now browsing by tag
Tony Romo is not likely to play in the Cowboys’ first preseason game on Thursday night as he tries to stay healthy for the team’s season-opener.
If he can stay healthy during his eighth full season as a starter, Romo could break a significant franchise career record.
He already has the most career touchdown passes, and his career 95.8 passer rating his higher than any other starter in team history.
The next mark would be career passing yards. He currently has thrown for 29,565 yards, putting him 3,377 behind Troy Aikman. The only time Romo has thrown fewer than that since 2007 was 2010, when he was limited to six games because of an injury.
Here is a list of the top 10 Dallas passers by career passing yards.
It will take Romo at least two seasons to surpass Aikman for most career attempts and completions.
The Dallas Cowboys faced the Green Bay Packers in three consecutive NFC playoffs during the 1990s and won all three. Here is an animated GIF from one of those games.
At the time, this was the longest TD reception in NFL playoff history. Here are some questions about the game and that play.
(1) Who was on the receiving end of this touchdown pass from Troy Aikman?
(2) The play was a 94-yard touchdown. Who later broke this record?
(3) The receiver in the GIF signed with another team the following year. Which team?
(4) Which Dallas running back scored two touchdowns in this win?
Here is another animated GIF, with this one featuring Emmitt Smith. Trivia questions are below the image.
(1) During which season did this play occur?
(2) Smith scored two touchdowns during an 18-second span. However, he missed the entire second half because of an injury suffered on this play. What was the injury?
(3) Troy Aikman was also removed from this game because of a concussion. Who replaced Aikman at QB, and how did the backup perform?
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the Cowboys’ 1991 playoff loss to the Detroit Lions.
In real life…
In 1991, the Cowboys ended a six-year playoff drought by winning their final five regular-season games. The team then won its first playoff game since 1982 by defeating the Chicago Bears 17-13 at Soldier Field.
It was not Troy Aikman who led the Cowboys during this winning streak. After Aikman suffered a knee injury in a win over Washington on November 24, Steve Beuerlein took over. He was not sensational; in fact, he failed to throw for 200 yards in three of his five starts, and he never threw more than one touchdown in any game. However, he used his weapons, including Michael Irvin, effectively.
Dallas travelled to Detroit to face the Lions at the Silverdome. Although Aikman was able to play, Jimmy Johnson went with Beuerlein. The magic was no longer there, though. Dallas fell behind early, and with the team trailing 17-6 at halftime, Johnson went with Aikman. The change did not make a difference, as the Cowboys fell 38-6.
The Lions faced the Redskins at RFK Stadium in the NFC Championship Game but lost in a rout, 41-10.
Here are some highlights from the Cowboys-Lions game:
What if the Cowboys had beaten the Lions?
Admittedly, this is not a great what-if piece (and see below regarding an alternative what-if regarding Barry Sanders). Few expected the Cowboys to be a playoff contender in 1991, so getting one win made this a feel-good season.
1. The Beuerlein-Aikman Debate Would Have Continued.
By 1991, Aikman had accomplished almost nothing. He had not played a full season and had won only 14 games as a starter. Although he had led the Cowboys on a four-game winning streak earlier in the 1991 season, he did not yet look like a franchise quarterback.
Beuerlein was simply effective. He did not put the team on his shoulders during the streak, yet the team seemed to have a confidence it had lacked at times, even in 1991. The fact that Beuerlein had led the team to its first playoff win in 9 years played in his favor.
Had Beuerlein led the Cowboys to a win over the Lions, the team would have had a difficult time avoiding a quarterback controversy heading into the 1992 season, no matter what happened in the NFC Championship Game.
2. The Cowboys Would Not Beat the Redskins.
The 1991 season turned out to be Joe Gibbs’ last during his first stint in Washington. The team had finished 14-2 after starting the season at 11-0.
The first team to beat Washington in 1991 was Dallas in the game where Aikman suffered his knee injury. Dallas jumped out to a 14-7 halftime lead, and thanks to Beuerlein’s touchdown pass to Irvin early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were able to hang on for a 24-21 win.
The odds that the Cowboys would repeat are minimal, no matter who started at quarterback. I ran simulations on What If Sports using both Aikman and Beuerlein as starters. After 20 attempts, the Cowboys still had not won a simulated game.
3. The Dynasty Would Have Happened Anyway.
The Cowboys’ 1991 season was not great because the team expected to reach the Super Bowl. It was great because the team finally mattered again. A win over the Lions would have extended the good feelings, but few would think it would have had any effect on the Cowboys’ dynasty that began in 1992.
A BONUS WHAT-IF
Yes, we have a bonus what-if this week.
Let’s ask: What if the Cowboys have drafted Barry Sanders instead of Troy Aikman in the 1989 Draft?
This move would have made no sense in 1989, though. The Cowboys already had a franchise running back in Herschel Walker, but Walker was not able to help the Cowboys to win more than 3 games in 1988. The Lions lost their first 5 games in 1989 with Sanders playing running back, and when the Lions won their first game in week 6 that year, Sanders did not play. (To be sure, Sanders ended the season while playing great, rushing for 382 yards and 6 touchdowns during 3 wins in the final 3 games.)
Dallas did not need an individual talent like Sanders. The Cowboys needed a franchise quarterback and many other pieces to the puzzle. The team was fortunate to find a franchise back one year later when the Cowboys took Emmitt Smith.
And here’s why I did not focus on drafting Sanders in 1989—would anyone want to think about the Cowboys’ of the early 1990s with Steve Walsh and Barry Sanders instead of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith? I thought not.
In the weekly What-If Wednesday posts, we review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on the 1990 NFL Draft, where the Cowboys targeted USC linebacker Junior Seau.
In real life…
The 1988 Dallas Cowboys finished with a league-worst 3-13 record, giving the team the first overall pick in 1989 NFL Draft. Most knew the Cowboys would take quarterback Troy Aikman, and the team did so.
The team also took a chance in the supplemental draft that year by picking up another quarterback in Steve Walsh. The idea was that if Aikman had failed, the team might have a franchise QB in Walsh.
Aikman evolved into a franchise quarterback, but that took time. Meanwhile, the team finished with a 1-15 record and would have had the first overall pick in the 1990 draft. However, the team lost its pick because of its selection of Walsh. That meant that the first pick went to the Colts, who took Jeff George.
Most believe that the Cowboys would have taken USC linebacker Junior Seau, who went to the San Diego Chargers with the fifth pick overall. The Cowboys later traded up to get the #17 overall pick and took Florida running back Emmitt Smith. Not bad.
Seau played 20 seasons in the NFL but tragically died in 2012.
What if the Cowboys had drafted Seau?
1. The Cowboys would not have taken Walsh in the supplemental draft.
The Cowboys would have needed a high draft pick in 1990 to take Seau. This means that the Cowboys would have likely needed that first overall pick they lost because of the Walsh pick.
Walsh was the starting QB in the team’s only win in 1989. Of course, his numbers hardly suggest that the team would have lost without him. He completed 10 of 30 passes for 142 yards in the win over the Redskins.
2. The Cowboys would have taken Smith with the 17th overall pick.
The Cowboys traded a 1st and a 3rd pick to Pittsburgh to get the 17th overall pick. Even with the team taking Seau with the first overall selection, the Cowboys would have traded up to get Smith.
3. The Cowboys would not have had the 70th overall pick to take tackle Erik Williams in 1991.
The Cowboys traded Walsh to the Saints for three draft choices. One of these picks was the 70th overall selection in the 1991 draft, and the Cowboys took tackle Erik Williams.
Whether the Cowboys would have taken Williams at all is a good question. Williams came out of Central State in Ohio and was one of the great finds for any NFL team during the 1990s. Perhaps the Cowboys would get him in the 4th or 5th round, but the Cowboys would have had to grab him somewhere around the 97th pick.
The other picks received from the Walsh trade did not yield great results. The Cowboys traded the 14th pick from the Saints to the Patriots in exchange for 1st and 4th round picks. Dallas then traded down again to wind up with the 20th overall selection. However, the Cowboys were only able to pick up defensive lineman Kelvin Pritchett and linebacker Darrick Brownlow with those selections.
4. Seau would have been a major part of the dynasty years.
The Cowboys had some quality linebackers in Ken Norton, Dixon Edwards, Darrin Smith, and Robert Jones. However, Seau was significantly better than any of these players. The team would have had its core group of Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Daryl Johnston, Jay Novacek, Alvin Harper, Kevin Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, Charles Haley, and so forth. Adding Seau to this mix would just make the team better.
5. Seau would have left via free agency.
The Cowboys did not put a high priority on signing linebackers during the championship years of the 1990s. The Cowboys let the likes of Ken Norton, Robert Jones, Vinson Smith, Darrin Smith, and Dixon Edwards leave via free agency.
Keeping Seau would have meant the team would have lost another player. This would have made it difficult for the team to sign Deion Sanders or keep some other stars during the mid-1990s.
My bet? Seau would have left via free agency after the 1995 season.
* * *
In 2011, I wrote another piece asking what if the Cowboys had hired Norv Turner instead of Wade Phillips in 2007. Here is that article.
Twenty years ago, the Cowboys headed into a season as the defending Super Bowl champions. It was hardly difficult to find an NFL magazine that featured one of the Cowboys on the cover (even in Missouri).
A book published in 1993 also featured a member of the Cowboys. It was Cliff Charpentier’s 1993 Fantasy Football Digest, which had Emmitt Smith on its cover. I had never played fantasy football at that point, so I bought the book.
The Cowboys were not only the best real-life team heading into 1993 but also had several of the top fantasy players. Here’s a summary
Emmitt Smith, #2 RB: Charpentier ranked Thurman Thomas above Smith in terms of “performance points” (yards), thanks to the yardage that Thomas picked up through the air.
Michael Irvin, #1 WR: Irvin had back-to-back seasons with 1,523 and 1,387 yards, respectively, and Charpentier ranked Irvin ahead of Jerry Rice.
Jay Novacek, #2 TE: Novacek had three consecutive seasons with more than 600 receiving yards, and Charpentier ranked him second behind Keith Jackson of Miami.
Troy Aikman, #6 QB: Aikman was never known for his stats, but he was good enough to rank just below Jim Kelly and ahead of Jim Everett of the Rams, Chris Miller of the Falcons, and Brett Favre of the Packers.
Lin Elliott, #5 K: Charpentier was not impressed with Elliott’s accuracy in 1992, but Charpentier liked that Elliott had 35 attempts in 1992.
As it turned out, several of these Cowboys failed to live up to the hype:
- Smith famously (infamously) held out for the first two games of the 1993 season and saw his TD numbers fall from 18 to 9 between 1992 and 1993.
- Although Irvin had 1,330 yards and 7 TDs, his performance could not match that of Rice, who had 1,503 yards and 15 TDs.
- Aikman had 3,100 yards and 15 TDs, which was not bad but not a top-6 performance.
- Novacek had only 445 yards on 44 receptions with 1 TD, far below expectations.
- Elliott only played in two games for the 1993 Cowboys after missing two critical field goals in a loss to Buffalo.
* * *
This was a time before the widespread use of the Internet. This was also a time when fantasy football magazines were hardly commonplace. Moreover, this was a time when many people did not have cellular phones.
Without an Internet program to run a league, commissioners had to rely on things like the telephone. For instance, Charpentier describes a commissioner’s job on transaction night when players make trades or pick up players off waivers. The players would give the commissioner a telephone number where the commissioner could call at a certain time. Here are the rules that applied when a commissioner could not reach a player:
1. If a commissioner receives no answer at the given franchise number, it will be assumed that the franchise desires no transactions that evening and, after allowing 15 rings, the commissioner may go on to the next team. If the team involved calls later in the hour to make transactions, this team will go to the end of the list.
2. If a commissioner gets a busy signal, the must continue to call that team for 3 minutes. If the commissioner fails to reach a team, he goes on to the next team. If the skipped team calls in and wants to make transactions, it must go to the end of the list of the first-hour transactions.
3. If the commissioner reaches a telephone recorder, he should leave a message with the time of the call. If the team calls back and wants to make transactions, it must go to the end of the list.
Even more daunting is the option where the first player who called got to make a transaction. Charpentier suggested that the commissioner leave the phone off the hook for five minutes before the commissioner started accepting calls at a certain time, such as 6 p.m.
* * *
Incidentally, Cliff Charpentier was inducted into Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s Hall of Fame in 2000.
By 1990, the Dallas Cowboys roster started looking like the team that would eventually win three Super Bowls in four years. There were a few lesser-known players, but not as many as there were in 1988 or 1989.
The Most Obscure Player of 1990 is better known for being an obscure Super Bowl hero. In Super Bowl XXII following the 1987 season, rookie Timmy Smith gained 204 rushing yards on 22 carries and nearly won the Most Valuable Player award.
He managed two 100-yard games for the Redskins in 1988 but never came close to duplicating his Super Bowl success. The Redskins released him after the 1988 season, and he sat out the 1989 season because teams suspected drug use.
He joined the Cowboys for the 1990 season and even started the opening game of the season. The result?
Six carries for six yards.
Rookie Emmitt Smith saw the field that day as well, gaining two yards on two carries.
In fact, Troy Aikman rushed for 15 yards, outgaining the combined totals of Emmitt Smith, Timmy Smith, and Daryl Johnston.
The leading rusher in the 17-14 win for the Cowboys?
Tommie Agee, who gained 59 yards on 13 carries.
Anyway, Timmy never played in another NFL game after the Cowboys released him on September 11, 1990. He later spent time in a federal prison on drug charges.
Tony Romo set a record for passing attempts on Sunday against the Giants and came close to setting a few more. However, nobody will want to remember these numbers. The stat line was as follows:
- 62 attempts (team record)
- 36 completions (2nd highest total in team history)
- 437 yards (3rd highest total in team history)
- 4 interceptions (tied for the second highest total in team history)
- 22,907 career yards (now the second highest total in team history, surpassing Roger Staubach)
It stands to reason that the Cowboys have not fared well when quarterbacks have thrown multiple interceptions. However, in the history of the Cowboys, days with big passing yards have also been bad. Consider these statistics:
Only three Dallas quarterbacks have had at least 50 passing attempts in a game. This includes Romo, Troy Aikman, and Vinny Testaverde. The Cowboys’ record in those games: 1-7. Here’s a look:
|1||Tony Romo||32-190||2012-10-28||NYG||L 24-29||62|
|2||Troy Aikman*||32-005||1998-11-26||MIN||L 36-46||57|
|3||Tony Romo||29-229||2009-12-06||NYG||L 24-31||55|
|4||Troy Aikman*||31-023||1997-12-14||CIN||L 24-31||53|
|5||Troy Aikman*||30-318||1997-10-05||NYG||L 17-20||52|
|6||Tony Romo||30-151||2010-09-19||CHI||L 20-27||51|
|7||Tony Romo||27-170||2007-10-08||BUF||W 25-24||50|
|8||Vinny Testaverde||40-304||2004-09-12||MIN||L 17-35||50|
Romo is the only Cowboys quarterback with at least 36 completions in a single game. He holds the team record with 41, set in 2009 against the Giants. The result in both games? Losses, of course.
This is the fifth time that Romo has completed at least 34 passes. His record in those games is 1-4. Aikman completed 34 passes twice and lost both games. Jon Kitna completed 34 passes in 2010, and the Cowboys lost.
Romo, Aikman, and Don Meredith are each on the list of QBs with 400 yards passing in a game. Their combined record: 1-4.
|1||Don Meredith||25-214||1963-11-10||DAL||SFO||L 24-31||460|
|2||Troy Aikman*||32-005||1998-11-26||DAL||MIN||L 36-46||455|
|3||Tony Romo||32-190||2012-10-28||DAL||NYG||L 24-29||437|
|4||Tony Romo||30-172||2010-10-10||DAL||TEN||L 27-34||406|
|5||Don Meredith||28-217||1966-11-13||DAL||WAS||W 31-30||406|
Not surprisingly, the Cowboys have a terrible record when QBs have thrown at least four interceptions. Romo has now done it three times and has a 1-2 record in those games. The Cowboys’ historic record when QBs have thrown at least four picks is 5-19.
Danny White had the most games with at least four picks with six. Strangely, though, he had a 4-2 career record in those six games.
No surprise that Romo surpassed Staubach in passing yardage.
The comparisons end there. Period.
As one of the NFL’s highest profile teams, the Dallas Cowboys were often featured on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys appeared on MNF at least once each year between 1970 and 1988. After returning in 1991, the team has been featured on a Monday each year except 2002.
At 43-31, the team’s total record on Monday Night Football is respectable enough. The Cowboys have won four of their last five games on Monday night, with the only loss coming against the Giants in 2010 when Tony Romo was knocked out for the season after a hard sack in the first half.
Each of the last five games was rather memorable, including the team’s 25-24 come-from-behind win over the Bills in 2007. Here are those games:
Oct. 8, 2007: Dallas 25, Buffalo 24
Sept. 15, 2008: Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37
Sept. 28, 2008: Dallas 21, Carolina 7
Oct. 25, 2010: N.Y. Giants 41, Dallas 35
Sept. 26, 2011: Dallas 18, Washington 16
A few trivial matters:
- Dallas has faced Chicago on Monday Night Football only once, losing at Chicago to open the 1996 season. That marked Deion Sanders‘ first game as a starting receiver. He caught 9 passes for 87 yards.
- The team played on Monday three times before ABC introduced Monday Night Football in 1970. Those games included a 20-13 loss to the Cardinals in1965, a 28-17 loss to the Packers in 1968, and a 25-3 win over the Giants in 1969.
- The most successful starting Dallas quarterback on Monday Night was Troy Aikman, who had a record of 13-9. Danny White went 9-7, while Roger Staubach surprisingly went just 6-7. Tony Romo is now 4-2.
I addressed this briefly before, but Tony Romo is going to wind up owning several team passing records by the time he is finished. The next major mark in his reach is the career record for most TD passes.
Of course, each of those QBs played in many more games than Romo—165 for Aikman, 166 for White, and 131 for Staubach.
But, of course, Romo played in different era with very different rules than those three.
Below is a complete list of the 45 players who have thrown at least one touchdown pass.