Animated Trivia: Randy White

Below is an animated GIF showing Randy White sacking Ron Jaworski. Questions about this play are below the image.

Questions:

(1) During which season did this play take place?

(2) Did Dallas win this game?

(3) White forced Jaworski to fumble. Who recovered the fumble to score a touchdown?

Their Final Plays: Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Anyone old enough to remember the Cowboys of the late 1990s and early 2000s will remember the last plays of Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman. For that reason, I present them together in this post.

Irvin

Michael Irvin’s skills had eroded by the late 1990s. He was far less effective in 1997 and 1998. In fact, his poor performance against the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 playoffs (four receptions, 32 yards) caused some to wonder if the Cowboys should release the future hall-of-famer, even though he was still a 1,000-yard receiver.

But then Irvin caught two touchdown receptions in a season-opening thriller against Washington, and it appeared that he might be back. He followed that performance with two sub-par games, but Dallas was 3-0 early in the 1999 season, so most did not focus heavily on Irvin’s importance.

And then…

Michael Irvin never played football again after this play.

Michael Irvin never played football again after this play.

Irvin went across the middle against the Eagles on a slant pattern, and Troy Aikman hit Irvin in stride. As he was being tackled, Irvin was hit on the back of the head by an Eagle defender. Irvin did not get up from the play and was carted off the field (as Eagle fans cheered the injury).

The result…

Dallas went 5-8 for the rest of the 1999 season. The team only won 15 games over the three seasons after that. No, it was not all because of Irvin’s injury, but the team lost a key leader, and the Cowboys were not the same team once he was gone.

Aikman

Troy Aikman led Dallas to three Super Bowl titles and was only 34 years old in 2000. He played, however, more like he was 44. He threw only 7 touchdown passes compared with 14 interceptions, and fans routinely booed him and the Cowboys during a terrible season.

He started the week 14 game against Washington.

And then…

 

LaVar Arrington’s hit near the sideline gave Aikman yet another concussion, and Aikman never played another down of football in the NFL again.

Dallas had already declined when Aikman suffered his injury. However, his retirement led to the team’s carousel of quarterbacks. Dallas could not find a franchise quarterback until the emergence of Tony Romo six years after Aikman suffered his injury.

His Final Plays: Chuck Howley

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

The Dallas Cowboys hosted the Washington Redskins on Saturday, December 9, 1972. Despite pulling out a 34-24 win over the Redskins, Dallas lost one of the franchise’s greatest players. Washington’s Charley Taylor executed a crackback block on Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley. The MVP of Super Bowl V fell to the ground, and it appeared that his career ended right there.

Howley worked hard to come back, and his off-season physical performance seemed to indicate that he could return for the 1973 season. On June 1, 1973, however, the Dallas Morning News reported that Howley had called it quits.

The retirement did not last. By the middle of September, the Cowboys were down to five healthy linebackers, and head coach Tom Landry convinced Howley to rejoin the squad, albeit on the inactive list. According to Landry, the Cowboys only needed Howley for insurance and would only activate him if another linebacker was injured.

Chuck Howley ended his  short retirement in 1973 to help a depleted linebacker squad.  He retired for good after that season.

Chuck Howley ended his short retirement in 1973 to help a depleted linebacker corps. He retired for good after that season.

He did not record a tackle or any other statistic that year. In fact, according to his profile on NFL.com, he was active for only one game—a 45-10 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on September 30.

Howley retired for good after the season. He joined the Ring of Honor in 1977 and has been a finalist to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His Final Plays: Bob Lilly

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Michael Irvin’s last play ended with him suffering a spinal injury on the concrete floor of Veterans Stadium Philadelphia. Many of us remember that play, and we can find replays of it easily.

Troy Aikman’s last play ended with him suffering a concussion against Washington in 2000. Many of us remember that play, and we can find replays of it easily.

Bob Lilly’s career ended at some point against the Oakland Raiders on December 14, 1974. I have no idea who would remember that play, and I cannot find any record indicating which play might have been his last.

Bob Lilly (#74) played his last game against the Raiders on December 14, 1974. The team honored him with "Bob Lilly Day" on November 23, 1975.

Bob Lilly (#74) played his last game against the Raiders on December 14, 1974. The team honored him with “Bob Lilly Day,” shown here, on November 23, 1975.

Mr. Cowboy made ten consecutive Pro Bowls between 1964 and 1973. He was named an all-pro seven times. He was a member of the 1960s and 1970s all-decade teams.

The 1974 season, however, was one for Lilly and the rest of the Cowboys to forget.

Although Dallas won its first game against Atlanta, the Cowboys lost four consecutive games to fall to 1-4. Dallas eventually rebounded to improve to 8-5, including the team’s famous win over the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. But the Cowboys finished with an 8-6 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1965 (not counting the Playoff Bowl after the 1965 season).

The Cowboys were out of the playoff race when they traveled to Oakland for the season finale. The game was a special on Monday Night Football, and copies of the game (like many of other MNF games) are readily available.

I just don’t have a copy. And given that I was three years old at the time, I don’t remember the game.

(So, can anyone help me out here?)

Dallas was unable to hang on to an early lead against the Raiders and lost 27-23. We know that Lilly started and played, given that he started and played every game—196 consecutive games—during his 14-year career. Other than that, I have no idea what he did during that game, given that official statistics regarding tackles and sacks did not exist at the time.

Dallas Morning News articles after the game said nothing about Lilly contemplating retirement. Tom Landry left the door open for Lilly to come back and even tried to convince Lilly to return. But then Lilly received medical reports indicating that because of bone spurs in his neck, he risked permanent injury. After that, Landry suggested that Lilly call it a career.

Here is one of Lilly’s comments after he announced his retirement in July 1975:

There was no question that the pain would come back. I was prepared for that. The possibility of permanent damage…I wasn’t prepared for that.

Lilly was 35 years old at the time of his retirement. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Dallas Cowboys, 1st Round Pick: Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

Welcome to Dallas, Byron Jones.

Welcome to Dallas, Byron Jones.

There was chatter about the Cowboys trying to move up in the first round of the 2015 draft to grab a running back, such as Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon. Those two were gone by the 15th round, making it more clear that Dallas would look to the defensive side of the ball with the 27th pick.

As ESPN’s Todd McShay predicted about a week ago, the Cowboys went with Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones. Here were McShay’s comments:

Gordon is an option for the Cowboys if he drops this far, but they can also look to add a running back later in the draft. Cornerback is their second-biggest need, and Marcus Peters is a possibility here, but I’ll have them take Jones. His recognition skills in coverage can improve, but he’s an exceptional athlete with good size and great intangibles who could really help upgrade the corner position for Dallas.

(Kansas City took Peters with the 18th pick, incidentally.)

Here are some of Jones’ highlights.

His Final Plays: Mel Renfro

During his 14-year career, Mel Renfro had some great moments. Perhaps his best post-season was 1970, when he recorded an interception in each of the Cowboys’ playoff games, including Super Bowl V.

By 1977, however, Renfro’s career was winding down. He became the team’s nickel corner, so for the only time since he entered the league in 1964, he was not a starter.

He nevertheless had a few good moments in 1977. He intercepted two passes that year, including a pick in a game against Philadelphia where Dallas clinched the NFC East. (I have that game on VHS tape but cannot access it at the moment.) That pick was Renfro’s last, giving him 52 for his career.

Unlike nearly every other legendary Cowboy, Renfro was able to end his career on a high note. He played sparingly in Super Bowl XII, but he was active and even recorded a tackle.

The sequence:

Renfro is at the bottom of the screen. He played right cornerback in the nickel formation.

Renfro is at the bottom of the screen. He played right cornerback in the nickel formation.

Rob Lytle came near Renfro (#20).

Rob Lytle came near Renfro (#20).

Renfro his Lytle and drives him to the ground.

Renfro hits Lytle and drives him to the ground.

One great career, one final tackle for Renfro.

One great career, one final tackle for Renfro.

No, it wasn’t like Ted Williams hitting a home run in his final at-bat, but at least Renfro was still involved as the Cowboys won their second Super Bowl. In today’s game, Renfro probably would have already been a salary-cap casualty.

Renfro’s final play in the NFL was the Broncos’ last offensive play with just over three minutes remaining and the Cowboys leading 27-10.

Denver faced a 4th and 23 from the Dallas 24. Renfro entered the game and played right corner again.

 

Hard to tell, but Renfro is at the top of the screen playing right corner.

Hard to tell, but Renfro is at the top of the screen playing right corner.

Denver's Norris Weese had attempted a pass to Rick Upchurch near the Dallas 5. Renfro was near the ball and appears here on the right side of the picture. This was Renfro's last NFL play.

Denver’s Norris Weese had attempted a pass to Rick Upchurch near the Dallas 5. Renfro was near the ball and appears here on the right side of the picture. This was Renfro’s last NFL play.

Three game minutes later, and the Cowboys were celebrating their Super Bowl win. Renfro retired after that season. He became a member of the Ring of Honor in 1981, and he became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

Final Career InterceptionCame against Philadelphia on December 4, 1977. He returned the pick 25 yards.

Final Career TackleRenfro tackled Rob Lytle near the end of the first half in Super Bowl XII.

Final Career Play: He played nickel corner on the Denver Broncos’ final offensive play in Super Bowl XII.

His Last Plays: Cliff Harris

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Cliff Harris is one of several Cowboys who should have a place in Canton, Ohio.

Six Pro Bowls. Named first-team All Pro three times. First-team member of the All-Decade Team of the 1970s.

In fact, Harris is one of only two players named to the first team of the 1970s All-Decade Team who has not been named to the Hall of Fame. The other is former Cowboy Drew Pearson.

Anyway, Harris retired at the age of 31 after the 1979 season so that he could focus on his business interests. That means that his final plays occurred during the same games as Roger Staubach.

In the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Rams on December 30, 1979, Harris did record a key interception. With Dallas trailing 14-12 late in the third quarter, the Rams had the ball on the Dallas 43. Vince Ferragamo threw a pass over the middle, but Harris picked it off and returned the pick 22 yards. The play set up a Dallas touchdown drive that gave the Cowboys the lead.

Here’s the sequence:

Vince Ferragamo looks downfield.

Vince Ferragamo looks downfield.

Cliff Harris is in the right place and picks off the pass.

Cliff Harris is in the right place and picks off the pass.

Harris races 22 yards to give Dallas great field position.

Harris races 22 yards to give Dallas great field position.

Unfortunately, that was one of the last career highlights for Captain Crash.

The Rams regained the lead with less than two minutes remaining, and the Cowboys offense failed. The defense needed to pull off a miracle to give Dallas any sort of a chance.

The Rams ran the clock down and lined up for a field goal with 13 seconds left. But instead of attempting the kick to increase the lead to 5, L.A.’s Nolan Cromwell, the holder, went for a fake. Harris was the contain man on the play but missed the tackle, and Cromwell gained seven yards to give the Rams the first down.

The play—

The Rams lined up for the field-goal attempt with 13 seconds left.

The Rams lined up for the field-goal attempt with 13 seconds left. Harris appears furthest to the right.

Nolan Cromwell keeps the ball and runs around right end. Harris has contain.

Nolan Cromwell keeps the ball and runs around right end. Harris has contain.

Unfortunately, Harris missed the tackle, and Cromwell made the first down. Game over.

Unfortunately, Harris missed the tackle, and Cromwell made the first down. Game over.

The Rams lined up in Victory Formation with six seconds left, so it appears that Harris’s final play for the Cowboys was at safety when the Rams ran the clock out.

Harris’s final game was, like Staubach’s, the 1980 Pro Bowl. And Harris had a better game than Staubach.

According to my reading of the Gamebook, Harris recorded three tackles for the NFC and recovered a Franco Harris fumble. His final tackle occurred in the third quarter when he stopped Stanley Morgan after a 20-yard pass from Dan Fouts.

So here are Harris’s final plays:

Final Interception as a Cowboy: Picked off Vince Ferragamo in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ 21-19 loss to the L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.

Final Plays as a CowboyMissed a tackle on a fake field goal run, then played safety when the Rams knelt on the ball with six seconds remaining, in 21-19 loss to L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.

Final Tackle as a Professional: Credited with tackling Stanley Morgan in the third quarter of the Pro Bowl on January 27, 1980.

His Last Plays: Emmitt Smith

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Like we do with Roger Staubach, we as fans tend to want to remember Emmitt Smith’s great highlights rather than what happened at the very end. Thus, in a more perfect world, perhaps Emmitt would have eclipsed Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards and then immediately walked off the field for good. Our final memory might be something like this—

smith

Heck, he could have left for good after his final Thanksgiving Day game as a Cowboy, when he rushed for 144 yards in a 27-20 win.

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But no, he kept going. In his last game as a Cowboy against Washington on December 29, 2002, Emmitt needed to rush for 38 yards to surpass 1,000 for the season. It would have marked the 12th consecutive season for him to rush for at least 1,000 yards.

Instead? 18 carries. 13 yards.

No, I am not going to post a picture from the game.

It was just an amazingly bad ending for such an amazing player. Offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet keep feeding Emmitt the ball, but Emmitt never got anything going. It was not his worst game as pro (16 carries for 6 yards against New Orleans in 1998 probably was), but this performance was one of the worst.

Emmitt’s final run occurred with 8:25 remaining in the game. He lost four yards.

Of course, Emmitt’s career continued after he left the Cowboys. He played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals.

His final game as a pro ended better than the last game with the Cowboys. He gained a total of 69 yards on 23 carries in a 12-7 Arizona win over Tampa Bay.

The last run of his career wasn’t one to remember, though: he lost two yards and fumbled the ball out of bounds. Ugh.

So in summary—

Final 100-Yard Game as a Cowboy: Gained 144 yards vs. Washington on November 28, 2002.

Final Game as a Cowboy: Gained 13 yards on 18 carries vs. Washington on December 28, 2002.

Final Rushing Attempt as a Cowboy: Lost four yards on a play in the fourth quarter vs. Washington on December 28, 2002.

Final 100-Yard Game as a Professional: 106 yards as an Arizona Cardinal vs. Seattle on October 24, 2004.

Final Game as a Professional: Gained 69 yards vs. Tampa Bay on January 2, 2005.

Final Rushing Attempt as a Professional: Lost two yards on a run with 1:56 remaining on the fourth quarter in a 12-7 Arizona win over Tampa Bay on January 2, 2005.

His Last Plays: Roger Staubach

This is a new series that will focus on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Nearly any Cowboys fan knows the final regular-season pass that Roger Staubach threw. With Dallas trailing 34-28 in the final regular season game of 1979 against Washington, Staubach drove the Cowboys the length of the field, setting up an eight-yard touchdown pass to Tony Hill and winning the game. The win gave Dallas the NFC East title.

That is what most people remember about the end of Staubach’s career (and for many of us, that is all we want to remember).

But then there was this game:

staubach

The 11-5 Cowboys hosted the 9-7 Rams on December 30, 1979. The Cowboys had destroyed Los Angeles 30-6 on October 14, and it looked as if Dallas could rightfully expect to host the NFC Championship Game the next week.

As you can see, the Cowboys trailed the Rams 21-19 with less than two minutes remaining, thanks to Vince Ferragamo’s 50-yard touchdown pass to Billy Waddy. Staubach needed to move Dallas into field-goal range for yet another comeback.

It didn’t happen. On 3rd-and-10 from the Dallas 33, Staubach completed the final pass of his career.

To his left guard, Herbert Scott.

That, of course, resulted in a penalty, leaving Dallas with a 4th-and-20 play from its own 23. Staubach’s final pass as a Cowboy was an overthrown attempt to Drew Pearson. The Cowboys never got the ball back, and Staubach’s career came to an end.

As for Staubach’s final pass as a pro, he was not done just yet. He started for the NFC in the 1980 Pro Bowl.

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Though the NFC did prevail 37-27, it was a game to forget for Staubach.

He completed just 3 of 10 pass attempts for a total of 9 yards. He had negative passing yards until he finally hit Wes Chandler on an 11-yard gain in the third quarter. His final pass attempt was intended for Tony Hill, but it fell incomplete. His final play was a handoff to Walter Payton, who ran around the right end for six yards.

So, Roger Staubach’s final plays were as follows:

Final Regular Season Pass: 8-yard touchdown pass to Tony Hill vs. Washington, December 16, 1979

Final “Completed” Pass Attempt as a CowboyThrew the ball in the direction of left guard Herbert Scott, who caught it, in 21-19 loss to L.A. Rams on December 30, 1979.

Final Pass Attempt as a CowboyOverthrew Drew Pearson on 4th-and-20 in the loss to the Rams.

Final Play as a Professional: Handed the ball off to Walter Payton, who gained six yards, in the third quarter of the Pro Bowl on January 27, 1980.

Animated Trivia: Deion Sanders Touchdown

In five years with the Dallas Cowboys between 1995 and 1999, Deion Sanders returned four punts for touchdowns. The animated GIF below shows one of them:

Trivia questions:

(1) Kind of hard to tell, but the opponent here was the Chicago Bears. During which season did this play occur?

(2) Who won this game?

(3) Deion scored his final touchdown as a Cowboy in 1999. Against which team did this occur?