Current and Former Cowboys Fare Well in Rating Contest

Pro-Football-Reference is running a poll to establish a community-based rating system for all players in NFL history. The description of the system is as follows:

The Elo rating system is a method for calculating the relative skill levels of players in two-player games. The creator of the system, Arpad Elo, was a professor of physics at Marquette University who wanted an improved chess rating system. Although the system has its roots in chess, today it is used in many other games.

At various times, members of the Cowboys have ranked in the top 10 on both offense and defense. As of today, though, only two—Randy White and Bob Lilly—rank in the top 10 in defense. Time for Cowboys fans to get on that site to boost ratings.

Offense

Emmitt Smith ranks #13 on the list, winning 76.8% of his contests. That is four spots ahead of Roger Staubach and five spots ahead of Tony Dorsett.

Other Cowboys among the top 100 include Lance Alworth (#22), Rayfield Wright (#57), Larry Allen (#60), Drew Pearson (#65), Terrell Owens (#70), Mike Ditka (#85), Jason Witten (#92), and Troy Aikman (#96).

Here is a complete list:

Defense

White has edged out Lilly by one position among defensive players. Mel Renfro is close at #14, while Deion Sanders is as #20.

Also making the top 100 include Herb Adderley (#22), Too Tall Jones (#23), Charles Haley (#35), Chuck Howley (#42), Cornell Green (#43), Zach Thomas (#70), and Cliff Harris (#86).

The complete list is below. I should note that some who appear on here were actually offensive players, including Forrest Gregg and Otto Graham. I suspect that this is an automated system, and since those players played on both sides of the ball, they are showing up as defensive players.

Friday Fun: Word Search Game with Dallas Cowboys Kickers

The Cowboys have to decide which among the four remaining kickers will kick for the team starting one week from Sunday.

From Mickey Spagnola:

Kicker: The Cowboys had so many kickers they could have fielded a starting five for a rec league basketball team. That’s right, five before trimming to four by placing rookie Kai Forbath on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List, meaning they have bought themselves at least six weeks, and as many as 10 to make a decision on his rights. So the kicking job, or jobs since Jerry Jones suggested keeping two kickers is not out of the question, comes down to David Buehler, rookie Dan Bailey and recently-signed veterans Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner. Some might suggest none of the above, but the guess here is Buehler and … meaning a second guy just in case. Frankly, no one, if you look at the combination of kickoffs and field goals, has unseated the incumbent Buehler, who seemingly has recovered from his strained hip-flexor. Remember, the past week of practice counts, too, and we didn’t get to see those.

So there’s no better time than to feature a word search game with names of former and current kickers of the Dallas Cowboys. Either of you who might like this stuff, please enjoy.

Dallas Cowboys Kickers: Word Search game » word search puzzles

Miami 17, Dallas 3: Even More Kicker Drama

Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano meet after the Dolphins beat the Cowboys 17-3 in the final preseason game.

The Cowboys ended their preseason on Thursday night with a boring 17-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

You wouldn’t know it from the score, but the Cowboys had a fine game on paper. Dallas outgained Miami 389-278. Starting QB Stephen McGee hit 21 of his 25 passes for 233 yards. This included 48 yards on a screen pass to DeMarco Murray in the first quarter. Dallas also only had one turnover (a McGee interception early in the game that led to nothing) and only five penalties.

However, both David Buehler and Dave Rayner missed field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards, and Rayner missed a 36-yarder from the dirt in the infield late in the game. Buehler gave the team its only points on a 20-yard attempt at the end of the first half. Dallas will have a kicker, but good luck guessing who it is.

Murray had more than a quarter of the team’s yardage, gaining 32 on the ground and another 64 in the air. Phillip Tanner added 28 on the ground. Owner Jerry Jones said during the game that Tanner had made the squad, which was good news.

Bad news was that after a good preseason and a good game against Miami, Raymond Radway appeared to suffer a broken ankle or leg. He was jumping up to catch a pass in the end zone but came down very awkwardly on it. He was on the field for several minutes and was carted off with his leg in an inflatable cast.

So that does it for preseason. The team will make its final roster cuts on Saturday.

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from August 31, 1985

Randy White made the cover of the Aug. 31, 1985 issue.

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 August 31, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm

A reader asked Tex Schramm what his opinion was about illegal college recruitment. Schramm offered a few ideas, but he generally thought that it would be difficult to stop the practice.

The desire to win and the pressure to win is so great! I was talking not long ago to a new president of a small but established college in the midwest. After being named president, he took a tour of the state. When he returned, he told me, the first thing he did was call in his football coach and inquire, “What kind of team are we going to have this year?” He said wherever he went, nobody wanted to discuss the new library, or the status or calibre of the professors in this department or that. They wanted to know if the football team was going to win.

So long as that was the case, Schramm wrote, it would be tough to stop illegal recruiting.

Dallas 15, Chicago 13

Rafael Septien’s 24-yard field goal with three seconds left lifted the Cowboys to a 15-13 win over the Chicago Bears. Gary Hogeboom started in place of an injured Danny White and helped the Cowboys gain 256 yard through the air. Tony Dorsett saw his first action of the summer, gaining 36 yards on nine carries.

The game was marred by several fights. Per Tom Landry:

It was an interesting night. I don’t think I’ve seen that many fights in one game, but it was competitive. Everybody was out after everybody.

Randy White

In an effort to stop opponents from double-teaming Randy White, Dallas planned to modify its defense so that White lined up in different places. In fact, he lined up in an upright stance in the first preseason game against San Diego, which confused commentators Pat Summerall and John Madden. Some wondered whether Dallas had installed the “Manster Defense.”

Still Talking About Jesse Penn

Rookie linebacker Jesse Penn was still turning heads. Linebackers coach Jerry Tubbs said Penn was the best athlete at the position since Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.

Suicide Joke in a Letter to the Editor

John Creicar of Manitowoc, Wisconsin apparently had a dry sense of humor. He wrote the following to the editor:

I was thinking commiting (sic) suicide the other day; but then I remembered I’d never again see the Cowboys win another Super Bowl, let alone another game. Needless to say, I changed my mind in a second. I guess I literally do live for the Cowboys.

Seriously now, I can’t remember ever being as anxious for the season to start as I am this year. It must be because we missed the play-offs last season. If not for the vacation in Buffalo and the unbelievable happenings in the second Redskin game, we would have been right there. So let’s start this year off right and do a hatchet-job on those nasty ‘Skins.

My 2011 response to John: I hope you survived not only the 1985 season, but also the down years that followed. If you were going to kill yourself over the 1984 Cowboys, the 1989 team would probably lead you to bury yourself alive.

Tuesday Trivia: What Team Other Than Dallas Nearly Took Andre Gurode?

Check out the video below to find out which team other than Dallas nearly drafted Andre Gurode in the first round of the NFL draft.

Andre Gurode Went from Bust to Among the Best in Dallas

The Cowboys released yet another Pro Bowler on the offensive line by letting Andre Gurode go.

It was not a shock—but it was at least a surprise—that the Cowboys released Andre Gurode today. That means that Dallas will have three new linemen starting in 2011, and the Cowboys lose a five-time Pro Bowler.

Gurode played both center and guard while playing at Colorado, and some expected him to replace Kelvin Garmon at right guard. However, Mark Stepnoski’s second stint with the team ended after the 2001 season. Whether he played guard or center, though, most thought he was a solid pick. One scouting report from 2002:

Gurode has spent most of his career at Colorado playing center but has spent some significant time at guard as well. He will probably be used as a center in NFL. He is a physical and athletic player who has the size and strength needed to be a dominant pro. He has very long arms that he uses to his fullest in pass protection. Gurode is very strong, especially in his upper body. He is both a road-grader in the running game and a very effective shield in pass protection. He also has a mean streak to him, and is always going for the knockout punch on his defender. He has had knee problems in the past but appears to have moved past those disabilities. Gurode tends to rely too much on his strength and may get sloppy at times, but he will likely make some team very happy as their anchor in the middle.

Gurode played at both right guard and center during his rookie season and played right guard in 2003 and 2004 while Matt Lehr and Al Johnson manned the center position. Gurode only started two games in 2005 after the team brought in Marco Rivera. It looked as if Gurode may have been yet another bust, until…

Gurode took over the starting center duties from Johnson in 2006 (the first year without Larry Allen), and Gurode started 78 of the next 80  games. Of course, many remember Gurode for being Albert Haynesworth’s victim during a Dallas win at Tennessee in 2006, but during the same season, Gurode was selected to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls.

Gurode had his weaknesses, such as snapping in shotgun, but he was a consistent anchor of the line for the past five years.

His five Pro Bowl selections equal the total of Stepnoski, though two of Stepnoski’s selections came while he played for the Oilers. No other center in team history came close in terms of accolades. Ray Donaldson made two Pro Bowls in Dallas at the end of his long career, while Dave Manders only made one during his ten-year career. Neither Tom Rafferty nor John Fitzgerald ever made a Pro Bowl.

Who was the greatest center in team history?

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My pick: Stepnoski. By most accounts, Fitzgerald and Manders were good centers on good football teams, but neither really stood out, especially compared with others on the line. Rafferty’s best years may have come when he played guard; he never managed to stand out as a great center. That leaves Stepnoski and Gurode, and Stepnoski has to have the edge. Stepnoski was a major part of the team’s Super Bowl teams in 1992 and 1993, and he was sorely missed when he jumped ship after 1994. Gurode was a solid anchor on what I think was an overhyped line in the late 2000s. I think Gurode belongs in this conversation, but overall, neither he nor the line he anchored accomplished what Stepnoski and his line accomplished.

DeMarco Murray Doesn’t Look Like an Up-and-Down Runner

One of the knocks on DeMarco Murray when he came out of Oklahoma was that he had more of an up-and-down running style and would have to rely on his speed to be successful as a pro back. Here is one scouting report from before April’s draft.

Acceleration/burst/quickness:  Murray can get to the edge and out run linebackers but he isn’t going to out run the defensive back angles. As far as explosion goes Murray is a 2 stepper that can get up to his top speed in a hurry.  Murray doesn’t explode off his cuts which slows his progress through the hole.  His non explosive cuts in the backfield limit his change of direction skills.  Murray appears stiff and this is attributed to his up and down running style.  His Pad Level is less than ideal and too high.  The high pad level impacts his balance and allows defenders to easily make tackles.  His lack of balance slows his lateral movement.

Elusiveness:  Lack of elite lateral mobility impacts Murray’s ability to consistently make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage. However, he does have some wiggle and can make a defender or two miss.  Murray runs with a high pad level which gives defenders clean shots at his legs.  Murray is most effective when he is in open space.  When in a phone booth he struggles to make defenders miss.

The highlight clip below demonstrates some of these concerns:

 

We finally got to see Murray in action last night, and though his long run was only eight yards, he managed to lead the team with 32 yards on seven carries. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but this doesnt’ look like an up-and-down running style to me:

* * *

Although these numbers are probably meaningless, Murray fared well at the combine compared with another Oklahoma alum named Adrian Peterson.

Dallas 23, Minnesota 17: Cowboys Overcome Shaky Defense

Alan Ball returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second quarter.

For part of Saturday night’s game against the Vikings, the Cowboys offered a look from a year ago. That was, of course, the Year of Can’t Stop Anyone.

Minnesota’s first drive featured runs by Adrian Peterson for 4, 11, 7, 2, and 5 yards. Then receiver Bernard Berrian ran right past safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and though Abram Elam was in position to break up the long pass from Donovan McNabb, the ball went right over Elam’s hands and into Berrian’s arms for a 49-yard touchdown.

The Dallas starters on offense looked solid, though both first-quarter drives fell short of the end zone. Tony Romo completed 15 of 20 passes for 141 yards, with Dez Bryant catching five of those passes for 67 yards. The second Dallas drive led to a Dan Bailey field goal.

During the second quarter, Sensabaugh made two of the biggest defensive plays of the game. On the first, he leaped over the Minnesota center to block a field goal attempt, and corner Alan Ball picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown to give Dallas the lead.

On the next Minnesota drive, the Vikings moved to the Dallas 30, but Jason Hatcher tipped a McNabb pass, and Sensabaugh made a shoestring catch to pick the pass off.

Felix Jones showed some skills near the goalline, taking this run in from five yards out.

The Sensabaugh pick led to an 11-play drive that went 77 yards. Romo completed six of eight passes, including two nice throws to Dez Bryant and another to Jesse Holley. From the Minnesota 5, Felix Jones found the end zone to extend the Dallas lead to 17-7.

The big news before the game was that the team kept Andre Gurode from playing for “business” reasons. Many believe that the Cowboys will now trade Gurode, while others think that the team is just protecting him. With Phil Costa injured, rookie Kevin Kowalski played the entire game at center.

Eleven different players had at least one rushing attempt for the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray saw his first preseason action and gained 31 yards on seven carries to lead the Cowboys. Phillip Tanner saw action in the fourth quarter and again looked strong, gaining 25 yards on five carries.

The team’s young receivers also looked good. Holley made three nice receptions for 52 yards, while Manuel Johnson and Kevin Ogletree had two receptions each. Raymond Radway also had a catch late in the game. Dwayne Harris did not have a catch, but he returned a punt in the fourth quarter and ran a reverse for 11 yards.

Bailey connected on both of his field-goal attempts, including a 40-yarder with just over a minute to play. That kick extended the Dallas lead to 23-17.  Shayne Graham hit on his only attempt.

Jay Ratliff returned to the field, as did Keith Brooking. The Dallas defense settled down after Minnesota’s first couple of drives (meaning after giving up 81 yards on the ground by Peterson). Other than Sensabaugh’s interception, the biggest defensive play came late in the first half. With the Vikings driving at midfield, Anthony Spencer came on a blitz and sacked McNabb for an 11-yard loss. Minnesota punted two plays later.

Tight end Martellus Bennett injured his ankle and may have suffered a high ankle sprain. However, losing him is hardly a meaningful loss. He dropped a pass that hit him square in the hands, and he finished the game without a reception.

Ball and Orlando Scandrick were also banged up, though they could have returned if necessary.

Dallas will close out its preseason schedule on Thursday against Miami.

Friday Fun: Helmetless Phillip Tanner Sliding Puzzle

Not sure whether Phillip Tanner will ever play a meaningful down for the Dallas Cowboys, but his run against the Chargers last weekend where he lost his helmet yet ended up in the end zone has caught everyone’s attention.

Here is a clip of it:

So why not also feature Tanner in this week’s puzzle. Here is a sliding puzzle, with the picture showing Tanner’s helmetless run.

Phillip Tanner, Dallas Cowboys sliding puzzle game » tile sliding puzzle

Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly from August 24, 1985

The cover of the August 24, 1985 issue of the Dallas Cowboys Official Weekly. This features linebacker Jesse Penn.

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 August 24, 1985.

Ask Tex Schramm: Why draft Herschel Walker?

Each issue of this weekly featured a column with Tex Schramm. Here is a question and answer from August 24.

Q. How was the decision made to waste an early round draft choice on Herschel Walker, who might not play for Dallas for a long time, if ever, instead of a player who could help the team this season?  Mrs. Kris Ragan, Midlothian, Va.

Tex: One must remember that Herschel Walker joined the U.S. Football League after his sophomore season and thus he participated in our college draft this year when he would normally have been eligible for selection in the National Football League. Therefore, although you seem to have heard of Herschel for many years, he is still just 23 years old, with a long future ahead of him.

In the fifth round, we felt that it was just as good a gamble that he would join us in some year down the line as a player coming in out of college and making our team and taking several years to develop. If he does come, you have a great player.

Schramm also commented that the new DiamondVision at Texas Stadium would show all replays from the game, and the new training facility at Valley Ranch would not replace training camp in Thousand Oaks, California.

Preseason: Cowboys Beat Chargers in Overtime

The Cowboys trailed the Chargers 24-17 late in the game during the second preseason game of the season. Then backup QB Gary Hogeboom drove the team to the San Diego 14. With just seconds left, Hogeboom threw a pass that bounced off the shoulder pads of safety Gill Byrd, and receiver Duriel Harris came up with the touchdown reception.

Interestingly, starter Danny White returned to the game in overtime, but he injured his ribs. Rafael Septien kicked the game-winning field goal.

Drew Pearson, Wide Receiver Consultant

Pearson was forced to retire before the 1984 season after he was severely injured in a car accident on the evening of March 24, 1984. Pearson came back during the 1985 training camp to serve as a consultant, with talk that he would remain as a coach.

High Expectations for Jesse Penn

Rookie linebacker Jesse Penn, as second-round pick in 1985, looked so good in training camp that some thought he would start. Brad Sham asked linebackers coach Jerry Tubbs about Penn:

Q. The media has lifted the fan expectations of Jesse Penn, that he might become a starter in his rookie year, and he didn’t hurt himself any with that long interception return against Green Bay [in the first preseason game]. Has the media built him up too much, or is he really there?

A. Actually, it’s still a little early to say. It’s a difficult thing to start as a rookie. It’s just exceedingly difficult. In talking to Jesse, he’s told me what he did in college (at Virginia Tech). He really had about two jobs to do. With the Dallas Cowboys, you must have 30 different situations in which you have to react a certain way. That’s a tremendous burden to put on someone, but he does have good physical ability, and there’s a possibility that he’ll work out.

[Of course, Penn never started a game in the NFL and was out of the league after 1987]

Nicknames

Some of these nicknames are familiar, while others aren’t:

Tony Hill: “The Thrill”

Bill Bates: “Manster, Junior”

Ed Jones: “Too Tall”

Randy White: “Manster”

Brian Baldinger: “Ol’ Baldy”

Ron Fellows: “Tweety Bird”

Steve DeOssie: “Barney Rubble”

Dennis Thurman: “The Coach”

Tom Rafferty: “Ruff”

Jim Cooper: “Confetti”

Best Free Agent Signings

Dallas coaches and executives were asked who the team’s all-time best free agent signing was.

Tex Schramm: Drew Pearson and Cliff Harris

Gil Brandt: Cornell Green

Jerry Tubbs (LB Coach): Harris

Don Cochran (Trainer): Dan Reeves

Bob Griffin (Scout): Pearson

Joe Bailey (VP): Pettis Norman

Doug Todd (Public Relations Director): Pearson.