Ezekiel Elliott was not great against the New York Giants, but few rookie running backs playing in their first NFL games have had great first games.
The rookie running back in Dallas with the most rushing yards in his first NFL game was Derrick Lassic. He gained 75 yards on 16 carries while filling in for Emmitt Smith in 1993.
Elliott’s 20 attempts against the Giants were more than any other rookie in his first NFL game. Calvin Hill had 18 attempts in his first game in 1969.
The most notable Cowboy running backs had lackluster debuts. Examples—Emmitt Smith (2 attempts, 2 yards in 1990); Tony Dorsett (4 attempts, 11 yards in 1977); Don Perkins (4 attempts, 24 yards in 1961); DeMarco Murray (2 attempts, 0 yards).
Elliott is among six rookie running backs in team history to score a touchdown in his first NFL game. The others were Herschel Walker in 1986, Felix Jones in 2008, ReShard Lee in 2004, Robert Newhouse in 1972, and Dan Reeves in 1965.
Some other rookie running backs in NFL history have had exceptional debuts. For example, William Andrews of the Falcons gained 167 yards on 30 carries against the Saints in 1979. Current Cowboy Alfred Morris also had a big debut, gaining 96 yards on 28 attempts with two touchdowns against the Saints in 2012.
The 2015 Dallas Cowboys opened their season with an amazing, come-from-behind win over the Giants at AT&T Stadium. Tony Romo led a final, nail-biting drive where he relied on Lance Dunbar, Terrance Williams, and Jason Witten to move the ball 72 yards in 1:29 for the winning touchdown.
The Cowboys opened their 2016 season facing a somewhat similar situation, except that the quarterback was a rookie named Dak Prescott.
Down 20-19, Prescott and the Cowboys got the ball at their own 20 and no timeouts. Prescott could have begun his career with a defining moment by moving the ball into field goal range.
Other than Prescott, the names were the same—Dunbar, Witten, and Williams, along with slot receiver Cole Beasley.
Beasley made a nice catch on 3rd-and-15, giving Dallas the ball at the Dallas 46. The team would not, however, move any further.
A pass attempt to Witten fell incomplete, leading to a third-down attempt to Williams, who caught the ball near the right sideline but did not head out of bounds. As the picture below appears to show, Williams caught the ball with 10 seconds left and should have been able to make it to the boundary. He instead tucked the ball and ran up field.
The Cowboys did not have a timeout left, ending the game. For the first time in eight season-openers against the Giants, Dallas lost.
Prescott didn’t have a spectacular game, completing 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and a 69.4 passer rating. It appeared that he had thrown a touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, but replays showed that Bryant bobbled the ball in the end zone before falling out of bounds. Bryant finished with only one catch for eight yards.
Ezekiel Elliott had a nice touchdown run, but he otherwise had a hard time finding room. He carried the ball 20 times for 51 yards, with his longest run only going eight yards.
The Cowboys were able to keep the ball out of the Giants’ hands for the most part. The Cowboys held the ball for 36:43 and outgained the Giants, 328-316.
The Dallas defense, however, had trouble stopping the Giants on runs right up the gut. New York gained 113 yards on 24 carries for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Dallas averaged 3.4 yards per carry.
Brandon Carr recorded his first interception since 2013, and his pick set up the Elliott touchdown run. The Cowboys were able to hold Eli Manning to 207 yards, and Orlando Scandrick and Benson Mayowa recorded sacks.
On the other hand, Scandrick was unable to contain Odell Beckham on a 45-yard completion that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. Manning ended up throwing three touchdown passes.
The Cowboys travel to Washington to face the Redskins next Sunday.
As we wait for the 2016 season to open, here is a quiz about uniform numbers.
So ten years ago tonight, curiosity got the better of me, and this blog suddenly existed. The vague idea? Run a Cowboys blog that would post some occasional trivia questions and answers.
Occasional trivia questions resulted in more than 2,100 posts. No, this isn’t the best blog. It tends to be quirky, and I put it on life support during the offseasons, but it’s still here.
In light of this anniversary, here is a look back at blogging about the Cowboys during the past ten years.
What was available on the Internet in 2006?
It wasn’t as if the Internet was in its infancy in 2006. Blogs were nothing new, as were forums.
However, only a handful of Cowboys blogs existed. Blogging the Boys was getting much bigger, and some other larger network sites came along in the years that followed.
On the other hand, many of the blogs and forums have come and gone in ten years.
The main Cowboys site wasn’t great, but it had a large fan base. I posted quite a bit in the Classic Cowboys section then, but I’m not a huge fan of the current site and do not post much on there.
What did the site originally look like?
Pretty damn ugly. You can see it on Internet Archive.
Yeah, that is ugly. I mean, fugly.
What is fugly?
Oh, you know what fugly means. Do I need to write f’ing ugly?
Alright, I know what fugly means. Go to hell.
How many people have visited the site since 2006?
My original counter no longer functions, but the total number is about 1,500,000. I don’t pay attention to detailed stats.
Are those unique visitors? Because I don’t see too many unique visitors around here. Hell, we may be the only ones to read this.
No, they’re not unique visitors. I have just made sure I get on here 100,000 times a year to boost my stats. Idiot.
Have you made money on this site?
Just enough to pay the hosting fees.
There was a time when some companies would pay several hundred dollars for me to post links in articles and my sidebar, but with Google’s changing algorithms, that money is no longer available. The few ads I run barely cover the costs to run the site.
If you paid attention to detailed stats, don’t you think your ad revenue could increase?
What is your most popular post or series?
Probably the greatest by jersey number series in 2008. That one had a pretty good following. The other series didn’t do quite as well.
Yeah, you should have retired this thing back then.
We’re going to fight, jackass.
Highlight of the past ten years?
Covering the playoff win over the Eagles after the 2009 season. We had waited a long time for that one.
Low points of the past ten years?
Any playoff loss. And this blog post.
Rookie Dak Prescott is making the Dallas Cowboys’ brain trust look very good thanks to his first-half performance against the Rams on Saturday night. Jameill Showers had one very nice play to salvage a third-down. His overall performance was weak, however, compared with Prescott.
The Cowboys historically had good backups ready to take over in case injuries occurred to their starters. This has continued to be the case for the most part under Jerry Jones, but Jones is less willing to develop younger players.
Here is a quick look at situations where Dallas had to roll the dice with unproven backups.
1964, John Roach: During the Cowboys’ first four seasons, they had both Eddie LaBaron and Don Meredith. When LaBaron retired, though, the backup job went to John Roach, an SMU graduate who had started 16 games in six years for the Cardinals and Packers. Roach started four games for the Cowboys that year but lost all four. One year later, the Cowboys drafted Craig Morton, and Roach was out of football.
1975, Clint Longley: I’ll go ahead and throw this one in here. The Cowboys traded Morton midway through the 1974 season, leaving only Clint Longley as the backup. We all know that Longley was the savior on Thanksgiving Day in 1974, but he was still relatively unproven when he served as the backup in 1975. He started one game that season, leading Dallas to a 31-21 win over the Jets.
1980, Glenn Carano: Carano had been the team’s third-string quarterback since 1978, but he had never thrown an NFL pass in a regular season game. The Cowboys drafted Gary Hogeboom in 1980, but Carano was the team’s second-string QB in 1980 and 1981.
1986, Steve Pelleur: The Cowboys traded Hogeboom to the Colts in 1986, leaving Steve Pelleur and his eight career passes as the backup. When the 6-2 Cowboys lost White for the season with a broken wrist, Pelleur led the team to a 1-7 finish.
1988, Kevin Sweeney: White was the backup to begin the 1988 season, but he had nothing left in the tank. Sweeney was Tony Romo before there was a Tony Romo in Dallas—exciting to watch in preseason, and fans wanted to see what he could do as the starter. Well, two starts, two losses, and a passer rating of 40.2 ended the Sweeney era.
1990, Babe Laufenberg: The Cowboys entered the 1990 season with Steve Walsh as the backup, but Dallas traded Walsh to New Orleans early in the season. This left Babe Laufenberg and his 2-4 career record as a starter with the Chargers. When Aikman went down with a season-ending injury and the playoffs were on the line, Laufenberg’s performance guaranteed that the Cowboys would watch those playoffs from home.
1993, Jason Garrett: This one falls under the same category as Clint Longley. Dallas had success with Steve Beurlein as the backup in 1991 and 1992, but he signed with the Cardinals. That left Jason Garrett. Although most fans remember Garrett for leading Dallas to a comeback win on Thanksgiving Day in 1994, he first served as the second-stringer in 1993. With the Cowboys trying to defend their Super Bowl title, Jones signed Bernie Kosar midway through the season, and Kosar came through in the playoffs to help Dallas secure a win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Garrett needed a few more years to develop.
2001, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner: The starter named to replace the retired Troy Aikman was Quincy Carter. When Carter was injured, Dallas went through a cycle of players who had no business starting, including the infamous first-round bust Leaf and former Arkansas Razorback Stoerner. Of course, Wright and Stoerner both one games that season, and their two wins were one more than Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore managed in 2015.
2002, Chad Hutchinson: The Cowboys signed former baseball player Hutchinson as something akin to buying a lottery ticket. He wasn’t ready to start in 2002, but the Cowboys decided to start him anyway after Carter struggled. Dallas went 2-7 with Hutchinson, and he threw only two passes the following season as Carter’s backup.
2004, Drew Henson: Dallas was not finished buying lottery tickets in the form of former baseball players. Henson had started at Michigan, and when Dallas went 3-7 under Vinny Testaverde, Bill Parcells decided to start Henson on Thanksgiving Day. Henson completed only four passes, and Parcells decided he had seen enough and sent Testaverde back in. Henson never threw another pass for the Cowboys.
2005, Tony Romo: Yes, Romo worked out quite well, but he had never played a down in a regular season game before becoming the backup to Drew Bledsoe in 2005. He did not play a down in 2005, either, but he was firmly entrenched as the starter by the gmc denali road bike review from middle of the 2006 season.
2015, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore: Weeden and Cassel don’t quite fit the “unproven” label, but I’ll throw this summary in here. The Cowboys had brought in several veterans to back up Romo between 2007 and 2014, including Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton. Weeden was a veteran, but he was generally unproven even though he had started 20 games for the Browns. After he led the Cowboys to three losses, the team signed Cassel, another veteran, but Cassel went 1-6. Moore finished out the season but could not lead the Cowboys to a win in two starts.
2016: Dak Prescott (presumably): Unless Prescott really falls apart in the remaining three preseason games, it looks if the backup job is his to lose. Hopefully, we see much more of this…
One surprise was the selection of Efren Herrera’s 1977 season as the greatest ever. I call this a surprise because Herrera only hit 62.1% of his field goals that season (and missed two extra points), and he was gone one year later. (I would have picked Rafael Septien’s 1981 season.) Nevertheless, Herrera was an all-pro selection in 1977, so it was not as if he didn’t deserve consideration.
Now for some trivia: why did the Cowboys trade Herrera to Seattle?
The short answer is that Herrera was demanding too much money. In fact, he wanted to double his salary from 1976.
Double means going from about $40,000 per year to about $80,000 per year. In 2016 dollars, that would be like Herrera asking for a raise from $159,000 to $318,000. Of course, the current minimum veteran salary for a fourth-year pro (which Herrera was in 1978) is $760,000.
Salary of current kicker Dan Bailey in 2016? $3.3 million, including his prorated signing bonus.
Dallas traded Herrera to Seattle on August 14, 1978, in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. He played for Seattle for four years and became somewhat famous for his involvement with trick plays. In fact, he caught two passes for a total of 29 yards.
He played part of one season in Buffalo. He was signed by a couple of USFL teams but did not play in that league.
After the trade with Seattle in 1978, Dallas was left with unheralded Jay Sherrill and Skip Butler at kicker. Fortunately, the Cowboys were able to sign Septien as a free agent about two weeks after trading Herrera.
This is another post in a short series focusing on the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. This blog launched on August 20, 2006.
A few stories about the Cowboys during their training camp in August 2006…
Vanderjagt Doesn’t Like His Holder
The Cowboys signed kicker Mike Vanderjagt during the offseason in 2006, but he did not get off to a good start.
According to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Vanderjagt blamed his struggles on having a new holder—backup quarterback Tony Romo. His comment:
It’s a transition because he is a quarterback. He doesn’t have a lot of time for me. We are going to have to work to find time and work the kinks out. In the past, I have had a punter. We can hang out all day and kick field goals. Tony is going to have to find time for me.
What actually happened: Vanderjagt made only 13 of 18 field-goal attempts in 2006 before being cut after ten games. Romo remained the holder after Dallas signed Martin Gramatica. Sadly, Romo botched the hold of a short field goal attempt late in the playoff game against Seattle, and the miss lost the game for Dallas.
Romo Getting Plenty of Work
Romo did not have much time to work on his holding because he was taking plenty of snaps at QB.
Bill Parcells said Romo had shown promise, but Parcells did not trust Romo to play during a regular-season game in 2005. Parcells commented:
I’ve got to decide where he is. Our plans are to play him a lot. I’ve been around him for three years now. I see a guy that’s pretty smart. It looks like in practice, he’s making fewer and fewer mistakes. Had we just thrown him to the wolves two years ago or something, it probably would have ruined his career. But now he’s got enough background and enough knowledge and enough training and enough understanding that it’s time to go forward.
What actually happened? Romo’s preseason performances in 2006 once again excited fans, and he took over the starting QB position from Drew Bledsoe six weeks into the season.
Would It Be Julius Jones‘ Season?
Bill Parcells generally required his running backs to start performing around year 3.
Julius Jones was entering his third year in 2006 and needed to put up better numbers.
It’s a big year for me. Parcells likes to see what a player can do in their third year. He gives you three years to prove something. I still have something to prove.
What actually happened? Jones started all 16 games and became the first running back not named Emmitt Smith to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Herschel Walker in 1988.
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.