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Some Perspective on Wade Phillips’ Winless Playoff Record

Wade Phillips is certainly not the only NFL head coach who has had regular season success but who has struggled in the postseason. On the other hand, here are some facts about Phillips’ coaching record showing that his failures are worst than most.

Total Regular Season Games=119 (All-Time Rank: #68)

Phillips has coached a total of 119 games, including his interim stints in New Orleans and Atlanta. Phillips is currently tied with former Lions coach Monte Clark and former Falcons coach Leeman Bennett.

Regular Season Wins=70 (All-Time Rank: #56)

There are a few notable current coaches that are still behind Phillips in terms of total number of regular season wins, but not many. Carolina’s John Fox, who has made one Super Bowl appearance, has seven fewer wins than Phillips with 63.

Regular Season Winning Percentage= .588 (70-49) (All-Time Rank: #36)

It has certainly helped Phillips in the past that he has taken over teams that already have some talent. Thus, he had not had to build teams from scratch, which is why several coaches are behind Phillips in terms of winning percentage. Just a few of the coaches with a lower winning percentage: Bill Parcells (.570), Chuck Noll (.566), and Jimmy Johnson (.556).

Here is the stat that stands out: Of the 85 coaches who have coached at least 100 games during their careers, only 12 have never won a playoff game. Moreover, none of the coaches among the other 11 has had a regular season winning percentage as high as Phillips’.

1. Jim Mora (15 seasons between 1986-2001): 231 regular season games (125-106, .541), 0-6 playoff record.
2. Norm Van Brocklin (13 seasons between 1961-1974): 173 regular season games (66-100-7, .398), no playoff appearances.
3. Joe Kuharich (11 seasons between 1952-1968): 142 regular season games (58-81-3, .417), no playoff appearances.
4. Dick Jauron (9 seasons between 1999-2008): 133 regular season games (57-76, .429), 0-1 playoff record.
5. Bruce Coslet (9 seasons between 1990-2000): 124 regular season games (47-77, .379), 0-1 playoff record.
6. Monte Clark (8 seasons between 1976-1984): 119 regular season games (51-67-1, .432), 0-2 playoff record.
7. Wade Phillips (9 seasons between 1985-2008): 119 regular season games (70-49, .588), 0-4 playoff record.
8. Marion Campbell (9 seasons between 1974-1989): 115 regular season games (34-80-1, .298), no playoff appearances.
9. Dan Henning (7 seasons between 1983-1981): 112 regular season games (38-73-1, .342), no playoff appearances.
10. Allie Sherman (8 seasons between 1961-1968): 112 regular season games (57-51-4, .528), 0-3 playoff record.
11. Buddy Ryan (7 seasons between 1986-1995): 111 regular season games (55-55-1, .500), 0-3 playoff record.
12. Ron Meyer (9 Seasons between 1982-1992): 104 regular season games (54-50, .519), 0-2 playoff record.

Another notable fact: of 76 coaches who have coached at least four playoff games, only Phillips and Jim Mora have never won at least one.

The Late-Season-Collapse Mystery Is Nothing New in Dallas

Part of the title of a Sports Illustrated preview of the Dallas Cowboys once read like this:

The talent is there to rule again . . ., but two straight late-season collapses make you wonder . . .

The deleted words would let you know that this article was from the August 30, 1999 issue and that Paul Zimmerman was talking about the upcoming season for Chan Gailey’s Cowboys as they prepared to begin the 1999 season. Gailey took over a squad that had quit playing for Barry Switzer in 1997, dropping the last five games to finish with a 6-10 record. The Cowboys initially responded to Gailey in 1998, going 8-0 in the NFC East and making the playoffs. However, as the SI article points out, most people were more concerned about the Cowboys’ play down the stretch than they were about the ten wins that season.

Dallas, playing passionless, uninspired football, lost to the Saints and the Chiefs and beat the hopeless Eagles by four, which clinched the division. In the playoffs Dallas put up another lackluster performance against the Cardinals and lost by 13.

The question now: Can you lay the whole sorry finish on injuries, or is the malaise much deeper, maybe a terminal case of late-seasonitis, remembering that the Cowboys lost their last five in ’97? “I honestly don’t know,” Aikman said early in August. “I think injuries were a part of it, but was that the entire reason? Every team I’ve been on goes through a period when the offense is struggling. Last year it came at the end of the year. Injuries threw us off our rhythm, and we never regained it.

“Before Chan got here, the team had to overcome a lot, like breakdowns within the organization. That made it tougher. Now the emphasis is on football, top to bottom. There’s a good group of people they brought in this year, through free agency and the draft. Let’s face it, we haven’t done a good job of that for the last four or five years.”

Ironic that Aikman was the color commentator for the season-ending loss to the Eagles, for the Cowboys as an organization, and the press as the faux-experts, and we as fans, still have no clue why the Cowboys fall apart down the stretch.

First, it was that the team quit playing for Switzer, which is what Aikman was referring to in his quote in 1999. Then, it was that Aikman just quit playing for Gailey, given that the two had a very strained relationship. Much like the 2008 Cowboys, the 1999 Cowboys started 3-0 but struggled with injuries and consistency in general for the rest of the season. That team finished 8-8, slipped into the playoffs by some miracle, but then lost badly to the Vikings.

At the least, both the 1998 and 1999 Cowboys teams won their season finales. That can’t be said for any of the teams this decade, whether the coach is Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, or Wade Phillips.

* * *

I know that few people share my opinion about firing Wade Phillips. At the same time, though, I am as mad as every other Cowboy fan. I took my eight-year-old son to watch the final game at Texas Stadium, only to see a bunch of heartless losers forget how to tackle. And I want very much to find someone to blame, whether it is Phillips, Jason Garrett, or Tony Romo.

But I am most sickened by the hopes introduced by false promises. I think firing Phillips and bringing in another big-name coach is going to be more about false promises than it is about the Cowboys really fixing what is wrong. Others hold out hope that the head coach really is the problem, and I hope they are right even if I think they are wrong.

Now if Jerry agrees to let a real football guy step in to run football operations . . .

* * *

In the SI article quoted above, there was an interesting stat listed. In 1998, Troy Aikman was sacked only nine times, and he was intercepted only five times. According to the note, no other quarterback since 1963 had been sacked or intercepted so infrequently. Aikman’s 1995 season ranked him second on the list.

Tony Romo is suffering through criticism because of his tendency to turn the ball over. Here is a comparison of the two quarterback based on this stat, using Aikman’s 1995 and 1998 numbers and using Romo’s 2007 and 2008 numbers:

Troy Aikman (1995): 432 passes, 14 times sacked, 31.9 dropbacks per sack, 7 interceptions, 61.7 passes per interception.

Troy Aikman (1999): 315 passes, 9 times sacked, 36.0 dropbacks per sack, 5 interceptions, 63.0 passes per interception.

Tony Romo (2007): 520 passes, 24 times sacked, 22.6 dropbacks per sack, 19 interceptions, 27.4 passes per interception.

Tony Romo (2008): 450 passes, 20 times sacked, 23.5 dropbacks per sack, 14 interceptions, 32.1 passes per interception.

The other impressive name on the list of the 1999 article is Dan Marino. On the other hand, the two other names are Erik Kramer and Steve Walsh, so maybe this is just playing with numbers.

The Late-Season-Collapse Mystery Is Nothing New in Dallas

Part of the title of a Sports Illustrated preview of the Dallas Cowboys once read like this:

The talent is there to rule again . . ., but two straight late-season collapses make you wonder . . .

The deleted words would let you know that this article was from the August 30, 1999 issue and that Paul Zimmerman was talking about the upcoming season for Chan Gailey’s Cowboys as they prepared to begin the 1999 season. Gailey took over a squad that had quit playing for Barry Switzer in 1997, dropping the last five games to finish with a 6-10 record. The Cowboys initially responded to Gailey in 1998, going 8-0 in the NFC East and making the playoffs. However, as the SI article points out, most people were more concerned about the Cowboys’ play down the stretch than they were about the ten wins that season.

Dallas, playing passionless, uninspired football, lost to the Saints and the Chiefs and beat the hopeless Eagles by four, which clinched the division. In the playoffs Dallas put up another lackluster performance against the Cardinals and lost by 13.

The question now: Can you lay the whole sorry finish on injuries, or is the malaise much deeper, maybe a terminal case of late-seasonitis, remembering that the Cowboys lost their last five in ’97? “I honestly don’t know,” Aikman said early in August. “I think injuries were a part of it, but was that the entire reason? Every team I’ve been on goes through a period when the offense is struggling. Last year it came at the end of the year. Injuries threw us off our rhythm, and we never regained it.

“Before Chan got here, the team had to overcome a lot, like breakdowns within the organization. That made it tougher. Now the emphasis is on football, top to bottom. There’s a good group of people they brought in this year, through free agency and the draft. Let’s face it, we haven’t done a good job of that for the last four or five years.”

Ironic that Aikman was the color commentator for the season-ending loss to the Eagles, for the Cowboys as an organization, and the press as the faux-experts, and we as fans, still have no clue why the Cowboys fall apart down the stretch.

First, it was that the team quit playing for Switzer, which is what Aikman was referring to in his quote in 1999. Then, it was that Aikman just quit playing for Gailey, given that the two had a very strained relationship. Much like the 2008 Cowboys, the 1999 Cowboys started 3-0 but struggled with injuries and consistency in general for the rest of the season. That team finished 8-8, slipped into the playoffs by some miracle, but then lost badly to the Vikings.

At the least, both the 1998 and 1999 Cowboys teams won their season finales. That can’t be said for any of the teams this decade, whether the coach is Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, or Wade Phillips.

* * *

I know that few people share my opinion about firing Wade Phillips. At the same time, though, I am as mad as every other Cowboy fan. I took my eight-year-old son to watch the final game at Texas Stadium, only to see a bunch of heartless losers forget how to tackle. And I want very much to find someone to blame, whether it is Phillips, Jason Garrett, or Tony Romo.

But I am most sickened by the hopes introduced by false promises. I think firing Phillips and bringing in another big-name coach is going to be more about false promises than it is about the Cowboys really fixing what is wrong. Others hold out hope that the head coach really is the problem, and I hope they are right even if I think they are wrong.

Now if Jerry agrees to let a real football guy step in to run football operations . . .

* * *

In the SI article quoted above, there was an interesting stat listed. In 1998, Troy Aikman was sacked only nine times, and he was intercepted only five times. According to the note, no other quarterback since 1963 had been sacked or intercepted so infrequently. Aikman’s 1995 season ranked him second on the list.

Tony Romo is suffering through criticism because of his tendency to turn the ball over. Here is a comparison of the two quarterback based on this stat, using Aikman’s 1995 and 1998 numbers and using Romo’s 2007 and 2008 numbers:

Troy Aikman (1995): 432 passes, 14 times sacked, 31.9 dropbacks per sack, 7 interceptions, 61.7 passes per interception.

Troy Aikman (1999): 315 passes, 9 times sacked, 36.0 dropbacks per sack, 5 interceptions, 63.0 passes per interception.

Tony Romo (2007): 520 passes, 24 times sacked, 22.6 dropbacks per sack, 19 interceptions, 27.4 passes per interception.

Tony Romo (2008): 450 passes, 20 times sacked, 23.5 dropbacks per sack, 14 interceptions, 32.1 passes per interception.

The other impressive name on the list of the 1999 article is Dan Marino. On the other hand, the two other names are Erik Kramer and Steve Walsh, so maybe this is just playing with numbers.

More Dallas Cowboys Trivia Than You Could Possible Want

Thanks to an email from Wayne Martin, we have a series of trivia questions related to the Cowboys. A number of these are very good. If you have answers, please put them in the comments section.

1. WHO WAS THE STARTING QB IN THE FIRST SEASON ?
A.

2. WHAT DIVISION DID THEY PLAY IN THAT YEAR ?
A.

3. THEIR RECORD THAT YEAR WAS 0-11-1, WHO DID THEY TIE ?
A.

4. WHO WAS THEIR FIRST ROUND DRAFT CHOICE THAT YEAR ?
A.

5. WHAT WAS THE DECAL ?
A.

6. WAS DON MEREDITH DRAFTED BY THE COWBOYS ? IF NOT HOW DID THEY GET HIM ?
A.

7. THEIR FIRST WIN WAS AGAINST WHO ?
A.

8. IN THE 1961 DRAFT WHAT HALL-OF-FAMER WAS DRAFTED BY THE COWBOYS ?
A.

9. WHAT RING OF HONOR PLAYER WAS THE STARTING RB IN 1961 ?
A.

10. WHAT YEAR DID THEY CHANGE THEIR UNIFORMS ?
A.

11. WHO WAS THE STARTING MLB BEFORE LEE ROY JORDON ?
A.

12. IN WHAT YEAR DID THE COWBOYS PLAY 14 GAMES ?
A.

13. HOW MANY TD’S DID THE COWBOYS SCORE IN THEIR FIRST YEAR, LATER TO BE BROKEN BY EMMITT SMITH
A.

14. THE FIRST TIME A HOLDING PENALTY WAS CALLED AND A SAFETY WAS AWARDED WAS WHEN LEBARON THREW A 99 YARD TO TD PASS TO FRANK CLARKE.. T OR F
A.

15. IN 1961, THE COWBOYS WERE THE FIRST TEAM TO EVER HAVE 2 PLAYS OF 100 YARDS. HOW WAS IT DONE ?
A.

16. WHAT RECEIVER PLAYING FOR THE COWBOYS SET THE NFL RECORD FOR THE MOST RECEIVING YARDS IN A CAREER, BREAKING DON HUTSON’S CAREER RECORD ?
A.

17. IN THE 1964 DRAFT, THE COWBOYS DRAFTED 2 HALL OF FAMERS AND ANOTHER RING OF HONOR PLAYER. WHO WERE THEY AND WHAT ROUND WERE THEY CHOSEN ?
A.
B.
C.

18. ALSO DURING THE 1964 DRAFT THE COWBOYS DRAFTER A QB OUT OF TULSA WHO IS CONSIDERED A QB COACH GURU AND SERVED AS OFF. CORD DURING HIS COACHING CAREER?
A.

19. IN 1964, TOM LANDRY SIGNED A EXTENSION FOR HOW MANY YEARS ?
A.

20. WHO WAS THE COWBOY REC. WHO WROTE “ NORTH DALLAS 40 “ ?
A.

21. IN THE 1965 DRAFT THE COWBOYS DRAFTED CRAIG MORTON AND JETHRO PUGH..WHERE DID THEY PLAY IN COLLEGE ?
A.
B.

22. ALSO THEY SIGNED AS A FREE AGENT OUT OF COLLEGE A QB FROM SOUTH CAROLINA AND HE BECAME A RUNNING BACK FOR THE COWBOYS. WHO WAS HE?

23. IN 1965 THE COWBOYS FINISHED 7-7, FOR THEIR FIRST NON LOSING SEASON..WHO DID THEY PLAY IN THE PLAY-OFF BOWL? WHO WAS THE QB FOR THE OTHER TEAM THAT GAME?
A.
B.

24. IN 1965 THE COWBOYS HAD THEIR FIRST SELL-OUT, WHO WERE THEY PLAYING ?
A.

25. IN WHAT YEAR DID THE COWBOYS START GOING TO 1,000 OAKS, CAL FOR TRAINING CAMP?
A.

26. DURING THE 1966 NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME HOW FAR BEHIND WERE THE COWBOYS BEFORE RUNNING THEIR FIRST OFFENSIVE PLAY?
A.

27. BEING BEHIND 34 -20 WITH 5:20 MINUTES TO GO, DON MEREDITH HIT WHAT RECEIVER FOR A 68 YD TD ?
A.

28. THE COWBOYS WERE AT GB 22 AND A PASS INTERFERENCE CALL WAS CALLED, PUTTING THE BALL AT GB’S 2. ON WHAT PLAY OF THAT DRIVE DID MEREDITH THROW THE INTERCEPTION ?
A.

29. IN 1967 THE NFL CHANGED THE PLAY-OFF FORMAT. WHAT TEAM DID THE COWBOYS PLAY FOR EASTER DIVISION TITLE?
A.

30 IN 1966 DRAFT THE COWBOYS DRAFTED WALT GARRISON , WHO WAS ALSO DRAFTED BY THE OILERS OF THE AFL. WHAT DID HE GET FROM THE COWBOYS AS A SIGNING BONUS ?
A.

31. IN THE 1967 NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, THE COWBOYS FELL BEHIND AGAIN 14-0, WHAT DEFENSIVE LINEMAN PICK UP A BART STARR FUMBLE AND RETURNED IT FOR A TD ?
A.

32. WITH THE SCORE 14-10, WHO THREW A TD PASS TO LANCE RENTZEL FOR 50 YDS PUTTING THE COWBOYS AHEAD 17-14 ?
A.

33. DURING THIS GAME THERE WERE 6 HALL OF FAMERS FOR GB AND 3 FOR THE COWBOYS. WHO WERE THE COWBOYS?
A.
B.
C.

34. ON WHAT DOWN DID BART STARR SNEAK OVER FOR THE TD…WITH JERRY KRAMER CLEARLY OFFSIDE ON ?
A.

35. IN 1968 THE COWBOYS WERE BEATEN BY FOR THE EASTERN DIVISION TITLE BY ?
A.

36. WHO WAS THE FIRST QB TO THROW FOR OVER 400 YDS IN A GAME FOR THE COWBOYS?
A

37. THE FIRST 1,000 RUSHER ?
A.

38. WHAT YEAR DID TEXAS STADIUM OPEN ?
A.

39. THE DEFENSIVE GOT THE NICK-NAME OF “ DOOMSDAY “ WHAT WAS THE SCHEME CALLED BY LANDRY ?
A.

40. IN 1970 THE COWBOYS WERE 5- 4, WON THEIR LAST 5 GAMES . IN THE OPENING PLAY-OFF GAME THEY BEAT WHAT TEAM? IT WAS THE LOWEST SCORING GAME IN PLAY-OFF HISTORY EVER. WHAT WAS THE SCORE ?
A.
B,

41. WHO DID THEY BEAT FOR THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP ?
A.

42. WHO DID THEY PLAY IN THE SUPER BOWL?
A.

43. WHO WAS THE MVP OF THIS GAME ?
A.

44. WHEN MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL STARTED, WHO WERE IN THE BOOTH?
A.
B.
C.

45. DON MEREDITH WAS A CO-HOST ON WHO’S SHOW DURING THE 70’S ?
A.

46. WHO HOLDS THE COWBOY CAREER RECORD FOR INTERCEPTIONS?
A.

47. WHO HOLDS THE RECORD HIGHEST AVERAGE FOR KICK-OFF RETURNS IN A SEASON ?
A.

48. WHO HOLDS THE TEAM RECORD FOR PASSING YARDS IN A SEASON ?
A.

49. MOST INTERCEPTIONS IN A SEASON ?
A.

50. THE MOST CAREER FGS ?
A.

A History of the Dallas Cowboys Avenging Playoff Losses

In two of the past three games, the Cowboys managed to avenge their past two playoff losses. Dallas lost 21-20 to Seattle in the wildcard round of the 2006 playoffs but did not get a chance to beat the Seahawks in 2007. Although few mentioned it at the time, thanks to a dismal season by Seattle, the Cowboys were able to avenge the loss by beating the Seahawks 34-9 on Thanksgiving Day.

On Sunday, Dallas beat Giants, who had knocked the Cowboys out of the 2007 playoffs with a 21-17 at Texas Stadium in January. The win doesn’t quite erase the disappointment from last year, but it doesn’t hurt.

Here is a look at how the Cowboys have responded to playoff losses in the past.

1966 and 1967 Losses to Green Bay, NFL Championship Games

The Cowboys lost the 1966 NFL Championship Game to the Packers and then lost the rematch in 1967 in the Ice Bowl. The Cowboys lost again to Green Bay in 1968 before finally recording a 16-3 win over the Packers in 1970.

1968 and 1969 Losses to Cleveland, NFL Playoffs

The Browns gave the Cowboys all sorts of trouble in the late 1960s. After losing to Cleveland 31-20 in 1968, the Browns destroyed the Cowboys 42-10 during the regular season. The playoffs in 1969 were no better for Dallas, as the Cowboys lost 38-14. The Cowboys finally beat the Browns 6-2 in 1970.

1970 Loss to the Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl V

The Cowboys lost 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V. In their next matchup in 1972, the Cowboys routed Baltimore, 21-0.

1972 Loss to Washington, NFC Championship Game

The Cowboys lost the NFC Championship Game in 1972 to the Redskins. In 1973, the Cowboys lost to Washington in their first matchup, but the Cowboys beat the Redskins 27-7 later in the season.

1973 Loss to Minnesota, NFC Championship Game

The Cowboys lost their bid to return to the Super Bowl in 1973 when they lost 27-10 to the Vikings. Dallas avenged the loss by beating the Vikings with the Hail Mary in 1975.

1975 and 1978 Losses to Pittsburgh, Super Bowls X and XIII

The Cowboys lost to the Steelers five consecutive times during the 1970s and early 1980s, including Super Bowls X and XIII. Dallas did not finally beat Pittsburgh again until 1985.

1970s Losses to the Rams

The Cowboys lost to the L.A. Rams in the 1976 and 1979 playoffs. Dallas avenged the 1976 loss by beating the Rams in the 1978 NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys also avenged the 1979 loss by beating the Rams in the Wildcard Round of the 1980 playoffs.

1980 Loss to Philadelphia, NFC Championship Game

After losing 20-7 in the 1980 NFC title game, Dallas swept the Eagles in 1981.

1981 Loss to San Francisco, NFC Championship Game

Dallas had to wait 11 years to beat the 49ers after losing to San Francisco in 1981. The next Dallas win came in the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

1982 Loss to Washington, NFC Championship Game

The Cowboys faced the Redskins at Washington to open the 1983 season. Dallas came from behind to pull out a 31-30 win.

1983 Loss to the L.A. Rams, NFC Wildcard Round

The Cowboys opened the 1984 season by traveling to L.A. to face the Rams. The Cowboys avenged the playoff loss by beating the Rams, 20-13.

1985 Loss to the L.A. Rams, NFC Divisional Round

The Cowboys were shut out by the Rams in 1985. The next Dallas win over Los Angeles came at the end of the 1987 season when the Cowboys won 29-21.

1991 Loss to Detroit, NFC Divisional Round

The Cowboys were blown out 38-6 in the 1991 playoffs by the Lions, but Dallas responded the next year by beating the Lions 37-3.

1994 Loss to San Francisco, NFC Championship Game

The Cowboys lost to the 49ers to end Dallas’ bid to win three straight Super Bowls. Dallas finally beat the 49ers in 1996.

1996 Loss to Carolina, NFC Divisional Round

The Cowboys began their current streak of playoff losses by losing to the Panthers, 26-17. Dallas avenged the loss by beating Carolina 27-20 in 1998.

1998 Loss to Arizona, NFC Wildcard Round

The Cowboys flopped in a 20-7 loss to Arizona in the 1998 playoffs. Dallas handed the Cardinals a 35-7 loss the following season.

1999 Loss to Minnesota, NFC Wildcard Round

At 8-8, Dallas had little business playing in the 1999 playoffs and lost the Vikings, 27-10. Dallas did not beat Minnesota again until 2007.

2003 Loss to Carolina, NFC Wildcard Round

The Cowboys were torched 29-10 in the 2003 playoffs by a Panther team that Dallas had beaten earlier in the season. Dallas avenged the loss in 2005 by beating Carolina on the road late in the season.

2006 Loss to Seattle, NFC Wildcard Round

Dallas lost to the Seahawks 21-20 thanks to Tony Romo’s botched snap on the go-ahead field goal. Dallas beat Seattle 34-9 on Thanksgiving Day in 2008.

2007 Loss to the N.Y. Giants, NFC Divisional Round

The Cowboys suffered their most disappointing playoff loss in year by falling to the Giants in 2007. The Cowboys on Sunday beat New York in the next-to-last game at Texas Stadium.

A Look Back to 1994 and 1997: Dallas-Pittsburgh Season Openers as Bookends

Twice during the 1990s, the Cowboys traveled to Pittsburgh to open their season against the Steelers. In both instances, Dallas came away with huge wins. However, whereas the 1994 opener marked a new era with head coach Barry Switzer, the 1997 game four seasons later was one of the last highlights of the Switzer regime.

Switzer, of course, took over for Jimmy Johnson after the Cowboys had defeated the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII. Most fans, including this one, feared the absolute worst. The game was also the debut for offensive coordinator Ernie Zambese, who had replaced the departed Norv Turner during the off-season.

The Cowboys’ stars came out shining in Switzer’s regular season debut, as Dallas won 26-9. Emmitt Smith rushed for 171 yards and a touchdown, while Michael Irvin added 139 receiving yards. It showed at that point that little would change on the offensive side of the ball, which gave fans a good reason to exhale.

But it was the defensive performance that had fans most excited. Dallas sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O’Donnell nine times (yes, 9 times) and held the Steeler offense to 126 total yards. And this was not a weak Pittsburgh team, as the Steelers finished the regular season 12-4 and nearly beat the Chargers to advance to Super Bowl XXIX.

Switzer’s quote after the game:

“It’s a thrill,” said Switzer. “I savored the moment. I know it’s a long season, but this wouldn’t have been as important for Jimmy (Johnson). I told the players yesterday that Ernie (Zampese, offensive coordinator) and I would be very grateful for a win.”

The teams met again in Tempe, Arizona in Super Bowl XXX. Two seasons later, Dallas once again opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium and came away with a big 37-7 win. Free agent receiver Anthony Miller had a touchdown reception for Dallas, and Irvin and Troy Aikman had huge days. The defense held Kordell Stewart to 104 passing yards and forced two Steeler turnovers.

But the win for the Cowboys was little more than a mirage. Emmitt Smith (69 yards on 26 carries) had trouble running the ball consistently, which was a problem he encountered all season. Miller was disappointing as the second receiver and lasted only one season.

Like the 1994 Steelers, the 1997 Pittsburgh team advanced to the AFC Championship game before losing. The 1997 Cowboys, on the other hand, lost their final five games to finish the season at 6-10. Switzer was gone at season’s end.

* * *

Some key differences between the 1994 team and the 1997 team:

* Though the Cowboys (read: Jerry Jones) touted their receiving corps in 1997 as even more talented than the Super Bowl squads, Anthony Miller was not the playmaker that Alvin Harper was. The 1997 Cowboys also missed tight end Jay Novacek and Kevin Williams, as Eric Bjornson and Stepfret Williams were not solid replacements.
* The offensive line for Dallas featured center Clay Shiver, who was one of the worst starting offensive linemen for Dallas during the 1990s. The 1994 squad had an unknown rookie named Larry Allen, but the starter at right tackle then was Derek Kennard.
* The 1994 defensive line featured Charles Haley, while the 1997 line featured Shante Carver (a very poor man’s version of Haley).
* In 1997, Leon Lett was suspended for most of the season. Dallas brought back defensive tackle Tony Casillas (shown below), who had spent the 1994 and 1995 season with the Jets. The 1997 season was his last.

Tony Casillas

* Switzer and Zampese did not return to Dallas after the 1997, though Zampese was retained in 2000 as an offensive consultant.

Cowboys vs. Steelers: The Early Rivalry

When the Cowboys and Steelers of the 1970s became immortalized by the two Super Bowls, the teams were a few years removed from having played each other annually when both teams were members of the NFL. The two teams have faced each other a total of 29 times, and 16 of those games took place during the 1960s.

Pittsburgh Steelers 1970Two games with the Steelers hold important places in the early history of the Cowboys franchise.

* On September 24, 1960, the Cowboys hosted the Steelers in the first ever regular season game for the Cowboys. Despite two early touchdown passes by quarterback Eddie LeBaron, the Cowboys could not stop quarterback Bobby Layne, and the Steelers won 35-28.

* One year later, on September 17, 1961, the Cowboys again opened a regular season at home against the Steelers. Pittsburgh held a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, but LeBaron replaced Don Meredith and led a comeback. Allen Green kicked a field goal in the final minute as Dallas pulled out a 27-24 win. It was the first win in the history of the Cowboys.

Between 1961 and 1966, the Cowboys and Steelers were both members of the Eastern Conference of the NFL, meaning that the teams played one another twice a year. During this period, the teams split twelve games, with Pittsburgh winning five of the first seven and Dallas winning four of the last five.

In the latter half of the 1960s, the Steelers struggled while the Cowboys developed into one of the league’s best. Between 1966 and 1969, the Cowboys won six straight over the Steelers, which declined from five wins in 1966 to one win in 1969.

During the 1967 season, Dallas traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers at Pitt Stadium. The 1-4 Steelers overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit to take a 21-17 fourth quarter lead, thanks to a touchdown run by quarterback Kent Nix and a TD pass from Nix to J.R. Wilburn.

However, quarterback Craig Morton, who split time with Jerry Rhome that day, hit Lance Rentzel on a long pass late in the game. Rentzel fumbled, but Dan Reeves recovered the ball at the Dallas 6. With 24 seconds left in the game, Morton hit Pettis Norman on a five-yard touchdown pass that gave the Cowboys a 24-21 win.

Here are the highlights of that game:

The Cowboys faced Pittsburgh in December in both 1968 and 1969, and Dallas won both games. The teams faced off in 1972, with Dallas coming away with a 17-13. They did not meet each other again until Super Bowl X, and from that point, a new history began.

* * *
One tidbit about the game shown above: Dallas had to wear its blue jerseys in Pittsburgh in both 1967 and 1969. I am under the impression that the Steelers usually wore their black jerseys at home during those seasons, but they wore white against the Cowboys.

Did you know, incidentally, that there is a Society for Sports Uniforms Research? Yes, a Society for Sports Uniforms Research. That is . . . quite interesting. However, the SSUR’s site did not help me answer the question of why Dallas had to wear blue at Pittsburgh in 1967 and 1969.

* * *

If you missed it, I posted several videos in August featuring a pregame special for Super Bowl X. It shows several Cowboys from the 1970s and is pretty interesting to watch. Here is the link.

Should the Cowboys Be Envious of the Steelers’ Drafting Prowess? Sort Of.

Super Bowl X

Soon after last year’s draft, I got into a bit of a debate with a friend who is a Steeler fan over whether the Cowboys made a mistake by taking Felix Jones instead of Rashard Mendenhall, who was taken by the Steelers. This debate was the latest entry into a long-standing discussion that began with the Cowboys’ 27-13 win over a mediocre Pittsburgh team in 1985. I’m not sure that this debate serves any purpose, but here is a summary.

• The Cowboys hold a 14-12 regular season edge in the series, which dates back to the Cowboys’ very first game in 1960. Add in three Super Bowls, and Dallas has a 15-14 edge.
• Since 1985 (and including the game in 1985), Dallas has gone 5-2 against the Steelers, including four straight between 1991 and 1997.
• Dallas, of course, lost two Super Bowls during the 1970s, a fact that Friend holds over me whenever this debate occurs.
• Neil O’Donnell, of course, helped to give Dallas its fifth Super Bowl title by throwing a couple of passes in the direction of Larry Brown, a fact that I use in reply to point #3.

Since Super Bowl XXX after the 1995 season, the Cowboys and Steelers have only played twice. In 1997, Dallas opened its season by demolishing Pittsburgh 37-7 in a rare regular season game played in August. The blowout was one of the few highlights in a dismal 6-10 season. Seven years later, the Cowboys blew a 20-10 fourth quarter lead to the Steelers early in Ben Roethlisberger’s career, and Pittsburgh won the game 24-20. It was one of the first really bad losses in Bill Parcells’ career in Dallas.

Here is a look at how the two teams have fared overall since playing in Super Bowl XXX (note: these numbers include the years 1996 through 2007):

Pittsburgh

Overall regular season record: 116-75-1
Playoff appearances: 7
Playoff record: 9-6
Winning seasons: 8/12
Super Bowl titles: 1

Dallas

Overall regular season record: 96-96
Playoff appearances: 6
Playoff record: 1-6
Winning seasons: 6/12
Super Bowl titles: n/a

Obviously, all of these stats weigh in the Steelers’ favor. My friend argued that the Steelers have proven time and again that they draft better than the Cowboys, and this proved to him that the Mendenhall pick was better than the Jones pick for Dallas. He also argued that Dallas has been generally inferior to the Steelers because Pittsburgh has remained dedicated to developing players from within, while Dallas has relied too heavily on signing free agents.

Frankly, he’s right about the last couple of points. Besides Jerome Bettis, name a player that the Steelers have picked up from another franchise. I know there are a few, but there are not many. Conversely, Dallas has spent draft after draft trying to find defensive players while picking relatively few receivers or other skill players. Moreover, the Steelers have lost a ton of Pro Bowl-caliber players (or close to it) to free agency, but Pittsburgh seems to rebound every single time the team loses one of these players. Consider these losses: Chad Brown, Rod Woodson, Levon Kirkland, Carnell Lake, Jason Gildon, Carlos Emmons, Joey Porter, Mike Vrabel, and Kendrell Bell. Pretty stout.

After considering this, I was nearly ready to concede that the Cowboys should be envious of the Steelers’ drafting prowess, especially when it comes to taking receivers and linebackers. After all, Pittsburgh has drafted the likes of Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, and Antwaan Randle El, and the team has done fairly well with Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington, and tight end Heath Miller.

Nevertheless, we know was has happened to Burress lately, with him showing defects even before he shot himself in the leg. Moreover, Randle El hasn’t set the world on fire with Washington and does not appear to be improving.

And to top all of this off, both Mendenhall and Jones both ended up on injured reserve after playing in only a few games a piece, so the debate has stalled for at least this season. In light of the game this weekend, though, let’s take a look at the past few drafts to see how much better the Steelers have been.

Wide Receivers

Since 1960, the Steelers have selected a total of 70 receivers in the draft. Twenty-four of these receivers developed into starters, and two (Lynn Swann and John Stallworth) have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. By comparison, Dallas has taken 53 receivers during the same time span, with 17 developing into starters and one (Michael Irvin) earning a spot in Canton.

Since 1996, the Steelers have taken a total of 16 receivers in the draft, including Ward, Burress, Randle El, and Holmes. Others include some names you probably don’t remember well: Troy Edwards, Lee Mays, Will Blackwell, Danny Farmer, Jahine Arnold, Malcolm Johnson, Willie Reid, Mike Adams, Chris Taylor, and Fred Gibson. Edwards was not horrible, but the others did very little. Pittsburgh took Texas receiver Limas Sweed in the second round in 2008, but since he has only six receptions this season, the jury is still out on him. (With the Cowboys’ luck, Sweed will eventually outperform another former Longhorn who wore the #4, but that is another matter).

During the same time span, Dallas has drafted a total of 10 receivers, including former college quarterback Isaish Stanback. These picks have produced two starters in Patrick Crayton and Antonio Bryant, along with forgettable players in the form of Stepfret Williams, Zuriel Smith, Wane McGarity, Macey Brooks, MarTay Jenkins, Skyler Green, and DeVeren Johnson.

My conclusion: Pittsburgh’s ability to select receivers is overrated but far superior to what Dallas has shown, especially in the past 13 seasons.

Linebackers

The Steelers have been amazing in their ability to produce linebackers, though the evidence suggests that this is more a matter of player development than drafting ability. The team’s two current studs—James Farrior and James Harrison—were not drafted by Pittsburgh. Farrior was instead acquired from the Jets, while Harrison was originally an undrafted free agent.

Since 1996, the Steelers have taken 16 linebackers in the draft, with seven of them developing into starters. The names include Holmes, Emmons, Porter, Vrabel, Bell, along with Clark Haggans, Larry Foote, and Lawrence Timmons.

Dallas has only picked up a total of eleven linebackers since 1996, and seven of them have developed into starters. The hits (generally speaking): Randall Godfrey, Dexter Coakley, Dat Nguyen, Bradie James, and DeMarcus Ware. Darren Hambrick was not quite a hit, but he was a starter for four seasons. The jury is still out on Kevin Burnett and Bobby Carpenter, but both have been contributors.

My conclusion: Dallas is at least on par in terms of drafting linebackers but less impressive when it comes to player development in its linebacking corps.

Cowboys’ Record After Thanksgiving

For many years, announcers would remind us that while the Cowboys were good on Thanksgiving Day, they were especially good in the games that followed Thanksgiving. From 1966 until 1984 (not including 1975 or 1977, when Dallas did not host the Thanksgiving Day game), the Cowboys went 16-1 in the games that followed Thanksgiving.

After 1984, though, Dallas has struggled. Since 1985, the Cowboys have managed only a 10-13 record in the games following the Thanksgiving Day game, including a five-game losing streak between 1985 and 1989 and a four-game losing streak between 1997 and 2000. In the past ten seasons, Dallas has gone 4-6 in the games after Thanksgiving.

Here are a few more related notes:

* Dallas has faced Pittsburgh only once in a game after Thanksgiving. On December 7, 1969, ten days after Thanksgiving that year, the Cowboys beat the Steelers 10-7.
* The Cowboys’ biggest win in one of these games was a 52-10 win over the Jets in 1971, which improved the Cowboys’ record to 9-3. It was an important win because Washington at that time had an 8-3-1 record.
* Probably the most exciting win in one of these games came in 2004, when Dallas rallied to beat the Seahawks in a 43-39 thriller.
* The worst loss in one of these games came in 1985, when the Cowboys were demolished by the Cincinnati Bengals 50-24. It was the second time in four games that season that the Cowboys had been blown out, with the first being a 44-0 loss to Chicago.
* In only four games have the Cowboys played the game after Thanksgiving on a day other than Sunday. In 1993, 1999, and 2004, the Cowboys played on Monday night on the week after Thanksgiving, thus giving the Cowboys 11 days off instead of 10. The Cowboys won two of those three games. In 2007, Dallas only got one week off after Thanksgiving because the Cowboys had to play the Packers on the Thursday night after Thanksgiving. Dallas won both that game and the game on the following Sunday.

* * *

For a little bit of a diversion, try this quiz. It asks you a series of questions and then determines which of the coaches in Dallas Cowboys team history you would relate to the most. Here is one result:

Dallas Cowboys Coach

Your Result: Tom Landry
 

Landry was the first coach the Cowboys ever had, and he served in that position for 29 years. He led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles and five Super Bowl appearances.

Jimmy Johnson
 
Wade Phillips
 
Barry Switzer
 
Chan Gailey
 
Bill Parcells
 
Dave Campo
 
Dallas Cowboys Coach
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

November vs. December for the Dallas Cowboys

It has been well-documented that the Cowboys of late have had difficulty during the months of December and January. In fact, during the 2000s, the Cowboys have had their worst December/January record of any decade in team history.

An even more disturbing fact: Dallas has not had better than a .500 record during the months of December and January since going 5-0 in December and January to end the 1993 season.

Here is a look at the overall records for each decade.

September and October

The Cowboys have never had a decade during which they posted below a .500 combined record during the months of September and October.

1960s: 34-31-3 (52.31%)

Best start: 1969 (6-0)

Worst start: 1960 (0-6)

1970s: 52-21 (71.23%)

Best start: 1977 (7-0)

Worst start: 1974 (3-4)

1980s: 44-31 (58.67%)

Best start: 1983 (8-1)

Worst start: 1989 (0-8)

1990s: 51-26 (66.23%)

Best start: 1994, 1995 (7-1)

Worst start: 1990 (3-5)

2000s: 36-30 (54.55%)

Best start: 2007 (6-1)

Worst start: 2001 (2-4)

Overall record (1960-2008): 217-139-3 (60.96%)

November

Only during the 1960s have the Cowboys recorded a combined record of less than .500 during the month of November. Dallas has gone 8-1 during the past two seasons and 11-2 during the past three.

1960s: 19-22-2 (46.34%)

Best: 1968 (4-1)

Worst: 1960 (0-4)

1970s: 29-14 (67.44%)

Best:1971 (4-0)

Worst:1979 (1-3)

1980s: 22-22 (50%)

Best: 1980, 1981 (4-1)

Worst: 1988 (0-4)

1990s: 28-17 (62.22%)

Best: 1992, 1998 (4-1)

Worst: Several (2-2)

2000s: 20-17 (54.05%)

Best: 2007 (5-0)

Worst: 2001 (0-4)

Overall November record (1960-2008): 118-92-2 (56.19%)

December and January

With a 14-23 record, the Cowboys of the 2000s have had the worst record at season’s end (December and January) than in any other decade in team history.

As impressive as the 1970s Cowboys were overall, they were especially impressive at season’s end. They lost only four games all decade during the month of December.

Note: When the league had 14-game schedules and did not have bye weeks, the teams usually only played two or three games during December. Teams now play as many as five games during the months of December and January to end the regular season.

1960s: 14-12-1 (53.85%)

Best: 1965, 1969 (3-0)

Worst: 1961 (0-3)

1970s: 24-4 (85.71%)

Best: Several (3-0)

Worst:1974, 1976 (1-1)

1980s: 13-21 (38.24%)

Best: 1980, 1981 (4-1)

Worst: 1988 (0-4)

1990s: 23-16 (58.97%)

Best: 1993 (5-0)

Worst: 1997 (0-3)

2000s: 14-23 (37.84%)

Best: Several have gone .500, but none had a better record.

Worst:  2002 (0-4)

Overall December/January record (1960-2007): 88-76 (53.66%)