from Super Bowl XIII. Trivia questions follows:
(1) Hollywood Henderson is the player who took Terry Bradshaw to the ground after the fumble. What did Henderson famously say about Bradshaw’s intelligence before the game?
(2) Which player returned the fumble for a touchdown?
(3) True or false? This play is the only defensive touchdown the Cowboys scored in eight Super Bowl appearances.
(4) Bradshaw fumbled twice against the Cowboys in SB XIII. Which Dallas player recovered the first fumble?
(5) Another linebacker recorded an interception against the Steelers in SB XIII. Who was that player?
In January 1964, many Dallas Cowboys fans apparently wanted to see the team develop new uniforms. A column by Dallas Morning News writer Sam Blair referred to a letter allegedly written by a group known as GNDLFBSTHCPDCSS, which complained about the “generous assortment of stars on the helmets and jerseys” and said that fans unhappy with the team’s original garb believed that “no first-rate team wears second-rate uniforms.”
So, the difficult trivia question: In Blair’s column, to what does GNDLFBSTHCPDCSS refer?
Before I provide the answer, here is the team’s original uniform, worn between 1960 and 1963:
I would also comment on two quotes.
“I’m a lot more concerned about the players we put in those uniforms. I’ve never seen a good-looking uniform win a game.”
“We want an emblem on our helmets, which some guy in Minneapolis will quickly identify with the Dallas Cowboys. We believe the boot and spur will do this, but the star didn’t. Evidently most people around the country didn’t associate the star with Texas, the Lone Star State.”
— Tex Schramm
Thankfully, the Cowboys did not discard the star on the helmet for the boot and spur. The Cowboys did, of course, add silver as a major color, and the team started wearing white jerseys at home.
As for the meaning of GNDLFBSTHCPDCSS, it was actually in a few DMN articles—Greater North Texas Loyal Fans, Boosters, and Season Ticket Holders Committee for Providing the Dallas Cowboys with Sartorial Splendor.
The Dallas Cowboys have the fourth pick in the NFL draft, as everyone knows, and a number of fans want to see the Cowboys take a quarterback who will eventually replace Tony Romo.
Jerry Jones’ take? Romo will last another four or five years. He will be 36 at the beginning of next season.
Summarizing how franchise quarterbacks in team history fared past the age of 36 is pretty easy. Few of them have made it that long.
Don Meredith was 30 during his last season. Troy Aikman was 34. That eliminates two of them.
Of the others, Roger Staubach had the best performances after turning 36. In 1978 at the age of 36, he led the league in passer rating during the first season in which teams played 16 games instead of 14 games. One year later at the age of 37, in what turned out to be his final season, Staubach set career highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Danny White is the only other franchise QB to play until the age of 36, but his final season was one to forget. He played in only three games.
The last time before 2015 that Romo missed significant time was 2010. He followed that with four mostly complete seasons.
Below is an animated GIF showing a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Tony Hill. Some trivia questions about this play appear below the image.
(1) During what year did this play occur?
A few additional facts may help: the play covered 30 yards, and one of the defenders was Gary Jeter (#70), a first-round pick of the Giants.
(2) Staubach threw a total of 153 touchdown passes. Which two players caught the most from Staubach?
(3) Hill caught Staubach’s final regular-season touchdown pass. Which player caught the first?
(4) While we’re at it, which player caught Staubach’s last touchdown pass in the 1979 playoff loss to the L.A. Rams?
(5) True or false? Staubach threw more touchdown passes against the Giants than any other team.
Some other notes…
- This game took place during a 12-game winning streak the Cowboys recorded against the Giants in the 1970s. Dallas lost the Giants on September 29, 1974, but won the second matchup in October. The Cowboys would not lose again to the Giants until 1980, when Dallas lost by a Joe Delano field goal at Giants Stadium.
- Harry Carson (#53) appears in the GIF above. He was a member of the Giants during eight of those losses to the Cowboys.
- Hill caught his first NFL touchdown from Staubach in 1978 against the Rams. He caught his final touchdown pass from Danny White in 1986 against the Cardinals. The only other players to throw a touchdown pass to Hill were Gary Hogeboom and receiver Drew Pearson.
Given the occasion that former Cowboy great DeMarcus Ware is playing in the Super Bowl and the Cowboys are still trying to figure out why they lost 12 games, it’s time for some animated trivia.
First, the image:
Now, the trivia questions:
(1) During which year did this game take place?
(2) Did the Cowboys win this game?
(3) How many interceptions did Ware have during his career in Dallas?
(4) Has Ware had any interceptions as a member of the Broncos?
(5) Of the players shown in the GIF, how many were members of the Cowboys in 2015?
For the 20th consecutive year, Cowboys fans are forced to watch conference championship games that do not feature the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, Cowboys fans get to ponder news about Tony Romo having a plate inserted in his collarbone.
This is not the longest drought that teams have faced after forming dynasties in the past. In fact, it will take eight more years before the Cowboys match the drought of the Green Bay Packers.
Here’s a look at some dynasties of the past:
The Dynasty: Including the four years of the AFFC, Cleveland won eight championships in 20 years.
Aftermath: The Browns won their last NFL title in 1964. They continued to be a force for the rest of the 1960s but never made it to a Super Bowl.
Post-dynasty Drought: 17 years. After reaching the NFL Championship Game in 1969, the Browns would not return to a conference title game until 1986.
Green Bay Packers
The Dynasty: Green Bay won five titles between 1961 and 1967, including the first two Super Bowl titles.
Aftermath: The Packers were a mediocre franchise for a long time and reached the playoffs only twice between 1968 and 1993.
Post-dynasty Drought: 28 years. The Packers lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in 1993 and 1994 before reaching the NFC Championship Game in 1995. They lost to the Cowboys that year but won the Super Bowl the following year.
The Dynasty: Four Super Bowl titles in six years.
Aftermath: Pittsburgh stumbled in the early 1980s thanks to injuries and age. The Steelers made the AFC Championship Game in 1984 after recording only a 9-7 record.
Post-dynasty Drought: 10 years. The Steelers made the playoffs three times between 1985 and 1993 but did not return to the AFC Championship Game until 1994. They reached the Super Bowl in 1995, losing to Dallas.
San Francisco 49ers
The Dynasty: Five Super Bowl titles in 14 years.
Aftermath: San Francisco remained competitive for the rest of the 1990s, but the bottom fell out in 1999.
Post-dynasty Drought: 14 years. The 49ers made the NFC Championship Game in 1997 but would not return until 2011. San Francisco reached the Super Bowl in 2012.
The Dynasty: Three Super Bowl titles in 10 years.
Aftermath: Washington has struggled to become a winning team since its last Super Bowl title in 1991.
Post-dynasty Drought: 24 years. The Redskins have made the playoffs only six times since its last title.
The Dynasty: Three Super Bowl titles in four years.
Aftermath: The Cowboys were the first dynasty to suffer from the salary cap. Opponents signed several key players, and Dallas was unable to get back to the top in the latter half of the 1990s.
Post-dynasty Drought: 20 years. The Cowboys have reached the playoffs eight times since their last Super Bowl win but have won only two playoff games.
As we all know, the 2015 Dallas Cowboys will go down in history as one of the worst teams in franchise history.
And, of course, the team might be best known for its lack of turnovers. The team forced only 11 turnovers in 16 games.
In the history of the NFL, the team’s turnover differential of -22 ranks as the 27th worst in a season. Among teams playing 16-game seasons since 1978, only 14 teams have had a turnover differential worse than -22.
The 14 teams with turnover differentials worse than -22 since 1978 have won an average of 3.78 games.
It is only fitting that Dallas went 4-12.
This was not the worst season in NFL history or in team history, however. Below are a few points about turnover differential in league history.
Worst of all time: 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers
The worst turnover differential in league history, or at least dating back to 1940, was -30 by the 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 1965 Steelers were a miserable 2-12. Pittsburgh turned the ball over six times in a game against the Cowboys and seven times in a game against the Redskins.
What gave those Steelers the worst turnover differential was Pittsburgh’s miserable performance against the Cardinals on December 12, 1965.
Quarterback Tommy Wade threw seven interceptions, while Bill Nelson threw two more. Moreover, the team lost three fumbles, giving Pittsburgh a total of 12 turnovers in one game. It tied a league mark for most turnovers in a single game.
The Steelers turned the ball over five times in their season finale, giving the team 57 turnovers in one year.
Modern futility: 2000 San Diego Chargers
Since the league expanded to 16-game seasons in 1978, the worst team in terms of turnover differential has been the 2000 San Diego Chargers.
Led by the infamous Ryan Leaf and the 37-year-old Jim Harbaugh, the Chargers went 1-15 that season. They turned the ball over at least twice in every game that year and suffered five turnovers in three consecutive games.
By season’s end, the Chargers had 50 turnovers. The defense only managed 22, giving the team a turnover ratio of -28.
Worst in Cowboys’ history: 1989 and 1960
The worst seasons in team history remain the 1960 and 1989 seasons. The 2015 season was not far behind, though.
In 12 games during the franchise’s inaugural season of 1960, Dallas turned the ball over 50 times while forcing only 26 turnovers, giving the team a differential of -24.
That mark stood for 29 years until the 1989 Cowboys had a turnover differential of -25.
The 2015 Cowboys will take their place among those horrible teams with the third-worst season.
1989 Cowboys (1-15): -25
1960 Cowboys (0-11-1): -24
2015 Cowboys (4-12): -22
1988 Cowboys (3-13): -21
2004 Cowboys (6-10): -15
The Best of All Time: 1983 Washington Redskins
Not surprisingly, teams with the highest positive turnover differential have performed well.
The team with the highest differential were the 1983 Redskins, who finished with a 14-2 record. Washington forced an incredible 61 turnovers while committing only 18, for a differential of 43.
The next highest number on the list was +30 by the 1958 Baltimore Colts.
The Best of Dallas Teams: 1981
The Cowboys have had some great defenses, but in terms of regular-season statistics, no team has had an especially impressive turnover ratio.
The best season for the franchise in this context was the 1981 Cowboys. Thanks largely to rookie Everson Walls’ 11 interceptions, Dallas forced 53 turnovers and finished the season with a ratio of +18.
Here is the list of the top five:
1981 Cowboys (12-4): +18
1971 Cowboys (11-3): +16
1973 Cowboys (10-4): +13
1970 Cowboys (10-4): +11
1998 Cowboys (10-6): +11
Once upon a time (2010), I owned a fantasy team in a league on Yahoo. Jay Cutler was my starting quarterback. I needed something like seven points to win that week, and Cutler and the Bears were playing the Giants on Sunday Night Football.
Cutler was typically good for 15 to 20 points per game, so I should have had this one. Instead, Cutler threw for only 42 yards with an interception and a fumble lost. He was sacked nine times and was injured near the end of the first half. He did not play the rest of the game and finished with -3.32 fantasy points. To my knowledge, it is the only time during the past 18 years of playing fantasy football that I had started a quarterback who finished with negative fantasy points.
Anyway, I originally drafted Tony Romo in one of my fantasy leagues and then drafted Cutler, of all people, as a backup. When Romo went down with an injury, I was somehow able to acquire Carson Palmer, so I have only had to play Cutler once. I cut Romo but picked him up in time to have him on my roster for the playoffs.
My only football-related thanks on Thanksgiving? I did not start Romo against the Panthers. His three-interception dud left him with -1.76 fantasy points before he left the game with another clavicle injury.
It marked the second time in Romo’s career that he ended up with negative fantasy points. The first occurred in 2005, when as a backup, he knelt on the ball twice in a 33-10 win over the Eagles. That gave him -0.2 points, but that hardly counts given that it was his first appearance in an NFL game.
So in 127 career starts, yesterday marked one of the worst performances of his career and easily the worst fantasy performance of his career.
Here’s a summary of five of his worst games (taking into account both on-field performance and fantasy performance). Note that fantasy points are based on standard scoring on NFL.com.
2015: Carolina 33, Dallas 14
11-21, 106 yds., 0 TD, 3 Int.
-1.76 fantasy points
2007: Philadelphia 10, Dallas 6
13-36, 214 yds., 0 TD, 3 Int.
4.06 fantasy points
2008: Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6
21-39, 183 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
4.42 fantasy points
2008: Pittsburgh 20, Dallas 13
19-36, 210 yds., 1 TD, 3 Int.
6.0 fantasy points
2009: Denver 17, Dallas 10
25-42, 255 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
6.20 fantasy points
To be sure, he had plenty of dishonorable mentions. For example, he played part of the season finale against the Redskins in 2007 in a 27-6 loss. He posted only 1.44 fantasy points. Few games, however, match yesterday’s performance in terms of futility.