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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.
The 1984 season did not turn out to be one to remember for the Dallas Cowboys. The team finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
Even for those who watched the team then, it’s easy to forget that the Cowboys began the year with a 4-1 record. With Gary Hogeboom leading the way, Dallas beat the Rams, Eagles, and Packers in the first four weeks of the season and had only lost to the Giants.
In week 5, Dallas traveled to Soldier Field to face the Bears. It was the first trip to Chicago for Dallas since 1973.
This game took place one year before the Bears became dominant. The teams played in 44-degree weather in late September.
The play I happen to remember from that game was a screen pass from Hogeboom to Tony Dorsett. The Cowboys set up the play perfectly, and Dorsett still had the speed that made him a legend.
Here is the play:
The Cowboys won the game 23-14 to improve to 4-1. However, the Hogeboom era did not last long. Dallas lost two straight to the Cardinals and Redskins. Tom Landry soon turned to Danny White again, but though the team finished with winning record, the Cowboys missed the playoffs.
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The Cowboys have a 4-4 record overall at Soldier Field, including a win in the playoffs against the Bears in 1991.
During the 1960s, Dallas traveled to Chicago three times to face the Bears at Wrigley Field, and Dallas won two of those games.
The Cowboys lost their first game at Soldier Field in 1971 in an infamous game where Landry alternated between Roger Staubach and Craig Morton throughout the game.
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The last time Dallas visited Chicago was 2007. The teams were tied at 3 at halftime, but the Cowboys pulled away in the second half to win, 34-10.