For years (and years and years) most Cowboys fans have heard some variation of this clever insult: “The Cowboys aren’t really America’s Team.”
The most recent iteration of this comes on the heels of a vitally important poll showing that defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay is the most popular team in America. That led the author to state definitely that “actual data exists and reveals the Cowboys aren’t ‘America’s Team,’ having been replaced by the Green Bay Packers, according toPublic Policy Polling’s newest national survey.”
The last time I had a serious online argument with someone about whether the Packers or the Cowboys were truly “America’s Team” was the last time that the Packers were the defending champions. That was 1997.
Note that when the Patriots were defending champions three times in the early 2000s, their fans said they should be America’s Team.
And note that when the Steelers became champions after the 2008 season, they should have been America’s Team.
And further note that when the Saints won the title after the 2009 season, they should have been America’s Team.
Using the logic espoused by most of these commentators, whichever team holds the Vince Lombardi Memorial Trophy should strip the Cowboys of their nickname.
Please, come up with something more original.
A few thoughts:
1. You know why nobody is shouting that the Patriots, Saints, or Steelers are America’s Team right now? Because none of those teams hold the Lombardi Trophy right now.
2. Even when NFL Films first coined the term “America’s Team” for the Cowboys after the 1978 season, the Cowboys had as many haters as they did true fans.
3. The Cowboys have done nothing worth mentioning to retain their fan base in 15 years, yet the Cowboys rank high on these lists year after year. The team went 6-10 last year and currently stands at 8-6, yet the team ranked second in this survey. And should the Cowboys win another title someday, I would bet anything that the Cowboys rank #1 on both the Most Liked and Most Hated team lists.
A reader named Bruce Lombard earlier this year most generously sent me a stack of copies of the old Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from the 1985 season and 1986 offseason. Each Wednesday, we will take a look at some interesting tidbits in these issues.
The focus this week is in the issue published on December 21, 1985.
Ask Tex Schramm: Cowboys Have No Special Diet
A reader asked whether the Cowboys had a special diet. Tex Schramm responded that the diet was left to individual players. In general, players had eaten steak and a baked potato before games, though some teams also served eggs, toast, and a type of pasta. Players usually ate about four hours before games.
Cowboys Win a Wild One to Take the East
The Cowboys won their first NFC East title since 1981 by beating the Giants in a week 15 battle. It was not a pretty game—Dallas really won as much on luck as anything else—but it was an important win.
Said Tom Landry: “This has to rank among the big wins. Not among the wins that get you to the Super Bowl, but it has to rank very, very high in our important games over the years. I am very proud of this team.”
Both Danny White and Gary Hogeboom were knocked out of the game. In fact, White had to the leave the game twice and threw a costly interception in the second quarter after returning to the game. The pick led to a New York touchdown that put the Giants ahead 14-7.
Jim Jeffcoat snagged a pass that was tipped by Too Tall Jones, and Jeffcoat returned the ball 65 yards for a touchdown. White followed up with a touchdown pass to Mike Renfro, giving Dallas a 21-14 lead at halftime.
White suffered another injury in the third quarter, and Hogeboom was hurt later in the half. That left the Cowboys with Steve Pelluer. The second-year quarterback led the Cowboys on a drive that resulted in a Timmy Newsome touchdown run. That was enough to give Dallas the win and the division title.
No matter what happened in Week 16, Dallas would face the L.A. Rams in the playoffs. There was a chance that Dallas would host the Rams, but that would require a Dallas win coupled with a Ram loss to the Raiders.
Randy White: Destined for the Hall of Fame
The cover player for the December 21 issue was Randy White, who was named to his ninth consecutive (albeit, his last) Pro Bowl in 1985. He was also named All-Pro for the seventh time in his career.
In the article, White said that he would have never survived in the league if he had remained at linebacker, which he played in 1975 and 1976. Once Landry moved White to tackle, the rest was history.
Crawford Ker Manages to do Housework Despite Injury
Rookie guard Crawford Ker impressed the Cowboys with both his strength and his athleticism. He benched at least 540 pounds while he was a player at Florida. He also ran the 40 in 4.8 seconds while weighing 293 pounds.
He spent much of the 1985 season on injured reserve. He wasn’t able to work out during that time, but that didn’t stop him from doing housework. The article features him pushing a canister vacuum cleaner.
(No, I’m not going to post that picture.)
Between 1975 and 1979, the Cowboys had a combined record of 9-1 in their final two games of those seasons. However, the Cowboys only went a combined 2-8 in their final two games between 1980 and 1984. Before 1985, Dallas had not won one if its final two games since 1981.
The only time I ever “earned” a link on Deadspin was a few months after I launched. I posted a clip from the Dallas Cowboys Christmas ’86 video.
On a day where I should have had 10,000 visitors, though, my host apparently installed an upgrade of some sort, and my page wouldn’t load for hours. That’s the kind of luck this blog has had, mirroring the luck of the Cowboys….
Every Christmas, those videos show up on various blogs, including this one. I finally found my CD containing the original files. Here is the first of four clips from the video:
Thanks to a Google Book search, I was able to stumble across more information regarding the Christmas video. Twenty-five years ago today, Billboard posted an article about the original distribution of the 1986 video. Here is the text:
Web Banks on Cowboys Vid
by Greg Reibman
Billboard, Dec. 20, 1986
DALLAS The Video Works chain, based here, hopes to score some extra points this holiday season with an exclusive distribution pact for a new Christmas video starring the Dallas Cowboys.
Although Sears and local grocers Tom Thumb Page and Minyard will also stock limited quantities of the five-song “Dallas Cowboys Christmas ’86” charity video, the 16-store outfit will be the only video retailer on the Cowboys’ home turf with this product.
“This is a terrific opportunity for us,” says Video Works president Gary Meinershagen. “And, of course, it is for a good cause, so we’re especially glad to be involved.” Proceeds from the tape will benefit the Cowboys’ Youth Foundation.
Video Works (Billboard, Sept. 6) also held the exclusive on the team’s first Christmas video last season. Despite the fact that the 1985 project was not available until early December, it enjoyed sales in excess of 4,500 units for Video Works. With almost a full extra month of marketing time for the new video, Meinershagen–who thinks the 1986 tape is superior to last season’s–hope to nearly double 1985’s sales. “It went over very well last year, and this one is longer and a better value,” he says.
In addition to a pair of songs featuring current team players, the new video also features a song with the celebrated Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and another number featuring ex-players.
Both the 1985 and 1986 tapes were produced by Chris Christian and Bob Breunig for their Home Sweet Home label. In addition to the videocassette, the label has also released a Dallas Cowboy Christmas album, cassettte, and songbook.
The video–available in either VHS or Beta at a retail list of $19.95–will be wholesaled to retailers outside of northeast Texas without the restrictions of an exclusive sales agreement. The record and cassette are available in many Dallas-area stores, says Home Sweet Home promotion director Robin Creasman, “but we were so happy with the way Video Works handled the project last year that we decided to give them the exclusive
rights again this year.”
A major benefit in the arrangement in terms of selling-through is that fans who want to view the video must purchase rather than rent it. “Of course, there is no way to prevent someone [a competitor] from buying the tape and then turning around and renting it, but we won’t be renting it ourselves,” says Meinershagen.
* * *
Here’s something strange (and kind of funny) about this article (besides some company thinking that this video presented an opportunity):
The article about the Cowboys’ video appears on the same page that leads with the headline, “Industry Eyes Cincinnati Adult Video Trial Ruling.” That article was about a case involving a ban on certain themes at adult video stores.
But then to the right of the Cowboys article is Billboard‘s Top Kid Video Sales for the week. Sleeping Beauty ranked number one.
Here is the page:
Ah, editorial decisions that I must not be able to understand:
Editor #1: Frank, what else can we put on the page about the ban on porn videos?
Editor #2: Uh, I dunno. Maybe we can slap on that one about the Christmas tape?
Editor #1: Yeah, you got it. And we can fill the rest of the page with the list of kid’s videos. Let’s go grab a beer.
* * *
What was also peculiar were the ads that appeared on the pages before and after the page featuring the article about the Cowboys. On the page below it was an ad for Rainbow Brite.
A best seller, I’m sure. But above it was an ad for…Reform School Girls!
Jason Witten is 151 yards away from his fourth career and third consecutive 1,000-yard season. His receptions have dropped off this year, but he is still on pace to record at least 80 this season. He currently has 68.
Witten is just five yards away from surpassing Drew Pearson for third place on the team’s all-time list for receiving yards. He only trails Tony Hill by 172 yards for second place on the list. Michael Irvin’s record of 11,904 is still more than 4,000 yards away, but Witten hasn’t reached the age of 30.
He is one of only four tight ends with more than 600 career receptions and surpassed Ozzie Newsome to rank third on the all-time list of receptions by a tight end. Witten made this lists in only 141 career games. The other three, including Tony Gonzalez (236 career games), Shannon Sharpe (204), and Newsome (198), played in many more.
As far as receiving yards, Witten trails Jackie Smith by 102 yards and Newsome by 164 yards. It will take a while to catch Gonzalez and Sharpe.
Witten currently ranks 22nd in terms of career TD receptions by a tight end. However, he will rapidly move up on the list. By recording just seven more TDs, he will move into the top 10 on this list. He’ll move into the top 5 by recording 15 more TDs.
Jerry Jones just can’t shut up. We all know that.
[As in, don’t talk about the playoffs right now, Jerry. Let this team focus on beating the Eagles]
However, since he is going to open his mouth anyway, perhaps he could show a little bit more appreciation for this team’s legacy.
Last night, the main leaders of his team participated in a montage featuring a quote about winning.
That quote came from Vince Lombardi.
Cowboys fans older than 30 need immediately to place their foreheads into their hands. Let’s say this in unison…
Jerry, you just don’t cite Joe Gibbs. And in the name of all that is Tom Landry, you don’t quote Vince Lombardi.
Let’s go with this one:
I don’t believe in team motivation. I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.
— Tom Landry, whose teams would have already won this damn division.
That all said, Jerry was pretty funny during the pregame show last night.
Of course, I continue to forget my principal rule that I should never listen to anything Jerry says.
* * *
This was going to be the game where the Cowboys played so flawlessly that I couldn’t get angry. When Dallas took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, I told my young son that Dallas would score 50 tonight.
By the end of the second quarter, I was half-right. Dallas led 28-0 thanks to three Tony Romo touchdown passes and a Romo touchdown run. At that point, the Buccaneers had only managed one first down, and that came on the opening drive of the game. One play after that first down, Josh Freeman fumbled the ball, which set up the first Dallas touchdown.
At halftime, Deion Sanders said there was no way the Cowboys would suffer another second-half collapse. After all, he said, Tampa player had all but quit.
Friends, this is the Cowboys we’re talking about. The Cowboys had not held a halftime lead of at least 28 points since 1994. But that is irrelevant. This is the 2011 Cowboys we’re talking about. These Cowboys know exactly how to ruin any lead, no matter the margin and no matter the time remaining.
So just think what could happen when the Cowboys received the second-half kickoff. Feed Felix Jones early and often, helping my fantasy team? Throw very safe passes to Jason Witten and Miles Austin, moving the ball just a bit and eating up the third quarter?
Maybe that was the plan. But a nine-yard run by Felix Jones was wiped out by a holding penalty on Tyron Smith. That backed the Cowboys up to their own 10. Two plays later, Dallas faced a 3rd-and-19 from the 11.
What could possibly happen? Lots of things, which is why much of the pregame focused on such highlights as Romo throwing two picks returned for touchdowns by the Lions, which put the Lions back in the game on October 2.
So what should we all think and feel when Romo protects his 28-point lead by trying to keep a 3rd-and-19 play alive, rolling to his right, getting hit and stripped of the ball by Adrian Clayborn? And what should we believe when Dekota Watson scoops up the ball and runs in for the score, cutting the Dallas lead to 28-7?
I couldn’t even get mad. This team is so clueless about how to win a game that I had little doubt that Tampa would make a game of it after all.
Dallas did go on a drive that ate up 7 minutes and led to a Dan Bailey field goal. That was promising.
But the defense turned around and gave up a long drive that resulted in a touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion. With 23 seconds left in the third quarter, Dallas led by only 16 points, and the Buccaneers could have tied it with two touchdowns and two more conversions.
Let’s borrow from Baylor’s Robert Griffin III: It was unbelievably believable that the Cowboys had no idea up to that point how to put the game away.
Dallas moved into field goal range, only to suffer a sack that put the team out of range. Mat McBriar has faltered in a few situations this year, and when the team could have used a punt downed inside the 20, he kicked the ball into the end zone.
Tampa moved the ball back into Dallas territory. The worst play was a 4th-and-9 play from the Tampa 44. Kregg Lumpkin took a pass over middle, but Sean Lee was right there. However, the best tackler on the team missed the tackle, allowing Lumpkin to pick up the first down.
Fortunately, that drive stalled with just under six minutes left. Dallas killed some clock, and McBriar had another opportunity to pin Tampa Bay deep. Another touchback.
The Cowboys held on the final drive, giving Dallas its eighth win of the year after the offense ran out the clock.
Again, the story of the game should have been the first half. Romo finished the game with a QB rating of 133.9, and most of his damage came before halftime. He threw touchdown passes to Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Laurent Robinson. A big positive is that Austin looks like he has returned to form, but Romo continues to look in the direction of Robinson.
Two other positives were the play of Jones and his new backup, Sammy Morris. The latter picked up 53 yards on some tough runs throughout the game.
The defense also played a nice first half. The second half wasn’t terrible, but it was troubling to see DeMarcus Ware on the bench during several series in the second half. By the end of the game, Ware and Anthony Spencer were on the bench, and Dallas went with Victor Butler and rookie Alex Albright.
(Someone explain this: Tampa double-teamed Albright on a few of the plays late, and Dallas still couldn’t manage a sack.)
Anyway, the win is a positive. The first half had many other positives. But the feeling that this team really hasn’t learned anything is glaring.
The Cowboys are set to take on Tampa Bay for the first time since 2009. The teams have faced one another 14 times, with Dallas holding an 11-3 record.
Their last contest resulted in a 34-21 win. The Cowboys scored three second-half touchdowns in the win. Noteworthy: the three Cowboys who scored (Patrick Crayton, Roy Williams, and Marion Barber) are no longer with the team.
Miles Austin was not yet a starter, but he gave a preview of things to come with a 42-yard touchdown reception on a catch and run. That score gave Dallas a 13-7 halftime lead.
Thanks to Storify, here are other stories:
The Cowboys rid themselves of some underproductive and overpriced veterans last season. Dallas also let a long-time special teams ace leave via free agency.
Unlike a few other recent events, those decisions have not come back to haunt the Cowboys this year. Here’s a summary:
Roy drove us crazy during his tenure in Dallas. He would make a play now and then, but in between those plays, he would often drop some very easy passes that came his way.
He hasn’t improved during his time in Chicago this year. Consider this comment.
Williams didn’t rank among the league’s top 20 and, in fact, rookie teammate Dane Sanzenbacher has dropped more, but Williams’ problem beyond drops has been more one of bobbling catches. Some of the incompletions on passes thrown to Williams have resulted from Williams bobbling the ball first, allowing defenders to break up the throw or — in the case of a goal-line pass against Kansas City — come up with an interception.
Inconsistency has been Williams’ biggest problem. He failed to come up with a single catch in six games and hasn’t had more than 62 yards receiving, while scoring just one TD. Yet he continues to get starting time, and a lot of that has to do with his blocking ability.
Against the Chiefs on December 4, Williams had a chance to catch near the goal line. The ball, however, bounced off his hands and wound up in the hands of a Kansas City defender. The Bears lost, 10-3.
One week later, former Marion Barber was the culprit in a Chicago loss. He had a great game for much of the contest, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown. However, with time running out in the fourth quarter, Barber ran out of bounds instead of falling to the ground. That stopped the clock and eventually gave Denver enough time to tie the game.
In overtime, Barber looked as if he would run for a touchdown, but a Denver defender stripped the ball. The Broncos turned around and won the game on a field goal.
The Chicago media then criticized Barber for not speaking to reporters until the middle of this week.
Many of us thought the Cowboys had made a mistake by not signing Hurd. It turns out, though, that Hurd had a side business while in Dallas, and he continued to run that business after he signed with the Bears this summer.
A transaction related to that business required Hurd to try to buy 5 to 10 kg of cocaine and 1,000 pounds of marijuana. That’s about five times more pot than the amount that sent Nate Newton to prison in 2002.
Of course, there’s also the matter of Charles Haley, who was accused of slapping a woman on the butt at Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving. Yes, that was two weeks after he was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
A reader named Bruce Lombard earlier this year most generously sent me a stack of copies of the old Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from the 1985 season and 1986 offseason. Each Wednesday, we will take a look at some interesting tidbits in these issues.
The focus this week is in the issue published on December 14, 1985.
Another Blowout Loss
For only the third time in its history, Dallas gave up 50 points in a game. And for the second time in four weeks, the Cowboys suffered a blowout loss.
Cincinnati routed the Cowboys, 50-24. The defense gave up 274 yards on the ground, along with another 296 passing yards.
Dallas fell behind early thanks to a safety, followed by a Bengal touchdown. By the end of the first quarter, it was 22-0 in favor of Cincinnati.
Ray Horton (a future Cowboy) said, “The Cowboys are like Coca-Cola. They think they’re the real thing.”
Tough words, Ray. Tough words.
NFC East Up for Grabs
The Dallas loss left the Cowboys at 9-5, and the Cowboys were scheduled to face the Giants at Texas Stadium the following week. With both teams entering at 9-5, the winner would take the division title.
At that point, the Cowboys had not secured a playoff berth, which would have happened with a win over the Bengals. Nevertheless, Dallas could still secure a playoff spot even if the team finished at 9-7.
Tom Landry: A Winner for 20 Seasons
The Cowboys’ win over the Cardinals on Thanksgiving Day gave Dallas nine wins, guaranteeing the team its 20th consecutive winning season. Despite the team’s loss to the Bengals, the cover of the Dec. 14 issue featured Landry.
Tex Schramm said the ninth win had great significance.
I’ve been thinking about it for some time, because it is a game that represents a very important milestone for the organization.
At that time, the Cowboys’ streak was the longest active streak in professional sports. In terms of all-time records, only the New York Yankees (39 consecutive seasons) and Montreal Canadians (32 consecutive seasons) had longer streaks.
Madden: Bears are the Best Team by Far
CBS analyst and former Raider coach John Madden sat down to talk to Brad Sham. According to Madden, the Bears were the best team and that a large gap separated Chicago from the rest of the league.
Madden grouped Dallas with such teams as the Giants, the 49ers, and the Rams.
Robert Lavette: A Long-Time Cowboys Fan
Rookie Robert Lavette waited a long time to join the Cowboys. He had been a fan since he was eight years old.
He suffered an injury that ended his 1985 season. He had served as a kickoff returner, a role he had not had since his freshman year in college.
How did the rookie live during his first year as a pro? He had a two-bedroom apartment, had purchased a stereo, and planned to buy a few albums.
(Lavette spent one more full season with Dallas in 1986. He played four games with the team in 1987 as well).
Hollywood Henderson Not Happy About Omission
Hollywood Henderson had not been a member of the Cowboys for six years by 1985. The Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly had published a list of former first-round picks and inadvertently omitted Henderson from the list.
Henderson wrote to the magazine, saying he assumed “contempt” for the omission.
(He wrote this letter two years after being convicted for threatening and sexually assaulting two teenage girls. He remained sober after the 1983 incident.)
Few probably believe that Jason Garrett’s job is in danger this year, even as he makes costly mistakes. Franchises with high turnover rates at the head coaching position simply aren’t successful (review, for a moment, the recent records of the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins…for that matter, review the records of the Dallas Cowboys).
That said, some are finding it puzzling that someone as immensely intelligent and wise as Jason Garrett could make the type of mistakes he has made. I mean, the man froze his own kicker, after all.
Support for the statement that he is immensely intelligent and wise: (1) he went to Princeton and Columbia; and (2) he played in the NFL for many years.
That’s logical. He’s clearly smarter than most of us. And he had professional playing experience that must have taught him a great deal.
The problem is that neither elite academic pedigree nor professional playing experience alone has had much to do with coaching success in the NFL.
Consider this: of the 20 head coaches in NFL history with the most wins, only two attended schools remotely close to Princeton in terms of academic reputation. Those coaches include Bill Belichick (Wesleyan) and Marv Levy (masters degree from Harvard). Other coaches on this list attended such schools as John Carroll University, Pittsburgh, Dayton, Juniata College, Univ. of Illinois, Eastern Illinois, San Diego State, Syracuse, etc. Nothing wrong with these schools, but I don’t know how many people would seriously confuse them for Princeton.
That said, perhaps someone could argue that Belichick’s education helped him to become the mastermind that he is. However, Belichick’s success is more likely based on a long grooming period. He was, after all, a highly successful assistant coach long before he was a head coach. Maybe his superior intelligence told him to seek mentoring as an assistant, but his degree in economics from Wesleyan probably had little to do with his career trajectory.
As for Levy, most remember that he lost four consecutive Super Bowls with Buffalo. However, few would know that after he earned his M.S. from Harvard in 1951, he spent more than 40 years as an assistant or head coach at the high school, college, or professional level. Again, the M.S. in English history probably had little to nothing to do with his later coaching success.
Another coach worth nothing was Vince Lombardi. He attended Fordham University—a fine institution—but he couldn’t find a job after graduating in 1937. He later enrolled at Fordham’s law school, but he dropped out after one semester. Needless to say, I would doubt that Fordham’s academic reputation had much to do with his five NFL titles and two Super Bowl titles.
As for playing experience, the majority of coaches in the top 20 list for wins had some NFL playing experience. However, nine of these 20 had no playing experience. Moreover, in most cases, the playing experience seems to have been more important to these coaching landing assistant jobs than it was to having a direct impact on head coaching success. And in most cases, the experience under a strong mentor seems to have been the most critical aspect of future success.
Back to Garrett. Garrett played in the league for eight years. During one of those seasons, his head coach was Jimmy Johnson. His other head coaches were Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, and Jim Fassel. “Great minds” isn’t what comes to mind.
(Of course, Garrett’s father is a longtime assistant coach and scout. He also led Columbia University to an 0-10 record in 1985.)
Garrett also served as quarterbacks coach at Miami when the head coach was Nick Saban. Great college coach. Not so great at the pro level.
His mentor during his time as offensive coordinator in Dallas? Wade Phillips? Jerry Jones?
The bottom line, I think, is that Jerry hired Garrett to mentor himself, with Jerry assuming that a smart guy like the Princeton-educated Garrett could figure this stuff out on his own. It hasn’t been a complete failure by any means, but it’s no wonder Garrett makes mistakes that more seasoned coaches probably wouldn’t make. And I seriously doubt that the Princeton degree ensures that Garrett won’t react poorly to pressure, which seems to have happened a few times this season.
So again, I’m not saying Garrett should be fired. I’m saying that, much like the problems with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, we probably could have seen these limitations in coaching. Here’s to hoping for an injection of wisdom over the next four days.
* * *
Here’s a list of the top 20 coaches in NFL history in terms of wins, along with their colleges and playing experience, if any.
Don Shula, John Carroll University, Case Western Reserve Univ. (M.S.)
George Halas, Illinois
Tom Landry, Univ. of Texas at Austin
Curly Lambeau, Notre Dame
Paul Brown, Miami (Ohio) (did not play professional football)
Marty Schottenheimer, Pittsburgh
Chuck Noll, Dayton
Dan Reeves, South Carolina
Chuck Knox, Juniata (did not play professional football)
Bill Belichick, Wesleyan (did not play professional football)
Bill Parcells, Colgate Univ. and Univ. of Wichita (drafted, but did not play professional football)
Mike Holmgren, USC (drafted, but did not play professional football)
Bud Grant, Minnesota
Mike Shanahan, Eastern Illinois (did not play professional football)
Joe Gibbs, San Diego State (did not play professional football)
Steve Owen, Phillips Univ. (now defunct)
Bill Cowher, North Carolina State
Marv Levy, Coe College, Harvard (M.S.) (did not play professional football)
Jeff Fisher, USC
Tom Coughlin, Syracuse (did not play professional football)