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An Abbreviated History of Unproven Backups

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Rookie Dak Prescott is making the Dallas Cowboys’ brain trust look very good thanks to his first-half performance against the Rams on Saturday night. Jameill Showers had one very nice play to salvage a third-down. His overall performance was weak, however, compared with Prescott.

The Cowboys historically had good backups ready to take over in case injuries occurred to their starters. This has continued to be the case for the most part under Jerry Jones, but Jones is less willing to develop younger players.

Here is a quick look at situations where Dallas had to roll the dice with unproven backups.

1964, John Roach: During the Cowboys’ first four seasons, they had both Eddie LaBaron and Don Meredith. When LaBaron retired, though, the backup job went to John Roach, an SMU graduate who had started 16 games in six years for the Cardinals and Packers. Roach started four games for the Cowboys that year but lost all four. One year later, the Cowboys drafted Craig Morton, and Roach was out of football.

1975, Clint Longley: I’ll go ahead and throw this one in here. The Cowboys traded Morton midway through the 1974 season, leaving only Clint Longley as the backup. We all know that Longley was the savior on Thanksgiving Day in 1974, but he was still relatively unproven when he served as the backup in 1975. He started one game that season, leading Dallas to a 31-21 win over the Jets.

1980, Glenn Carano: Carano had been the team’s third-string quarterback since 1978, but he had never thrown an NFL pass in a regular season game. The Cowboys drafted Gary Hogeboom in 1980, but Carano was the team’s second-string QB in 1980 and 1981.

1986, Steve Pelleur: The Cowboys traded Hogeboom to the Colts in 1986, leaving Steve Pelleur and his eight career passes as the backup.  When the 6-2 Cowboys lost White for the season with a broken wrist, Pelleur led the team to a 1-7 finish.

1988, Kevin Sweeney: White was the backup to begin the 1988 season, but he had nothing left in the tank. Sweeney was Tony Romo before there was a Tony Romo in Dallas—exciting to watch in preseason, and fans wanted to see what he could do as the starter. Well, two starts, two losses, and a passer rating of 40.2 ended the Sweeney era.

1990, Babe Laufenberg: The Cowboys entered the 1990 season with Steve Walsh as the backup, but Dallas traded Walsh to New Orleans early in the season. This left Babe Laufenberg and his 2-4 career record as a starter with the Chargers. When Aikman went down with a season-ending injury and the playoffs were on the line, Laufenberg’s performance guaranteed that the Cowboys would watch those playoffs from home.

1993, Jason Garrett: This one falls under the same category as Clint Longley. Dallas had success with Steve Beurlein as the backup in 1991 and 1992, but he signed with the Cardinals. That left Jason Garrett. Although most fans remember Garrett for leading Dallas to a comeback win on Thanksgiving Day in 1994, he first served as the second-stringer in 1993. With the Cowboys trying to defend their Super Bowl title, Jones signed Bernie Kosar midway through the season, and Kosar came through in the playoffs to help Dallas secure a win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Garrett needed a few more years to develop.

2001, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner: The starter named to replace the retired Troy Aikman was Quincy Carter. When Carter was injured, Dallas went through a cycle of players who had no business starting, including the infamous first-round bust Leaf and former Arkansas Razorback Stoerner. Of course, Wright and Stoerner both one games that season, and their two wins were one more than Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore managed in 2015.

2002, Chad Hutchinson: The Cowboys signed former baseball player Hutchinson as something akin to buying a lottery ticket. He wasn’t ready to start in 2002, but the Cowboys decided to start him anyway after Carter struggled. Dallas went 2-7 with Hutchinson, and he threw only two passes the following season as Carter’s backup.

2004, Drew Henson: Dallas was not finished buying lottery tickets in the form of former baseball players. Henson had started at Michigan, and when Dallas went 3-7 under Vinny Testaverde, Bill Parcells decided to start Henson on Thanksgiving Day. Henson completed only four passes, and Parcells decided he had seen enough and sent Testaverde back in.  Henson never threw another pass for the Cowboys.

2005, Tony Romo: Yes, Romo worked out quite well, but he had never played a down in a regular season game before becoming the backup to Drew Bledsoe in 2005. He did not play a down in 2005, either, but he was firmly entrenched as the starter by the middle of the 2006 season.

2015, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore: Weeden and Cassel don’t quite fit the “unproven” label, but I’ll throw this summary in here. The Cowboys had brought in several veterans to back up Romo between 2007 and 2014, including Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton. Weeden was a veteran, but he was generally unproven even though he had started 20 games for the Browns. After he led the Cowboys to three losses, the team signed Cassel, another veteran, but Cassel went 1-6. Moore finished out the season but could not lead the Cowboys to a win in two starts.

2016: Dak Prescott (presumably): Unless Prescott really falls apart in the remaining three preseason games, it looks if the backup job is his to lose. Hopefully, we see much more of this…

Cowboys Will Play Their 22nd Game on Sunday Night Football

Somehow, "I Hate Myself for Loving You" became "I've Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night." Sigh.

Somehow, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” became “I’ve Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.” Sigh.

Hard to believe that football returned to NBC seven years ago as NBC Sunday Night Football. The Dallas Cowboys played in the second regular season game on this program, beating the Washington Redskins 27-10 on September 17, 2006.

The Cowboys will appear on Sunday Night Football for the 22nd time on November 10. It is also the third time this season for Dallas to play in primetime.

Including the two previous games this year, the Cowboys have a combined record of 12-9 in the previous 21 games. Here are a few trivia items about those games:

  • The Cowboys have played division opponents on Sunday Night Football 15 times, including 5 games against the Redskins, 4 games against the Eagles, and 6 games against the Giants.
  • The only AFC team the Cowboys have faced on Sunday night since 2006 were the Jets in 2011.
  • The Cowboys had a 10-2 record on Sunday night between 2006 and 2009. However, after the Cowboys lost to the Redskins to open the 2010 season, the Cowboys lost 7 straight between 2010 and 2012.
  • The Cowboys’ first loss on Sunday night was against the Saints, who the Cowboys play this Sunday. That was a matchup between Bill Parcells and his former assistant, Sean Payton. New Orleans destroyed Dallas, 42-17.
  • ESPN (and for some time, TNT) aired games on Sunday night from 1987 through 2005. The Cowboys appeared on Sunday night 17 times during those years and had a total record of 5-12.

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In the Saints’ win over the Cowboys in 2006, one player for New Orleans scored 3 touchdowns.

In his career, this player scored a total of 7 touchdowns.

Who was it?

 

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Trivia: Who Were the Last Defensive Linemen Drafted When Dallas Ran the 4-3?

The Cowboys last used the 4-3 defense in 2004.

The Cowboys last used the 4-3 defense in 2004.

The Dallas Cowboys ran different versions of the 4-3 between 1960 and 2004. In fact, Tom Landry developed the 4-3 that became prevalent throughout the league.

When Jimmy Johnson became head coach in 1989, he retained the 4-3 but discarded the flex defense that Landry had used for many years. Johnson’s defense relied on speed more than size. The Cowboys continued to use a version of this 4-3 until the third year of Bill Parcells‘ tenure.

Since 2005, Dallas has run the 3-4, which features larger linemen and larger linebackers. The Cowboys have spent a number of draft picks trying to find inside and outside linebackers as well as defensive linemen to fit the system.

Trivia question for the day: who were the last defensive linemen drafted when the Cowboys still used the 4-3?

Here’s a hint: The Cowboys did not draft a single defensive lineman between 2002 and 2004.

Check out the Facebook page for the answer.

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More about the Cowboys’ use of the 4-3:

In 2004, the Cowboys’ starters along the defensive line included DE Greg Ellis, DE Marcellus Wiley, DT Leonardo Carson, and DT La’Roi Glover. Glover moved to nose tackle in 2005, while Ellis remained at end. Ellis then moved to outside linebacker in 2006.

 

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