If I asked for the most infamous moment in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, what comes to mind?
Perhaps it’s Terrell Owens dancing on the star in 2000?
Perhaps it’s the Bounty Bowl in 1989 against Buddy Ryan and the Philadelphia Eagles?
There have been other incidents, to be sure, but those two certainly stand out.
Of course, Dallas showed it contempt for Owens by signing him as a free agent before the 2006 season.
Now, Dallas is trying to finalize a deal to bring Buddy’s son, Rob, to become defensive coordinator.
Part of me thinks this would have been like Bum Bright hiring George Allen as an consultant during the bad times of the 1980s. Or Michael Irvin speaking on behalf of Philadelphia fans about their great sportsmanship.
Of course, things could be worse. Like nearly every defensive performance in 2010.
In 2004, the Cowboys were coming off a 10-6 finish and a playoff appearance from the previous year. Bill Parcells had always run a 3-4 defense, but the 4-3 scheme that Mike Zimmer coached in ’03 ranked first in the NFL in yards allowed and second in points allowed. Thus, Parcells did not make the move to a 3-4.
The following year was a disaster on the defensive side of the ball. Dallas gave up 405 points, which was the most ever up to that point. Parcells had seen enough, and the team devoted the 2005 draft to finding players for a 3-4 scheme.
Since that time, the Cowboys have devoted draft picks not only on starters such as DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, but also on the likes of Kevin Burnett, Bobby Carpenter, Jason Williams, Brandon Williams, Victor Butler, and Sean Lee. Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears have been starters on the defensive line since 2005, but the team’s other picks on the defensive line haven’t panned out.
Between 2005 and 2010, the team has had three seasons in which it ranked in the top 10 in terms of yards allowed. However, the team has ranked higher than 12th in points allowed only once.
The 2009 defense ranked second in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed. It was the best defensive performance since 2003.
And then came the 2010 season. The results looked much like they did in 2004, except that the defense now has players who were higher draft picks and fewer excuses. With the Cowboys interviewing potential coordinators with backgrounds with the 3-4, it appears obvious that the team will stick with the scheme. It’s hard to remain sold on this scheme, though.
Here’s a comparison between 2004 and 2010 (NFL rank appears in parentheses):
|405 (27)||Points Allowed||436 (31)|
|220.1 (21)||Passing Yds. Allowed||243.4 (26)|
|31 (29)||TD Passes Allowed||33 (31)|
|13 (24)||Interceptions||20 (7)|
|33 (26)||Sacks||35 (17)|
|94.2 (27)||Opponent Passer Rating||92.8 (29)|
|110.2 (10)||Rushing Yds. Allowed||108.4 (12)|
|14 (20)||Rushing TDs Allowed||11 (12)|
The Indianapolis Colts tied the Cowboys’ NFL record for most consecutive seasons to make the playoffs. Dallas had set the record from 1975 to 1983.
The team’s records during this time period were quite similar. During three of the years for the Cowboys, the league only played a 14-game season. And during the 1982 season, teams only played nine regular season games because of the strike. While the Colts have the edge in overall record, Dallas had a better playoff mark.
Incidentally, like the 1983 Cowboys, the 2010 Colts lost at home in the first round of the playoffs.
Below are the numbers.
Dallas: 98-33 (0.748)
Indianapolis: 109-35 (0.757)
Super Bowl Appearances
Super Bowl Wins
Some Colts fans rightfully point out that Indianapolis accomplished all of this during the free agency period. On the other hand, fewer teams made the playoffs during the time that Dallas set the mark. Until 1978, only 4 teams per conference made the playoffs, and from after 1978, only 5 out of 14 teams made the playoffs. The Colts have played at a time when 6 out of 16 teams per conference make the playoffs.
I also think it’s a fair conclusion that NFC East during that time was generally stronger overall than the AFC South has been during the past nine seasons. During the time that Dallas continued to make the playoffs, the Redskins, Eagles, and Giants all became playoff teams; between 1978 and 1983, at least two teams in the NFC East made the playoffs. The Eagles made a Super Bowl appearance in 1980, and the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1982. The Colts’ competition in the AFC South consists of the Titans (four playoff appearances in nine years with five non-winning seasons), the Jaguars (two playoff appearances and three winning seasons in nine years), and the Texans (one winning season since 2002 and no playoff appearances).
Anyway, here are the complete records.
Dallas Cowboys, 1975-1983
|Off Rank||Def Rank|
Indianapolis Colts, 2002-2010
|Off Rank||Def Rank|
The last time the Cowboys had a shutdown corner was in the form of Deion Sanders, who left the team after the 1999 season. Since then, Dallas has devoted more than 15 draft picks on cornerbacks, and most of them have been busts.
We don’t need to review the performances of Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick, other than to say these three and their pathetic counterparts at safety are a big reason why the Cowboys’ record finally read 6-10.
News today is that Oakland Raiders’ cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will become a free agent because of a clause in his contract. By failing to meet certain incentives, his contract became void.
To achieve his incentives, Asomugha had to play in a greater number of defensive plays in 2010 than he did in 2009, and this season Asomugha played in only 14 games whereas he played in all 16 in 2009.
He also could have achieved his incentives by improving upon on his interceptions, fumble recoveries or sacks this season — but he didn’t have any interceptions, fumble recoveries or sacks this season.
The reason he failed to achieve those numbers is that nobody would throw in his direction. That is quite different than the case with the Cowboys, where opponents salivated over the opportunity to complete passes at will against any of the Dallas defensive backs.
As nearly everyone knows, Jason Garrett officially became the Cowboys’ permanent head coach on Thursday. Jerry Jones has apparently taken a few steps forward by announcing that Garrett has control over the hiring and firing of personnel. Jerry also said today that he would not put a player on the roster without first seeking approval from Garrett. Two good signs.
Then Garrett went and ruined the whole moving-forward sentiment by indicating he wants to return the team to its glory days of the 1990s.
Along with Tom Landry, Garrett is the second coach in team history who played professionally. He is the third coach to hail from the northeast; the other five coaches were raised in the south. Garrett is also among six coaches with prior experience as an NFL assistant.
Here’s a table showing a few of the facts about the eight head coaches. Garrett’s record includes his performance as an interim this year.
|Place of Origin||Texas||Texas||Arkansas||Georgia||Connecticut||New Jersey||Texas||Pennsylvania|
|College||Texas||Arkansas||Arkansas||Florida||Cent. Conn. St.||Wichita State||Houston||Princeton|
|Prior Experience, College Head Coach||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Nat’l Championship, College Coach||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
|Prior Experience, Assistant||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Super Bowl/NFL Titles as Assistant||1||0||0||0||3||0||0||0|
|Prior Experience, Head Coach||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Super Bowl Titles as Head Coach||2||2||1||0||0||2||0||0|
|Head Coaching Record in Dallas||250-162-6||44-36||40-24||18-14||15-33||34-30||34-22||5-3|
|Overall Head Coaching Record||250-162-6||80-64||40-24||22-26||15-33||172-130-1||82-61||5-3|
The Cowboys’ terrible performance in 2010 was stunning, and most would consider it to be the most disappointing in the franchise’s history. The focus of this post is whether the 2010 season has any competitors when it comes to most disappointing.
The Cowboys have had a losing record in 16 of 51 seasons. The team was obviously in building or rebuilding mode in several of these seasons, so expectations were low entering into the season. There have been other seasons in which Dallas was expected to make the playoffs, yet just missed after barely getting over the .500 mark.
The list below includes 21 seasons in which the Cowboys either had a losing record or were expected to make the playoffs but failed to qualify. Any season in which the team may have struggled but still made the playoffs (e.g., 1999, 2006) were excluded.
Some of these seasons simply don’t rank with the 2010 in terms of overall disappointment because nobody expected much at all from the team. The teams below didn’t make the “cut.”
1960: Dallas was an expansion team and didn’t even have the benefit of a draft. The 0-11-1 mark wasn’t quite what anyone expected, but it was hardly stunning.
1961: Same as 1960.
1962: Same as 1960 and 1961, except that the Cowboys had quite an explosive offense in ’62.
1964: After a disappointing 1963 campaign, the Cowboys continued to have trouble winning games. This could not have been a surprise.
1965: Thanks to a three-game winning streak, Dallas managed a .500 mark. It was not what the team expected, but Dallas played in the Playoff Bowl in 1965 thanks to its second-place finish in the Eastern Division.
1987: Most hoped that the Cowboys would return to the playoffs in 1987 after the losing record in 1986, but the 7-8 finish was hardly a big surprise.
1988: The Cowboys were a mix of over-the-hill veterans and a group of untalented youngsters. No surprise that a 3-13 season would result.
1989: Dallas had even less talent that the ’88 squad had.
1990: Nobody thought the Cowboys would be within a win of making the playoffs, so the 7-9 mark and the season as a whole were more positive than negative.
2001: The Quincy Carter experiment was not going to go well, and the results in the first season of this experiment were not surprising.
2002: This team was better than the ’00 and ’01 squads, but Dave Campo hadn’t proven himself a winner, and the 5-11 mark didn’t turn out to be a big surprise.
This leaves ten teams, which I’ve ranked as follows:
10. 2005 Season (9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East)
The hype: There was no way that a Bill Parcells team would miss the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Dallas had a good draft and a better quarterback in Drew Bledsoe. This team was ready to take a few steps forward.
The result: After a 7-3 start, the team only managed two more wins. The Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs before they took the field in week 17, and the team promptly lost to the lowly Rams.
Why it was not more disappointing: Dallas fans had endured three 5-11 seasons from ’00 to ’02, along with a 6-10 mark in ’04. A 9-7 record was actually an improvement.
9. 1984 Season (9-7, 2nd place in the NFC East)
The hype: QB Gary Hogeboom was the answer. He would deliver what Danny White couldn’t.
The result: The Cowboys started 4-3 and limped their way to a 9-7 even after White returned to the starting lineup.
Why it was not more disappointing: The team missed the playoffs, but after three consecutive losses in NFC title games from ’80 to ’82, along with a bad end to the 1983 season, it wasn’t entirely shocking that the team took a step back.
8. 1963 Season (4-10, 5th place in the NFC East)
The hype: The Cowboys made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the favorites to win the Eastern Division.
The result: The team regressed from its 5-8-1 mark the year before by going 4-10. Dallas only managed one win in its first seven games.
Why it was not more disappointing: The franchise had not yet done anything, so another losing season could hardly have been a shock.
7. 2000 Season (5-11, 4th place in the NFC East)
The hype: The Cowboys had lost Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, but they had gained Joey Galloway and still had Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith.
The result: Aikman was booed for much of the season, and the team never recovered from an opening-game loss to the Eagles.
Why it was not more disappointing: The Cowboys had an awful draft in 2000, and the team had not replaced its departed stars during the previous several seasons.
6. 2004 Season (6-10, 2nd place in the NFC East)
The hype: The Cowboys were going to go further in the playoffs now that Bill Parcells had turned everything around.
The result: The team cut Quincy Carter in the preseason and relied on Vinny Testaverde to lead the way. After six losses in seven games during the middle of the season, Dallas stood at 3-7.
Why it was not more disappointing: Nobody thought the team would have to rely on Testaverde, and the team’s schedule was more difficult than it was in 2003.
5. 1974 Season (8-6, 3rd place in the NFC East)
The hype: The team had reached the NFC title game in ’72 and ’73, and most of the main stars were returning.
The result: The Cowboys never overcame a 1-4 start, and even winning seven games in eight weeks wasn’t enough to lead to a playoff berth.
Why it was not more disappointing: Most remember the ’74 season for Clint Longley’s heroics on Thanksgiving, and the real disappointment was the poor start. Dallas rebounded in the second half of the season and ended up making the Super Bowl the next year.
4. 1986 Season (7-9, 3rd place in the NFC East)
The hype: Dallas brought in some talent with Herschel Walker and rookie Mike Sherrard. The team’s 6-2 start was enough for a tie for the division lead after eight games.
The result:Danny White broke his wrist. Steve Pelleur wasn’t the answer. The 6-2 start turned into a 7-9 nightmare, marking the team’s first losing record in 22 years.
Why it was not more disappointing: The talent base had eroded by 1986, and the team lacked a proven backup after the Cowboys traded Gary Hogeboom.
3. 1997 Season (6-10, 4th place in the NFC East)
The hype: The Cowboys were ready to reclaim their spot among the NFL’s best now that the distractions of 1996 were gone.
The result: The team never came together and struggled to stay above the .500 mark. Dallas stood at 6-5 after week 12, but a loss to the Packers started a five-game skid. This year marked the end of the Dallas dynasty of the 1990s.
Why it was not more disappointing: The team had been imploding for some time after winning Super Bowl XXX, so the result was disappointing but not entirely surprising.
2. 2008 Season (9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East)
The hype: The team would rebound from its devastating loss to the Giants in the 2007 playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.
The result: Dallas had a 3-0 record after three weeks and an 8-4 record after 12 games, but the team lacked the firepower it had in 2007. The Cowboys lost three of four to end the season, including a defeat to the Ravens in the last game at Texas Stadium and 44-6 humiliation to the Eagles in the season finale with a playoff berth on the line.
Why it was not more disappointing: The Cowboys had gone 9-7 in ’05 and ’06, and the team never looked like the 13-3 squad in ’08.
1. 2010 Season (6-10, 3rd place in the NFC East)
The hype: The Cowboys had finally turned the corner by winning a playoff game in 2009. The team was ready to compete for the NFC title.
The result: The Cowboys lost to Washington in week 1 and never recovered. After week 9, Dallas was 1-7 and heading nowhere. A 5-3 finish was respectable, but the squad’s defense was still among the league’s worst.
Why it is the more disappointing: The Cowboys had some (perhaps unrealistic) Super Bowl hopes in ’74, ’86, ’97, and ’08, but none of those teams completely collapsed the way the ’10 team did.
With the real-life season ending up the way it did, at least some fantasy football could provide some excitements this season. On ESPN’s Super League, the Cowboys had two teams in play, including the 1971 team and the 1992 team. The teams were among 16 of the greatest in NFL history, and these teams were matched up in a simulated 15-game season.
The 1971 squad struggled at mid-season and finished with a 4-8 record. Wins over the ’75 Steelers and ’84 49ers helped to improve the Cowboys’ record, but a final game loss to the ’91 Redskins gave the Cowboys a 6-9 mark.
The 1992 Cowboys had a much better season. Thanks to a four-game winning streak in the middle of the season, Dallas stood at 8-4 with three weeks to go. Losses to the ’98 Broncos and ’78 Steelers hurt, but the Cowboys beat the ’84 49ers in the season finale to qualify for the championship game.
The Cowboys had to face an unlikely foe in the ’91 Redskins, who finished the season at 10-5. The game came down to the final play, with the Cowboys trailing 23-17. Here’s the summary:
Troy Aikman stood behind center Mark Stepnoski and looked across the line of scrimmage at the Washington Redskins’ defense.
One play to win the Super League Super Bowl.
One yard to the end zone.
One second remaining in the game.
The 1992 Dallas Cowboys trailed the ’91 Redskins 23-17. What do you call?
Aikman had just thrown an incomplete pass intended for Michael Irvin, as cornerback Darrell Green had batted down the throw. With the season on the line, the Cowboys decided to run their bread-and-butter play: Emmitt Smith behind left tackle Mark Tuinei and left guard Nate Newton — two-fifths of one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history.
Smith took the handoff from Aikman and rammed into the huge backside of Newton. There was no opening. The play was stuffed by defensive tackles Tim Johnson and Eric Williams and linebackers Matt Millen and Andre Collins. The 1991 Washington Redskins were Super League champions.
If nothing else, this had to be better than pondering whether the 2010 Cowboys were worse than the 1989 Cowboys. (The answer is no, but more on that later.)
The Cowboys have been haunted all season by their opening-game loss to the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys did everything they could that night to give the game to Washington, and in the end, Alex Barron’s holding penalty on the final play negated what would have been the game-winning touchdown from Tony Romo to Roy Williams.
You know the story since that time—the line has been a weak link all year; Romo has been out since week 7 thanks to a broken collarbone; the team’s kicker, David Buehler, has been consistently inconsistent; and the secondary has been awful.
Against the Eagles on Sunday, all of these negatives were once again factors in the game. With Romo and Jon Kitna out, Dallas had to start third-stringer Stephen McGee. The Cowboys were in position to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but Buehler pushed the ball right on a 53-yard attempt. Kevin Kolb didn’t destroy the Dallas secondary, but backup receiver Chad Hall caught a 48-yarder after smoking Terence Newman in the fourth quarter, and the play set up a field goal that gave Philadelphia a 13-7 lead. This was the same deficit the Cowboys faced when they tried to come from behind against Washington.
Dallas got the ball at its own 32 with seven minutes left, and the team immediately went backwards. Dallas had to punt the ball from its own 22 after a three-and-out, and it looked like the Eagles might be able to run the clock out, much like they did against Dallas on December 12.
Thankfully (I suppose), however, the Eagles weren’t playing with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, or Jeremy Maclin. Philadelphia only picked up one first down, and when Anthony Spencer sacked Kolb with just over three minutes left to play, Dallas had a chance. Sav Rocca’s punt only traveled 29 yards, giving Dallas the ball at its own 46.
It looked like the game might end right there. Dallas got a bad spot on a second-down play, and the team failed to convert from third-and-inches. Fullback Chris Gronkowski managed to move the pile enough to get the first down, and after a spike, McGee hit Jason Witten for a 33-yard gain to the Philadelphia 11. On 3rd-and-3 from the 4, McGee again found Witten, who ran to the right side of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the same area where Williams had caught the touchdown pass in week 1, but this time, Barron wasn’t on the field to negate the play.
Of course, the Cowboys still had to figure out how to play defense to secure the win. But unlike previous weeks, the Cowboys didn’t make heroes out of the Eagle backups. DeMarcus Ware finished a great game by picking up his third sack on first down. The Eagles did not move the ball, and Newman picked up his second interception of the game to put the game away.
There are going to be plenty of people who are upset that the Cowboys’ meaningless win may ruin their draft position. Six teams finished with records of 5-11 or worse, and Dallas is among seven teams with 6-10 marks. The Seahawks would make eight teams if they lose to the Rams tonight.
There were some positives, though, in addition to the simple W. Ware and Spencer looked like the forces they were from a year ago, with the two combining for five sacks. Ware also scored a touchdown after Spencer forced Kolb to fumble in the second quarter. Up to that point, Dallas trailed 7-0 and had not done much to make a game of it.
Felix Jones rushed for 81 yards on 11 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Marion Barber and Tashard Choice were non-factors, though, with Barber doing nothing on short-yardage situations and Choice dropping at least one pass he should have caught.
Witten was held in check for much of the game, but he came alive at the right time. Miles Austin hauled in two long passes, including a nice play on a bubble screen, and his 62 yards put him over 1,000 yards for the season.
And if nothing else, we don’t have to spend the entire off-season being reminded of a 44-6 loss to the Eagles on the final game of the season.
A couple of years ago, NFL Films released a DVD titled Big Game America: Legends of the Autumn Vol. IV. I found a copy in a $5 bin. The DVD has one clip that features both Don Meredith and former Minnesota defensive end Jim Marshall.
The clip focusing on Meredith is interesting. Meredith discusses not only his role as the team’s leader, but also his reaction to the fan’s terrible treatment of him. This was filmed during Meredith’s final season in 1968. An example of his self-deprecation is apparent in this quote:
I’m probably the best example that I can think of a guy who is the most unlikely looking candidate for professional football. I’ve got horrible legs; my ankles are all torn up; I’m not really that big; I’m not fast; I’m not really that smart. And yet I’ve played nine years . . . .
Here’s part of the clip featuring Meredith:
The video showing the Cowboys and Packers is from a preseason game on August 24, 1968. The Packers won the game 31-27, as Meredith only played the first half. Green Bay later handed the Cowboys their first loss of the season in October.
I’m thinking that if someone has access to some decent pictures, creating a team calendar can’t be all that hard. The Cowboys have some obvious candidate as featured players, including Pro Bowl players in Andre Gurode, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and perhaps Mat McBriar. Of course, any calendar would also include Tony Romo, Bradie James, Marion Barber, Miles Austin, and Felix Jones. We could name a bunch of others, including rookies Dez Bryant and Sean Lee.
So I’m at a store in a mall today and looked at the 2011 team calendar, which is also available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and several other outlets. Here’s part of the back of this calendar:
Just below Ware’s picture is former safety Ken Hamlin. Yes, that Ken Hamlin.
The publisher of this gem is a company called Perfect Timing – Turner, which also produces calendars from a bunch of other pro teams, along with Notre Dame and Playboy. I double-checked, and neither of the latter calendars features Charlie Weis or the Playmate of the Month from February 1991.
Just in case someone from Perfect Timing – Turner happens to browse fan blogs, please note that the Cowboys released Hamlin last April, and he was also cut by Baltimore two weeks into the 2010 season. But thanks for the laugh. Given what’s happened this year, this is kind of fitting.
* * *
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