Know Your Dallas Cowboys is nearly ten years old. In light of the forthcoming anniversary, and given that the blog has been on life support this offseason, I figured now would be a decent time to start a new series.
Let’s look back at what was happening a decade ago before I decided the blogosphere needed yet another Dallas Cowboys blog.
On July 23, 2006, the Cowboys were preparing to open their training camp in Oxnard, California. The team planned to move its training camp to San Antonio in 2007, and it was not clear whether the Cowboys would return to California again.
The team was trying to improve on their 9-7 finish from 2005 and hoped that Bill Parcells recreate some of his past success.
What actually happened…The Cowboys alternated between Oxnard and San Antonio for several years. They have held training camp in Oxnard each year since 2012.
(Backup) Quarterback Controversy
Drew Bledsoe entered his second season as the starting quarterback. He threw for more than 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2005, but not all fans were happy with him. Nevertheless, few thought the team would roll the dice with one of the inexperienced backups.
Regarding the QB race, former Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Archer wrote the following:
The skinny: Bledsoe is the starter, but Parcells has said Romo will get plenty of work in preseason. Bledsoe, 34, is in fine shape, but Parcells doesn’t want to overwork him. Henson was decent in NFL Europe, his first extended game action since 2000, but he’ll need to impress early to push Romo. Jeff Mroz, a free-agent pickup, could be a long-term project.
What actually happened?… Do I really need to tell you that Tony Romo became the starter in 2006?
What about Jeff Mroz?…He never made the team. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, but also failed to make that team. According to his LinkedIn page, he is the co-founder of a nutrition company.
A Record, Long-Term Deal for Jason Witten
Many fans focused on the offseason signing of Terrell Owens (and we will address him later).
Less memorable is the fact that the Cowboys signed Jason Witten to a long-term deal. The team announced the contract extension on July 23, 2006.
What actually happened?…The Cowboys have never been in danger of losing Witten, and he has remained productive throughout his long career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 before having an all-pro season in 2007. His base salary in 2006, after the signing, was $500,000. By comparison, his base salary in 2016 is $6.5 million.
The Dallas Cowboys are quickly becoming favorites to win the NFC East in 2016 despite last season’s 4-12 record. Everyone is well aware that the Cowboys will welcome back a healthy Tony Romo.
In a recent ESPN poll, 47% said they expect the Cowboys to win the division, compared with 23% for the Giants, 20% for the Redskins, and 11% for the Eagles.
Here’s the comment by Todd Archer:
There has not been a repeat division winner in the NFC East since the 2003-04 Eagles, so that would seem to rule out the Redskins. The Eagles and Giants have new head coaches, and they sometimes need time to find their footing. That leaves the Cowboys. They are not your typical 4-12 team. Tony Romo is healthy. Dez Bryant is healthy. They drafted Ezekiel Elliott. They have the best offensive line in the division. There are several defensive questions, but the offense can negate many of the defensive inefficiencies. The Cowboys won the division in 2014 with that formula, and they will do it again. And they will be the only NFC East team to qualify for the postseason. Matching up with the AFC North and NFC North will not allow the second-place team to make it as a wild card.
Several reporters also predicted that Romo will be the division’s MVP. The fact that the Cowboys fell from 12-4 in 2014 to 4-12 in 2015, due largely to Romo’s injury, has factored heavily into these predictions.
A bit of a history lesson, though, is in order. Entering the 1986 season, the Cowboys had just won the NFC East and raced out to a 6-2 start before incumbent starter Danny White broke his wrist. The 6-2 start, and 20 consecutive years of winning seasons, went down the drain as Dallas finished with a 7-9 record.
The L.A. Times ran a story summarizing the problems with the 1986 Cowboys.
The reasons for Cowboys’ demise went well beyond White and his backup, second-year man Steve Pelluer. In 1986, the Cowboys had a number of holes that led to only the second season since 1966 that they failed to make the playoffs. The offensive line was porous, the defensive line was aging, and nagging injuries bothered other veteran superstars such as running back Tony Dorsett and wide receiver Tony Hill.
By comparison, the 2015 Cowboys had a talented offensive line that underperformed, a defensive corps that struggled throughout the season, and nagging injuries that bothered Dez Bryant, the team’s best playmaker.
No, the circumstances were not the same in 2015 as they were in 1986, but there are a number of similarities. Hopefully, Tony Romo at the age of 36 can bounce back and do what Danny White at the age of 35 in 1987 could not.
One player had a poor year in 1974 after being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1973. He said he played with injuries and was almost ready to hang up his cleats. However, he signed a two-year deal and returned in 1975.
The player’s quote appears in the quiz question below.
The “Randy” that appears in the quote above was Randy White, whom the Cowboys had drafted in 1975.
The player quoted above noted the following about White:
“He’s got great quickness and movement. No hangups about moving around in there. And those 250 pounders won’t be knocking him around like they do me.”
White played linebacker before being moved to defensive tackle in 1977. Of course, that was the year he shared co-MVP honors with Harvey Martin after the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII.
Fifty years ago, the Dallas Cowboys were heading into a season trying to improve on a 7-7 record from 1965. Dallas was stacked on both sides of the ball and would finish the 1966 season with a record of 10-3-1.
During the offseason in 1966, the Cowboys announced that one of the defensive players from the previous year was going to move over to the offense. Here is a quote from Tom Landry, with the player’s name removed:
“We can’t hope to have as good a defense without _________. But we think we can offset his absence in several ways. We can improve our pass rush to take some pressure off the secondary, and we can offset it with our own offense. If ________ can bring our offense up from eighth (in the NFL) to about fourth…and he’ll have to bring it up that much to be value received…then we’re a contender.”
(1) Who was the player?
(2) Did this player play offense or defense in 1966?
From the files of “I wasn’t born until 1971, so I would have no memory of this…”
The article that contained the quote above in 1966 also had the cartoon below.
The NFL and AFL had announced the proposed merger of the league on June 8, 1966, and this agreement explains part of this cartoon. What I did not understand was the reference to the United States Football League. After all, the USFL did not exist until 1982, or so I thought.
It turns out that during the summer of 1966, former Notre Dame football coach Frank Leahy announced that a group of well-financed businessmen were going to form a 10-team league called the United States Football League. A person who figured prominently in the planning was a Dallas investor named Chester L. Brewer, who was the son of a former head coach at Michigan State.
At the time of the announcement, Leahy said the owners were willing to pay big money for top talent, which could have led to more bidding wars. That was the point of the cartoon.
In August, the league announced that Brewer had been awarded a franchise, but it would be based in New Orleans. Other cities to have franchises would have been Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, Atlana, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Akron. The league was supposed to announced additional franchises in the fall of 1966, with league play scheduled to begin in the spring of 1967.
The last reference I could find to this league appeared in late August 1966. Leahy had resigned as commissioner, but league sources said the league would still begin in the spring. Obviously, it never happened.
Brewer was later convicted of securities and mail fraud and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
Below are five facts about the 2016 draft class for the Cowboys.
- Jaylon Smith (2nd round) is the first Notre Dame linebacker the Cowboys have ever selected in the draft. He is the tenth Notre Dame player the Cowboys have ever taken in the draft and the first since guard Zack Martin in the first round of the 2014 draft.
- Maliek Collins is the second defensive lineman from Nebraska to have been selected by the Cowboys. The only other was Danny Noonan in 1987.
- Charles Tapper is likewise the second defensive lineman from Oklahoma taken by the Cowboys in a draft. The first was Dave Hudgens (3rd round, 1978), who never played a down in the NFL. The Cowboys did have former Sooner Tony Casillas on the line in the 1990s, but he was a free agent signing.
- Dak Prescott is the first quarterback selected by Dallas since 2009 (Stephen McGee, 4th round) and only the fifth since since Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 (not counting Isaiah Stanback in 2007, given that he was immediately converted to receiver). The five quarterbacks: Troy Aikman (1989), Bill Musgrave (1991), Quincy Carter (2001), McGee (2009), and Prescott.
- By comparison, Rico Gathers is the 17th tight end taken by Dallas since 1989. Incidentally, selecting a college basketball player in the NFL draft is not unprecedented in the history of the Cowboys. In 1967, Dallas selected Pat Riley from Kentucky in the 11th round of the draft. Unlike Gathers, Riley played both basketball and football at Kentucky before playing professional basketball.
Lots of debate over the Cowboys’ selection of Ezekiel Elliott as the #4 overall pick. At least one person (well, more than that) was happy:
A fair question is how the Cowboys will distribute carries between Elliott, Darren McFadden, and Alfred Morris. This kind of looks like the Eagles’ backfield last year, and we know that didn’t work well.
No secret now that the Cowboys used the #4 overall pick to take Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Earlier in the day, it appeared that the Chargers might take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. This would have all but guaranteed that Dallas would take Elliott.
The Chargers instead took Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, so there was some suspense when the Cowboys were on the board.
Dallas decided to pair Elliott with one of the best offensive lines in football. Ramsey went to Jacksonville at #5.
A few facts:
- Elliott is the sixth running back taken by Dallas in the first round of a draft. He is the first since the Cowboys took Felix Jones with the #22 overall pick in 2008.
- Among the six running backs previously taken by Dallas in the first round, Elliott was taken second highest. The highest pick used for a running back was #2 to draft Tony Dorsett in the first round of the 1977 draft.
- Elliott was the 12th player taken by Dallas from Ohio State and the first since the Cowboys took Bobby Carpenter wit the #18 pick in 2006.
- Previous Ohio State running backs (and fullbacks) taken by Dallas in the draft include Ron Springs (1979), Nicky Sualua (1997), Michael Wiley (2000), and Jamar Martin (2002).
The Dallas Cowboys did not participate in the NFL Draft in December 1959. The team instead chose players in an expansion draft that took place later.
The first NFL draft in which the Cowboys participated was the one during the offseason between the 1960 and 1961 seasons. Unlike modern drafts, those old drafts took place earlier in the year.
The 1961 Draft actually took place on December 27 and 28 in 1960. The draft then was not the spectacle it is today, but it did receive news coverage.
Dallas had traded its rights to the second overall pick to Washington in exchange for the rights to Eddie LeBaron. The Cowboys traded back into the first round by sending Paul Dickson and a first-round pick in 1962 to Cleveland in exchange for the 13th overall pick.
With that first-round selection, Dallas took defensive tackle Bob Lilly. In the second round, Dallas took linebacker E.J. Holub.
The Cowboys expected a bidding war with the Dallas Texans to see who would sign Lilly and Holub. The Cowboys, of course, signed Lilly, while Holub became a standout linebacker with the Texans/Chiefs franchise.
The rest of the 1961 draft was not a great one for the Cowboys. Nine of the seventeen players taken never played a down in the NFL. The Cowboys did find a future hall-of-famer in guard Billy Shaw, but he played his entire career in Buffalo of the AFL.
A veteran NFL scout thought the Cowboys had done a good job in the draft, asking “What are you going to do with all those ‘hosses.”
Here’s the subject of today’s trivia question. In addition to Lilly and Holub, to whom was the scout referring in the quote below?
“You’ve got a real good draft there with Lilly, Holub, and __________. I like them.”
Different kind of trivia from the files of “I didn’t know that.”
On the front page of the Dallas Morning News during the draft in December 1960, the front-page headline announced that President-Elect John F. Kennedy had named a Secretary of the Navy.
It was John B. Connally.
About three years later, it was Connally who was riding in the limousine with Kennedy when Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas. By that time, Connally was serving as the Governor of Texas.
The Cowboys have had at least one first-round pick during each of the past six drafts. Between 2000 and 2009, however, Dallas traded away its first-round pick four times (2000, 2001, 2004, and 2009).
Below is a graphic showing the first-round picks since 2000.
The late Pete Gent is well-known for his book, North Dallas Forty. He played for the Cowboys for five seasons between 1964 and 1968.
Although he was never a full-time starter, he had a pretty good season in 1966. He started ten games that season and caught 27 passes for 474 yards and a touchdown. Dallas had its first winning season that year, finishing 10-3-1 before losing to Green Bay in the NFL Championship Game.
Because the Cowboys did so well that year, several publications featured the team. One publication quoted Gent, who was often very quotable.
Below is a quote. Can you fill in the blank?
“What I lack in speed, I make up for in _____________________.”
Here’s a bonus quote trivia item.
The same publication also featured some quotes from placekicker Danny Villanueva.
Calling Villanueva “invaluable” (with a FG% of 54.8% that season!), the publication notes the following:
“[Villanueva] makes a grand showing of avoiding tackling at all costs on the grounds that he is a “______________ _____________.”
Here is an animated GIF showing a play from Super Bowl XIII. Trivia questions follows:
(1) Hollywood Henderson is the player who took Terry Bradshaw to the ground after the fumble. What did Henderson famously say about Bradshaw’s intelligence before the game?
(2) Which player returned the fumble for a touchdown?
(3) True or false? This play is the only defensive touchdown the Cowboys scored in eight Super Bowl appearances.
(4) Bradshaw fumbled twice against the Cowboys in SB XIII. Which Dallas player recovered the first fumble?
(5) Another linebacker recorded an interception against the Steelers in SB XIII. Who was that player?
Below is a quote from Tex Schramm.
“I’m still not sure if we’re doing the right thing by playing this game.”
During which season did Schramm make this comment, and what was the context?
While you’re pondering that one..
Most know that the Cowboys signed Alfred Morris to a two-year contract worth $3.5 million contract.
In four seasons in Washington, Morris rushed for 4713 yards and 29 touchdowns.
He did especially well against Dallas. In eight games, Morris rushed for a total of 710 yards. This included three games where he rushed for more than 100 yards and one game where he rushed for 200.
The other player signed was defensive end Benson Mayowa, who played in Oakland in 2014 and 2015 after spending one year in Seattle. The Raiders never faced the Cowboys while Mayowa played there. He has recorded a total of two sacks during his NFL career.
Mock drafts have the Cowboys taking any of a number of players at #4. A few names:
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (Todd McShay, ESPN, among many others)
Jalen Ramsey, DE, Florida State (Bleacher Report)
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (Sports Illustrated)