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The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will face one another for the 34th time, including playoffs, since 1960 on September 7. It will mark the first time since 2011 that the teams have played.
The rivalry dates back to the Cowboys’ inaugural season of 1960. In fact, the 49ers were the first team the Cowboys ever played during preseason. On a hot afternoon in Seattle on August 6, 1960, the Cowboys fell just short of a win. Trailing 16-10 late in the game, Dallas took over the ball at its own 37. Eddie LeBaron moved the team to the San Francisco 28 with about a minute left. However, Dave Baker picked off a LeBaron pass to end the drive and secure the win for San Francisco.
More than three months later, the teams played again during the regular season at the Cotton Bowl. LeBaron struggled in the contest, throwing three interceptions. However, his 76-yard touchdown pass to Frank Clarke early in the fourth quarter gave Dallas a 14-9 lead.
Nevertheless, the 49ers roared back and scored 17 unanswered points to win the game 26-14.
Dallas secured its first win over the 49ers on November 7, 1965.
During regular season matchups, Dallas has a 11-14-1 record against San Francisco. The Cowboys’ playoff record against the 49ers is 5-2. Thus, both teams are 16-16-1 in combined regular season and playoff games.
During various times in the 1960s and early 1970s, Tom Landry was rather notorious for swapping starting quarterbacks. Whether it was Eddie LeBaron vs. Don Meredith, Don Meredith vs. Craig Morton, or Craig Morton vs. Roger Staubach, Landry did not seem to shy from quarterback controversies.
Of course, once Staubach led the team to the promised land in 1971, those controversies ended. And when Staubach retired after the 1979 season, Danny White took over without any real competition.
By 1984, the Cowboys had lost in the playoffs during four consecutive seasons. The focus of the news during training camp in 1984 was on the QB position, where Gary Hogeboom was trying to unseat White as the starter.
Landry made a decision 30 years ago to move Hogeboom into the starting position. Landry hardly gave Hogeboom a full vote of confidence.
Landry said the Cowboys’ quarterback position, like all others on the team, would be evaluated on a game- by-game basis as part of what he called a ”reshaping” process. That process begins at Anaheim, Calif., Monday night, when the Cowboys open against the Los Angeles Rams.
”This is not like quarterback decisions I’ve made in the past,” said Landry, who was visibly nervous during the Dallas news conference at which he announced the change. ”If we were going to rebuild this team, we would not be thinking about making the playoffs. But we are going to be reshaping this team. We still have the players to make it to the playoffs. We can be in contention this year. But it is going to take a lot of hard work.”
Landry would give no specific reasons for switching from the 32-year- old White, a starter in the last four seasons, to the 26-year-old Hogeboom, who has never started a regular-season game in the N.F.L. but who said earlier this summer that he would seek a trade if he were not given the starter’s role.
”For my own reasons,” the coach said, ”I have a feeling that Gary is right for this game. My feeling is the same about Danny White. He is an excellent quarterback and will continue to be an excellent quarterback. I have coached this game. I have played this game. I have to go on my feelings.”
Of course, White was angry, while Hogeboom had to look over his shoulder. Both players saw action throughout the first half of the season, during which the Cowboys went 5-3. White eventually returned to the starting role. The team was 9-5 heading into the final two weeks of the season, and the Cowboys could have made the playoffs with wins in either week. But Dallas lost both games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
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Something that really caught my attention in the N.Y. Times article was this blurb about Franco Harris:
The Dallas Morning News reported that Bart Beier, the agent for Franco Harris, had called the Cowboys and told them that the accomplished running back was available to play for them at an annual salary of as little as $330,000. That is about $50,000 less than what Harris would have earned this season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who waived him last week because of a contract impasse. According to the Dallas newspaper account, Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ vice president for personnel development, rejected the offer out of hand, without even discussing it with Landry.
each of the 50 seasons covered over the next year, many of the posts
will focus on the individual games. For the sake of keeping the posts a
little bit shorter, these posts will divide each season into two parts.
The 1960 season for the Cowboys is a little bit easier to cover
than the others. The regular season still consisted of 12 games, and as
most people know, the Dallas team suffering from a nearly complete lack
of talent struggled to an 0-11-1 record. The 1960 season was not
without its exciting moments, though most would still probably rather
forget that this season actually occurred.
Week 1: September 24, 1960 in Dallas
Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 28
The Cowboys actually led 14-0 in their first regular season game
in history, played in the Cotton Bowl. Touchdown passes by Eddie
LeBaron to Jim Doran (75 yards) and Frank Dugan (7 yards) put Dallas in
front by two touchdowns. Dallas even led at the half, thanks to a
five-yard touchdown run by Don McIlhenny, the former star at SMU who
was picked up from Green Bay.
The Dallas defense had a difficult time stopping Pittsburgh
quarterback Bobby Layne, who threw for four touchdowns. Nevertheless,
LeBaron hit Doran on another touchdown pass covering 54 yards, and the
Cowboys held a 28-21 lead in the third quarter. After the Steelers tied
the game late in the third quarter, Dallas again drove into Pittsburgh
territory. However, LeBaron was intercepted by Bert Rechichar at the
Pittsburgh 26. Both teams had their chances down the stretch, but it
was the Steelers who pulled it out, as Layne hit running back Tom Tracy
on a deep pass pattern, and Tracy ran it in for a 65-yard touchdown.
LeBaron finished with 345 yards passing and three touchdowns, but
he was also picked off three times. Doran had 154 yards on four
receptions, which certainly helped his cause when he was voted to the
Pro Bowl that year.
Week 2: September 30, 1960
Philadelphia 27, Dallas 25
The Cowboys had another tough contest in their second game of 1960
against the Eagles, who went on to win the World Championship that
season. The big difference in the game came down to extra points, as
Philadelphia defensive back Bobby Freeman blocked two extra point
attempts by Fred Cone.
Dallas trailed 13-6 at the half, but a 75-yard touchdown pass from
LeBaron to Clarke nearly even things up. But Freeman blocked the extra
point, and Dallas trailed 13-12. The Eagles took a 20-12 lead thanks to
a 10-yard run by Billy Ray Barnes early in the fourth quarter. The
Cowboys bounced back with a touchdown run by LeBaron, but Cone’s kick
was blocked again. A 23-yard touchdown run by Barnes effectively put
the game out of reach, though LeBaron’s touchdown pass to Gene Babb
kept the final score close.
Week 3: October 9, 1960
Washington 26, Dallas 14
Washington kicker Bob Khayat hit four field goals, as the Redskins
beat the Cowboys in the first road game for the Dallas franchise.
LeBaron had a another big day passing, finishing with 296 yards, but he
threw three interceptions. His two touchdown passes went Clarke and
tight end **** Bielski. Bielski’s touchdown catch, which cut the
Redskin lead to 19-14 in the fourth quarter was notable for its
distance. The pass play officially gained two inches, which is still an
Washington put the game away thanks to a drive led by quarterback
Ralph Guglielmi. He hit Sam Horner on a long pass play, which set up a
short touchdown run by Johnny Olszewski.
Week 4: October 16, 1960
Cleveland 48, Dallas 7
Dallas suffered its first blowout loss in week four of the 1960
season, thanks to the play of Bobby Mitchell. He scored three of the
Browns’ first five touchdowns, including a 46-yard pass reception, a
30-yard run, and a 90-yard kickoff return. The Cowboys trailed 28-0 at
halftime. The game was so bad that both Don Heinrich and Don Meredith
saw playing time in the second half. Heinrich’s touchdown pass to Billy
Howton was the only score of the game for the Cowboys.
Week 5: October 23, 1960
St. Louis 12, Dallas 10
The Cowboys very nearly won their first NFL game against St.
Louis. A three-yard run by L.G. Dupre gave Dallas a 10-9 fourth quarter
lead. However, Dupre later fumbled the ball, and following the fumble,
St. Louis drove into field goal range. Gerry Perry, 240-pound kicker
and defensive end, kicked an 18-yard field goal to give the Cardinals a
John Roach, who later played for Dallas, had to replace an injured
George Izo for St. Louis, and the Cardinals managed only four
completions during the game. However, Dallas could not stop John David
Crow and the St. Louis rushing attack, which gained 226 yards on the
ground. The Dallas running game struggled, as the Cowboys only managed
51 rushing yards.
Week 6: October 30, 1960
Baltimore 45, Dallas 7
For the second time in three weeks, Dallas suffered a blowout
loss. Raymond Berry caught touchdown passes of 68, 52, and 70 yards
from Johnny Unitas, as the Colts took a 31-0 halftime lead. Dallas
managed only 147 yards, and the lone touchdown was a third quarter pass
from Heinrich to Howton.
Synopsis of the First Half of the 1960 Season
In their first three games of the 1960 season, Dallas averaged 355
on offense and scored an average of 22.3 points. In week four through
six, though, Dallas managed an average of only 163 yards per game, and
the Cowboys picked up a combined total of 26 first downs in three
games. The Cowboys had realistic chances to beat two of their first six
opponents (Pittsburgh and St. Louis), but the young team had trouble
putting games away.
The Cowboys continued to struggle during the second half of the 1960 season, but a tie gives fans something to cheer about.
On November 4, 1962, the Dallas Cowboys improved their record to 4-3-1 after a huge 38-10 win over the Washington Redskins. Don Meredith and Eddie LeBaron each threw touchdown passes, though the order in which they threw those touchdown passes was rather odd– Meredith in the second quarter, LeBaron in the third quarter, another by Meredith in the third, and then LeBaron in the fourth.
The quarterbacks alternated not only on the final boxscore in terms of touchdowns, but also on the field. Tom Landry’s practice of shuttling quarterbacks in and out did not begin with Roger Staubach and Craig Morton, but rather much earlier in his career. And Sports Illustrated at the time thought that the plan was a great idea, saying that Landry made a “virtue out of a weakness”:
What Landry discovered was that if he alternated his quarterbacks on every play he was not only using the best offensive brain available—his—but he was also giving his quarterbacks, Eddie LeBaron and Don Meredith, some very subtle and unexpected tactical advantages. This shuttle has worked so well that the NFL’s highest-scoring offense now belongs to the Cowboys.
The talent on the 1962 Cowboys was certainly better than it had been in the previous two seasons, and at the time that Dallas beat Washington in week 8, the Cowboys had the highest-scoring offense in the league. Dallas trailed the Giants and Redskins in the Eastern Conference standings, but only by a game and a half and a half-game, respectively.
Meredith was credited with saying that Landry had the mind of an IBM machine (computer, of course, but one that probably occupied an entire room), but it is easier to imagine that Meredith was saying some of this tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless, Landry’s reputation as an offensive genius was building even as the team struggled.
All of this would indicate that Landry has reduced football as near to an exact science as possible; when Meredith says that Tom has a mind like an IBM machine, he is almost right. Landry not only is a fine tactician, he is a good judge of football talent and a precise organizer.
The practice of alternating quarterbacks, however, did not have staying power. The 1962 Cowboys lost five of their last six games to finish the season at 5-8-1.
Google’s Life Pictures
Google bought the rights to the photo archive of LIFE magazine and now provides access to those pictures. A search for “Dallas Cowboys” did not turn up much, but among the results were shots taken from the December 16, 1962 matchup between the Cowboys and Giants in a game played at Yankee Stadium.
Note: This shot shows tackle Bob Fry blocking #81 Andy Robustelli.
Note: Bob Lilly tries to knock down a pass thrown by Y.A. Tittle.
Note: Robustelli after tackling LeBaron. As you can see from the scoreboard in the background, this play took place in the third quarter of that game, with the Giants leading then 28-24.
The game was a barn-burner. Tittle threw for 341 yards and six touchdowns against a weak Dallas secondary. LeBaron and Meredith combined to throw for three touchdowns, including a 53-yarder from LeBaron to Frank Clarke and a 69-yarder from Meredith to Billy Howton. Both receivers finished with more than 100 yards receiving.
The shuttling system ended for the most part after the 1962 season, when both Meredith and LeBaron threw for more than 1,400 yards. In 1963, Meredith started all but one game, and LeBaron was out of the league by 1964.