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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 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.
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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.
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* 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).