Return of the Most Obscure Player Award

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This blog will turn seven years old next August. One feature I originally included was the Most Obscure Player Award for each season in franchise history for Rest Easily. I made it through the 1960s but never finished the series.

This has not been an interesting offseason from my perspective, so I am going to finish the old series. To kick this off, here is a list of the first five award winners:

1960: Dave Sherer

Dave ShererDallas picked up Sherer in the 1960 expansion draft. One would think a punter for an 0-11-1 team would have quite a bit to do, and he came through with a 42.5 yard average on 57 punts. Not bad, except that this was his last year in the league. Allen Green took over the punting duties in 1961. Sherer was more of a legend in his home state of New Mexico than in Dallas, and his notoriety in New Mexico was enough to give him the award in the end. He is not only a member of the Carlsbad High School Hall of Fame, he ranked 47th on Sports Illustrated’s list of New Mexico’s greatest sports legends. (If it helps put this into context, Dewey Bohling ranked 46th).

 

1961: Don Bishop

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Don Bishop

Bishop played end for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, catching three passes for 57 yards. In two years with Pittsburgh and the Chicago Bears, those three catches, along with four punt returns, remained his only professional statistics. Dallas picked him off of waivers in 1960, and he started at right cornerback for the team in its inaugural year.

In 1961, Bishop began to stand out, grabbing eight picks. Only Everson Walls (twice) and Mel Renfro had more in a season. Moreover, and probably the reason we are honoring him here, Bishop established a team record with interceptions in five consecutive games in 1961. He led the team in picks from 1960 to 1962 (those three years are also a team record), and finished his career with 22, ranking tenth on the team.

1962: Mike Gaechter

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The winner of the MOP Award for 1962 was actually a Pro Bowl player, but he was overshadowed by other defensive backs such as Mel Renfro. Mike Gaechter had 21 interceptions during his eight-year career that spanned from 1962 to 1969.  But it was two factors that gave him enough of an edge to win the coveted title.

Gaechter started strong as a rookie free agent with the Cowboys in 1962. He had five interceptions that season, and had at least two picks in seven of his eight seasons.  In 1962, during a week five thrashing of Philadelphia  (which Dallas won 41-19), Gaechter and teammate Amos Marsh achieved a feat unrivaled in NFL history.   They both had 100 yard returns not only in the same game, but also in the same quarter.

In addition to that distinction, and the real reason he wins the MOP Award, is that he made the Clark College Track and Field Honor Roll.

1963: Billy Howton

Former Dallas Cowboys receiver Billy Howton

In seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers during the 1950s, he had two seasons with 1000 yards receiving.  In fact, he is one of three players who reached 1000 yards by the 11th game of their rookie season.  The Cowboys picked him up for the 1960 season, and he turned in four solid seasons.  In his final game, a 28-24 win by Dallas over the St. Louis Cardinals, he caught a 48-yard pass that set up a score near the end of the game.

More importantly, Howton became the NFL’s all-time leading receiver in 1963, with 503 receptions for 8459 yards.  If his stuff is good enough to be listed as a hidden treasure by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is good enough to make it as a MOP Award winner.

1964: Buddy Dial

Former Cowboys Receiver Buddy Dial

The MOP Award for 1964 goes to receiver Buddy Dial, who played with the Cowboys from 1964 through 1966 after being traded from the Steelers. In 1963, Dial made the Pro Bowl after hauling in 60 receptions for 1295 yards. He was injured early in the 1964 season and managed only 11 receptions for 178 yards. He was never very productive in Dallas, catching only 42 passes in three years. Congratulations, retrospectively.

Here’s the story of the team’s season finale in 1964, when Dial caught several key passes in a 17-14 win over Dial’s former team, the Steelers:

Remember now that when the Steelers traded Dial to Dallas it was with the understanding they would sign No. 1 draft choice Paul Martha as his replacement. Martha was no sooner signed than Dial was injured, infrequently to be heard of since except on Saturday afternoon television.

With less than 15 minutes remaining in the season, Dial came back to punish the Steelers.

Dallas was clinging to a 10-7 lead and losing momentum in the fourth quarter when Lee Folkins dribbled a 17-yard punt and this time the ball hit him as though he were a pin ball cushion, banking straight to the hands of Dallas’ Mike Connelly on the Dallas 48.

With this break of gigantic magnitude the Cowboys started losing ground. On third down, needing 17 from the Pittsburgh 49, Meredith skittered out of a big rush, laid the ball for Dial who was blanketed by Pittsburgh’s Brady Keys.

Dial somehow got his hands on the ball, he and Keys fell in a heap and Dial retrieved the ball with one palm, flat on his back, Keys swinging wildly.

That placed the ball on Pittsburgh’s 28. Meredith hit Dial across the middle for another 18, limped away from a Steeler rush for another nine, and Perry Lee Dunn, who did a determined job all afternoon, pushed it over from the 3 for the touchdown which made it 17-7.

Dial is known to students of labor law and sports law for his role in Dial v. NFL Player Supplemental Disability Plan, a case where Dial’s ex-wife sued for half of the benefits awarded to Dial in the NFL’s 1993 collective bargaining agreement. He is a member the College Football Hall of Fame and has the second highest career yards-per-catch average (20.83) in the history of the NFL. The record is held by Homer Jones, the player who invented the spike.

 

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Dallas Cowboys’ 2008 Draft Class Is Nearly Gone

Felix Jones will likely leave the Cowboys via free agency.

Felix Jones will likely leave the Cowboys via free agency.

The Dallas Cowboys have won a single playoff game between 1997 and right now. That occurred in 2009 when the team beat the visiting Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs.

Members of the 2008 draft class were rather prominent in the victory.

Felix Jones (1st round in 2008) carried the ball 16 times for 148 yards and helped to put the game on ice with a 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Tashard Choice (4th round in 2008) helped in the effort, carrying the ball 14 times for 42 yards with a touchdown.

The other first-round pick from 2008, Mike Jenkins, recorded an interception.

Martellus Bennett (2nd round in 2008) and Orlando Scandrick (5th round) weren’t as prominent in the 2009 playoffs, but both of the played roles.

Now it’s 2013. Choice and Bennett have been gone for some time.

Sixth-round pick Erik Walden never played a down in Dallas but became a starter in Green Bay.

Now it looks like Jones and Jenkins will leave the team via free agency. They are among five free agents the Cowboys will likely lose according to the Dallas Morning News.

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Dallas Cowboys Move from Dead Money Disaster to Salary Cap Hell

At the end of this tunnel in hell is Doug Free's contract.

At the end of this tunnel in hell is Doug Free’s contract.

In November, National Football Post had an article describing dead money disasters. And wouldn’t you know it, our underachieving Dallas Cowboys were among those disasters. The bit about the Cowboys:

The Cowboys are paying for contract mistakes made several years ago. Most notably are the contracts that were signed by Roy Williams and Marion Barber.

At least Marion Barber (above) produced while he was with the Cowboys. That’s more than you can say about Roy Williams.

Williams signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension (with $19.5 million guaranteed) in 2008 after being acquired from the Detroit Lions for 2009 first, third and sixth round picks. Williams never came close to duplicating his 2006 Pro Bowl season with Detroit (82 catches, 1,310 receiving yards) while with the Cowboys. In fact, Williams only had 12 more receptions and 10 more receiving yards than his 2006 season during his almost three seasons in Dallas.

Barber received a seven-year, $45 million contract (with $16 million guaranteed) in 2008 as a restricted free agent without having a 1,000-yard rushing season or being an every-down running back. Even though Williams and Barber haven’t played for the Cowboys since the 2010 season, they are currently counting $8.75 million and $4 million, respectively, towards Dallas’ cap. The same holds true for Leonard Davis ($4,166,670) and Marc Colombo ($4.05 million), who was also part of the 2011 roster purge once the lockout ended.

The Cowboys were still able to be a major player in the first wave of free agency despite 22.6% of their adjusted cap being devoted to dead money and their penalty for violating the spirit of unwritten spending rules during the uncapped 2010 season. Brandon Carr received a five-year, $50.1 million deal (including $26.5 million in guarantees). His $3.2 million first year cap number is low for such a lucrative deal. Carr’s cap number jumps to $16.3 million next year which makes him a prime candidate to restructure his contract since the Cowboys will have a $6.5 million cap deficit because of those penalties and approximately $134 million committed towards next year’s cap with only 43 players under contract.

In 2013, the situation is different but by no means better. The Cowboys reportedly only have $194,440 in dead money, yet the team is still $20 million over the salary cap. The Cowboys have a total commitment of $143,073,082 in 2013, and only the Jets and the Saints face a worse salary cap situation.

The cause? $103,257,533 in base salaries. Only the Eagles franchise has a higher figure of base salaries. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Cowboys or Eagles made the playoffs last year. Or the year before. Or (in the case of the Cowboys) the year before that.

You know who makes the playoffs every year? The Patriots, who have the sixth lowest salary number in the league with a total commitment of $106,497,111. That’s $36.5 million less than the 8-8 Cowboys.

And who won the Super Bowl last year? The Ravens, with a total commitment of $107,482,179.

This is even more disheartening: the two teams with the lowest salary cap numbers are the Bengals (total commitment of $75,584,664) and Colts (total commitment of $77,510,714). I seem to remember them competing in the playoffs last year.

The Cowboys, of course, weren’t.

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A Look Back (1963): Dallas Texans Leave for Kansas City

The 1962 Dallas Texans finished the regular season at 11-3 and won the AFL championship. The Dallas Cowboys of the NFL finished the same season at 5-8-1 and would not reach the playoffs for another four years.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys were the ones who remained in Dallas after the Texans lost money in each of the years they were in Dallas. By the week of February 10, 1963 (or 50 years ago this week), word was that the Texans were on their way to Kansas City.

Here was a cartoon that appeared in the February 10 issue of the Dallas Morning News:

1963

As of February, though, the move wasn’t final. The top article in the sport section of the February 10 issue stated:

Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Texans, threatened Saturday to move his American Football League franchise to Dallas if Kansas City doesn’t buy 25,000 season tickets.

What this meant was that the move to Kansas City was not yet complete, which meant the former Dallas Texans, who were briefly known as the Kansas City Texans, would return to become the Dallas Texans once again. Got it?

Of course, the Texans became the Chiefs. It only took the Kansas City community eight weeks to sell the required number of seats, and Dallas has been a one-pro-team town since then.

Several stories indicated that Dallas leaders thought the move by the Texans would be good in the long run because Dallas could not support two franchises.

Another article noted that many in the Dallas area often confused the two teams, noting when asked that they would miss “Coach Schramm and his boys.” (!!!)

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2013 Update: Dallas Cowboys’ Record vs. Eventual Super Bowl Champions

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The Cowboys were once known for winning this trophy. Now the team just has an odd knack for playing teams that win this trophy.

This is becoming rather peculiar. For the seventh consecutive year, the Dallas Cowboys have faced the team that eventually won the Super Bowl.

This year, Dallas lost to the Baltimore Ravens 31-29 on October 14. Baltimore, of course, beat San Francisco to win Super Bowl XLVII.

The Cowboys have now faced the team that eventually won the Super Bowl a total of 39 times. Dallas has a record of 9-32 in those games.

Pre-Super Bowl

1960– vs. Philadelphia, L 25-27
1964– vs. Cleveland, L 16-20
1965– vs. Green Bay, L 3-13

Regular Season

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- vs. N.Y. Giants, W 45-35
2007- vs. N.Y. Giants, W 31-20
2008- vs. Pittsburgh, L 13-20
2009- vs. New Orleans, W 24-17
2010- vs. Green Bay, L 7-45
2011- vs. N.Y. Giants, L 34-37
2011- vs. N.Y. Giants, L 14-31
2012- vs. Baltimore, L 29-31

Playoffs

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- vs. N.Y. Giants (Divisional Round), L 21-17

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Dallas Cowboys Trivia: Name the Guards Drafted in the First Round

Drafting a guard in the first round is unglamorous.

Drafting a guard in the first round is unglamorous.

The Dallas Cowboys have not taken many guards early in previous NFL drafts. When the team has gone in that direction, it has been a hit-or-miss effort.

Hits, for example: Larry Allen (2nd round, 46th overall, 1994); Andre Gurode (2nd round, 37th overall, 2002).

Of course, Gurode had much greater success as a center.

Misses, for example: Stephen Peterman (3rd round, 83rd overall, 2004); Solomon Page (2nd round, 55th overall, 1999); Scott Scifres (3rd round, 83rd overall, 1997); Shane Hannah (2nd round, 63rd overall, 1995).

Here’s a trivia question: Which two guards have the Cowboys taken in the first round?

These players may be joined by a guard in the 2013 draft. Mel Kiper predicts that the Cowboys could take North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, and several others have predicted guards as well.

* * *

Here’s another trivial matter.

Did you know that the first guard the Cowboys ever selected in a draft wound up in the Hall of Fame?

In 1961, the Cowboys selected Georgia Tech guard Billy Shaw in the 14th round (184th overall). The AFL’s Buffalo Bills took Shaw in the second round of the AFL Draft, and he signed with the Bills. He played nine years in the NFL and made eight trips to the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors five times.

The other guard the Cowboys selected in 1961 was Lynn Hoyem of Long Beach State. He played two years in Dallas before moving on to Philadelphia.

 

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Trivia: Who Were the Last Defensive Linemen Drafted When Dallas Ran the 4-3?

The Cowboys last used the 4-3 defense in 2004.

The Cowboys last used the 4-3 defense in 2004.

The Dallas Cowboys ran different versions of the 4-3 between 1960 and 2004. In fact, Tom Landry developed the 4-3 that became prevalent throughout the league.

When Jimmy Johnson became head coach in 1989, he retained the 4-3 but discarded the flex defense that Landry had used for many years. Johnson’s defense relied on speed more than size. The Cowboys continued to use a version of this 4-3 until the third year of Bill Parcells‘ tenure.

Since 2005, Dallas has run the 3-4, which features larger linemen and larger linebackers. The Cowboys have spent a number of draft picks trying to find inside and outside linebackers as well as defensive linemen to fit the system.

Trivia question for the day: who were the last defensive linemen drafted when the Cowboys still used the 4-3?

Here’s a hint: The Cowboys did not draft a single defensive lineman between 2002 and 2004.

Check out the Facebook page for the answer.

* * *

More about the Cowboys’ use of the 4-3:

In 2004, the Cowboys’ starters along the defensive line included DE Greg Ellis, DE Marcellus Wiley, DT Leonardo Carson, and DT La’Roi Glover. Glover moved to nose tackle in 2005, while Ellis remained at end. Ellis then moved to outside linebacker in 2006.

 

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By the Numbers: Monte Kiffin vs. Rob Ryan

MonteKiffin at the VOL Walk

Monte Kiffin will return to the NFL in 2013 as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.

It has been four days since the Dallas Cowboys officially hired Monte Kiffin to take over as defensive coordinator.

If you respect Larry Lacewell’s opinion—and a certain owner obviously does—you have reason for optimism. The former scouting director has told several reporters that Kiffin will have no trouble making his mark in Dallas.

Meanwhile, Rob Ryan will reportedly become defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. One of several reasons cited for the change in Dallas was that the defense under Ryan simply lacked discipline.

There will be plenty of time to debate the pros and cons of this move, but here are a few numbers to consider.

Age at the Beginning of the 2013 Season

Kiffin: 73

Ryan: 50

Experience as NFL Defensive Coordinator

Kiffin: 15 years

Ryan: 9 years

Defensive Philosophy

Kiffin: 4-3 in a relatively simple system known as the Tampa-2

Ryan: 3-4 with a relatively complex system of blitzes and coverages

Number of Teams Coached (Before Dallas)

Kiffin: 3

Ryan: 3

Number of Playoff Seasons While Defensive Coordinator

Kiffin: 8

Ryan: 0

Number of Seasons with Winning Records While Defensive Coordinator

Kiffin: 7

Ryan: 0

Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Yards Allowed

Kiffin: 8

Ryan: 1

Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Points Allowed

Kiffin: 6

Ryan: 0

 

No, these numbers don’t mean everything, but there is a good chance fans won’t have to put up with so much hype that surrounded Ryan.

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Nearly All of the Cowboys’ Gambles Backfired

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Jerry says changes are coming. No, he won’t replace himself, Jason Garrett, or Tony Romo. But changes are coming. Involving someone. Or something.

The potential “big” news this offseason is Jerry Jones’ statement that he will consider making some significant changes. Involving someone. Or something.

Rick Gosselin says that Jerry needs to make dramatic changes.

We know what changes Jerry won’t make, though, so it’s hard to take this talk seriously at this point.

Think about this—the Cowboys’ current playoff drought is as long as the period when Dave Campo coached the team. Yes, the current team has done better than the five-win teams of 2000, 2001, and 2002, but has it really been better as a fan?

Well, not while we watch the playoffs without the Cowboys yet again.

Three teams that played on Sunday—Indianapolis, Washington, and Seattle—took major gambles this year, and each team had fantastic years given initial expectations.

Jerry keeps calling his team a Super Bowl team (tough without making the playoffs), but his gambles in 2012 (and 2011 for that matter) failed quite miserably.

A review:

1. Receiving Corps

Gamble: Hoping someone would emerge as a third receiver.

Backfire: Kevin Ogletree had one good game early in the season. After catching eight passes in the season opener against the Giants, he averaged less than two receptions per game for the rest of the year.  Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley showed some promise, but the Cowboys stuck with Ogletree for much of the year.

2. Loading Up on Corners

Gamble: Loading up on cornerbacks but not picking up a quality strong safety.

Backfire: Barry Church looked like a decent starter but missed the final 13 games with an Achilles injury. That left the Cowboys with plenty of corners and Danny McCray at safety. At one point, Dallas used $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr as a free safety on passing downs. Other safeties included household names like Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton.

Speaking of those corners, they combined for a total of four interceptions.

3. Younger Guards 

Gamble: The Cowboys tried to get younger by moving on from Kyle Kosier (34) and Montrae Holland (32) and signing Nate Livings (30) and Mackenzy Bernadeau (26).

Backfire: Although the middle of the line seemed to get better by the end of the season, Romo often faced pressure up the middle. Moreover, the team was abysmal running the ball, averaging less than 80 yards per game.

4. Swapping Tackles

Gamble: The Cowboys moved Doug Free to right tackle and Tyron Smith to left tackle. Both players would therefore return to their natural positions.

Backfire: Free was a disaster. By year’s end, the team often substituted Jermey Parnell at right tackle, ostensibly to give Free a “break.” Smith was better, but not much better.

5. Injury-Prone Young Stars

Gamble: In the past few drafts, the team found some budding stars in Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and DeMarco Murray. However, all three came to the team with injury problems.

Backfire: All three  have shown great promise but all three have missed significant time because of injuries. The team relied heavily on Lee as a playmaker, and his absence in the final 10 games hurt. Carter seemed to fill Lee’s shoes, but he missed the last five games. The result was that the Cowboys had to turn to Dan Connor and Ernie Sims late in the season, and it was no coincidence that the team could not slow down the Redskins in the season finale.

Murray looks like a lead running back, but he missed five games in 2012 along with the final three in 2011. And with Felix Jones showing next to nothing for most of the year, the team needed Murray for more than 11 games.

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Washington 28, Dallas 18: Cowboys’ Season Ends with Another Thud

 

Tony Romo's third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Tony Romo’s third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls. He capped off his great career by leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington after trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter in a regular-season finale with the NFC East on the line.

 

Tony Romo has led the Cowboys to one playoff win. He is well-remembered for dropping a snap on an easy field goal that might have given the Cowboys a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to a 44-6 loss to the Eagles to end the 2008 season; a 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs; and 31-14 loss to the Giants when the NFC East title was on the line in the season finale in 2011.

We may not remember Romo for those failures, though, thanks to his final interception of the 2012 season.

Dallas trailed 21-10 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Dallas finally forced a Washington punt, and Dwayne Harris returned the ball to the Washington 31. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 16.

Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a touchdown. A two-point conversion cut the Washington lead to 21-18.

The defense forced another stop. Dallas got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. Romo moved the ball to the Dallas 29 on a pass to Jason Witten.

And then he threw another pass. He lofted a ball in the left flat towards DeMarco Murray, and the ball seemingly hung in the air like a short punt. Murray didn’t catch it. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson did.

We fondly remember Staubach hitting the likes of Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Ron Springs, and Preston Pearson in that 1979 finale against the Redskins. We may spend years remember Romo lofting a ball to the flat and into the waiting arms of a Washington linebacker.

Another 8-8 season. No playoffs.

Dallas barely stopped Alfred Morris all night, and Morris ran six times on the ensuing drive. Dallas might have forced a field goal attempt, but Jason Hatcher hit Robert Griffin III‘s helmet on a third-down play and drew a penalty.

Romo finished the night with three interceptions, having thrown two in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Cowboys gave up a touchdown run by Morris later in the quarter.

When Griffin scored in the third quarter, Washington took a 14-7 lead. That meant the Cowboys trailed in every single game this season. Moreover, the Cowboys held halftime leads in only 3 games. No wonder the team finished 8-8.

The makeshift defense gave up 200 rushing yards to Morris, who eventually scored three times. Murray finished with 76 yards.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both left the game early with injuries, forcing the Cowboys to play Ogletree, Harris, and Cole Beasley. Those were the receivers in the game when the Cowboys started their drive that ended with Romo’s last interception.

So, we have about 116 days until the NFL Draft. The Cowboys will pick 18th. I’m not the least bit excited about anything.

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