I could hardly bring myself to watch the Giants/Packers game on Sunday, and I do not take much comfort in the fact that the team that beat Dallas is the one going to the Super Bowl. I am instead focusing on some history that may be obscure to some: the old Playoff Bowl (Bert Bell Benefit Bowl) that featured the teams that did not make the old NFL Championship Game. It was held from the end of the 1960 season through the end of the 1969 season, and Dallas participated three times. Here is a great site with historical stuff, including the stories of these games. I was, of course, born a year after the last one was played.
Note that if the Playoff Bowl were still around in its old format, Dallas would have faced Seattle this weekend. I’m not sure that would have been any better than watching the Giants game.
Here are the summaries of the three Playoff Bowls featuring our Dallas Cowboys:
Baltimore Colts 35, Dallas Cowboys 3 (January 9, 1966)
The game was not a pretty sight for Dallas, yet it was the beginning of what would turn out to be a common occurrence – the Cowboys in the NFL postseason. A crowd of 65,659 witnessed the battle of National Football League runners-up in windy, overcast weather in the Orange Bowl.
MIAMI, Fla. (AP)- Tom Matte, who almost quarterbacked the Baltimore Colts into the National Football League championship game, led them to a 35-3 victory over Dallas Sunday in the consolation tilt. The performances pose for Coach Don Shula the problem of what to do with Matte next season. “I don’t know,” said Shula. “I guess I’ll have to keep the Matte offense in our play book, though.
“Matte, in only his third professional game as quarterback, was voted the outstanding player in the playoff game before 65,569 in the Orange Bowl. He earned the award on his passing.
When he was first rushed into the quarterback breach because of injuries to John Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, Matte had a slim repertoire of plays, mostly running. Still the Colts defeated Los Angeles 20-17 and in a playoff for the Western Conference title and lost 13-10 in overtime to Green Bay.
Matte passed 17 times against the Cowboys, completing seven. Two of them were 15 and 20 yards to Jimmy Orr for touchdowns. Two more of 37 and 52 yards set up second period touchdowns which gave Baltimore a 14-3 halftime edge.
The Cowboys, who tied for second place in the Eastern Conference by winning five of their last seven games, ran into a fierce Colt defense. Dallas put together only one sustained drive on the passing of Don Meredith in the second quarter. The Cowboys reached the Colt four with a first down but were stopped in their tracks and Danny Villanueva kicked a 12-yard field goal.
The Cowboys reached the Colts 29 in the first period and the 31 in the third for their only other threats. They lost the ball on an interception by Jerry Logan the first time and on a fumble recovered by rookie end Roy Hilton the other time.
In addition to his interception, Logan recovered a fumble on the Dallas 25 in the third quarter and fullback Jerry Hill plunged for a touchdown five plays later. Hill also boomed three yards for a second quarter touchdown after catching a 52-yard rocket from Matte.
End John Mackey’s catch of a 37-yard pass from Matte set Baltimore’s first touchdown- a six-yard run by Lenny Moore- after a scoreless first period.
“I had a lot of respect before for Matte,” said Shula, “but he has gained a lot more the way he reacted to our situation.”
The 6-foot, 205-pounder had been a substitute halfback with the Colts for five seasons until the quarterback crisis developed.
The victory by the Colts underscored the mastery of the Western Conference NFL teams over the Eastern this season. It was the 15th victory in 16 contests for the West.
Dallas Cowboys 17, Minnesota Vikings 13 (January 5, 1969)
For the second straight year, the Cowboys won the Capitol Division with a 12-2 record. Don Meredith passed for 2500 yards. It was his best statistical season with a 55.3% completion percentage and the second-best quaterback rating in the league behind Johnny Unitas. Lance Rentzel had 1009 receiving yards and Bob Hayes added another 909. Don Perkins carried the ball for 836 yards. The Baltimore Colts had finished the regular season 13-1 and everyone anticipated a Cowboys-Colts showdown in the conference championship game with the winner advancing to Super Bowl III. But first the Cowboys had to play the Cleveland Browns in the Eastern Conference championship game. Having beaten the Browns 28-7 in the regular season, confidence was high for another victory. The game proved to be anything but easy for the Cowboys as the Browns handed them a 31-20 defeat. The loss sent the Cowboys to the Playoff Bowl.
MIAMI (AP)- The Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings 17-13 Sunday in what could be the last National Football League playoff Bowl game as it is now constituted- at least in Miami. The contract between the NFL and the Orange Bowl ended with Sunday’s dull game before 22,961 rain drenched fans. Bowl officials apparently feel the game between second place finishers in the NFL’s two conferences lacks interest for fans and players.
The NFL has two more years on a television contract for the game, and could decide to continue it at another site- New Orleans is believed interested- rather than change the format. The game has produced over a million dollars in nine years for the players’ pension fund.
As presently constituted, the game has nothing at stake, except the $1,200 share per player on the winning team and $500 for losing players. Dallas Coach Tom Landry said last week that this is a fun-work week and teams don’t give the game the 24-hour concentration needed for a top performance.
Landry said after Sunday’s game that the victory meant little, but his players were determined to show they could bounce back. “If we proved anything, we proved that this club can rebound.” Landry said.
Dallas was down after blowing the Eastern Conference championship two weeks ago to underdog Cleveland 31-20. Landry said earlier he wasn’t sure how his team would react from its big disappointment. He found out, although at the start it appeared Dallas was still suffering from its Cleveland hangover.
Minnesota, winner of the Central Division title, jumped to a 13-0 lead in the first period. Bob Bryant ran back punt 81 yards for a touchdown- longest return in the nine-year history of the Series- and Fred Cox kicked two field goals.
Landry had high praise for quarterback Don Meredith. He rallied the Cowboys from a 13-0 first quarter deficit to 13-10 at halftime. Meredith completed 15 of 24 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown and was voted the outstanding player of the game.
Landry sent Craig Morton in at quarterback for the second half. After Dallas linebackers Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordon pressured Minnesota punter King Hill into a 24-yard punt in the third period. Morton went to work. He completed a 21-yard pass to Craig Baynham for a first down at the 13. After losing to the 20, Morton hit Baynham again for the 20-yard winning touchdown.
Los Angeles Rams 31, Dallas Cowboys 0 (January 3, 1970)
The 1969 Cowboys won their division for the third straight year and again had to play the Cleveland Browns in the conference championship game. That year’s Cowboys tied an NFL record by allowing just two rushing touchdowns all season. But, just like the year before, the Cowboys were beaten soundly by the Browns; the final score was 38-14. Once again, the Cowboys found themselves in the Playoff Bowl, this time against the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys’ league playoff record for the decade was 1-4 and questions arose as to why the Cowboys, with all their talent, couldn’t win the big game. The Rams had won the Coastal Division with 11-3 record and QB Roman Gabriel was unanimous choice as NFL’s most valuable player. The Rams lost to Minnesota in a hard fought Western Conference title game on the road, 23-20.
MIAMI (UPI)- Roman Gabriel hurled scoring passes of 35 and 67 yards the first two times Los Angeles got the ball Saturday, added two more touchdown tosses in the second half, and the Rams pummeled the Dallas Cowboys 31-0 in the National Football League Playoff Bowl.
Gabriel, the NFL player of the year, hit Les Josephson for 35 yards, Jack Snow for 67, Bob Klein for 16 and Snow again for 49. Bruce Gossett added a 42-yard field goal.
The Cowboys’ offense sputtered under a gamelong drizzle, and even experimentation with reserve quarterback Roger Staubach in the second quarter failed to help. Gabriel was taken out early in the fourth quarter after hitting 12 of 17 passes for 224 yards and his four scores. For the second time in the Playoff Bowl’s history he was named most valuable player.
The shutout was the first in 10 Playoff Bowl games. Deacon Jones of the Rams was most valuable defensive player. The win snapped a four game losing streak for Los Angeles, the NFL’s Coastal Division champ. Dallas dropped its second in a row after losing to Eastern Division champion Cleveland 38-14 last week. Los Angeles dropped the Western Conference title to Minnesota Dec. 27, 23-20.
Gabriel’s first scoring throw with 13:23 left in the first quarter was set up when safety Richie Pettibon intercepted a Craig Morton pass on the Dallas 30 on just the second play of the game. Gabriel was belted for a five yard loss, but on the next play hit Josephson on a swing pass and he sprinted down the right sidelines for the touchdown.
Los Angeles then took over on the Ram 20 after an unsuccessful Dallas threat and moved 13 yards in four plays before Snow streaked past cornerback Cornell Green, caught Gabriel’s bomb on his fingertips and raced the remaining 20 yards for the 67-yard touchdown.
Gabriel’s third scoring pass climaxed a drive starting on the Dallas 39 after Larry Smith returned a short punt 17 yards. On a fourth and one play, Gabriel hit a swing pass to Josephson for 14 yards to the Cowboys’ 16 and on the next play he hit Klein for the score
After Dallas couldn’t move, another short punt for the Cowboys’ Ron Widby rolled dead on the Dallas 49. Gabriel wasted no time and hit Snow down the left sidelines for the score.
Gossett’s field goal came after punter Pal Studstill ran from punt formation on the fourth down to the Cowboy 30. After stalling, the Rams elected to try the field goal.
Dallas’ Mike Clark missed field goals of 16 and 22 yards in the first half. The Cowboys’ rookie running back Calvin Hill reinjured a toe and Safety Mike Gaechter apparently severed an achilles tendon early in the second quarter for Dallas. Neither saw any action the rest of the game.
Last year I ran a piece about how the Cowboys performed against eventual NFL/Super Bowl champions. Including Indianapolis in 2006 and including the pre-Super Bowl years, Dallas is 6-19 against eventual champions during the regular season. If New England beats the Giants, the record will fall to 6-20. If the Giants somehow win, then the record will improve to 8-19 due to the two wins this year over the Giants. Dallas has not lost to an eventual Super Bowl winner in the playoffs since 1994 (San Francisco).
The 2007 season is the eighth time that Dallas faced both Super Bowl participants. The previous years include 1973 (Miami and Minnesota), 1979 (Pittsburgh and Los Angeles), 1980 (Oakland and Philadelphia), 1983 (Washington and L.A. Raiders), 1986 (N.Y. Giants and Denver), 1996 (Green Bay and New England), 2000 (Baltimore and N.Y. Giants), and 2003 (New England and Carolina).
Here is the all-time record vs. Super Bowl winners (including both teams in Super Bowl XLII):
1960– vs. Philadelphia, L 25-27
1964– vs. Cleveland, L 16-20
1965– vs. Green Bay, L 3-13
1973– vs. Miami, L 7-14
1979– vs. Pittsburgh, L 3-14
1980– vs. Oakland, W 19-13
1981– vs. San Francisco, L 14-45
1982– vs. Washington, W 24-10
1983– vs. L.A. Raiders, L 38-40
1985– vs. Chicago, L 0-44
1986– vs. N.Y. Giants, W 31-28
1986– vs. N.Y. Giants, L 14-17
1987– vs. Washington, L 7-13
1987– vs. Washington, L 20-24
1989– vs. San Francisco, L 14-31
1990– vs. N.Y. Giants, L 7-28
1990– vs. N.Y. Giants, L 17-31
1991– vs. Washington, L 31-33
1991– vs. Washington, W 24-21
1994– vs. San Francisco, L 14-21
1996– vs. Green Bay, W 21-6
1998– vs. Denver, L 23-42
2000– vs. Baltimore Ravens, L 0-27
2003– vs. New England, L 0-12
2006– vs. Indianapolis, W 21-14
2007 (AFC) — vs. New England, L 27-48
2007 (NFC) — vs. N.Y. Giants, W 45-35
2007 (NFC) — vs. N.Y. Giants, W 31-20
1966– vs. Green Bay (NFL Championship), L 27-34
1967– vs. Green Bay (NFL Championship), L 17-21
1970– vs. Baltimore Colts (Super Bowl V), L 13-16
1975– vs. Pittsburgh (Super Bowl X), L 17-21
1978– vs. Pittsburgh (SuperBowl XIII), L 31-35
1981– vs. San Francisco (NFC Championship), L 27-28
1982– vs. Washington (NFC Championship), L 17-31
1994– vs. San Francisco (NFC Championship), L 28-38
2007 (NFC)– vs. N.Y. Giants (Divisional Round), L 17-21
Now that Jason Garrett is going to be here a while, seems like a good time to provide a summary of the offensive coordinators in team history. This is not as extensive of a list as it may seem, for one man ran the offense for most of the first 29 years.
Tom Landry (1960-1988)
Although Landry was famous as a defensive coach when he arrived in Dallas in 1960, he immediately took over the offense. Landry’s offensive system went against the grain of what most teams did during the early days, relying on timing and reads as opposed to raw power and talent. But by the mid-1960s, the system proved to be effective, and it remained so for the most part for the next 20 years.
Paul Hackett (1986-1988)
By the mid-1980s, the offense that Landry had developed and used for so many years had begun to become stale. Owner Bum Bright, who feuded with Landry often, demanded the hiring of Paul Hackett as offensive coordinator. Hackett had more recently been on the staff with San Francisco, helping to coach Joe Montana to greatness. He was brought to Dallas to make the offense more exciting.
For eight games in 1986, the combination of Landry’s and Hackett’s systems worked. Then Danny White broke his wrist against the Giants, and nothing worked well after that point during 1986 or even during the two seasons that followed. Before being fired himself, Landry demoted Hackett, effectively ending his term in Dallas.
Hackett eventually went on to be the head coach at USC, preceding Pete Carroll. He is currently the quarterbacks coach with Tampa Bay.
David Shula (1989-1990)
Jimmy Johnson’s first choice as offensive coordinator was David Shula, son of legendary Miami coach Don Shula. The younger Shula struggled as he played rookies Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh in 1989. The following was more promising, as Dallas had a chance to make the playoffs. But an injury to Aikman forced the Cowboys to play Babe Laufenberg, and losses to Philadelphia and Atlanta ended the Cowboys’ season. Shula was thereafter demoted and then left the team.
After serving as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from 1992-1996, Shula eventually left football altogether.
Norv Turner (1991-1993)
Turner is credited with developing the offense that helped Dallas become a dynasty. The timing-based system took advantage of Aikman’s precision, as well as the physical nature of the Dallas receivers.
Turner left Dallas to become head coach at Washington. He later coached at Oakland and is now the head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
Ernie Zampese (1994-1997)
When Turner left, Dallas hired his mentor, Ernie Zampese. Zampese left the Dallas system in place, and it worked just fine for the first two years. In 1996, Irvin’s suspension for drugs, coupled with a general loss of talent due to free agency, hurt the Dallas offense, although eventually the stars stepped up. The 1997 season, though, was a disaster, as the timing-based system failed to work effectively as the team’s stars began to decline.
Zampese returned to Dallas as a consultant in 2000. He has also been a consultant with the Rams and Redskins.
Chan Gailey (1998-1999)
Jerry Jones hired Chan Gailey from Pittsburgh to ignite the Dallas offense, and he was rather successful. Troy Aikman returned to the shotgun and was asked to do more by way of reading defenses. The offensive line learned a new zone blocking scheme that was foreign to the team during its heyday earlier that decade. Even when Aikman went down with a collarbone injury in 1998, backup Jason Garrett was able to step in a win three of five games, which kept Dallas in contention to win the NFC East.
Part of the problem in 1998 was the lack of talent and depth on offense. Billy Davis started opposite Irvin, while veteran Ernie Mills served as the third receivers. Second-year tight end David LeFleur was slow to develop.
To help Gailey’s offense, Dallas signed Rocket Ismail to complement Irvin. A 3-0 start looked very promising, as the Dallas offense appeared to be clicking. But a career-ending injury to Irvin in week 4 set in motion a decline that led to Gailey’s dismissal at the end of the 1999 season. Many times during the 1999 season, critics questioned why Gailey did to attempt more timing-based pass plays, which had been so successful for Aikman earlier in his career. By the end of the season, it didn’t matter.
Gailey later served as head coach at Georgia Tech and was recently hired as offensive coordinator with Kansas City.
Jack Reilly (2000-2001)
The success of the Rams’ timing-based system in 1999 led Jerry Jones to hire Jack Reilly to reinstall a timing-based offense in Dallas. This was true notwithstanding the fact that Dallas had fired Reilly as quarterbacks coach after the 1997 season. The Cowboys were supposed to have one of the fastest receiving corps in the NFL in 2000, with new receiver Joey Galloway and holdover Ismail. Neither of the receivers, nor Troy Aikman, finished the 2000 season.
Dallas drafted Quincy Carter in 2001 to be its next franchise quarterback, and retained Reilly to coach him. It didn’t work well, to say the least.
Bruce Coslet (2002)
Year 2 of the Quincy Carter Experiment saw the hiring of Bruce Coslet, an expert in the West Coast Offense. This offense was believed to play to Carter’s strength as a mobile quarterback. Midway through the season, though, the Cowboys benched Carter in favor of Chad Hutchinson, who had returned to football after several years in minor league baseball. Coslet’s offensive system simply did not work, and he was dismissed after the hiring of Bill Parcells.
Maurice Carthon/Sean Payton/Tony Sparano/Todd Haley (2003-2006)
The Bill Parcells’ years were characterized by the introduction of running game and passing game coordinators. Two of the four who had these titles are now head coaches (Payton and Sparano). The offenses are difficult to classify because they were run by such different quarterbacks: Carter (mobile but not accurate), Vinny Testaverde (immobile but with a strong arm), Drew Bledsoe (as immobile as a quarterback can be, but with a strong arm), and Tony Romo (mobile and with a strong arm). Except for the 2004 season, the Dallas offense generally improved in each of the seasons that Parcells was here.
Jason Garrett (2007- )
Jones hired Garrett at the end of the 2006 season, even before the Cowboys had hired a head coach. Garrett’s strengths as a coordinator in 2007 seemed to be the adjustments that he made during the course of the game. He was not afraid to go to the same player several times in a row, whether the receiver was Owens or Witten. Garrett’s inexperience did not matter at all, and the Cowboys were fortunate to be able to retain him. The key now is to restock his weapons for 2008.
Garrett is Staying
The big news of the day is that Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has agreed to stay with the team. He will add the title of assistant head coach and make about $3 million a year, which the most of any assistant in the league. Number of good news items this week=1.
Discuss Jason Garrett at The Blue and Silver
Rehiring of Hudson Houck
The Cowboys are also reportedly close to rehiring Hudson Houck as offensive line coach. Most are pretty happy about this move, but one caveat: the Cowboys’ lines often had discipline problems when Houck coached here (Erik Williams rule?). The discipline needs to improve no matter who comes here.
Checking Out Houck (DMN Blog)
Discuss Hudson Houck at The Blue and Silver
You might have noticed that Jerry Jones became something an advertising star this season (yet again, really) with the Papa John’s and Pepsi ads. He might have also seemed likable talking about putting together the gifts for his lovely grandchildren during Christmastime this year (listen below around the 10:45 mark if you really want to hear about that).[audio:http://www.dallascowboys.com/mp3/executives/jones_122107.mp3]
There is something that Jerry’s grandchildren can do that most of us can’t: afford a personal seat license to the new stadium in 2009 without mortgaging our homes. A fan whose family has had season tickets to Cowboys home games since 1960 sent me a link to Di$gu$ted by Jerry Jones?, where he discusses the fact that he would have to pay $150,000 to purchase a PSL, and that doesn’t include the actual tickets. Granted, the prices that he mentions are for choice seats, but from the numbers he provides, it is going to cost hundreds for a family of four to attend a game. Here are a few comments:
Here’s my plan for the 2009 season: I’m going to go on StubHub and buy the best seats I can for one game. I’m willing to pay up to $2,000 per seat, so I figure I can get something for that. Then I’m going to go home and purchase the best high def TV, awesome surround sound, incredibly comfortable theater seating and a satellite dish with the NFL package. I figure I’m going to spend $35K on that. I’ll fly my Cowboy-crazy brother-in-law Dwight in for the game to help me enjoy the one I do go to. And I’m going to save $149,000 and my marriage. My wife thought that was a better plan. And Jerry can sit in his half empty Jerryland with his corporate customers only. It will be very quiet. If you thought it was a plastic, artificial experience now, wait till every seat is filled by a lawyer or an insurance guy! BOOORRRRRIIIINNNNGGGGG!!!!!!!! Sorry to break it to you all, but 2009 will be the first season in Cowboy history that we will not own season tickets. It ain’t close to worth it. But I did meet a guy who is going to sell me some of his Dallas Stars tickets, so I’ll have 5 hockey games to go to. Those are a blast! Go Green Bay Packers. Who’s with me on a road trip to Lambeau?”
Honestly, I can’t see the market handling prices that are so steep that a middle class family couldn’t buy individual game tickets. Remember that during the down years of 2000 to 2002, it was almost never a lock that the Cowboys would have a home sellout, and it was common in the late 1980s that the stadium would be half empty. Hope this has a better ending that it looks like it will.
* * *
Tony Sparano is officially out of Dallas, having taking the helm at Miami. Jason Garrett isn’t just yet, but he’s still making his rounds. My depression has turned to cynicism this week, and I hope they both fail miserably!
* * *
Let’s finish this with Brad Sham using the term “crap”:
You’d think I’d have been at this too long to be surprised at the pronouncements about the inner workings of the Cowboys’ football team from people who couldn’t find Irving with a road map. Yet here we are. This Pronouncer in Seattle proclaims it was because Tony Romo went to Mexico with Jessica. (Apparently Jason Witten going with Michelle was less heinous.) That one over there says it’s because the coaches were distracted because they were looking for jobs. Here’s one in Toronto who believes Terrell Owens is a fraud because he doesn’t believe Owens’ emotional reaction at the post game press conference.
What a load of crap.
The Cowboys lost to the Giants because they could not block the blitz in the second half. It might have been different had they not had so many penalties. It might have been different had a couple of passes not been dropped. It might have been different had one wayward throw found an open receiver. It might have been different if the kick and punt coverage were not poor. It might have been different if the Giants had not gone most of the length of the field in 46 seconds before the half.
But all those things happened.
Had one more touchdown been scored – one – and everything else been the same, no one would have talked about the poor kick coverage or the penalties or the easy touchdown drive. All of that would have still happened but the Cowboys would have won the game and everything would have been fine, and the Packers would be filling their overnight bags instead of the Giants looking for legwarmers and mukluks.
The all-knowing postgame psychoanalysis is as much a part of the sport as blaming the coach and the quarterback, and it’s driving me crazy. One assistant coach said Thursday morning of last week, “The only thing I cared about was how they came back from the break, and they came back great. Our Wednesday practice might have been the best one we’ve had all year.”
The morning of the game, a different assistant coach confirmed that observation and said the Thursday practice might have been even better.
This was not a team ill-prepared or not ready to play. It was a team that didn’t finish.
In 2007, we endured more than eight months of this highlight, now known more popularly as “The Flub”:
In 2008, we get “The Studder.” This one is painful. Watch Patrick Crayton get separation from Corey Webster, only to take a studder step and lose that separation. Had he continued running, it certainly looks like he would have run right under the ball:
My feeling: Well, it feels as if I just watched a video of a crash that left me paralyzed.
Courtesy of the DMN Blog, here is more on Crayton:
Wade Phillips usually goes out of his way to defend his players. That wasn’t the case with Patrick Crayton yesterday.
“If Patrick wouldn’t have slowed down, it would have been a touchdown,” Phillips said, referring to throw to Crayton in end zone in the final minute of the loss to the Giants.
Crayton acknowledged yesterday that his hesitation could have been the difference between playoff failure and preparing for the NFC championship game. He elaborated on the play during an appearance on Michael Irvin’s ESPN 103.3 show today.
Crayton said his route was supposed to be a 16-yard out, but he was surprised that he was able to blow by the cornerback so easily. He hesitated while deciding whether to adjust his route to continue running vertical, which is obviously what Tony Romo expected.
“I got on top of him [and] I was like, ‘Should I break out and let him sit underneath, or should I just go ahead and go?'” Crayton said. “That slight hesitation cost me that extra yard I probably needed.”
Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around, but I still don’t understand this play. You’ve got less than 20 seconds left, and Crayton had to know that he had the corner of the end zone all to himself (Romo did, obviously). ERRRRRRR…. I’ll let it go.
Lots of people are still trying to make sense of the 21-17 loss to the Giants yesterday, and I am not going to make much of an effort to do it myself. This post instead is an effort to try to put this loss into historical context, and that will be tough because never in the history of his franchise have the fans endured so much disappointment as the past decade.
Compared to ‘Team That Couldn’t Win the Big One’
Thanks to some heartbreaking losses in the NFL Championship Games in 1966 and 1967, along with divisional round playoff losses in 1968 and 1969, the Cowboys earned some nicknames, including “Team That Can’t Win the Big One” and “Next Year’s Champions.” In his book Next Year’s Champions: The Story of the Dallas Cowboys (1969), Steve Perkins wrote:
No other pro football team has ever been quite like them, at one and the same time so rich, so dazzling, so young—and so tragic. They were the first expansion team to challenge for the championship, and when they lost two years in a row they lost dramatically and heroically—first the drama and frustration on the 2-yard line, then twelve months later heroism at the 1 on a skating rink in Green Bay. But how glorious to lose, and how poignant to keep the conviction in the hearts of Cowboy fans that their team was the best, as only time would tell.
As you know, a year after he wrote this, Dallas finally surpassed the hurdle of the championship game (NFC, that is), only to fall to the Colts in Super Bowl V. A year later, the misery ended, as Dallas won Super Bowl VI.
That era (1960-1971): twelve seasons, 88-72-6 record (53% winning percentage), six playoff wins, 4 Championship Game appearances, 2 NFC Championships, 1 Super Bowl Championship. And this period of time includes the inaugural 0-11-1 season of 1960.
Now? Since 1996, the Cowboys have managed to break even with a 96-96 record. Thus, even though the 1960s Cowboys played a 14-game schedule, those teams had only eight fewer wins that the most recent team has had during the same length of time playing a 16-game schedule. Playoff wins? We know the answer: one, in 1996. Six straight losses since then, and none of the other stats matter.
I’d say this era is a bit worse than the growing pains of the 1960s.
The heartbreaking plays then:
* With his team trailing by a touchdown at the end of the 1966 NFL Championship Game, Don Meredith’s fourth down attempt from the Green Bay two was picked off by Tom Brown in the end zone.
* Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak gave the Packers their final NFL (pre-NFC) title of the 1960s and sent them to Super Bowl II.
* Dallas muffed its way to losing Super Bowl V, with quarterback Craig Morton throwing two costly interceptions in the final ten minutes of the game that the Cowboys lost 16-13.
The most recent heartbreakers:
* Tony Romo drops the snap on an attempt for what could have been the game-winning field goal in a wildcard game loss to Seattle.
* With 21 seconds remaining and the team trailing by four to the Giants, receiver Patrick Crayton hesitates on a fade route thrown in his direction. Had he not slowed up, the play likely would have resulted in a touchdown.
No, this wasn’t all Crayton’s fault. But if you watch the replay of him slowing up, it becomes very clear that that brief moment of indecision cost Dallas the game-winning touchdown. And due to Crayton’s mouth, it’s easier to put some heat on him than it is on Jacques Reeves, who deserves quite a bit of blame for his failure to cover Steve Smith and Kevin Boss during the final minute of the first half.
Compared to ‘Post Doomsday’
The next depressing era of Dallas football lasted from the final season of Roger Staubach to the second season of Troy Aikman (1979-1990). That time period featured a 1-15 team and a 3-13 team, and the Cowboys still accumulated a 97-87 record over 12 years. The low points:
* Two weeks after his last miracle win (35-34 over Washington), Roger Staubach came up short in a divisional round loss to the Rams. (As an eight-year-old, I cried)
* Dallas lost three consecutive NFC Championship Games, each time to upstart teams, two of which were division rivals.
* In 1984, Dallas missed the playoffs for the first time since 1974. (First time that had happened since I started watching the team).
* The team tanked their playoff game at Los Angeles in 1985. The franchise tanked when Danny White broke his wrist at the Meadowlands in 1986. After a collapse that year, Dallas suffered five consecutive losing seasons.
Maybe others will disagree (The Boys’ Blog says that the 1979 loss was worse), but the loss to the Giants was worst I’ve ever experienced. The 1979 loss may compare, but that was a team that had been to the two previous Super Bowls and probably needed to reload. The 1981 NFC title game was closer in terms of pain, I think, because that was the best version of the Cowboys during the Danny White years, and the end was so shocking. Nevertheless, we had been to the Super Bowl five times in the previous 12 years (and twice in the previous five), so fans were a bit spoiled at that point. At the least, the team had not been as deprived as it is now.
Comparing Playoff Goats… and a Few Heroes
There have been more than a few goats in the history of the franchise, and we can now add a few more after yesterday’s debacle.
Don Meredith vs. Craig Morton vs. Danny White vs. Tony Romo
Romo may very well work his way back up the ladder among the Dallas quarterbacks, but right now he has as many playoff wins as Quincy Carter. He has a few things in common, though, with these others:
* Meredith: Both Romo and Meredith threw last-second interceptions in desperation efforts. For Meredith, it was the 1966 NFL title game. For Romo, it was a pass from the 23-yard line to a receiver who had missed nearly the entire season due to injury.
* Morton: Both Romo and Morton led high-powered offenses during their first full seasons as starters (1969 for Morton). And both lost in the first round of the playoffs (though, to be fair, Cleveland had beaten Dallas 42-10 during the 1969 regular season before beating the Cowboys in the playoffs).
* White: Both Romo and White (1981 more so than 1980 or 1982) received a considerable amount of blame for the team’s losses, though neither performed badly in those losses.
Biggest Goat: Morton, who never performed well in the playoffs for Dallas. Romo still has plenty of time.
Hollywood Henderson vs. Patrick Crayton
Henderson mouthed off about Terry Bradshaw much of the time leading up to Super Bowl XIII (something about spelling C-A-T). Crayton decided to mouth off about the Giants prior to their playoff game. Both ate their words.
The difference? Henderson caused a fumble by sacking Bradshaw. Mike Hegman recovered the fumble and returned it for a go-ahead touchdown. Crayton dropped passes and then took an ill-fated stutter-step on what would have been a game-winning touchdown catch.
Biggest Goat: Crayton, who cost his team much more than Henderson.
Jackie Smith vs. Patrick Crayton
I wouldn’t go this far.
Biggest Goat: Smith, who sets the standard for Cowboys goats.
Aaron Kyle vs. Jacques Reeves
Aaron Kyle took some heat after Super Bowl XIII for his missed tackle on John Stallworth, which resulted in Stallworth’s 75-yard touchdown reception that tied the game. The former first rounder (1976) played one more season in Dallas before being shipped to Denver.
Reeves was unable to cover rookie Steve Smith or rookie tight end Kevin Boss on a critical drive with less than a minute to go in the first half. He also committed a very costly 15-yard facemask penalty trying to tackle Smith, which certainly helped New York.
Biggest Goat: Kyle. Reeves is not a starter and does not have expectations of a first-round pick.
Mark Washington vs. Reeves
Mark Washington was the poor soul who was burned by Lynn Swann so badly in Super Bowl X. That was much more about Swann’s unbelievable day than it was about Washington’s coverage. Washington also had a bad day against the Redskins in 1972, when he replaced an injured Charlie Waters (see below). Washington gave up a 45-yard touchdown pass to Charley Taylor, which gave the Redskins an insurmountable 17-3 lead.
Biggest Goat: Reeves. Washington’s play was bad fortune as much as it was a bad performance. Reeves was just bad, and it cost Dallas dearly.
Duane Thomas vs. Marion Barber
Duane Thomas, who shut his mouth in protest during his last season in Dallas, led Dallas to Super Bowl V by gaining 143 yards against San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. However, he came up short in the Super Bowl, committing a critical fumble near the Baltimore goalline when a touchdown would have given Dallas a 20-6 lead.
Marion Barber, who shuts his mouth but lets everything go on the field, led Dallas with more than 100 yards in the first half of the Giants. However, he struggled in the second half and missed a blitz pick-up on a play that could have been a touchdown for Dallas (Miles Austin had broken free on a streak pattern, but Romo did not have time to get it to him.
Biggest Goat: Thomas, but he made up for it in 1971. Barber was a hero yesterday and should get more chances.
Charlie Waters vs. Roy Williams
In the 1972 NFC Championship Game, Waters (then a cornerback) was burned by Charley Taylor for a 51-yard gain, followed by a 15-yard touchdown, giving Washington a lead that it would not relinquish. However, Waters later developed into one of the best postseason players in Dallas history. In a loss to the Rams in the divisional round in 1976, Waters blocked two punts and had an interception, each of which nearly allowed Dallas to pull out the win.
Williams? This game certainly wasn’t his fault, but he finished with a single tackle. On a third-and-one for the Giants from the New York 30 in the first quarter, the Giants split running back Ahmad Bradshaw out to the right, where he was covered by Williams. Eli Manning threw a short hitch to Bradshaw, who promptly broke Williams’ pathetic tackling effort (look up the phrase “titty tackle” if you aren’t familiar with the technique) and gained six yards for a first down.
Biggest Goat: Waters, but only in the 1972 title game. Williams fortunately wasn’t burned for any big plays. (Note: I really wish he would play on special teams coverage units, since that would appear to play to his strengths. Wishful thinking).
Chan Gailey vs. Bill Parcells vs. Wade Phillips
Gailey’s 1998 team lost to the Cardinals, who had not won a playoff game in more than 50 years and whom the Cowboys beat twice in the regular season. Parcells’ 2003 team made a surprising entry in the 2003 playoffs, only to fall apart against Carolina. Three years later, his improved squad could not survive “The Flub.” Phillips had a better regular season then either of them but saw the same result.
Biggest Goat: Gailey. He still had older versions of Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin and a superior squad to the Cardinals. Parcells squads should have been better, but they were not supposed to win either game. If Phillips suffers another one-and-done, no matter the circumstances, he’ll knock Gailey off of this spot.
Remember that team in the photo above? Same name as this bunch that gave the game to the Giants in every way possible– offensively, defensively, special teams. Every single way.
Remember that playoff drought? It’s going to continue. The 2008 season will be year 12.
The pathetic low points, which are tough to type right now:
* The Cowboys took a 14-7 lead late in the first half after a 20 play drive that took 10:28 off the clock. The defense then forgot that the half was over and allowed the Giants to drive 71 yards in less than minute to tie the game.
* Dallas took the opening kickoff of the second half and went on a 14-play drive that set up a field goal. The Cowboys had two shots to score a touchdown (once to Owens, another to Fasano), but had to settle for a field goal. That was the last Dallas score of the game.
* The kickoff coverage team stunk again, allowing a 45-yard return after the field goal. These long returns were far too common all season.
* After the defense held the Giants, the Cowboys had some chances. However, on 3rd and 13 from the Dallas 17, the suddenly mouthy Patrick Crayton dropped what would have been at least a first down if not a much longer gain. Punt for Dallas.
* That special teams coverage? Blew it again, allowing R.W. McQuarters to return the ball 25 yards into Dallas territory.
* Jacques Reeves was a goat for much of the game, giving up key passes to rookie Steve Smith.
* The offensive line could not handle the Giants in the fourth quarter. Romo threw off his back foot much of the time and was largely ineffective.
* It looked as if Dallas had some shots in the final two drives, but Romo could not find the open man. On the next-to-last play of the game for the Cowboys, Crayton looked as if he had a step on the defender but stopped for some reason.
We might need to look very closely at another team still in the playoffs for some inspiration: San Diego, which tanked its divisional round game last season only to rebound and make it to the AFC Championship Game. For us, this offseason is going to be even more unbearable than last year.
There is quite a bit of news to report about tomorrow game, and most of it is good.
* Terrell Owens is reportedly near 100% healthy, which is much, much better than what we heard early in the week. Here is the story from AP.
* Marion Barber will start instead of Julius Jones tomorrow, according to ESPN.
* Linebacker Greg Ellis was selected as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. NFL.com has more.
* Former Cowboy Larry Allen is expected to announce his retirement, according to reports.
Nostradamus Quatrain Generator
The Dallas Morning News had a post about various superstitions of some Cowboys fans. Of mine, my new one is to run the Nostradamus Quatrain Generator. Dallas was 4-0 during weeks that I ran it. The Cowboys were 0-2 during the weeks that I didn’t.
(Question: Will the Cowboys beat the Giants to advance to the NFC Championship Game?)
When the lamp burning with an inextinguishable fire
Not of your walls, of your lifeblood and substance
The fields watered will come to shrink
Before and after Mars to reign by good luck
My guess: Dallas shortens the field on offense and is blessed will good luck. Let’s leave good enough alone.
AccuScore assumed the Terrell Owens would play at 70% due to his ankle injury, and the Cowboys still won 67% of the simulations. We believe now that Owens is more healthy than that. Average score: Cowboys 27, Giants 21.
A month ago 99 percent of people would rather have had the Cowboys passing and running game than the Giants offense. While Tony Romo is forecasted for 35 more passing yards and is averaging 0.5 more TD passes, Eli is holding his own. The Giants combo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are averaging 5 ypc for 115 yards which is more than Marion Barber and Julius Jones who combine for 100 yards and just 4 ypc. The simulations expect Terrell Owens to be playing at 70 percent which is still good for 80 yards and a 85 percent chance of 1 TD reception. The game is definitely coming back to the QBs. In 10000 simulations Romo has the edge, but on any given Sunday, Eli Manning could pull off the shocker.
Dallas Morning News
Of eight Dallas Morning News staff members, all predict a Dallas win.
Getting back to the normal features, here are this week’s questions waiting for answers. Note that this the FIRST playoff edition, because I fully expect more!
Will Terrell Owens play and be productive against the Giants?
This was a blurb on RotoWorld:
Terrell Owens (ankle) said in an NFL Network exclusive with Deion Sanders that he’ll play in the Divisional Round “at a high level” against the Giants.
Deion offered to tell viewers to get their popcorn ready, but Owens took it upon himself. “Getcha popcorn ready,” he said confidently. Owens’ practice participation was listed as “limited” on Thursday, but coach Wade Phillips grinned while saying T.O. only took part in “some” team work. It’ll be a shock if Owens is inactive.
Will Tony Romo’s return to pre-December form?
The Dallas Morning News had a bunch of stuff today on Romo. Here is a link to a video posted on the DMN site.
Will the Cowboys break this nightmare of a playoff drought?
Dallas is a 7 1/2 point favorite, even though Owens has been questionable all week. I’ll take that as a good sign.