50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series

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50 Seasons Series: ’64 Defense Shows Improvement

2009-03-05_004219.gifThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The shot above was taken during the Cowboys’ 1964 season finale against Pittsburgh. Players shown include Dave Edwards (#52), Jim Ridlon (#42), and Jerry Tubbs (#50). The Steeler running back is John Henry Johnson. Ridlon played for several seasons in San Francisco, and he had some highlights in 1964 with Dallas by scoring two defensive touchdowns.

The second half of the 1964 season began to look promising when the Cowboys evened their record at 4-4-1 after week 9. However, a four-game skid late in the season ended any hope of the team finishing at or above .500.

The Dallas defense started showing signs that it could be dominant. No team gained more than 367 total yards against the Cowboys all year, and in four of the final seven games, Dallas opponents gained less than 300.

On the other hand, the Cowboys never managed more than 300 yards during any of the final seven games, and in three of the last four games, Dallas gained fewer than 100 passing yards. That’s what we call bad.

Week 8: Dallas 24, Chicago 10

A touchdown run by Don Perkins and a touchdown reception by Jim Stiger helped Dallas jump out to a 17-3 halftime lead. A Don Meredith touchdown run in the fourth quarter finally iced the game for the Cowboys, who improved to 3-4-1 with the win.

Small note: the win marked the first time that the Cowboys ever defeated a defending NFL champion.

Cowboys Spring Bear Trip, 24 to 10 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 9: Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 21

The Cowboys converted four of five New York turnovers into touchdowns as Dallas improved to 4-4-1 by beating the Giants. Don Meredith threw two touchdown passes to Frank Clarke and another to Tommy McDonald. Defensive back Jim Ridlon also returned an interception for a touchdown, marking the first time he scored during his eight-year career with Dallas and San Francisco.

Cowboys Slap Bobbling Giants, 31-21 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 10: Philadelphia 17, Dallas 14

The Cowboys’ hopes of having a winning record ended with a loss to the Eagles. Here’s what lost it for the Cowboys:

King Hill, the angel of second rate quarterbacks in the National
Football League, took a Philadelphia team which hadn’t made a first
down the entire second half 96 yards in 17 incredible plays, and with
2:09 remaining, facing fourth and 15 on the Dallas 38, threw a
touchdown pass to Pete Retzlaff and beat the Cowboys, 17-14.

The Dallas offense managed only 223 yards against the Eagles, which was a season low up to that point. Rather unbelievably, though, Dallas did not manage anywhere close to that many yards during its next three games.

Eagles Burst Cowboy Bubble, 17-14 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 11: Washington 28, Dallas 16

Another Dallas Morning News description says it all: “the Dallas Cowboy offense slipped and clamored around the Cotton Bowl like tinker toy soldiers while the defense played like a tribe of dervishes . . . .” Former Eagle quarterback Sonny Jurgensen threw for more than 300 yards against Dallas, marking the third time he had accomplished the feat again the Cowboys. Dallas was never really in the game as the offense only managed 60 net passing yards.

Redskins Skin Dallas, 28-16 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 12: Green Bay 45, Dallas 21

The Cowboys faced the Packers in week 12 before a crowd of 44,975, which established a new record. The many thousands who showed up saw Dallas be destroyed by Green Bay. It did not help that Dallas was without quarterback Don Meredith and fullback Don Perkins.

Dallas kept things close in the first half thanks to a punt return for a touchdown by rookie Mel Renfro. The Cowboys scored a second touchdown in the first half thanks to the likes of Perry Lee Dunn, John Roach, Billy Lothridge and Buddy Dial. Lothridge was the team’s punter and also served as a reserve quarterback. He alternated with Roach and scored a touchdown after recovering his own fumble deep in Green Bay territory.

The second half was awful for Dallas as the Packers raced to a 45-14 lead. A Warren Livingston fumble return for a touchdown gave Dallas 21 points, marking the only time in the final five weeks that the Cowboys scored more than 20.

Green Bay Hobbles Cowboys, 45-21 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 13: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 14

Rookie quarterback Jack Concannon threw two touchdowns as the Eagles knocked off the Cowboys in week 13. Dallas actually led for much of this game, thanks to a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Jimmy Ridlon and a touchdown pass from Don Meredith to Tommy McDonald. However, the Eagles scored 17 fourth quarter points to put the Cowboys away. Dallas managed only 73 net passing yards, giving the Cowboys a total of 187 net passing yards during a three-game span.

Cowboys Rocked to Sleep Again, 24-14 (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 14: Dallas 17, Pittsburgh 14

A hobbled Don Meredith helped to give Dallas fans something to cheer about in the season finale. Meredith threw a touchdown to Pettis Norman and helped set up a touchdown run by Perry Lee Dunn in the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a 17-7 lead. The Cowboy defense held the Steelers during two late goalline stands, as Dallas held on to win, 17-14.

Cowboys Clip Steelers, 17-14, in Finale (Dallas Morning News) | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

2009-03-05_004147.gifTough trivia question: Can you name each of the players in the shot above?

No, neither could I. The answer is (l to r): George Andrie, Jim Colvin, Dave Edwards, Cornell Green, and Bob Lilly.

50 Seasons Series: 1964 Season Brings More Disappointment

renfro.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Cowboys did not enter the 1964 season with the same high hopes that they had in 1963. Unfortunately, the results in the first half of the ’64 season were no better than the results from the previous year.

Dallas opened its 1963 season with a devastating loss to the Cardinals, and the loss set a bad tone for the rest of the season. The Cowboys season opener in 1964 was also against the Cardinals, and Dallas entered the game as seven-point underdogs. Stories previewing the season noted that the Cowboys had not made any significant improvements on either offense or defense, and Don Meredith was injured for much of training camp.

Week 1: St. Louis 16, Dallas 6

The somewhat good news is that the Cowboys’ loss to St. Louis in the opening game of 1964 was the last time that Dallas would lose an opener until 1982. Frank Clarke had a great game (10 rec., 145 yards) and caught a touchdown in the first quarter. Dallas failed to score after that, though. The Cowboys had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter when St. Louis led 13-6, but the Cardinals stopped Dallas on a 4th-and-1 play.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Drop Opener To Cardinals, 16 to 6 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 2: Dallas 24, Washington 18

Rookie Mel Renfro returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown (the play is shown in the picture at the top of this post), which helped Dallas beat the Redskins, 24-18. Don Perkins had two touchdown runs to help Dallas in the win. Former Cowboy J. W. Lockett scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter that closed the gap to six points, but Lockett then dropped a pass late in the game that could have won it for Washington.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Edge Washington, 24-18
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 3: Pittsburgh 23, Dallas 17

Pittsburgh ran out to a 23-10 lead thanks to three Ed Brown touchdown passes, but the Cowboys cut the lead to 23-17 when a limping Don Meredith scored on a two-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys had several opportunities to win the game when they drove deep inside Pittsburgh territory during the final four minutes. However, the Steelers held the Cowboys at the one-yard line on a fourth down play, and the Cowboys could not manage to pull out the win.

Clarke had his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. He also scored on a touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Dallas Morning News:

Cowboys Miss By a Yard | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 4: Cleveland 27, Dallas 6

Cleveland’s Frank Ryan threw three touchdown passes as the Cowboys fell hard to the Browns, 27-6. Quarterback John Roach threw his only touchdown pass as a member of the Cowboys (a five-yarder to Pettis Norman in the second quarter), but the rest of the game was discouraging for Dallas.

Dallas Morning News:
Browns Boot Cowboys | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 5: Dallas 13, N.Y. Giants 13

The Cowboys overcame a 13-3 halftime deficit to tie the Giants in week 5. The Dallas defense held quarterback Y.A. Tittle to just 33 net yards passing, and the Cowboys outgained the Giants 463 yards to 128. However, Dallas was unable to convert several scoring opportunities and had to settle of the tie.

Don Perkins rushed for 137 yards on 17 carries. Tommy McDonald had his first 100-yard game as a Cowboy, catching 10 passes for 108 yards. Frank Clarke also had a 100-yard day (7 rec., 120 yds).

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Maul but Only Tie NY
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 6: Cleveland 20, Dallas 16

For the second time in three weeks, the Cowboys struggled against the Browns.The Cowboys offense, described as having “the killer instinct of a Cocker Spaniel,” gave the game away in every way imaginable. Don Meredith crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing what would have been a touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald. Even worse was when Meredith was picked off in the fourth quarter by Bernie Parrish, who returned the pick 54 yards for a touchdown. Dallas led 16-13 just before the Parrish touchdown, and the Cowboys could not score again.

Jim Brown rushed for 188 yards on 26 carries for Cleveland.

Dallas Morning News: Browns Steal Pass, 20-16 Victory
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 7: Dallas 31, St. Louis 13

The Cowboys ended the first half of their season on a high note, routing the St. Louis Cardinals 31-13. Amos Marsh rushed for two touchdowns, and Frank Clarke again had more than 100 yard receiving. After leading 14-3 at halftime, Dallas put the game away with 17 points in the fourth quarter.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Club Cards, 31-13
| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Wrap Up

After seven games in 1964, the Cowboys stood at 2-4-1. The offense that had looked so promising in 1962 was now a major disappointment. However, the defense continued to look better. The second half of the 1964 season wasn’t great by any means, but the defense started showing signs that Doomsday wasn’t too far away.

50 Seasons Series: 1964 Cowboys Welcome New Blue and Silver Uniforms

428px-Cowboys_white_uniform_1964.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

On January 20, 1964, Dallas Morning News columnist Bud Shrake received a letter from a satirical 20-member organization known as the Chairman of the Greater North Texas Loyal Fans, Boosters, and Season Ticket Holders Committee for Providing the Dallas Cowboys with Sartorial Splendor. The concern of the committee: the original Dallas Cowboys uniform.

Shrake agreed, noting that the uniforms looked like those worn by a high school all-star squad.

Two days later, columnist Sam Blair reported that the Cowboys would do away with their uniforms featuring their “generous assortment of stars on the helmets and jerseys.” Reporter Gary Cartright later referred to features of the original jersey as “little stars and junk.” Head coach Tom Landry, though, said he didn’t mind the old unis and noted that he never saw a game where a uniform won a game.

[Editorial note: this was six years before the Cowboys were forced to wear blue against the Colts in SB V, which began the Curse of the Blue Jerseys. I thus beg to differ with Coach Landry]

About two weeks after the team announced the new uniforms, Shrake offered the following description:

[R]oyal blue jersey with TV numbers on the shoulders, large numbers front and back, and three stripes on each sleeve. The pants are metallic silver, and the socks royal blue with three stripes. The new helmet is to be metallic silver, with either a boot, a TV number, a star, a D, or the CBS-TV eye as the emblem.

Did You Know?

The pictures from 1960 through 1963 make it clear that Dallas wore blue jerseys at home during the first four seasons of the team’s existence.

But did you know why the Cowboys did not wear white? The answer is they couldn’t. The league had rules in place requiring home teams had to wear colored jerseys at home. This rule changed in 1964, which explains why the Cowboys started wearing white.

After the league’s announcement, general manager Tex Schramm noted:

In the past, most visiting teams looked the same to the home crowds. Except for helmets and socks, they’re always in white. Now the hometown fans can see the different colored uniforms from around the league. Of course they’ll miss seeing their own team’s colorful uniforms but fans get accustomed to this.

For more about the evolution of the Dallas uniform, see the following article written by Fred Goodwin in 1994 and posted on CowboyCards.com:

The Dallas Cowboys Uniform: Tracing Its Evolution Through Football Cards

Cowboys Welcome Dial and McDonald

0727_large.jpgThe Cowboys said goodbye to Billy Howton after the 1963 season, but offseason trades brought two former Pro Bowl receivers in Buddy Dial and Tommy McDonald.

Dallas acquired Dial from Pittsburgh by trading the Cowboys’ first-round pick from 1964, Scott Appleton. Appleton later signed with Houston, making this trade look like a steal for the Cowboys. Dial had recorded 1,295 receiving yards in 1963, his best season as a pro.

McDonald had been to five Pro Bowls as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He wrote a guest column for Sports Illustrated during the 1964 off-season in a a story featured on the cover of the July 27, 1964 issue. The lengthy piece covered McDonald’s boyhood, college career, and mastery of the art of route-running and pass catching.

A few items related to these trades are worth noting:

McDonald is Wearing the Old Uniform

The new Dallas uniforms were not ready for the July cover shot shown above. McDonald is instead shown wearing the old home uniform of the Cowboys, even though he actually wore the new blue and silver uniforms during his one season with the team. The new uniforms did not arrive until September, just in time for the season opener against St. Louis.

Goodbye to One Troublemaker, but Hello to Another

Baker had been a troublemaker as a member of the Cowboys, and so when Dallas shipped him to Philadelphia in exchange for McDonald, Landry was apparently relieved. Baker played for Philadelphia for six seasons and made two Pro Bowls.

In the book Landry’s Boys, Dial noted that he was a “terrible influence” on Don Meredith, with home Dial shared a room.

Dial’s poor influence may have been more acceptable if he had performed on the field in Dallas. He showed up to camp in ’64 out of shape, and he injured a leg muscle on a pass play during training camp. He barely played during the 1964 season and saw his receiving yards fall from 1,295 in 1963 to 178 in 1964.

Frank Clarke Worries for Nothing

In Landry’s Boys, author Peter Golenbock also wrote that Frank Clarke was concerned with the trades that brought Dial and McDonald to the team. The competition must have done some good, though, for Clarke in 1964 caught a career-high 65 passes, which were 22 more than he caught in 1963.

50 Seasons Series: Was the 1964 Draft the Greatest in Team History?

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This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Dallas Cowboys have had a number of very good drafts, but few can compare with the 1964 draft. Among the team’s 20 picks, the Cowboys landed three future Hall of Famers in Mel Renfro, Bob Hayes, and Roger Staubach.

Here is a complete list:

Round Player Position/College Career
1 Scott Appleton DT /Texas Houston,
1964-66; San Diego, 1967-68
2 Mel Renfro DB/Oregon Dallas, 1964-77
3 Perry Lee Dunn RB/Mississippi Dallas,
1964-65; Atlanta, 1966-68; Baltimore, 1969
4 Billy Lothridge DB/Georgia Tech Dallas, 1964;
Los Angeles, 1965; Atlanta, 1966-71; Miami, 1972
5 Jim Curry E/Cincinnati n/a
6 Jim Evans WR/Texas El-Paso N.Y. Jets,
7 Bob Hayes WR/Florida A&M Dallas,
1965-74; San Francisco, 1975
8 Al Geverink HB/UCLA n/a
9 Jake Kupp G/Washington Dallas 1964-65;
Washington, 1966; Atlanta, 1967; New Orleans, 1967-75
10 Roger Staubach QB/Navy Dallas, 1969-79
11 Bob Crenshaw G/Baylor n/a
12 Johnny Norman E/Northwest State (LA) n/a
13 Jerry Rhome QB/Tulsa Dallas 1965-68;
Cleveland, 1969; Houston, 1970; Los Angeles, 1971
14 Jim Worden LB/Wittenberg n/a
15 Bill Van Burkleo B/Tulsa n/a
16 Paul Cercel C/Pittsburgh n/a
17 Bud Abell LB/Missouri Kansas City,
18 Theophile Viltz DB/USC Houston, 1966
19 H.D. Murphy B/Oregon n/a
20 John Hughes LB/SMU n/a

Three other drafts truly great Dallas drafts occurred in 1975, 1989 and 1991, and we will cover each of these in greater depth later. Consider the players that Dallas landed in these drafts:

1964: Mel Renfro (HOF), Bob Hayes (HOF), Roger Staubach (HOF)

1975: Randy White (HOF), Thomas Henderson, Burton Lawless, Bob Breunig, Pat Donovan, Randy Hughes, Mike Hegman, Herbert Scott, Scott Laidlaw

1989: Troy Aikman (HOF), Daryl Johnston, Mark Stepnoski, Tony Tolbert

1991: Russell Maryland, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards, Godfrey Miles, Erik Williams, Leon Lett, Larry Brown

Why 1964 might be the greatest [note on 3/1/2009– I made a mistake in my original post. This has been updated]. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers can boast about having more Hall of Famers in one draft (1974, featuring Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, and Mike Webster). The Packers had two in 1958 (Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke), but none of the Packer drafts have resulted in three.

Why one of the other Dallas drafts was better: Among 20 picks for the Cowboys in 1964, nine never played professional football. Of the remaining 11, only Renfro, Staubach, and Hayes ever did anything significant as professionals. By comparison, the 1975 team produced nine starters, while both the 1989 draft and the 1991 draft produced much of the core of the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s.

Your Vote:

You can vote in the poll that appears below. If this poll does not display properly, please visit Zoho Polls to place your vote.

My Vote: 1975

The selections of Hayes and Renfro were important for the Cowboys, but the 1964 draft did not have the impact that the other drafts on this list had. The 1975 draft helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s. The 1989 and 1991 drafts were vital to the Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s. Dallas needed more role players than they received from the 1964 draft.

50 Seasons Series: Final Word on the 1963 Season

Howton_Billy_Helmet_500-350.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

In December 1963, Gary Cartwright of the Dallas Morning News wrapped up the effect that the Cowboys’ opening game loss to St. Louis had on the Cowboys’ 1963 season:

Thirteen treacherous weeks ago the Cowboys were regarded as sinister figures in the National Football League.

That was on a Saturday afternoon a few hours before opening night and the news stands were splindid with cover stories on the young Emerging Forces of the Eastern Conference, and there was a song on the lips of Dallas and quiver on the lips of its enemies.

A few hours later the Cowboys were regarded about as sinister as Orphan Annie.

So the comment then is a bit dated now, but we get the idea.

End of the Road

Following the 1963 season, the Cowboys said farewell to two of their more significant founding members: quarterback Eddie LeBaron and receiver Billy Howton.

The 5’7″, 165-pound LeBaron lasted 11 years in the NFL. Just weeks after the Cowboys’ final game of the 1963 season, LeBaron accepted an executive position with Nevada Cement Co. He very quickly became an announcer for CBS Sports and much later became the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons.

A few months after announcing his retirement, LeBaron gave kids at a local YMCA some advice on longevity in the professional football:

Keep complimenting the linemen. When they hit you don’t use bad language or look disgusted. Just say, “Nice tackle.”

Howton retired as the NFL leader in receiving yardage with 8,459. The record stood for just three years, however. Raymond Berry broke the mark in 1966. Howton also once held the record for most receiving yards as a rookie with 1,231.

Hello, Blue and Silver

The 1963 season was the final year the Cowboys played with white
helmets and jerseys with blue stars on the shoulders. Beginning with
the 1964 season, the Cowboys started wearing silver helmets and silver
pants. The Cowboys also adopted the practice of wearing white jerseys
at home.

This is a picture of the final game the Cowboys played in their old uniforms. This shot shows Don Meredith throwing downfield in the team’s 28-24 win over St. Louis on December 15, 1963. Blocking is #75 Bob Fry. The Cardinal jumping in the air (#84) is Joe Robb.

50 Seasons Series: Evolution of Cowboys Records


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Don Meredith’s 460 passing yards against San Francisco on November 10, 1963 was just one of the new records the Cowboys established in 1963. Here is a look at the team and individual records as they stood after the 1963 season.

Team Records


Most Wins: 5 (1962)
Most Losses: 11 (1960)
Fewest Losses: 8 (twice)
Most Points: 398 (1962)
Most Points Allowed: 402 (1962)
Fewest Points Allowed: 369 (1960– 12 games)
Most Yards: 4912 (1962)
Most Yards Allowed: 5325 (1963)
Fewest Yards Allowed: 4372 (1960– 12 games)
Most Passing Yards: 2872 (1962)
Most Passing Yards Allowed: 3674 (1962)
Fewest Passing Yards Allowed: 2130 (1960– 12 games)
Most Rushing Yards: 2040 (1962)
Most Rushing Yards Allowed: 2242 (1960– 12 games)
Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed: 1510 (1962)
Most 1st Downs: 248 (1963)
Most 1st Downs Allowed: 274 (1962)
Fewest 1st Downs Allowed: 216 (1960– 12 games)
Most Turnovers Caused: 43 (1961)
Most Turnovers Allowed: 50 (1960– 12 games)
Fewest Turnovers Allowed: 36 (1962, 1963)


Most Points: 45 (12/2/1962 vs. Cleveland)
Most Points Allowed: 52 (12/9/1962 vs. St. Louis)
Fewest Points Allowed: 0 (10/8/1961 vs. Minnesota)
Most Yards: 532 (11/10/1963/ vs. San Francisco)
Most Yards Allowed: 577 (12/9/1962 vs. St. Louis)
Fewest Yards Allowed: 183 (10/8/1961 vs. Minnesota)
Most Passing Yards: 419 (11/10/1963 vs. San Francisco)
Most Passing Yards Allowed: 437 (11/18/1962 vs. Chicago)
Fewest Passing Yards Allowed: 58 (11/27/1960 vs. Chicago)
Most Rushing Yards: 226 (12/1/1963 vs. N.Y. Giants)
Most Rushing Yards Allowed: 289 (10/22/1961 vs. Philadelphia)
Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed: 40 (9/30/1962 vs. L.A. Rams)
Most Turnovers Caused: 7 (11/3/1963 vs. Washington)
Most Turnovers Allowed: 7 (twice)
Fewest Turnovers Allowed: 0 (10/8/1961 vs. Minnesota)

Individual Records


Most Rushing Yards: 2374 (Don Perkins, 1961-1963)
Most Rushing TDs: 18 (Don Perkins, 1961-1963)
Most Passing Yards: 5331 (Eddie LeBaron, 1960-1963)
Most Passing TDs: 45 (Eddie LeBaron, 1960-1963)
Most Receptions: 161 (Billy Howton, 1960-1963)
Most Receiving Yards: 3085 (Frank Clarke, 1960-1963)
Most Receiving TDs: 36 (Frank Clarke, 1960-1963)
Most Interceptions: 22 (Don Bishop, 1960-1963)
Most Field Goals: 23 (Sam Baker, 1962-1963)


Most Rushing Yards: 945 (Don Perkins, 1962)
Most Rushing TDs: 7 (Don Perkins, 1962, 1963)
Most Passing Yards: 2381 (Don Meredith, 1963)
Most Passing TDs: 17 (Don Meredith, 1963)
Most Receptions: 56 (Billy Howton, 1961)
Most Receiving Yards: 1043 (Frank Clarke, 1962)
Most Receiving TDs: 14 (Frank Clarke, 1962)
Most Interceptions: 25 (Eddie LeBaron, 1960)
Punting Average: 45.4 (Sam Baker, 1962)
Most Field Goals: 14 (Sam Baker, 1962)


Most Rushing Yards: 137 (Don Perkins, 10/28/1962, vs. St. Louis)
Most Passing Yards: 460 (Don Meredith, 11/10/1963 vs. San Francisco)
Most Passing TDs: 5 (Eddie LeBaron, 10/21/1962 vs. Pittsburgh)
Receptions: 11 (Billy Howton, 11/26/1961 vs. Philadelphia)
Receiving Yards: 241 (Frank Clarke, 9/16/1962 vs. Washington)
Interceptions: 2 (several)
Field Goals: 2 (several)

50 Seasons Series: 1963 Season Marked a Step Backwards


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

After the Cowboys’ 1-6 start in 1963, nothing was bound to go better. The Cowboys won two of three to open the second half of the season, but three straight losses meant that Dallas finished with a worse record than was the case in 1962.

The second half of the 1963 season was memorable, even if those memories weren’t exactly positive. Don Meredith set the team record for passing yards in a game, though it was in a losing effort. Tom Landry said he considered jumping off the Empire State Building if the Cowboys had lost a week 10 matchup to the Eagles. And the Cowboys played a game two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Week 8: Washington 35, Dallas 20

Don Meredith only threw for 153 yards, but four of his 13 completions were touchdown passes, as the Cowboys beat the Redskins 35-20. Former Brown Bobby Mitchell caught five passes for 100 yards, and former Cowboy Fred Dugan caught two touchdowns for Washington. However, Dallas countered with two touchdown receptions each for Frank Clarke and Lee Folkins.

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Here’s a trivia question: Can you name the player running the ball in the shot above? He scored one of the Dallas touchdowns against the Redskins.

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Here’s another shot showing #40. The player missing the pass was Billy Howton (#81). Frank Clarke (#82) is shown far right.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Beat ‘Skins, 35-20 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 9: San Francisco 31, Dallas 24

Don Meredith again had a hot hand against the 49ers in week 9, as his three touchdown passes gave Dallas a 21-7 lead. The Cowboys only managed a field goal for the rest of the day, however, as the Cowboys fell, 31-24. Quarterback Lamar McHan threw two touchdown passes, including one to future actor Bernie Casey.

Meredith threw for 460 yards on the day, establishing a team record that still stands today. In fact, Meredith is one of only two quarterbacks in team history (the other is Troy Aikman) to pass for more than 400 yards in a game.

Dallas Morning News: Meredith’s Greatest Day in Vain | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 10: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 20

The Cowboys pulled out to a 17-6 halftime lead at home against the Eagles, then extended that lead to 27-13 in the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles pulled to within a touchdown thanks to quarterback King Hill’s two touchdown passes. Philadelphia recovered an onside kick with 19 seconds left, giving the Eagles another shot. But the Cowboys’ Warren Livingston picked off a pass to end the game.

Tom Landry later said, “Man, if they had come back and tied that game, I would have jumped off the Empire State Building.” That comment, of course, led to the headline: “Cowboy Coach Considers Suicide Leap If Score Tied.”

I didn’t make that up.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Outlast Eagles, 27-20 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 11: Cleveland 27, Dallas 17

In a game that columnist Bud Shrake said should never have been played, the Cowboys traveled to Cleveland to face the Browns two days after John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. In fact, while the Cowboys were preparing for the game, they received word that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot.

The game itself was forgettable. Cleveland led 13-10 at the half and then extended the lead to 27-10 thanks to two fourth quarter touchdowns. Cornell Green returned a fumble for a touchdown to keep the game a little bit closer, but the Dallas offense did not have enough to mount an effective attack.

Dallas Morning News: Browns Smother Cowboys | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 12: N.Y. Giants 34, Dallas 27

Don Perkins rushed for three first-half touchdowns, giving the Cowboys a 27-14 halftime lead. The Giants, though, caught fire in the second half. Y.A. Tittle threw for one touchdown and rushed for another, as the Cowboys fell to New York, 34-27.

Dallas Morning News: New York Rally Clips Cowboys, 34 to 27 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 13: Pittsburgh 24, Dallas 19

Don Meredith’s second touchdown run of the day in the third quarter gave the Cowboys a 19-17 lead. The Cowboys held this lead even with 4:30 remaining. At that point, Pittsburgh faced a 4th-and-14 from its own 16 yard line. Dallas looked poised to put the game away, but the Steelers’ Ed Brown threw a 42-yard pass to Red Mack to convert the fourth down play, and a 24-yard touchdown run by Theron Sapp won the game for Pittsburgh.

The loss was the tenth of the season for the Cowboys, which was the most since the team’s inaugural season of 1960.

Dallas Morning News: Steeler Rally Hobbles Cowboys, 24-19

| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 14: Dallas 28, St. Louis 24

Between 1960 and 1963, the Cowboys had lost six straight matchups against the St. Louis Cardinals. On the final week of the 1963 season, Dallas finally won. Bob Lilly scored his first career touchdown (he had four during his career), which tied the game at 14 at halftime. Although the Cardinals took a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys roared back. Don Meredith hit Pettis Norman and Frank Clarke on touchdown passes, which were enough to give Dallas a 28-24 win.

Dallas Morning News: Dallas Thaws Card Deep Freeze, 28-24 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

50 Seasons Series: A Woeful Start to the 1963 Season


This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The 1963 season that was supposed to be so promising for the Dallas Cowboys was effectively over after the first four games, each of which resulted in Dallas losses. Dallas had trouble recovering from a 34-7 blowout loss to the Cardinals, and by the end of October, the Cowboys were 1-6.

Week 1: St. Louis 34, Dallas 7

Playing in front of an audience of 36,432 fans, the Cowboys opened the 1963 season in terrible fashion. After taking a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Don Meredith to tight end Pettis Norman, the Cardinals scored 34 unanswered points, including 20 in the second quarter alone. The Cardinals gained 206 yards on the ground against a Dallas defense that was supposed to be much improved.

One of the Dallas Morning News stories that followed: “That Game Needs Forgetting.”

Here are a few pictures from that game that wasn’t forgotten:

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The Cardinals’ Pat Fischer pulls down running back Amos Marsh.


Jerry Tubbs (50) and Lee Roy Jordan (55) stop running back Prentice Gautt.

Quarterbacks (left to right): Eddie LeBaron, Don Meredith, and Sonny Gibbs.

Dallas Morning News: Cardinals Silence Cowboys, 34-7 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 2: Cleveland 41, Dallas 24

Cleveland running back Jim Brown ran all over the Cowboys, gaining 232 yards on 20 carries. Though Dallas hung tough against Cleveland for much of the afternoon, cutting the Cleveland lead to 27-24 in the third quarter, the defense had no answer for Brown. He had touchdown runs of 71 and 62 yards, and the second of his two touchdowns put the game away.

Dallas Morning News: Browns Jimmy Cowboy Goal, 41-24 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 3: Washington 21, Dallas 17

Billy Howton caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Don Meredith in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ week 3 matchup against Washington, giving Dallas a 17-14 lead. Dallas missed some opportunities later in the game, and the Redskins regained the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Dallas had no answer and lost the game, 21-17.

Howton surpassed Don Hutson as the NFL leader in career receiving yards. His touchdown reception against Washington was one of only three during the 1963 season, which was his last in the NFL.

Dallas Morning News: Redskins Knife Cowboys, 21-17 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 4: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 21

The Cowboys found themselves down 24-7 in the third quarter thanks to the play of running back Timmy Brown, who scored two first half touchdowns. Eagle quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, who had been very effective against Dallas in 1962, sat out most of this game with an injury. However, backup King Hill filled in just fine, throwing for two touchdowns. Amos Bullocks helped the Cowboys to keep the game close by scoring two touchdowns, but the Eagles were able to kill the clock thanks to their running game.

Dallas Morning News: Eagles Edge Cowboys, 24-21

| Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 5: Dallas 17, Detroit 14

Chuck Howley was the hero of the day against the Lions in the Cowboys’ first win of 1963. He picked off two passes, helping the Dallas defense keep Detroit scoreless for the first three quarters of the game. Amos Marsh scored on a 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a 17-7 lead. Detroit scored later in the quarter and had the ball twice late the game, but the Cowboys’ defense held strong.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Finally Win, 17 to 14 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 6: New York Giants 37, Dallas 21

Two touchdown passes by Eddie LeBaron helped to give Dallas a 21-17 halftime lead against the Giants, but the Cowboys could not keep up  with New York in the second half. Y.A. Tittle (shown in the shot at the top of this post) threw four touchdowns, including two in the second half, as New York pulled away from the Cowboys. Dallas had trouble moving the ball at all in the second half, as LeBaron was hounded by the Giants’ defensive line.

Dallas Morning News: Giants Bag Cowboys, 37-21 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Week 7: Pittsburgh 27, Dallas 21

Three touchdown passes by Don Meredith helped to give Dallas a 21-6 lead in the third quarter. However, Pittsburgh quarterback Ed Brown threw a total of four TD passes, including three to Buddy Dial (who later played for the Cowboys). With 3:50 left in the game, Pittsburgh tight end Red Mack beat Mike Gaechter and Jerry Overton deep, and Brown hit Mack with a pass that sailed 50 yards in the air. Mack ran it in to complete the 85-yard touchdown play, which gave Pittsburgh the win.

Dallas Morning News: Cowboys Lose Again, 27-21 | Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Reaction to the Cowboys’ 1-6 Start

As you might expect, fans were not at all happy with the horrible start to the 1963 season. One fan wrote a letter to the editor, introducing is complaint as follows:

It is not bad enough to continue to lose game after game as teh Cowboys have done and will continue to do with a bunch of has-beens and wise guys, plus the world’s worse coaching staff . . .

The second half of the 1963 season was a little bit better, but not by much.

50 Seasons Series: How the Cowboys Once Scrimmaged

2009-02-19_182411.gifThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Imagine if this were the case today: a professional football team with championship aspirations running up 562 yards of offense (289 passing, 273 rushing) against a combination of three semi-pro teams during training camp.

That is what the Cowboys did during training camp in July 1963. Fortunately, the Dallas players got a “real good workout” according to coach Tom Landry. Don Meredith completed 10 of 13 passes for 183 yards. The defensive standout was rookie defensive back Nat Whitmyer, who was later cut and the picked up by the Rams.Dallas won the scrimmage 44-3.

Here is the most obscure trivia I could ever possibly provide on this blog:

The player who kicked the field goal to prevent a Dallas shutout over the three semipro teams was Jack Summers of the Montebello Vikings.

More Notes from the 1963 Training Camp and Preseason

* Third-round draft pick Jim Price (see yesterday’s post) was a huge disappointment and never came close to making the squad. Landry said Price was one of the biggest misses in the draft up to that point. In fact, Landry said he didn’t think Price was trying very hard. Price spent two years in the AFL before his career ended.
* Cornerback Cornell Green game into camp 10 pounds overweight, but Landry liked the way Green looked in camp. Landry still demanded that the second-year player drop from 224 to 215. The Dallas Morning News referred to Green as the “big cat.”
* The 1963 team was clearly Don Meredith’s, even with the return of Eddie LeBaron. The team’s third quarterback was Sonny Gibbs, who had been drafted in the second round of the 1962 draft. Gibbs saw action during the preseason but never played a down during a regular season game for the Cowboys.

The shot below shows the 6’7″ Gibbs standing over the 5’7″ LeBaron during training camp. An apparently unhappy Tom Landry is to the right.


50 Seasons Series: Building the 1963 Dallas Cowboys

630909ys8.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

The Dallas Cowboys made enough forward strides in their first three years as a franchise that Sports Illustrated predicted the Cowboys could win the Eastern Division (hence, the cover in the shot above). Even though the team had made headlines with its offense in 1962, SI’s preseason prediction was based on the team’s improving defense.

The Dallas Cowboys,
in only the fourth year of their life as a professional football team,
should win the Eastern Division championship of the National Football
League–despite the fact that in 1962, with one of the league’s best
offensive teams, they finished fifth.

This seemingly meager accomplishment by the high-scoring Cowboys actually is proof that one of pro football’s soundest and most
intelligently operated franchises is on or ahead of schedule in its
quest for a league championship. In the past the Dallas weakness has been defense. Now that weakness is being corrected, not so
much by reinforcement as by a process of maturing power.

As we will see this week, the 1963 season was one of the most disappointing of any under Tom Landry, as the Cowboys took a step backwards rather than the huge leap forward as predicted.

1963 Draft

The Cowboys had 15 picks in the 1963 draft, and the first of these yielded a player who eventually made the team’s Ring of Honor. The others, though, were largely forgettable.

Round Player Position/College Career
1 Lee Roy Jordan LB/ Alabama Dallas Cowboys, 1963-1976
3 Jim Price LB/ Auburn New York Jets, 1963; Denver
Broncos, 1964
4 Whaley Hall T/ Mississippi n/a
7 Marv Clothier G/ Kansas n/a
10 Rod Scheyer T/ Washington n/a
11 Ray Schoenke G/ SMU Dallas Cowboys, 1963-1964;
Washington Redskins, 1966-1975
12 Bill Perkins HB/ Iowa New York Jets, 1963
13 Paul Wicker T/ Fresno State n/a
14 Lou Cioci LB/ Boston College n/a
15 Jerrry Overton DB/ Utah Dallas Cowboys, 1963
16 Dennis Golden T/ Holy Cross n/a
17 Ernie Parks G/ McMurry n/a
18 Bill Frank T/ Colorado Dallas Cowboys, 1964
19 Jim Stiger HB/ Washington Dallas Cowboys, 1963-1965;
L.A. Rams, 1965-1967
20 Tommy Lucas E/ Texas n/a

Much like the 1961 draft that resulted in the selection of Bob Lilly but nobody else of consequence, the 1963 draft would have been a disaster except for the selection of middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan. The linebacker from Alabama developed into a Pro Bowl player by 1967, and he was a fixture in Dallas for more than a decade.

Of the other players, perhaps the most notable was Ray Schoenke. He spent two seasons in Dallas before suffering an injury that forced him to sit out the 1965 season. He returned in Washington in 1966 and played for the Redskins through the 1975 season. He later became the founding president of the American Hunters and Shooters Association.

My grade: C-

Picking Jordan was a great move, but none of the others panned out.

Players the Cowboys Missed

The 1963 draft was not a great one, though it featured a few players who later made the Hall of Fame. Here are a few of the players the Cowboys could have taken (and you might notice a bit of Balitmore Colts envy here…):

TE John Mackey (2nd round, Baltimore): Mackey played nine seasons for the Colts, along with one in San Diego, and he was named to the Hall of Fame in 1992.
S Jerry Logan (4th round, Baltimore): Logan made three Pro Bowls as a member of the Colts.
WR Willie Richardson (7th round, Baltimore): Richardson was a two-time Pro Bowler in Baltimore.
TE Jackie Smith (10th round, St. Louis): Long before he dropped a certain pass in Super Bowl XIII, Smith could have been a Cowboy had Dallas taken him before Cardinals did in the 10th round of the 1963 draft.
LB Andy Russell (16th round, Pittsburgh): Russell was a seven-time Pro Bowl pick with the Steelers, and he helped lead Pittsburgh to two Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.

Other Personnel Moves

Offensive Line:  Two new faces on the team’s offensive line included guard Jim Ray Smith and tackle Ed Nutting. Smith had been an All-Pro with Cleveland, and Dallas acquired him in 1963. However, injuries slowed him down, and he was gone after the 1964 season. Dallas acquired another Cleveland castoff in Nutting in 1962, but an injury kept him out of action. He played in 1963 but then retired after that season.

Linebackers: Chuck Howley moved from the weak-side to strong-side linebacker in 1963, and Jordan stepped in as the new weak-side backer. Former starter Mike Dowdle was traded to San Francisco.

Defensive Backs:
Cornell Green was an undrafted rookie in 1962, but he broke into the starting lineup in 1963 at cornerback. Green was an All-American basketball player in college, but he found greater fame as a defensive back with the Cowboys. Another free agent, Warren Livingston, also moved back into the starting lineup in 1963. Mike Gaetcher moved from cornerback to safety.