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The Dallas Cowboys Back Then: What Was Happening in July 2006?

In 2006, the Cowboys hoped Bill Parcells had some magic left in him.

Know Your Dallas Cowboys is nearly ten years old.  In light of the forthcoming anniversary, and given that the blog has been on life support this offseason, I figured now would be a decent time to start a new series.

Let’s look back at what was happening a decade ago before I decided the blogosphere needed yet another Dallas Cowboys blog.

Training Camp

On July 23, 2006, the Cowboys were preparing to open their training camp in Oxnard, California. The team planned to move its training camp to San Antonio in 2007, and it was not clear whether the Cowboys would return to California again.

The team was trying to improve on their 9-7 finish from 2005 and hoped that Bill Parcells recreate some of his past success.

What actually happened…The Cowboys alternated between Oxnard and San Antonio for several years. They have held training camp in Oxnard each year since 2012.

(Backup) Quarterback Controversy

parcellsDrew Bledsoe entered his second season as the starting quarterback. He threw for more than 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2005, but not all fans were happy with him. Nevertheless, few thought the team would roll the dice with one of the inexperienced backups.

Who the principal backup would be was an interesting topic. The play of Tony Romo excited many fans during the preseason in 2005, and the Cowboys still had Drew Henson.

Regarding the QB race, former Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Archer wrote the following:

The skinny: Bledsoe is the starter, but Parcells has said Romo will get plenty of work in preseason. Bledsoe, 34, is in fine shape, but Parcells doesn’t want to overwork him. Henson was decent in NFL Europe, his first extended game action since 2000, but he’ll need to impress early to push Romo. Jeff Mroz, a free-agent pickup, could be a long-term project.

What actually happened?… Do I really need to tell you that Tony Romo became the starter in 2006?

What about Jeff Mroz?…He never made the team. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, but also failed to make that team. According to his LinkedIn page, he is the co-founder of a nutrition company.

A Record, Long-Term Deal for Jason Witten

Many fans focused on the offseason signing of Terrell Owens (and we will address him later).

Less memorable is the fact that the Cowboys signed Jason Witten to a long-term deal. The team announced the contract extension on July 23, 2006.

The contract called for Witten to make $12 million in guaranteed money, which exceeded the amounts given to Jeremy Shockey and Tony Gonzalez.

What actually happened?…The Cowboys have never been in danger of losing Witten, and he has remained productive throughout his long career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 before having an all-pro season in 2007. His base salary in 2006, after the signing, was $500,000. By comparison, his base salary in 2016 is $6.5 million.

 

 

ESPN Poll: 47% Expect the Cowboys to Win the East

Tony Romo will return in 2016 to lead the Dallas Cowboys.

The Dallas Cowboys are quickly becoming favorites to win the NFC East in 2016 despite last season’s 4-12 record. Everyone is well aware that the Cowboys will welcome back a healthy Tony Romo.

In a recent ESPN poll, 47% said they expect the Cowboys to win the division, compared with 23% for the Giants, 20% for the Redskins, and 11% for the Eagles.

Here’s the comment by Todd Archer:

There has not been a repeat division winner in the NFC East since the 2003-04 Eagles, so that would seem to rule out the Redskins. The Eagles and Giants have new head coaches, and they sometimes need time to find their footing. That leaves the Cowboys. They are not your typical 4-12 team. Tony Romo is healthy. Dez Bryant is healthy. They drafted Ezekiel Elliott. They have the best offensive line in the division. There are several defensive questions, but the offense can negate many of the defensive inefficiencies. The Cowboys won the division in 2014 with that formula, and they will do it again. And they will be the only NFC East team to qualify for the postseason. Matching up with the AFC North and NFC North will not allow the second-place team to make it as a wild card.

Several reporters also predicted that Romo will be the division’s MVP. The fact that the Cowboys fell from 12-4 in 2014 to 4-12 in 2015, due largely to Romo’s injury, has factored heavily into these predictions.

***

A bit of a history lesson, though, is in order. Entering the 1986 season, the Cowboys had just won the NFC East and raced out to a 6-2 start before incumbent starter Danny White broke his wrist. The 6-2 start, and 20 consecutive years of winning seasons, went down the drain as Dallas finished with a 7-9 record.

The L.A. Times ran a story summarizing the problems with the 1986 Cowboys.

The reasons for Cowboys’ demise went well beyond White and his backup, second-year man Steve Pelluer. In 1986, the Cowboys had a number of holes that led to only the second season since 1966 that they failed to make the playoffs. The offensive line was porous, the defensive line was aging, and nagging injuries bothered other veteran superstars such as running back Tony Dorsett and wide receiver Tony Hill.

By comparison, the 2015 Cowboys had a talented offensive line that underperformed, a defensive corps that struggled throughout the season, and nagging injuries that bothered Dez Bryant, the team’s best playmaker.

No, the circumstances were not the same in 2015 as they were in 1986, but there are a number of similarities. Hopefully, Tony Romo at the age of 36 can bounce back and do what Danny White at the age of 35 in 1987 could not.

Quote Trivia: Not the End of the Road

The 1975 Dallas Cowboys were a team on the rebound. After Dallas had at least reached the NFC Championship Game each year between 1970 and 1973, the Cowboys didn’t even make the playoffs in 1974.

One player had a poor year in 1974 after being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1973. He said he played with injuries and was almost ready to hang up his cleats. However, he signed a two-year deal and returned in 1975.

The player’s quote appears in the quiz question below.

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

***

The “Randy” that appears in the quote above was Randy White, whom the Cowboys had drafted in 1975.

The player quoted above noted the following about White:

“He’s got great quickness and movement. No hangups about moving around in there. And those 250 pounders won’t be knocking him around like they do me.”

White played linebacker before being moved to defensive tackle in 1977. Of course, that was the year he shared co-MVP honors with Harvey Martin after the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII.

 

Dallas 41, Chicago 28: 8-8 No More

DeMarco Murray touched the ball 41 times in the Cowboys' 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears.

DeMarco Murray touched the ball 41 times in the Cowboys’ 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears.

I have made no secret that I thought the Cowboys would go 3-13 this season. Had I been right, the Cowboys would have traveled to Chicago tonight with nothing on the line.

Instead, Dallas remains in the playoff hunt. And the team needed a win against the Bears to help its chances in that playoff hunt.

The result: Dallas jumped out to a 35-7 fourth quarter lead and held on to win 41-28. The win was the Cowboys’ ninth of the season and guarantees the first winning season since 2009.

DeMarco Murray was amazing, touching the ball 41 times. He rushed for 179 yards and added another 49 receiving yards. He scored the first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.

Receiver Cole Beasley only caught three passes, but two of them were touchdowns, and he was tackled at the half-yard line on the other. He also recovered an onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys have had problems holding on to leads during the Jason Garrett era, and it appeared that Dallas might struggle to hang on to its 28-point fourth-quarter lead.

Chicago scored early in the quarter. The Bears scored again, then recovered an onside kick when Gavin Escobar could not hang on to the ball. When Jay Cutler rushed for a touchdown with just over six minutes left, the Dallas lead was only ten at 38-28.

But Dallas recovered the next onside kick attempt, then drove the ball inside the Chicago 20. A field goal gave Dallas a 13-point lead.

The Bears nearly scored again late in the game, but Orlando Scandrick picked off a Cutler pass in the end zone, effectively ending the game.

Dallas is off for 10 days before playing the Philadelphia Eagles a week from Sunday.

Philadelphia 33, Dallas 10: No Thanks

Many of us looked like this for three hours on Thursday.

Many of us looked like this for three hours on Thursday.

Last Sunday evening, the Giants tore through the Dallas defense to take a 21-10 lead. The Cowboys might have had a much more difficult time coming back had Barry Church not picked off an Eli Manning pass in the third quarter, after which Dallas scored to take the lead. Of course, Dallas won the game after a clutch drive in the final two minutes.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Eagles made it look even easier to run through the Dallas defense. With the Eagles leading 23-7 in the third quarter, it looked like Dallas got another big break in the form of a turnover. The Cowboys stripped LeSean McCoy from the ball and recovered at the Philadelphia 13. DeMarco Murray then gained nine yards on first down, giving Dallas a 2nd-and-1 from the Philadelphia 4.

A touchdown would mean the Cowboys would cut the lead to 9 with about 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. That would have been a manageable deficit.

Instead, the Cowboys lost a total of six yards on the next two plays and had to settle for a field goal. The deficit was still 13.

And the Dallas defense still could not stop the Eagles. On the next drive, Philadelphia went 80 yards on six plays, capped off by a 38-yard touchdown run by McCoy. The touchdown extended the Eagle lead to 30-10 and ended the competitive phase of the game.

Romo played his worst game of the season, throwing for less than 200 yards with two interceptions. The Eagles contained the entire Dallas offense, holding Murray to 73 rushing yards and Dez Bryant to 73 receiving yards. McCoy outgained their combined yardage total with 159 rushing yards.

The loss drops Dallas (8-4) to second place in the NFC East with four games remaining. In the wildcard race, the Seahawks and Lions both have 8-4 records as well. Dallas would win the tiebreaker with Seattle because of the Cowboys’ win over the Seahawks earlier this season. Detroit, however, has a better conference record than Dallas.

Even worse, Seattle looks like it is on a roll, winning two straight without giving up a touchdown. The Lions ended a two-game losing streak by beating Chicago today, and Detroit faces Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago during the next three weeks.

Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 28: A Spark from Another Unlikely Source

 

Cole Beasley caught two critical passes in the Cowboys' 31-28 win over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Cole Beasley caught two critical passes in the Cowboys’ 31-28 win over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

For the second time this season, the Cowboys relied on an unlikely source to provide a spark to beat the New York Giants.

In October, that player was tight end Gavin Escobar, who caught two touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win.

On Sunday, that player was receiver Cole Beasley.

Dallas trailed 21-10 at halftime and was having all sort of problems stopping the Giants. This was especially true on third down. During the game, New York converted 11 of 16 third downs.

With the score still 21-10 with about seven minutes left in the third, Dallas finally forced a punt. Dallas moved the ball to the Giant 45 before Tony Romo found Beasley on a short route. Beasley did the rest of the work, weaving through four defenders and racing for the touchdown to cut the New York lead to 21-17.

Following a key interception by Barry Church deep in Dallas territory, the Cowboys regained the lead at the end of the third quarter on a touchdown from Romo to Dez Bryant. It looked as if the Cowboys could take control of the game in the fourth quarter, but with Dallas leading 24-21, a Cowboys drive stalled, forcing a punt. The Giants then took the ball 93 yards for a score to regain the lead at 28-24.

Dallas had exactly three minutes to score. Romo used Bryant, DeMarco Murray, and Jason Witten to move the ball near midfield. But it was another pass play to Beasley that pushed the Cowboys into Giant territory. Beasley’s 21-yard reception gave the Cowboys the ball at the Giant 36.

Two passes to Bryant covered those 36 yards. The offensive line gave Romo more protection than he has ever had as a starting quarterback. On two plays, Romo had more than seven sections to find Bryant. The second play was a 13-yard touchdown to give Dallas the lead.

The Giants had one more chance with a minute left, but Dallas forced a fourth down. It appeared that the Giants had converted the 4th-and-2, but a replay showed that Eli Manning’s pass to Rashad Jennings had not covered the distance. Dallas killed the clock to secure the team’s eighth win of the season.

Dallas remains tied with the Eagles at 8-3. The teams face one another on Thanksgiving Day.

* * *

A huge part of the Cowboys’ problems tonight was receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Among his amazing catches was a one-handed grab on a bomb early in the second quarter. No matter if we hate the Giants or not, that was worth a standing ovation, as I doubt any of us will see too many catches as impressive.

Wow. Just wow.

Wow. Just wow.

* * *

Only some children of the 1960s/1970s might know this reference:

Cole Beasley’s hair is what I might have expected on Mrs. Beasley. But as it turns out, Cole has more hair than Mrs. Beasley.

Cole's hair.

Cole’s hair.

72.55.12.1-2

Mrs. Beasley’s hair.

Dallas 31, Jacksonville 17: Redemption Was Across the Pond

Today belonged to Dez Bryant, who hauled in six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Today belonged to Dez Bryant, who hauled in six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It looked for a little while that a complete change of scenery for the Dallas Cowboys—of course, meaning a trip to London—may not have cured the Cowboys of their problems during the past two games.

Tony Romo missed a wide open Jason Witten on the Cowboys’ opening drive, and Dallas had to settle for a 54-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

Then the Dallas defense had trouble stopping Jacksonville. Denard Robinson ran free on a 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against a Dallas defense that has struggled. The 1-8 Jaguars had an early 7-3 lead and then forced the Cowboys to punt on the next possession.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Jaguars were 1-8 for a reason. Ace Sanders muffed a punt, and the Cowboys recovered. Two plays later, Romo did not miss Witten in the end zone, and the Cowboys regained the lead—for good.

The Cowboys never looked back in the second quarter thanks to The Dez Bryant Show.

Bryant took a short pass on a crossing route and turned it into a 35-yard touchdown. Then, with 31 seconds remaining in the half, Bryant hauled in a bomb and ran it in the rest of the way for a 68-yard touchdown. The halftime score of 24-7 was just what the Cowboys needed.

Joseph Randle added another nice looking 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and the Cowboys were able to run the clock out for their seventh win of the season.

Dallas could take another half-game lead in the division if Philadelphia loses on Monday night to Carolina. Dallas has a half-game lead over Green Bay and Seattle in the NFC.

Washington 20, Dallas 17: Perhaps It Was Just a Night Without Magic

Jason Witten's second touchdown in 2014 tied the game on Monday night, but the Cowboys fell in overtime to the Washington Redskins, 20-17.

Jason Witten’s second touchdown in 2014 tied the game on Monday night, but the Cowboys fell in overtime to the Washington Redskins, 20-17.

A night of some perhaps.

It was perhaps a matter of time before the Tony Romo’s surgically repaired back would give out and cause him to miss playing time.

That occurred with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter of Monday night’s game against the Washington Redskins. Romo was in obvious pain and went to the locker room for most of the second half.

He returned, but he was unable to lead Dallas to an overtime win. Washington kicked a field goal and then stopped Dallas on its only overtime possession to pull out the 20-17 win. The loss dropped the Cowboys to 6-2.

Perhaps it was a matter of time before DeMarco Murray’s fumbles became especially costly.

He had a great catch-and-run early in the second quarter, but after gaining 36 yards inside the Washington 10, he fumbled for the fifth time this season. At the time, Dallas trailed 3-0 and looked like it would take the lead.

Although the Cowboys went into the half with a 7-3 lead, a touchdown after the Murray play could have allowed the Cowboys build a more sizable advantage before halftime.

Instead, the Cowboys four-point lead turned into a three-point deficit when Washington took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards for a go-ahead score.

Which leads us to the final perhaps—

Perhaps it was time that this no-name defense could not save the day.

With Romo heading to the locker room, the defense forced a three-and-out. However, after the Cowboys tied the game at 10 in the third quarter, the defense looked vulnerable.

DeSean Jackson burned the Dallas secondary for a 45-yard gain on the final play of the third quarter. It was his second gain of more than 40 yards during the game, and the second play set up a touchdown run by quarterback Colt McCoy.

Yes, that Colt McCoy. The former Texas Longhorn, Cleveland Brown, and Redskin third-stringer sliced up the Dallas defense for nearly 300 passing yards. Washington entered the game with one of the worst third-down percentages in the league. Against the Cowboys late in the game, however, the Redskins converted a number of key third downs.

Thanks to backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys stayed in the game in the fourth quarter. He led the Cowboys on two second-half scoring drives. Dallas forced a Washington punt at the two-minute warning with the game tied at 17.

A bonus perhaps—it was perhaps through the miracle of modern medicine that Tony Romo left the locker room and reentered the game to try to engineer a game-winning drive.

Whether Romo should have returned will be a point of debate all week. At that point, Weeden had led the Cowboys on two scoring drives. Romo was obviously not going to be mobile in his condition.

Facing heavy pressure with just over a minute to play, Romo fumbled the ball at the Dallas 5. Though Murray recovered and Dallas managed a first down to keep the drive alive, the Cowboys could not move the ball past their own 28. In fact, on 3rd and 1 from the 28, Romo was called for intentional grounding, forcing the Cowboys to punt.

The Redskins had little trouble moving the ball 58 yards in overtime to set up what would be the game-winning field goal.

Dallas could not manage a single first down on its drive, ending the game.

The Cowboys still lead the NFC East by a half-game, but a win would have given Dallas some breathing room. The Cowboys now have a short week before facing the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sunday afternoon.

Dallas 31, New York Giants 21: Overcoming Shots to the Foot

DeMarco Murray is now the only player in NFL history to open a season with seven consecutive 100-yard games.

DeMarco Murray is now the only player in NFL history to open a season with seven consecutive 100-yard games.

Almost exactly seven years ago, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 6-1. No Dallas team since then has recorded that record.

After that game seven years ago, I wrote:

The Cowboys did everything they could to give Minnesota a chance to win today, but the Dallas efforts weren’t enough. All joking aside, today’s heroes included one likely source– Marion Barber– and a couple of the least likely sources, including Chris Canty and Patrick Watkins.

In beating the Giants on Sunday in 2014, Dallas did what it could to give New York the edge. However, at least one unlikely source came through to help Dallas to a 31-21 win.

With the game tied at 7 in the second quarter, Dez Bryant fell down on a route. Tony Romo’s pass fell into the hands of Prince Amukamara, who returned the ball to the Dallas 27. One play later, a touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Daniel Fell gave the Giants a 14-7 lead.

But Dallas marched right back to score a game-tying touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Once again, Romo’s target on the game-tying touchdown was Terrance Williams, who now has six scores on the year.

But Williams was not the unlikely source. That would be tight end Gavin Escobar. After catching his first touchdown against the Seahawks last week, Escobar grabbed two TD receptions against the Giants. His second touchdown of the day —a great grab up the seam in the middle of the field—gave Dallas a 21-14 lead.

The Cowboys took advantage of a New York fumble in the fourth quarter and extended their lead to 28-14.

Of course, Manning has a way of bringing the Giants from behind against Dallas, and the Cowboys did little to prevent New York from cutting the Dallas lead to 28-21.

But as the Cowboys keep proving, this is just a different year. The Cowboys responded to the Giant touchdown by driving 49 yards in 10 plays to set up Dan Bailey’s field goal, which secured the win for the Cowboys.

DeMarco Murray became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his first seven games of the season. The only player who had rushed for 100 yards in six games to open a season was the great Jim Brown.

With the Eagles on a bye this week, Dallas has a half-game lead in the NFC East.

 

Dallas 30, Seattle 23: Just a Different Team

Rolando McClain's interception secured the fifth win of the season for the Dallas Cowboys.

Rolando McClain’s interception secured the fifth win of the season for the Dallas Cowboys.

This is your weekly reminder that the Dallas Cowboys are winning games they would have lost during the past four years. Thanks for tuning in.

In 2012, for example, the Cowboys traveled to Seattle after what many thought was a significant win over the New York Giants to open the season.

The Seahawks punched the Cowboys in the mouth, figuratively speaking.  Dallas fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a Seattle field goal. The Seahawks then returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter. Dallas looked defeated before the first quarter ended and eventually lost the game, 27-7.

Two years later, the Cowboys were 4-1 as they headed back to Seattle. The Seahawks seldom lose at home. Most thought Seattle would again punch the Cowboys in the mouth, figuratively speaking, and the Cowboys would limp back to Dallas.

Sure enough, Seattle blocked a punt in the first quarter. Like the 2012 game, Dallas found itself behind 10-0 in the first quarter.

It was ov…

Well, no, it wasn’t over. The Cowboys not only tied the game in the second quarter but also took a 17-10 lead. In fact, Dallas had drives of 10 and 15 plays during the second quarter and held the ball for nearly 75 percent of that quarter.

Even when Dwayne Harris muffed a punt, which Seattle returned for a touchdown, Dallas was not out of it.

Seattle took a three-point lead. Dallas tied it.

Seattle took another three-point lead. With 8:16 remaining, Dallas needed to drive to tie the game.

But then the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-20 from their own 31. Less than five minutes remained. A punt could allow Seattle to exhaust the clock.

Seattle put pressure on Tony Romo, who limped around much of the game. He somehow managed to escape the rush before releasing a pass in the general direction of both Jason Witten and Terrance Williams.

Williams snagged the ball and dragged his toes inbounds for a 23-yard gain. First down. It was, like many other plays this year, something the Cowboys had not seen in quite some time.

Three plays later, DeMarco Murray gave Dallas a 27-23 lead with a touchdown run. Although the Cowboys were unable to run out the clock on offense, Rolondo McClain’s interception with less than 50 seconds remaining secured the win for Dallas.

Yes, this author predicted a 3-13 finish. That 3-13 team is now 5-1. Who would have thought.