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The Cowboys faced several issues in 1984, and many of those related to personnel. The team’s talent level had fallen, and stars such as Drew Pearson and Harvey Martin were replaced with more mediocre players.
Poor drafts did not help matters. Dallas spent its first pick on Texas A&M linebacker Billy Cannon Jr., who lasted only half of one season because of injuries. The picks that followed included Victor Scott, Fred Cornwell, Steve DeOssie, and Steve Pelleur. Although the latter two started some games, these players hardly provided the foundation for the future.
The team’s second pick in the fifth round was Iowa fullback Norm Granger. He had gained just over 1,000 total rushing yards in four seasons at Iowa but was considered an important part of the Hawkeyes’ Rose Bowl team in 1982. He was also co-MVP of the 1983 team.
Dallas already had two fullbacks in Ron Springs and Timmy Newsome, so having a third fullback was hardly a necessity. Early reviews of Granger were positive.
Regarding Granger, Dallas assistant coach Al Lavan said, “He’s got exceptional hands, just exceptional. He’s about a step ahead of most other rookies at this point.”
Results: Granger played in 15 games, mostly on special teams.
Rushing attempts? Zero.
Kickoff returns? Two.
Total return yards? Six.
* * *
In 2004, Granger served as an honorary captain in a game between Iowa and Iowa State. Iowa won, 17-10.
* * *
Granger lost his Rose Bowl ring shortly after the game in 1982. Twenty-five years later, it was recovered when a collector saw it being sold on eBay.
The 1975 draft for the Cowboys remains part of the team’s great legacy. Twelve players made the squad in 1975, which turned out to be a Super Bowl year. The draft class produced a number of starters, including Randy White, Hollywood Henderson, Bob Breunig, Mike Hegman, and Herb Scott.
The team’s fifth-round pick was a center named Kyle Davis, who was an All-American at Oklahoma. At the time, the team had John Fitzgerald, who had replaced Dave Manders at the center position.
Fitzgerald played most of the 1975 season, so Davis hardly had a chance to prove himself. When Dallas traveled to Minnesota for the divisional playoffs, though, Fitzgerald hurt his arm.
Dallas had brought the shotgun back to the NFL in 1975 and was running it late in the game while trailing the Vikings 14-10. Fitzgerald was having problems snapping the ball thanks to his injury, and one of his snaps ended up costing the Cowboys a six-yard loss late in the game.
Davis replaced Fitzgerald, and Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson performed their magic. Staubach hit Pearson on a sideline route to convert a 4th-and-16 play, and Staubach then hit Pearson on the famous Hail Mary.
The snapper? Davis, who wins the Most Obscure Player Award for 1975.
Davis was injured and missed the 1976 and 1977 seasons. He did not return to the NFL until 1978 when he played in seven games for San Francisco.
Best obscurity about Davis, other than the Hail Mary? He was not only the deep snapper for the Sooners in college, but he also punted.
Until 2006, the Cowboys managed to have two receivers hit the 1,000-yard mark in the same season once. That occurred in 1979 when Tony Hill and Drew Pearson passed the mark.
Since 2006, the Cowboys have have four pairs reach 1,000 yards. This included Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens (2006), Owens and Jason Witten (2007), and Witten and Miles Austin (2009 and 2010).
It is possible that the Cowboys could have three receivers surpass 1,000 yards this year. Dez Bryant already has 1,028 yards. Witten has 880 yards, while Austin has 819. There are three games remaining, and two of the defenses (Saints and Redskins) are not especially good at defending the pass.
Below is a list of the 1,000-yard receivers in team history.
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.
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)
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)
Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree managed to change the focus of conversations from “The Cowboys don’t have a third receiver” to “This Ogletree kid looked awfully good. Should I pick him up on waivers for my fantasy team?”
Anyway, the point of this post isn’t really about Ogletree. It’s about one of the greatest opening-day performances not only in Cowboys history but also in league history. A certain receiver once opened as season by catching 10 passes for 241 yards with 3 TDs, two of which were on pass plays of longer than 50 yards. For those scoring at home, that’s 42.1 fantasy points in most standard leagues and 52.1 points in PPR leagues.
The player was Frank Clarke. His 3 TDs helped the Cowboys to a 35-35 tie with the Washington Redskins on opening day in 1962. Those 241 receiving yards are the most by any receiver on opening day in league history, according to a post today at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Of course, without the fantasy football implications of today, reference to Clarke’s performance did not appear until the ninth paragraph of Charles Burton’s story in the Dallas Morning News:
The tie score obscured a brilliant day of pass receiving and running by Frank Clarke, the veteran wingback, who caught the ball 10 times, made the catches worth 241 yards and three touchdowns.
Incidentally, Clarke had some other monster games for the Cowboys. He had two games in 1963 alone where he had more than 150 receiving yards, including an 8-reception, 190-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers.
Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series
Nine players have worn #88 for the Cowboys. This includes six wide receivers, a linebacker, a tight end, and a punter/kicker.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh, 2002-04
Statistics: Bryant caught 99 passes for 1549 yards and 8 TDs with Dallas.
Longevity: He played less than three full seasons with the Cowboys.
Intangibles: The highly talented Bryant has yet to find a way to stay out of trouble. He lasted just over two seasons in Dallas before the Cowboys sent him packing.
Sonny Davis, LB, Baylor, 1961
Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.
Intangibles: Davis was a wide receiver at Baylor, but the Cowboys tried to convert him to linebacker. He saw little action during his one pro season.
Jackie Harris, TE, Northwest Louisiana, 2000-01
Statistics: Harris caught 54 passes for 447 yards and seven touchdowns with Dallas.
Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.
Intangibles: Harris was a starter in Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and Tennessee before Dallas signed him in 2000 to replace David LeFleur. He was adequate for the two years he played in Dallas.
Michael Irvin, WR, Miami, Fla., 1988-99
Statistics: Irvin caught 750 passes for 11,904 yards and 65 TDs with the Cowboys.
Accolades: Five Pro Bowls, All-Decade Team of the 1990s, Ring of Honor, and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Longevity: Irvin played 12 seasons in Dallas.
Intangibles: Irvin was a physical receiver who could fill roles as both a possession receiver and as a big playmaker. He was the most vocal (and obviously most flamboyant) of the leaders on the 1990s teams, but he always backed up his talk with his play. His 1995 season (111 rec., 1603 yds.) is easily the greatest single season for any Dallas receiver, and he accomplished it even though every opponent knew he was the primary weapon in the passing game.
Drew Pearson, WR, Tulsa, 1973-83
Statistics: Pearson caught 489 passes for 7822 yards and 48 TDs.
Accolades: Three Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He was also a member of the All-Decade Team for the 1970s.
Longevity: He played 11 seasons in the NFL, all with Dallas.
Intangibles: Pearson was a free agent who became the team’s top receiver during the Cowboys’ resurgence in the mid-1970s. He was a clutch receiver who made as many big plays in big games as any player in team history.
Sonny Randle, WR, Virginia, 1968
Statistics: Randle caught one pass for 12 yards with the Cowboys.
Accolades: None with Dallas. He made four Pro Bowls with the Rams.
Longevity: He played less than a full season in Dallas.
Intangibles: Dallas picked up Randle in 1968 after he spent several seasons with the Rams, Cardinals, and 49ers. He retired after the 1968 season.
Colin Ridgway, P/K, Lamar Tech, 1965
Statistics: Ridgway averaged 39.2 yards on 13 punts for the Cowboys.
Longevity: He played less than a full season for the Cowboys.
Intangibles: Ridgway competed in the Olympics in the high jump for Australia in 1956. He spent most of his time in Dallas on the taxi squad. Tragically, he was a murder victim in 1993 in a crime that has never been solved.
Reggie Rucker, WR, Boston University, 1970-71
Statistics: Sellers caught 10 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys.
Accolades: None with Dallas.
Longevity: He played less than two full seasons for the Cowboys before being traded to the Giants.
Intangibles: Rucker is best remembered as member of the Cleveland Browns. He finished his career with more than 7000 yards, but only a few were with the Cowboys.
Ron Sellers, WR, Florida State, 1972
Statistics: Sellers caught 31 passes for 653 yards and five touchdowns with the Cowboys.
Accolades: None with Dallas.
Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.
Intangibles: Sellers caught Roger Staubach’s last-minute touchdown pass in the 1972 playoff win over San Francisco. That happened to be his final catch as a Cowboy, as he was traded to Miami in 1973.
Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #88.
Note from 9/2: Thanks to an “upgrade” to my WordPress software, I was having trouble with the poll plugin. I think I have fixed it. I incorporated the results from the Zoho poll (below) into this poll:
- Michael Irvin (82%, 164 Votes)
- Drew Pearson (17%, 34 Votes)
- Jackie Harris (1%, 2 Votes)
- Sonny Davis (0%, 0 Votes)
- Antonio Bryant (0%, 0 Votes)
- Sonny Randle (0%, 0 Votes)
- Colin Ridgway (0%, 0 Votes)
- Reggie Rucker (0%, 0 Votes)
- Ron Sellers (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 199
Here is the Zoho poll in case anyone is still having problems.
My Vote: Irvin
When I set out to conduct this poll, the debate over the greatest #88 is what came to mind first. The stats clearly support Irvin, but this one is about more than stats. Both made plays that created their legends, and the Cowboys’ franchise wouldn’t have been what it was during either of their eras. What gives Irvin my vote is that he was greater for a longer period of time. From 1991 to 1998, he was the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ passing attack, and he consistently came through in the biggest moments. By comparison, Pearson became less and less of a primary target as his career progressed, and he finished behind Tony Hill in receptions during each of Pearson’s final six seasons. We can only pick one here, and my vote has to go to Irvin.