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?

Animated Trivia: Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

Emmitt Smith faced the Carolina Panthers five times as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Here is an animated GIF from one of those games:

Trivia: During which season did this play take place? Did the Cowboys win?

Dallas Cowboys Video, 1984: What Followed This Bizarre Touchdown?

The 1984 Dallas Cowboys were 9-6 entering the season finale against the 13-2 Miami Dolphins. A Dallas win would ensure the team’s tenth consecutive playoff appearance. However, the Cowboys fell behind 21-14 late in game.

Someone last summer posted this video clip showing a touchdown reception by Tony Hill. I vaguely remember this play. It took place after the two-minute warning. Dallas had the ball at its own 34 with a first and ten.

 

Here’s a trivia question for today: what happened after this play? The answer is significant for a couple of reasons.

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 10 (2010)

This is the tenth part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.

Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.

mediocrity-1September 12, 2010

Washington 13, Dallas 7

“The Dawn of Mediocrity”

It looked as if the Dallas Cowboys had turned a corner in 2009. The team won its final three games of the regular season to capture the NFC East title and then won a playoff game for the first time since 1996.

Most of that team returned in 2010, and many fans expected the Cowboys to take even more positive steps.

Then Dallas visited Washington on the evening of Sunday, September 12, 2010.

The Dallas offense struggled throughout the first half, and the one drive that ended up inside the Washington 10 ended with a missed field goal by David Buehler.

Washington led 3-0 near the end of the first half. Dallas only needed to kneel on the ball to try to regroup.

Instead, Tony Romo threw a pass to running back Tashard Choice, who fumbled. DeAngelo Hall recovered and returned the recovery for a touchdown.

The remained close, nevertheless, as the Cowboys scored in the third quarter. Dallas trailed only 13-7 late in the game, despite being called for numerous penalties.

In the final two minutes, the Cowboys moved the ball from their own 19 to the Washington 13. With three seconds remaining, it looked as if Romo had thrown the game-winning touchdown to Roy Williams. However, a holding call on Alex Barron negated the play, and Dallas lost.

The Cowboys never really recovered that year. They started the season at 1-7 before Jerry Jones finally fired head coach Wade Phillips. Jason Garrett took over to lead the team to a 5-3 finish, leading Jones to hire Garrett as the permanent head coach.

Dallas struggled for three years, recording 8-8 records in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Of course, Garrett led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record in 2014 and the first trip to the playoffs since 2009. However, the team had to survive a long period of mediocrity before accomplishing what it did in 2014.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

Part 5, November 2, 1986: “Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”— New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

Part 6, November 24, 1991: “A Dynasty Is Born”—Dallas 24, Washington 21

Part 7, November 23, 1997: “A Dynasty Crumbles”—Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

Part 8, September 3, 2000: “Pickle-Juice Loss Signals Dark Times Ahead”—Philadelphia 41, Dallas 14

Part 9, October 23, 2016: “Welcome, Tony Romo”—N.Y. Giants 36, Dallas 22

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 9 (2006)

This is the ninth part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.

Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.

October 23, 2006

N.Y. Giants 36, Dallas 22

Once upon a time, Tony Romo was a new shining star.

Once upon a time, Tony Romo was a new shining star.

“Welcome, Tony Romo”

The Drew Bledsoe era in Dallas was not a long one. He started only 22 games for the Cowboys, and his 12-10 record was not horrible.

The team was, though, mediocre at best in 2005 and 2006 when he started. He could make plays with his arm, but he too often stood like a statue in the pocket.

The team was not going to fall back into its 5-11 ways with him at the helm, but the team also wasn’t going to get close to the Super Bowl with him as the starter.

Dallas had a backup named Tony Romo, who had provided quite a bit of excitement during preseason games. When Dallas started the 2006 season at 3-2, including a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in week 5, fans started calling for Romo to take over.

In week 6, Romo threw his first NFL pass and led the team to a touchdown during cleanup work against the Texans.

One week later, the Cowboys hosted the New York Giants with both teams sporting 3-2 records. Dallas needed a win to keep pace with the Eagles and have an edge over the Giants.

Instead, Bledsoe’s limitations cost the Cowboys. Although he rushed for a touchdown, he also threw a costly pick at the end of the first half.

Because of that play, Dallas coach Bill Parcels had little choice but to turn to Romo. A new era began.

Of course, the Giants picked off Romo’s first pass attempt. By the end of the night, the Giants had picked off Romo three times, returning one of those picks 96 yards for a touchdown.

Then again, Romo threw two touchdowns, including a 53-yarder to Patrick Crayton. He brought excitement to the QB position—more so than any other QB had in quite some time.

With Romo as the starter, Dallas eventually improved to 8-4 before finishing at 9-7. His era continues to this day, of course.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 4, December 13, 1975: “Wildcard Berth It Is”—Dallas 31, Washington 10

Part 5, November 2, 1986: “Goodbye Danny, So Long America’s Team”— New York Giants 17, Dallas 14

Part 6, November 24, 1991: “A Dynasty Is Born”—Dallas 24, Washington 21

Part 7, November 23, 1997: “A Dynasty Crumbles”—Green Bay 45, Dallas 17

Part 8, September 3, 2000: “Pickle-Juice Loss Signals Dark Times Ahead”—Philadelphia 41, Dallas 14