Aging Franchise Quarterbacks

The Dallas Cowboys have the fourth pick in the NFL draft, as everyone knows, and a number of fans want to see the Cowboys take a quarterback who will eventually replace Tony Romo.

Jerry Jones’ take? Romo will last another four or five years. He will be 36 at the beginning of next season.

Summarizing how franchise quarterbacks in team history fared past the age of 36 is pretty easy. Few of them have made it that long.

Don Meredith was 30 during his last season. Troy Aikman was 34. That eliminates two of them.

Of the others, Roger Staubach had the best performances after turning 36. In 1978 at the age of 36, he led the league in passer rating during the first season in which teams played 16 games instead of 14 games. One year later at the age of 37, in what turned out to be his final season, Staubach set career highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Danny White is the only other franchise QB to play until the age of 36, but his final season was one to forget. He played in only three games.

The last time before 2015 that Romo missed significant time was 2010. He followed that with four mostly complete seasons.


Animated Trivia: Roger Staubach to Tony Hill

Below is an animated GIF showing a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Tony Hill. Some trivia questions about this play appear below the image.


(1) During what year did this play occur?

A few additional facts may help: the play covered 30 yards, and one of the defenders was Gary Jeter (#70), a first-round pick of the Giants.

(2) Staubach threw a total of 153 touchdown passes. Which two players caught the most from Staubach?

(3) Hill caught Staubach’s final regular-season touchdown pass. Which player caught the first?

(4) While we’re at it, which player caught Staubach’s last touchdown pass in the 1979 playoff loss to the L.A. Rams?

(5) True or false? Staubach threw more touchdown passes against the Giants than any other team.


Some other notes…

  • This game took place during a 12-game winning streak the Cowboys recorded against the Giants in the 1970s. Dallas lost the Giants on September 29, 1974, but won the second matchup in October. The Cowboys would not lose again to the Giants until 1980, when Dallas lost by a Joe Delano field goal at Giants Stadium.
  • Harry Carson (#53) appears in the GIF above. He was a member of the Giants during eight of those losses to the Cowboys.
  • Hill caught his first NFL touchdown from Staubach in 1978 against the Rams. He caught his final touchdown pass from Danny White in 1986 against the Cardinals. The only other players to throw a touchdown pass to Hill were Gary Hogeboom and receiver Drew Pearson.

Animated Trivia: A DeMarcus Ware Interception

Given the occasion that former Cowboy great DeMarcus Ware is playing in the Super Bowl and the Cowboys are still trying to figure out why they lost 12 games, it’s time for some animated trivia.

First, the image:



Now, the trivia questions:

(1) During which year did this game take place?

(2) Did the Cowboys win this game?

(3) How many interceptions did Ware have during his career in Dallas?

(4) Has Ware had any interceptions as a member of the Broncos?

(5) Of the players shown in the GIF, how many were members of the Cowboys in 2015?

Post-Dynasty Droughts

Okay, not that Dynasty.

Okay, not that Dynasty.

For the 20th consecutive year, Cowboys fans are forced to watch conference championship games that do not feature the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, Cowboys fans get to ponder news about Tony Romo having a plate inserted in his collarbone.

This is not the longest drought that teams have faced after forming dynasties in the past. In fact, it will take eight more years before the Cowboys match the drought of the Green Bay Packers.

Here’s a look at some dynasties of the past:

Cleveland Browns

The Dynasty: Including the four years of the AFFC, Cleveland won eight championships in 20 years.

Aftermath: The Browns won their last NFL title in 1964. They continued to be a force for the rest of the 1960s but never made it to a Super Bowl.

Post-dynasty Drought: 17 years. After reaching the NFL Championship Game in 1969, the Browns would not return to a conference title game until 1986.

Green Bay Packers

The Dynasty: Green Bay won five titles between 1961 and 1967, including the first two Super Bowl titles.

Aftermath: The Packers were a mediocre franchise for a long time and reached the playoffs only twice between 1968 and 1993.

Post-dynasty Drought: 28 years. The Packers lost in the divisional round of the playoffs in 1993 and 1994 before reaching the NFC Championship Game in 1995. They lost to the Cowboys that year but won the Super Bowl the following year.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Dynasty: Four Super Bowl titles in six years.

Aftermath: Pittsburgh stumbled in the early 1980s thanks to injuries and age. The Steelers made the AFC Championship Game in 1984 after recording only a 9-7 record.

Post-dynasty Drought: 10 years. The Steelers made the playoffs three times between 1985 and 1993 but did not return to the AFC Championship Game until 1994. They reached the Super Bowl in 1995, losing to Dallas.

San Francisco 49ers

The Dynasty: Five Super Bowl titles in 14 years.

Aftermath: San Francisco remained competitive for the rest of the 1990s, but the bottom fell out in 1999.

Post-dynasty Drought: 14 years. The 49ers made the NFC Championship Game in 1997 but would not return until 2011. San Francisco reached the Super Bowl in 2012.

Washington Redskins

The Dynasty: Three Super Bowl titles in 10 years.

Aftermath: Washington has struggled to become a winning team since its last Super Bowl title in 1991.

Post-dynasty Drought: 24 years. The Redskins have made the playoffs only six times since its last title.

Dallas Cowboys

The Dynasty: Three Super Bowl titles in four years.

Aftermath: The Cowboys were the first dynasty to suffer from the salary cap. Opponents signed several key players, and Dallas was unable to get back to the top in the latter half of the 1990s.

Post-dynasty Drought: 20 years. The Cowboys have reached the playoffs eight times since their last Super Bowl win but have won only two playoff games.

Turnover Margin Did Not Quite Make History

The 2015 Cowboys were in the mood to give gifts in 2015. That is, 11 fumbles, 22 interceptions.

The 2015 Cowboys were in the mood to give gifts. That is, 11 fumbles, 22 interceptions.

As we all know, the 2015 Dallas Cowboys will go down in history as one of the worst teams in franchise history.

And, of course, the team might be best known for its lack of turnovers. The team forced only 11 turnovers in 16 games.

In the history of the NFL, the team’s turnover differential of -22 ranks as the 27th worst in a season. Among teams playing 16-game seasons since 1978, only 14 teams have had a turnover differential worse than -22.

The 14 teams with turnover differentials worse than -22 since 1978 have won an average of 3.78 games.

It is only fitting that Dallas went 4-12.

This was not the worst season in NFL history or in team history, however. Below are a few points about turnover differential in league history.

Worst of all time: 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers

The worst turnover differential in league history, or at least dating back to 1940, was -30 by the 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 1965 Steelers were a miserable 2-12. Pittsburgh turned the ball over six times in a game against the Cowboys and seven times in a game against the Redskins.

What gave those Steelers the worst turnover differential was Pittsburgh’s miserable performance against the Cardinals on December 12, 1965.

Quarterback Tommy Wade threw seven interceptions, while Bill Nelson threw two more. Moreover, the team lost three fumbles, giving Pittsburgh a total of 12 turnovers in one game. It tied a league mark for most turnovers in a single game.

The Steelers turned the ball over five times in their season finale, giving the team 57 turnovers in one year.

Modern futility: 2000 San Diego Chargers

Since the league expanded to 16-game seasons in 1978, the worst team in terms of turnover differential has been the 2000 San Diego Chargers.

Led by the infamous Ryan Leaf and the 37-year-old Jim Harbaugh, the Chargers went 1-15 that season. They turned the ball over at least twice in every game that year and suffered five turnovers in three consecutive games.

By season’s end, the Chargers had 50 turnovers. The defense only managed 22, giving the team a turnover ratio of -28.

Worst in Cowboys’ history: 1989 and 1960

The worst seasons in team history remain the 1960 and 1989 seasons. The 2015 season was not far behind, though.

In 12 games during the franchise’s inaugural season of 1960, Dallas turned the ball over 50 times while forcing only 26 turnovers, giving the team a differential of -24.

That mark stood for 29 years until the 1989 Cowboys had a turnover differential of -25.

The 2015 Cowboys will take their place among those horrible teams with the third-worst season.

1989 Cowboys (1-15): -25
1960 Cowboys (0-11-1): -24
2015 Cowboys (4-12): -22
1988 Cowboys (3-13): -21
2004 Cowboys (6-10): -15

The Best of All Time: 1983 Washington Redskins

Not surprisingly, teams with the highest positive turnover differential have performed well.

The team with the highest differential were the 1983 Redskins, who finished with a 14-2 record. Washington forced an incredible 61 turnovers while committing only 18, for a differential of 43.

The next highest number on the list was +30 by the 1958 Baltimore Colts.

The Best of Dallas Teams: 1981

The Cowboys have had some great defenses, but in terms of regular-season statistics, no team has had an especially impressive turnover ratio.

The best season for the franchise in this context was the 1981 Cowboys. Thanks largely to rookie Everson Walls’ 11 interceptions, Dallas forced 53 turnovers and finished the season with a ratio of +18.

Here is the list of the top five:

1981 Cowboys (12-4): +18
1971 Cowboys (11-3): +16
1973 Cowboys (10-4): +13
1970 Cowboys (10-4): +11
1998 Cowboys (10-6): +11

Washington 34, Dallas 23: “Playing” for “Pride”

Just trying to find a dog to urinate on this.

Just trying to find a dog to urinate on this.

At about 1 p.m. central standard time, the Dallas Cowboys showed up to play a football game. As head coach Jason Garrett likes to state, the team scratched and clawed and showed heart and…

Unfortunately, the game against the Washington Redskins started at noon. By the time the Cowboys appeared to realize they were playing a football game, Washington led 24-0.

Dallas did make things interesting for a while and even put up 512 yards of offense, representing a season high. But many of those yards came when the Redskins were playing off the ball thanks to the huge lead.

The Cowboys finish their season at 4-12. It’s the worst finish since 1989, when Dallas went 1-15. The 275 points for the season were the fewest since 2002, when Dallas went 5-11.

Horrible start

It was the same old story. Dallas went three-and-out on its first two possessions, and Washington scored its first touchdown after the second Dallas possession.

The Cowboys picked up a first down on its third possession, but quarterback Kellen Moore threw an interception. Washington scored again.

Dallas then fumbled on its fourth possession. Washington scored again.

Here’s the highlight posted on ESPN after the first quarter:

The Cowboys are down 21 points at the end of the first quarter, the first time that’s happened to them at home since December 3, 1961 against the Browns. Jim Brown scored a first-quarter touchdown that day for Cleveland.


Yes, Moore ended up throwing for 435 yards and 3 TDs, but the game was over long before Moore started putting up stats.

No turnovers

Dallas once again lost the turnover battle, 4-0. That marks the ninth game this season where Dallas has failed to force a single turnover.

For the season, the Cowboys turned the ball over 33 times, including 22 interceptions and 11 lost fumbles. The defense forced a total of 11 turnovers—8 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries.


Defensive mastermind?

At least twice during the game, color commentator Ronde Barber was openly questioning what the Dallas defensive coaches were thinking. Both were touchdown plays, including one where Rashad Ross was all alone on a 71-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy.

Rod Marinelli may have a great reputation, and perhaps he deserved all the credit he received last year, but his defense this year sure made him look like the head coach who went 0-16 with Detroit.

Fire Jason Garrett

Yes, Tom Landry won his first Super Bowl in his 12th season as head coach. Yes, the team suffered through five losing seasons before the young franchise started winning.

Maybe that is what Jerry is thinking about retaining Garrett despite all the mediocrity.

Or maybe Jerry just doesn’t mind the mediocrity, given that he still sells the stadium out.


I have no reason to think that Garrett will lead this team to a championship, and I would think that the time is now to move on.

Buffalo 16, Dallas 6: Processing Yet Another Loss

Jason Garrett took over a 1-7 Dallas Cowboys team in 2010 and turned things around a bit.

Garrett was much more articulate than predecessor Wade Phillips. As a Princeton graduate, Garrett must be much smarter than Phillips. Garrett preached process, and the immediate results (5-3 during the second half of the 2010 season) were promising.

Yet another week of good try, but not enough.

Yet another week of good try, but not enough.

Members of the local press called for Phillips to be fired when Dallas lost to the Giants in the playoffs after going 13-3 in the regular season in 2007. (Um, Jean-Jacques Taylor?) Even more people called for Phillips’ head after Dallas lost to the Eagles in the season finale in 2008, ending the team’s chances of making the playoffs by going 9-7.  (Um, Jean-Jacques Taylor?)

The critics were silenced for a while when Dallas went 11-5 in 2009 and won a playoff game, but Jerry Jones had little choice but to fire Wade when the team stumbled and fumbled its way to the 1-7 record in 2010.

As the permanent head coach, Garrett’s message remains pretty much the same. Preach process; must review the tape before commenting on anything else.

Well, here’s the process in Garrett’s fifth year as the permanent head coach: fight hard early in the game; keep the game close; miss opportunities on offense; make mistakes at the worst possible times; watch defense fall apart in the second half.

And lose the game.

Dallas did all of the above against the 6-8 Buffalo Bills.

Fight hard

The Dallas defense held Buffalo to less than 10 points for nearly the entire game. In fact, Dallas managed to force two turnovers, increasing the team’s total to 11 for the season.

Keep game close

The Dallas offense was not great, but the Cowboys did manage to kick two field goals in the first half. The game was tied 6-6 at the half.

Miss opportunity; make mistake at the worst time

With the Cowboys trailing 9-6 in the third quarter, Dallas moved the ball to the Buffalo 26. But a pass intended for Brice Butler bounced off his hands and into the arms of AJ Tarpley. Dallas never came close to scoring again.

Watch defense fall apart

Buffalo took possession of the ball with 6:53 remaining in the game and a 9-6 lead. The Bills rather easily moved the ball to the 50, when a running back named Mike Gillislee raced 50 yards down the right sideline for the game-clinching score.

The Cowboys are now 4-11 and in danger of finishing with the team’s worst record since 1989. Dallas needs a win next week against Washington to tie the records achieved by all three teams coached by Dave Campo.

What an unmitigated disaster, yet the members of the press who regularly demanded that Jerry fire Wade are rather silent when it comes to firing Garrett. (Um, Jean-Jacques Taylor?)

Well, it’s time to start demanding that Jerry fire Garrett. Almost no other coach would have survived three consecutive 8-8 seasons where season-ending losses to division rivals killed the team’s playoff chances. And even fewer coaches would survive a 4-12 season just one year after the team went 12-4.

Chances are, however, that Garrett will clearly articulate the reasons why his process will work, and Jerry will not fire him.

And this mediocrity will continue.


N.Y. Jets 19, Dallas 16: Something Unprecedented

In 55 years as a franchise, the Dallas Cowboys have had many years of ups and a few years of downs. The past 20 years have seen the Cowboys find all sorts of ways to remain mediocre.

Given this history, it is difficult for the Cowboys to do something truly unprecedented. This 2015 Dallas team can do just that—something that no other team has done in franchise history.

Dallas has gone 0-11-1, 1-15, 3-13. Of course, Dave Campo’s Cowboys went 5-11 three straight years.

But no Dallas team has ever gone 4-12.

This current squad has the potential to do that after finding yet another way to lose a game despite holding a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Dallas once again lost the turnover battle as Dallas quarterbacks threw four total interceptions. Kellen Moore replaced Matt Cassel in the first half, and though Moore threw three of those interceptions, his touchdown pass to Dez Bryant near the end of the first half gave Dallas a 10-9 halftime lead.

The Cowboys moved the ball to the New York 6-yard line with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter. However, for the second time in two weeks, a pass intended for Dez Bryant wound up in the hands of the opponent inside the red zone.

Thankfully for Dallas, Terrance Mitchell picked off a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass just two plays later. The Dallas offense could not move the ball, so the Cowboys settled for a  field goal.

The Dallas defense did what has become common—let the team stay in the game until the fourth quarter. True to form, the Dallas defense did a nice job overall but gave up a 70-yard touchdown drive that gave the Jets a lead with 8:58 remaining.

Moore led the Cowboys on a drive that resulted in a field goal, tying the game at 16.

But the defense once again failed to stop the opponent when it mattered the most. The Jets drove the ball 58 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

Yet again, this Cowboys team has no idea how to win a game.

A 4-12 record would have been impossible before 1978, when the NFL expanded the schedule to 16 games. In the 1960s, the Cowboys recorded records of 4-10 and 4-9-1, but no Dallas team since the expanded schedule has gone 4-12.

We have every reason to believe it will happen this year. What a complete and utter failure.

Green Bay 28, Dallas 7: Now Our Failure Is Complete

We are five days away from the new Star Wars movie, so let’s roll out some Star Wars lines.


A long time ago…

The Cowboys traveled to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys were a competitive bunch. In fact, that Cowboys team had reached the playoffs and had even won a playoff game.

That game in the distant past occurred in 2014. Only some of our older readers might recall that year.

Anyway, Dallas actually led that playoff game heading into the fourth quarter. Dallas also might have won the game but for a reversed call on a reception by Dez Bryant near the goal line in the fourth quarter.

This is the present though.


To be fair to the defense, Dallas was not out of tonight’s game until late in the second half. Green Bay controlled the ball for much of the first half, but the Packers’ lead was only 14-0 going into halftime.

At the midway point of the third quarter, Dallas had even cut the Green Bay lead to 14-7.  The Dallas defense forced punts on four straight possessions.

Had Dallas been able to mount more offense, the Cowboys could have been in a position to win this game.

But this is the 2015 Cowboys, who have utterly no clue how to win a game.

After gaining 80 yards on four plays to score their only touchdown of the game, the Cowboys managed a total of 55 yards on their next five possessions.

Dallas still had some chance in the fourth quarter, but the defense needed to make another stop. Instead, the Packers moved the ball 84 yards on 12 plays.

The worst play of the drive occurred on a 3rd and 9 from the Dallas 48. A stop would have forced a Green Bay punt. Instead, Aaron Rodgers broke an arm tackle and ran 11 yards for a first down.

Five plays later, James Starks broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run that all but put the game away.


Jerry can spin this season all he wants, but the bottom line is that this season has been a failure.

At 4-9, Dallas is not fully eliminated from the playoffs, but it would take monumental failures by the Eagles, Redskins, and Giants for the Cowboys to win the NFC East. It’s not going to happen.

Moreover, failures this year are solely the result of Tony Romo being injured. These have been team losses with failures at one time or another by every part of this team.

Dallas 19, Washington 16: Somehow Still in the Hunt

Jason Witten caught his 1,000th career pass on a 7-yard play during the second quarter of the Cowboys' 19-16 win over the Washington Redskins.

Jason Witten caught his 1,000th career pass on a 7-yard play during the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 19-16 win over the Washington Redskins.

If the Dallas Cowboys had failed to win another game in 2015, Jason Garrett’s coaching record would (fittingly) fall to an even, perfectly mediocre 44-44.

With a few exceptions, the Cowboys played against Washington as if they might have wanted this to happen.

For example, with the Cowboys trailing 9-6 in the fourth quarter, Matt Cassel completed a 42-yard pass to Dez Bryant to get the ball to the Washington 3. A touchdown would give Dallas a fourth-quarter lead.

But who needs a lead when the team can tie the game with another field goal? Dallas moved the ball to the 1, but Darren McFadden lost a yard on 3rd-and-goal, meaning that Dallas tied the game with a Dan Bailey field goal.

A few minutes later, the Redskins did their best to give Dallas the win. More specifically, DeSean Jackson tried to give the game away by running backwards on a punt return and then fumbling the ball.

Dallas recovered at the Washington 15 with less than two minutes remaining. A first down by the Dallas offense would mean the Cowboys could run the clock down to nothing, setting up a probable game-winning attempt by Bailey.

But who needs to take the path leading to a sure win when you can give the opponent a chance to tie the game again? Well, McFadden ran out of bounds on first down to stop the clock, then rushed for a touchdown on second down. That meant Dallas led 16-9, but it also meant that Washington had 1:14 to tie the game-winning score.

To help the Redskins with a comeback attempt, Dallas gave up a long kickoff return, and J.J. Wilcox was called for a facemask. This gave Washington the ball at the Dallas 43.

Four plays later, Kurt Cousins hit Jackson on a 28-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.

Really stupid game management. And we’ve seen this before during the Jason Garrett regime. Please remember the possibility of a 44-44 record.

Well, Garrett will continue to have a winning record after this year because Lucky Whitehead returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards, and Cassel moved the Cowboys into field-goal range for a 54-yard attempt by Bailey. The kicker nailed the kick, and Dallas improved to 4-8.

It was a strange win, but even stranger is that most of the other cards fell into place. The Eagles, Giants, and Redskins each have 5-7 records, so Dallas is only one game out of the division lead. This race somehow is not over.

Sean Lee was a monster tonight. He finished with a total of 13 tackles, including two for losses, plus a sack.

Other defenders had good games as well. This Washington team scored 47 points against the Saints less than a month ago, but Dallas shut down the Redskin offense for much of the game.


With five receptions, Jason Witten now has 1,003 for his career. He not only surpassed the 1,000-catch mark but he also moved into the top 10 on the all-time list for receptions. With 22 more receptions this year, he’ll surpass Isaac Bruce.