During various times in the 1960s and early 1970s, Tom Landry was rather notorious for swapping starting quarterbacks. Whether it was Eddie LeBaron vs. Don Meredith, Don Meredith vs. Craig Morton, or Craig Morton vs. Roger Staubach, Landry did not seem to shy from quarterback controversies.
Of course, once Staubach led the team to the promised land in 1971, those controversies ended. And when Staubach retired after the 1979 season, Danny White took over without any real competition.
By 1984, the Cowboys had lost in the playoffs during four consecutive seasons. The focus of the news during training camp in 1984 was on the QB position, where Gary Hogeboom was trying to unseat White as the starter.
Landry made a decision 30 years ago to move Hogeboom into the starting position. Landry hardly gave Hogeboom a full vote of confidence.
Landry said the Cowboys’ quarterback position, like all others on the team, would be evaluated on a game- by-game basis as part of what he called a ”reshaping” process. That process begins at Anaheim, Calif., Monday night, when the Cowboys open against the Los Angeles Rams.
”This is not like quarterback decisions I’ve made in the past,” said Landry, who was visibly nervous during the Dallas news conference at which he announced the change. ”If we were going to rebuild this team, we would not be thinking about making the playoffs. But we are going to be reshaping this team. We still have the players to make it to the playoffs. We can be in contention this year. But it is going to take a lot of hard work.”
Landry would give no specific reasons for switching from the 32-year- old White, a starter in the last four seasons, to the 26-year-old Hogeboom, who has never started a regular-season game in the N.F.L. but who said earlier this summer that he would seek a trade if he were not given the starter’s role.
”For my own reasons,” the coach said, ”I have a feeling that Gary is right for this game. My feeling is the same about Danny White. He is an excellent quarterback and will continue to be an excellent quarterback. I have coached this game. I have played this game. I have to go on my feelings.”
Of course, White was angry, while Hogeboom had to look over his shoulder. Both players saw action throughout the first half of the season, during which the Cowboys went 5-3. White eventually returned to the starting role. The team was 9-5 heading into the final two weeks of the season, and the Cowboys could have made the playoffs with wins in either week. But Dallas lost both games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
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Something that really caught my attention in the N.Y. Times article was this blurb about Franco Harris:
The Dallas Morning News reported that Bart Beier, the agent for Franco Harris, had called the Cowboys and told them that the accomplished running back was available to play for them at an annual salary of as little as $330,000. That is about $50,000 less than what Harris would have earned this season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who waived him last week because of a contract impasse. According to the Dallas newspaper account, Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ vice president for personnel development, rejected the offer out of hand, without even discussing it with Landry.
The year was 1961. The Dallas Cowboys were preparing for their second year in the league after going 0-11-1 in 1960.
The Cowboys had their training camp at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. The team was looking for some talent.
Found it did they (Yoda speak) in a little receiver from Oregon. Standing at just 5’4″ and weighing only 147 pounds, this player looked “like a loose helmet on the ground until he starts moving,” according to Dallas Morning News writer Charles Burton.
Moreover, Tom Landry called him a key to the Cowboys’ chances that year. More on that below.
The player caught everyone’s attention in camp with a 71-yard touchdown reception from Don Meredith during a scrimmage.
The player? Cleveland “Pussyfoot” Jones.
The DMN later noted that Pussyfoot’s legend grew “rather large” during training camp. But alas, the team cut him on August 28, 1961. He played in two preseason games but never touched the ball.
Apparently, news of Pussyfoot’s release travelled quite slowly. On September 6, 1961, more than a week after the Cowboys cut Pussyfoot, the Miami News published a piece entitled “‘Pussyfoot’ Key to Dallas Hopes.” The author of the piece was, of course, head coach Tom Landry.
Two of our biggest weaknesses last season were an inexperienced defensive secondary and lack of speed on offense.
We traded for veteran Dick Moegle during the off-season. Dicky has been a big help to us through training camp, although he was out of action for neary a month with an injured leg.
He has given our young defensive halfbacks and safeties some valuable pointers and has helped get them in a keen competitive frame of mind.
Offensively, we’ve found some pleasant surprises. Two of them are free agents we signed from Oregon State. [MC: Marsh played at Oregon State, but Jones played at the University of Oregon]
One is Amos Marsh, who was an end and sprint champion in college. We put him at fullback the first day of camp and nobody’s been able to get him out of that position yet.
The other is Cleveland (Pussyfoot) Jones, who towers 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 147 pounds. He’s a quick, clever pass receiver as a wingback and he’s willing to take on any big man his blocking assignment calls for. He’s a real key to our chances.
Perhaps needless to say, Pussyfoot never played in the NFL.
The other players did have decent careers. Marsh played in Dallas from 1961 to 1964, plus another three years in Detroit. Moegle started 14 games in Dallas in 1961, but that was his final season in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys did not play starters Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, or Jason Witten against the San Diego Chargers. That meant we saw Brandon Weeden, Joseph Randle, Terrance Williams, and James Hanna.
The Cowboys lost 27-7 in a game featuring no defense by the Cowboys. San Diego did not have a single incomplete pass until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
As you can see from the GIF, Hanna scored the Cowboys’ lone touchdown. Given the lack of other highlights, here is some trivia about Hanna:
- Hanna is one of two players from the University of Oklahoma on the Cowboys’ roster. The other is, of course, Murray. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have six players who played at Oklahoma State on the roster right now.
- The Cowboys selected Hanna in the 6th round (#186 overall) of the 2012 draft. He was among 12 tight ends taken in that year’s draft. Another of those tight ends was Ladarius Green, who had two receptions for the Chargers tonight.
- Hanna has never scored a touchdown in a regular season game, having caught just 20 career passes in two seasons. However, he did score seven touchdowns for the Sooners in 2010. That was the year that Weeden threw 34 touchdowns to the likes of Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State.
- This was Weeden’s first game since starting for the Cleveland Browns against the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 1, 2013 in a 32-28 loss for the Browns.
- True or False? This was Hanna’s first preseason touchdown of his career.
- True or False? Hanna did not catch a single pass during the 2013 preseason.
Tony Romo is not likely to play in the Cowboys’ first preseason game on Thursday night as he tries to stay healthy for the team’s season-opener.
If he can stay healthy during his eighth full season as a starter, Romo could break a significant franchise career record.
He already has the most career touchdown passes, and his career 95.8 passer rating his higher than any other starter in team history.
The next mark would be career passing yards. He currently has thrown for 29,565 yards, putting him 3,377 behind Troy Aikman. The only time Romo has thrown fewer than that since 2007 was 2010, when he was limited to six games because of an injury.
Here is a list of the top 10 Dallas passers by career passing yards.
It will take Romo at least two seasons to surpass Aikman for most career attempts and completions.
The Dallas Cowboys are just below the middle of the pack regarding their odds to win Super Bowl XLIX.
Below is a list of all teams. Predictably, most oddsmakers think the Seahawks and Broncos will play again.
Denver Broncos 13/2
Seattle Seahawks 13/2
San Francisco 49ers 7/1
New England Patriots 9/1
Green Bay Packers 11/1
New Orleans Saints 14/1
Chicago Bears 16/1
Indianapolis Colts 16/1
Philadelphia Eagles 25/1
Atlanta Falcons 33/1
Carolina Panthers 33/1
Detroit Lions 33/1
Pittsburgh Steelers 33/1
Arizona Cardinals 40/1
Baltimore Ravens 40/1
Cincinnati Bengals 40/1
New York Giants 40/1
San Diego Chargers 40/1
Dallas Cowboys 50/1
Kansas City Chiefs 50/1
Miami Dolphins 50/1
St. Louis Rams 50/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 50/1
Washington Redskins 50/1
Cleveland Browns 66/1
Houston Texans 66/1
New York Jets 66/1
Buffalo Bills 75/1
Minnesota Vikings 75/1
Oakland Raiders 100/1
Tennessee Titans 100/1
Jacksonville Jaguars 200/1
The Cowboys’ chances of winning the NFC are 26 to 1. Dallas shares those odds with the Giants, Rams, and Lions.
The Seahawks are 16/5 favorites to win the NFC title, while San Francisco’s odds are 21/5.
The Dallas Cowboys opened their first training camp in Forest Grove, Oregon in July 1960. The team was a mix of cast-off veterans from other teams along with free-agent rookies that other teams did not want.
The two prized rookies on the roster were quarterback Don Meredith and running back Don Perkins. When the team arrived at camp, players had to run a mile in six minutes. He gave linemen an extra 30 seconds.
Total number of players who met this goal: zero.
Of course, keep in mind this was long before the days where players had year-round training programs.
Here is part of an article published on July 12, 1960.
Cowboys Greeted by Landry’s Mile
by Charles Burton
News Staff Writer
The six minute standard survived the stubborn assault of the Dallas Cowboys Monday in the Tom Landry Mile.
The race which will become a fixture in the annual training camps of the National Football League club was run and sometimes staggered over a grass course laid out around the Pacific University gridiron. Landry had warned his athletes by mail that he would expect backs and ends to gallop the distance in a flat six minutes with linemen granted an additional thirty seconds for a satisfactory rating. None met the goal.
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Don Meredith, the stork-legged first-year quarterback from Southern Methodist, finished with a weak spurt and a strong smile at 7:43….Don Perkins, the highly regarded halfback from the University of New Mexico, a reputed 10 second man in the 100-yard dash, was the only player who was given no time. He collapsed just after starting the fifth lap of the six lap endurance grind but after resting for a few minutes he regained his wind and walked and trotted to the finish.
“If they had been in better condition I believe they could have made it in six minutes,” commented Coach Landry.
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* Landry’s reason for a six-minute mile? Roger Bannister had broken the four-minute mark in 1954, and track runners were still aiming to break that mark by 1960. Landry said he just added two minutes.
* The player with the fastest time (6:19) was Greg Altenhofen, a rookie end from the University of Oregon. He did not make the team and never played in the NFL.
* The article notes the center Bob Griffin “would have to be timed with a calendar” because he was so slow. Griffin also did not make the team in 1960 after having played five years with the Rams during the mid-1960s. He did, however, play in five games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1961.
* Three players failed to show up for camp and were cut. The players were Norman Denny (North Texas State), Larry Deuitt (Rice), and Leon Manley (West Texas State).
The Dallas Cowboys faced the Green Bay Packers in three consecutive NFC playoffs during the 1990s and won all three. Here is an animated GIF from one of those games.
At the time, this was the longest TD reception in NFL playoff history. Here are some questions about the game and that play.
(1) Who was on the receiving end of this touchdown pass from Troy Aikman?
(2) The play was a 94-yard touchdown. Who later broke this record?
(3) The receiver in the GIF signed with another team the following year. Which team?
(4) Which Dallas running back scored two touchdowns in this win?
Continuing my summer of fun with animated GIFs…
Here is an animation showing Randy White tackling a member of the Los Angeles Rams. Questions appear below the image.
(1) During which season did this game take place?
(2) The Cowboys and Rams had quite a history in playoff games during the 1970s and 1980s. What was significant about this game?
(3) For fans of the L.A. Rams: Who was the quarterback in this animation, and what happened to him after this season?
(4) What did Tony Dorsett accomplish in this game?
Pro-Football-Reference.com has engaged in a project for some time now that allows users to vote on the all-time rankings of every NFL player. The project is known as Elo Rater.
Cowboys’ fans will not be happy to see the current rankings, as no Dallas player appears on the top 10 list for offense and only one player appears in the top 10 on defense.
Before I point out some B.S., here are the Cowboys rated in the top 50 for offense and defense:
17. Roger Staubach
26. Larry Allen
(I am not counting Lance Alworth, though he was a member of the Cowboys towards the end of his career. He ranks 10th.)
9. Bob Lilly
49. Deion Sanders
(Similarly, I am not counting Forrest Gregg as a Cowboy.)
Now for the criticism.
How many real experts would place Len Dawson in the top 20 offensive players of all time? Yes, he is a Hall-of-Fame player, but #15 overall?
Jim Brown ranks at #3. Gale Sayers is #5. Walter Payton is #6. Barry Sanders is #9. Emmitt Smith, who outrushed all of them? He ranks #130 behind the likes of Chuck Muncie, Calvin Hill, Bob Vogel, James Brooks, Jim Hart, and Jim Langer.
I am somewhat less critical of the defensive rankings, though I would rank Darren Woodson higher than #245 overall.
We’ve been recovering from a flooded house, so no trivia during the past couple of weeks. Sorry.
Here is a play showing Bob Lilly tackling a Cleveland Browns running back. Trivia questions follow the image.
(1) During what year did this play occur?
(2) What was the significance of this game?
(3) Cleveland quarterback Bill Nelson threw three interceptions in the game. Charlie Waters picked off one of those passes. Who recorded the other two interceptions?