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Training Camp, 1960: Meredith and Perkins Fail the “Landry Mile”

Tom Landry, former head coach of the Dallas Co...

Tom Landry’s first requirement of his players in 1960 was to have them run a mile in six minutes or less.

The Dallas Cowboys opened their first training camp in Forest Grove, Oregon in July 1960. The team was a mix of cast-off veterans from other teams along with free-agent rookies that other teams did not want.

The two prized rookies on the roster were quarterback Don Meredith and running back Don Perkins. When the team arrived at camp, players had to run a mile in six minutes. He gave linemen an extra 30 seconds.

Total number of players who met this goal: zero.

Of course, keep in mind this was long before the days where players had year-round training programs.

Here is part of an article published on July 12, 1960.

Cowboys Greeted by Landry’s Mile

by Charles Burton
News Staff Writer

The six minute standard survived the stubborn assault of the Dallas Cowboys Monday in the Tom Landry Mile.

The race which will become a fixture in the annual training camps of the National Football League club was run and sometimes staggered over a grass course laid out around the Pacific University gridiron. Landry had warned his athletes by mail that he would expect backs and ends to gallop the distance in a flat six minutes with linemen granted an additional thirty seconds for a satisfactory rating. None met the goal.

* * *

Don Meredith, the stork-legged first-year quarterback from Southern Methodist, finished with a weak spurt and a strong smile at 7:43….Don Perkins, the highly regarded halfback from the University of New Mexico, a reputed 10 second man in the 100-yard dash, was the only player who was given no time. He collapsed just after starting the fifth lap of the six lap endurance grind but after resting for a few minutes he regained his wind and walked and trotted to the finish.

“If they had been in better condition I believe they could have made it in six minutes,” commented Coach Landry.

* * *

Some trivia:

* Landry’s reason for a six-minute mile? Roger Bannister had broken the four-minute mark in 1954, and track runners were still aiming to break that mark by 1960. Landry said he just added two minutes.

* The player with the fastest time (6:19) was Greg Altenhofen, a rookie end from the University of Oregon. He did not make the team and never played in the NFL.

* The article notes the center Bob Griffin “would have to be timed with a calendar” because he was so slow. Griffin also did not make the team in 1960 after having played five years with the Rams during the mid-1960s. He did, however, play in five games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1961.

* Three players failed to show up for camp and were cut. The players were Norman Denny (North Texas State), Larry Deuitt (Rice), and Leon Manley (West Texas State).

 

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A Look Back: Don Meredith’s New Contract (1965)

Don Meredith was all smiles about his new contract in '65. He was still scheduled to make less than both of his backups.

Don Meredith was all smiles about his new contract in ’65. He was still scheduled to make less than both of his backups.

Try to imagine Tony Romo making less than not one but two backup quarterbacks on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster. Now consider this—

The Cowboys lured quarterback Don Meredith from SMU in 1960 by offering him what “was considered one of the finest in the history of professional football.”

Five years later, the team gave him a “slight raise” to about $27,000 per year when he signed a new contract.

Meredith was reportedly happy. He said, “I got what I wanted and I hope the club gets what it wants next season.”

The team selected quarterback Craig Morton in the first round of the 1965 draft, and Morton would make more as a rookie in 1965 than Meredith made even with the raise.

But what was even stranger was that another backup, Jerry Rhome, also made more than Meredith did. Rhome was a 13th round pick in 1964.

Of course, those were long before the days of free agency, so players had no real bargaining power. Moreover, Tex Schramm and the Cowboys were notorious about underpaying even the best players on the team.

I’m guessing Jerry would be quite jealous.

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Quote Trivia: Finishing .500 in 1965

Three hours before the season finale against the New York Giants on December 19, 1965, Bob Hayes gave his thoughts about the game. His quote:

Yankee Stadium, man. It’s going to be fun.

Dallas Morning News writer Gary Cartwright’s reply: “Fun? It was a genuine riot.”

The Cowboys blew out the Giants, 38-20. The win allowed Dallas to finish with a .500 record at 7-7, marking the first time in franchise history that Dallas did not have a losing record. The Cowboys advanced to the 1965 Playoff Bowl, where Dallas lost to Colts, 35-3.

Hayes caught two touchdown passes from Don Meredith in the win. Meredith only completed 8 passes, but three were for touchdowns.

The trivia question for today is below—

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

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Photo Trivia: 1966 NFL Championship Game

The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers in the 1966 NFL Championship Game by a final score of 34-27. The Cowboys were in position to tie the game at 34 near the end of regulation.

Facing a 4th-and-goal from the Green Bay 2, Don Meredith tried to complete a touchdown pass  on a rollout play, but the Packers’ Dave Robinson got to Meredith before the Dallas QB could find an open man. Meredith was able to get a pass off in Bob Hayes’ general direction, but Tom Brown intercepted the pass to secure the Green Bay win.

The Cowboys originally had the ball at the 2 on their final drive because of a pass interference call. The team lost 5 yards because of a false-start penalty, setting up a 3rd-and-goal from the 6. The Cowboys moved back to the 2 on the third-down play.

Trivia question, answered in the puzzle below: who caught the pass on third down to set up the 4th-and-goal play from the 2?

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How Many Former Dallas Cowboys Have Been Television Commentators?

The original NFL Network logo, used from 2003 ...

Employment with the NFL Network is part of the Dallas Cowboys’ retirement system.

Most would acknowledge that the most famous member of the Dallas Cowboys to serve as an television announcer was Don Meredith with Monday Night Football (as well as NBC during a time after he left ABC).

While Meredith was at the height of his popularity, however, few other former Cowboys appeared on television. Don Perkins was a color commentator for a year in the early 1970s, as was Roger Staubach in the early 1980s.

(Staubach is and will always be my hero, but his announcing was awful.)

Charlie Waters and Drew Pearson were on some broadcast teams during the 1980s, but neither was memorable. In fact, I would bet that some long-time Dallas fans would not have guessed that Waters or Pearson ever appeared as color-commentators on television.

Fast-forward to today, when you can barely turn on a football program without seeing a former member of the Cowboys. You’ll see Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnson, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, Darren Woodson, Mike Ditka, Bill Parcells, Brian Baldinger (yes, a former Cowboy), and Martellus Wiley (yes, a former Cowboy).

So I did some digging and tried to come up with a complete list of former Cowboy player and coaches who have served as television commentators. I did not attempt to find those who appeared on radio. I am fairly sure I’ve missed a name or two (or more), but below is what I know/found. Let me know who I am missing.

1960-1980s

Brian Baldinger (NFL Network studio analyst)

Frank Clarke (CBS color commentator)

Mike Ditka (NBC, ESPN commentator/studio analyst)

Jean Fugett (CBS color commentator)

Butch Johnson (NBC color commentator)

Eddie LeBaron (CBS color commentator)

Harvey Martin (NBC color commentator)

Don Meredith (ABC, NBC color commentator)

Drew Pearson (CBS color commentator)

Don Perkins (CBS color commentator)

Dan Reeves (NFL Network studio analyst)

Roger Staubach (CBS color commentator)

Charlie Waters (CBS color commentator)

1990s-2000s

Troy Aikman (Fox color commentator)

Steve Beuerlein (CBS color commentator)

Butch Davis (NFL Network analyst)

Michael Irvin (ESPN, NFL Network studio analyst)

Jimmy Johnson (Fox studio analyst)

Keyshawn Johnson (ESPN studio analyst)

Daryl Johnston (Fox color commentator, NFL Network analyst)

Ken Norton, Jr. (NFL Network analyst)

Bill Parcells (NBC color commentator, ESPN studio analyst)

Deion Sanders (CBS, NFL Network studio analyst)

Emmitt Smith (NFL Network analyst)

Marcellus Wiley (ESPN studio analyst)

Darren Woodson (ESPN studio analyst)

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The First Time the Bears Visited Dallas

The Dallas Morning News headline for the 1962 game between the Bears and Cowboys. Chicago won, 34-33.

The early history of the Dallas Cowboys is partially intertwined with the Chicago Bears. Chicago selected SMU quarterback Don Meredith in the third round of the 1960 NFL Draft and, thanks to an agreement between George Halas and the Dallas franchise, the Bears traded Meredith to Dallas for a third-round pick in 1962.

Dallas faced the Bears at Wrigley Field in 1960 and lost 17-7. Meredith did not play in that game, and third-stringer Don Heinrich threw the Cowboys’ only touchdown pass.

Two years later, Meredith did play when the Cowboys hosted the Bears for the first time. The game played at the Cotton Bowl turned into a bit of a wild affair. Chicago’s Billy Wade threw for 466 yards, 201 of which went to receiver Johnny Morris, but the Bears could not convert yards into points.

Dallas held a 13-10 lead at halftime thanks to two touchdown passes by Don Meredith. However, the Bears’ Joe Fortunato blocked Allen Green’s first extra-point attempt, which turned out to be critical at game’s end.

Rookie Amos Bullocks gave Dallas a 33-24 lead on a 73-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the game. At the time, it was the longest run from scrimmage in the team’s short history.

However, the Bears clawed their way back into the game, as Wade hit Morris on a 45-yard touchdown pass to cut the Dallas lead to 33-31. Then, with just 31 seconds left in the game, Roger LeClerc hit a 15-yard field goal to give Chicago the win.

Had the Cowboys won, they might have pulled out a winning record in 1962. However, the team slid down the stretch, losing five of their last six games to finish with a 5-8-1 record.

The Cowboys have faced the Bears 20 times and have an overall record of 11-9. The teams last played in 2010, when Chicago frustrated Dallas in a 27-20 win for the Bears.

* * *

Incidentally, total attendance for the Cowboys’ opener against Tampa Bay was 81,984, and the numbers may be a bit higher on Monday night.

Total attendance for the 1962 game? 12,692.

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Don Meredith: “Jaunty, Courageous, Frustrating”

c.jpg

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

(If the indignity of being booed and harassed otherwise was not enough for Don Meredith, the picture above from Life Magazine in 1968 probably was enough.)

After Dallas lost to Cleveland in the 1968 playoffs, Meredith played two more games. The first was the Playoff Bowl, in which Dallas beat Minnesota 17-13 on January 5, 1969. The second was the Pro Bowl that was played on January 19. Meredith started the game ahead of New York’s Fran Tarkenton. The Pro Bowl was the last game Meredith ever played.

In April 1969, the Cowboys announced that former Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach would join the Cowboys since his commitment to the Navy was up.

Three months later, Staubach was reportedly “floored” when Meredith announced that he would retire from football at the age of 30. He retired with a record of 48-33-4, which was remarkable given that he played many of his games when the Dallas franchise was still in its infancy. His 17,199 passing yards rank fourth on the team’s all-time last, as do his 135 touchdown passes.

Meredith had been the subject of retirement rumors in both 1967 and 1968, so the news during the summer of 1969 was not a complete surprise. The timing of the announcement was, however, given that the team’s training camp was schedule to open less than two weeks later.

The Dallas Morning News description of Meredith at the time of his retirement: “Jaunty, Courageous, Frustrating.” Nevertheless,

[i]t would be hard for anyone – even the boo-birds whose harsh catcalls were to gnaw at Don Meredith’s soul on many a restless, sleepless night – to put aside all nostaltia when the Cowboy quarterback announced his retirement . . . .

Meredith’s comment when he retired:

I thought I would start off by telling you I had bought a one-third interest in a New York bar, but I decided to play it straight.

50 Seasons Series: ’68 Ends with a Sad Finish in More Ways Than One

53062379.jpgThis post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Fans of the 2007 Dallas Cowboys can certainly relate to fans of the 1968 Cowboys. In 2007, Dallas overcame years of mediocrity and playoff disappointment to post a 13-3 record, including two wins over the New York Giants. The curtain fell shut suddenly, however, when the Giants upset the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs.

In ’68, the Cowboys rebounded from two heartbreaking losses to the Packers by posting a 12-2 record in one of the finest regular season in team history. The Cowboys beat the Browns early in the 1968 season and won their final five games heading into the playoffs. Most expected the big matchup in the NFL that season to be between Dallas and Baltimore, but it never happened.

From Bob St. John:

The Dallas Cowboys were reincarnated as the Ancient Mariner

here on a cold, bleak Saturday afternoon with 81,496 fans watching in

person and the world looking on through the miracle they call television.

Dallas was a Greek Tragedy. The Cowboys had hoped to take that final

step to the NFL championship and had worked toward that goal since

mid-July. But, actually, Tom Landry’s club took a step backward as

Cleveland won the Eastern Conference title, 31 20. Probably, it was

worse than the score indicated.

Against the Browns, the Cowboys took a 10-3 lead thanks to a Chuck Howley fumble return and a field goal by Mike Clark. Cleveland showed its big-play ability by tying the game at 10 on a 45-yard pass from Bill Nelson to running back Leroy Kelly.

What killed the Cowboys were two Don Meredith interceptions early in the second half. One was returned for a touchdown. The other set up a Kelly touchdown run. With the score 24-10, Tom Landry turned to Craig Morton, who was unable to spark a comeback.

Don Meredith’s career was over, save an appearance in the Playoff Bowl. Running back Don Perkins finished the game with 51 rushing yards in his final game that counted.

For more…

Cowboys Blow Their Thing, 31-20 (Dallas Morning News)

Box Score (Pro-Football-Reference)

Great Don Meredith Video

We will get to the games of the 1964 regular season tomorrow, but in the meantime, here is a great video focusing on quarterback Don Meredith.


In addition to Meredith, the plays in this clip feature the likes of TE Fred Dugan (#89 at 0:40 of the clip), WR Billy Howton (#81 at 0:50 of the clip), Dan Reeves (#30 at 3:40 of the clip), and Buddy Dial (#26 at 5:20 of the clip).

A Dallas Quarterback Should Expect Turmoil

In 29 years as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry went through a total of six primary starters at quarterback. The icon some called Plastic Man had a singular focus on winning, but as one of the great teachers among NFL coaching legends, he placed winning in its proper context.

Generally, achieving goals…which in many cases means winning…is really the ultimate in this life we live in. Being the best at whatever talent you have, that’s what stimulates life. I don’t mean cheating or doing things that are bad. That’s the negative side. But here’s the thing: what are the alternatives? If you don’t believe in winning, you don’t believe in free enterprise, capitalism, our way of life. If you eliminate our way of life, the American way of life, what is the effect…what are the alternatives?

Achievement builds character. People striving, being knocked down and coming back…this is what builds character in a man. The Bible talks about it at length in Paul, in Romans. Paul says that adversity brings on endurance, endurance brings on character, and character brings on hope.

Current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo does not appear to have a great mentor to guide him, and he is now taking heat for comments made after the team’s final loss at Philadelphia. The quote, “If I’m never going to win the Super Bowl, I’ll be content in life,” has many diehard fans questioning his leadership (or simply giving up on him altogether), and the pressure he will face in 2009 may very well be greater than any previous season.

In one of the leading stories this week, Troy Aikman was openly critical of Romo on Michael Irvin’s radio show. In an article today, Romo countered that he has vowed to become a better leader. Todd Archer’s story noted:

Romo acknowledges he gets “philosophical,” about things because it “might ease the pain of the moment,” and that’s what he said he did in Philadelphia.

“I might have tried to find a silver lining to talk myself into feeling OK,” Romo said. “But I’m still not OK with it.”

Romo is feeling the heat and experiencing the turmoil that every Dallas quarterback has felt. Criticism of Romo sounds very much like the criticism heard by Don Meredith, whom Landry struggled to develop into a winning quarterback. In the great book Landry’s Boys, Peter Golenbock noted that Landry spent years “preaching seriousness and commitment to his quarterback, and in return he was treated to country-western songs in the huddle and raucous behavior that seemed to him to belie a lack of maturity.”

Romo has been criticized for his high-profile relationships, and new allegations suggest that he has not prepared as he should. In his day, Meredith was simply a happy-go-lucky guy would sing country-western songs in the huddle. In 1965, Meredith injured his shoulder in training camp when he slipped and fell on a wet floor during a water gun fight. Meredith completed less than half of his passes that season, and though he went 7-4 as a starter, the team finished with a disappointing 7-7 record overall.

Like Romo, Meredith lost more big games than he won. Meredith won only one playoff game in Dallas, but that win over Cleveland in 1967 has been almost completely overshadowed by the loss in the Ice Bowl a week later. In Meredith’s final official game (not counting the Runner Up Bowl), he was benched in the second half in a playoff loss at Cleveland. The pressure from fans and media alike led to an early retirement at the age of 31.

Romo now has three big, potentially career-defining, losses on his resume, including playoff losses in 2006 and 2007 and season finale at Philadelphia in 2008. It does not help him that winning is what defined Roger Staubach’s legacy in Dallas, much as it defined Aikman’s. Losing quarterbacks in Dallas end up in a different class. And whereas Meredith was later forgiven of his failures, the others have not.

Craig Morton was the first of these other quarterbacks. Morton replaced Meredith as a full-time starter in 1969 and led Dallas to an impressive 11-2-1 record. However, Landry called Morton’s toughness into question because the quarterback failed to heal from a shoulder injury quickly enough to start the season. Moreover, the Cowboys further solidified their place as Next Year’s Champions when Morton’s Cowboys fell to Cleveland in the 1969 playoffs.

Morton was, of course, the first Dallas quarterback to lead the team to a Super Bowl, but it was hardly the quarterback play that got the Cowboys there. In two playoff wins, Morton went a combined 11 of 40 for 139 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was no better in Super Bowl V, when he managed only 127 yards passing and threw two crucial interceptions that helped Baltimore win the game.

Morton’s last playoff start was in 1972 against the San Francisco 49ers. Dallas won the game, but only because Staubach came off the bench to pull out the win in miraculous fashion. Morton left Dallas two years later and is hardly remembered at all by many Dallas fans; a number of those who do remember him are more likely to associate him with Denver than with Dallas.

More fans have a better memory of Danny White, and a number of people have compared Romo with White due to their failures. White spent four seasons as a backup (along with handling punting duties) before he stepped into the starter’s role in 1980. White had several great wins, including the famous 1980 divisional playoff game against Atlanta, but he fought an uphill battle from the moment he took over as starter. His first flaw was that he wasn’t Roger Staubach, and to many fans, he proved he wasn’t Roger Staubach when he lost three consecutive NFC Championship Games. White retired with a career record of 62-30 as a starter– a 67.4% winning percentage– but he is remembered by many as a loser because of those key playoff losses.

That’s what a Dallas quarterback can expect. And that’s why Tony Romo should not be surprised by the heat he’s receiving now, and until he wins– right or wrong–it will only get worse.