Running back Duane Thomas is one of the more unusual Cowboys in team history, but he is hardly an obscure name for the Most Obscure Player Award.
We will instead opt for the next best thing: Thomas’ roommate, linebacker Steve Kiner.
Kiner was a standout at the University of Tennessee, and the Cowboys took him in the third round. He was such a good college player that he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He had far less success with the Cowboys.
Kevin Sherrington ran a story about Kiner recovering his 1969 Cotton Bowl watch. Here’s a snip:
The Cowboys took that linebacker in the third round in 1970. They had no idea what they were getting.
His rookie season, Kiner pulled up to the Cowboys’ practice facility in his old VW during a pouring rain and, unable to find a space, parked in the head coach’s.
A dripping Tom Landry later spied Kiner and said, “I admire a man with courage.”
Other than Kiner’s skill and physical nature, there wasn’t much else Landry liked about him.
Kiner was a new breed, brash and fearless. He smoked pot, which didn’t make him different from several Cowboys, except that he smoked a lot of pot. He also roomed with Duane Thomas. An integrated living arrangement was enough of a culture shock to the Cowboys, much less the likes of Thomas and Kiner.
In a ’73 Texas Monthly story, Gary Cartwright wrote that Kiner was the Cowboys’ resident hippie, “… shaggy hair, groovy mustache, delighted grin belying the fact that he was the headhunter on the Dallas kick-off team. In those days, it was Kiner, not Thomas, who was considered the enigma.”
He forced a trade to New England after the 1970 season, and he played two years with the Patriots followed by another five with the Houston Oilers.
We need real obscurity, though, and I found obscurity in his statistics during the 1970 season. He played behind Chuck Howley, so Kiner did not play much on the defensive side of the ball.
However, he did find himself on the kickoff return team and ran back three kickoffs with a 16.7-yard return average.
He managed one interception against the Oilers and returned it 28 yards.
He also caught his only NFL pass in a loss to the Vikings.
His true claim to fame now, though, is a MOP Award. Congratulations, retrospectively.
Here are the remainder of the MOP Award “winners” from the 1960s. This list includes seasons from 1965 to 1969. I wrote several of these during the offseason in 2007 before I got a bit off track.
Click here for my previous recap covering the years 1960 to 1964.
He is famous as the author of North Dallas Forty, but few remember his performances on the field. Gent caught his first pass in 1965, finishing with 16 receptions for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns. His best season was 1966, when he caught 27 passes for 474 yards, a 17.6-yard-per-catch, but he only caught 25 more passes in his last two years with the team.
Townes played three seasons with the Cowboys and started 25 games in the late 1960s. His first start came in 1966 in a game against the Steelers, and he was part of the NFL Championship Games against the Packers. However, he faded into obscurity after missing the 1969 seasons and playing six games for the Saints in 1970.
East joined the Cowboys in 1967 from Montana State. He played with the Cowboys for four seasons before being traded to San Diego in 1970 along with Pettis Norman and Tony Liscio for receiver Lance Alworth. East played for San Diego for three years, then moved from Cleveland, Atlanta, and Seattle. Someone left this note about him after I named him the MOP Award winner for 1967:
Ron East is now a Real Estate Developer in Seattle, WA. He was the 5th D-lineman for the Cowboys 67-71. Ron was a backup for defensive tackles Lilly and Pugh. He and others felt that he won the starting job in 1970 However they gave the job to Pugh. Because of that Ron Asked for a trade after the 1970 season and it was granted. He and two other players went to San Diego for Lance Alworth in 1971. I attended the Tom Landry ring of honor dinner with Ron and met Bob Lilly. I saw heard Bob say to Ron “Thanks for winning our first superbowl for us when you asked for the trade.” Ron was a Devensive standout in San Diego and Seattle. He was noted for solidifying Earl Morral’s legacy by breaking Bob Greise’s ankle in game 5 of the 1972 season.
Here is a blurb about Craig Baynham’s nickname, courtesy of Tim’s Cowboy’s History Page:
Baynham’s biggest moment came in the 1967 conference playoff game against the Browns when he filled in for the injured Walt Garrison. He scored 3 touchdowns in the 52-14 win. In 1968 he subbed for Garrison gaining 438 yards on the ground and grabbed 29 passes for 380 yards. He led the team in kickoff returns in 68 with 590 yards. He didn’t get much playing time behind a healthy Hill and Garrison in 69 and was traded to Chicago in 1970 and finished his career with St. Louis the next year. Nicknamed “John One Dozen” because he always signed footballs “Craig Baynham – John 1:12?, he became a pastor in later years.
Baynham caught a touchdown pass in the last Playoff Bowl game ever played between the Cowboys and Vikings. In the three seasons following his performance in 1968, though, Baynham amassed a grand total of 109 yards, including a loss of two yards on three carries in 1969.
Dennis Homan was the top pick of the Cowboys in the 1968 draft. In his three seasons with Dallas, the 1969 season was his best, catching 12 passes for 240 yards, but no touchdowns. He lasted one more year with the Cowboys before playing two seasons with Kansas City.
Homan joined the Birmingham franchise of the World Football League, where he became a star! There is, in fact, an entire page (with pictures) focusing on his accomplishments with the WFL. I also learned from that page that Homan was a kick holder in his final season with Birmingham, which makes his selection all the more appropriate.
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
Dallas 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.” (!!!)
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.
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- 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
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
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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
Experience as NFL Defensive Coordinator
Kiffin: 15 years
Ryan: 9 years
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)
Number of Playoff Seasons While Defensive Coordinator
Number of Seasons with Winning Records While Defensive Coordinator
Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Yards Allowed
Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Points Allowed
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.