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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.

 

 

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 4 (1975)

This is the fourth part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.

Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.

December 13, 1975

Dallas 31, Washington 10

“Wildcard Berth It Is”

redskinsAfter the Dallas Cowboys finished the 1974 regular season with an 8-6 record and missed the playoffs, few expected much from the 1975 team. But then Dallas had a famous draft, where 12 rookies made the team.

During the 1974 season, the Cowboys came from behind to beat the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, thanks to the efforts of backup quarter Clint Longley. That game was hardly pivotal, however, because the Cowboys still missed the playoffs.

When Dallas and Washington faced one another on December 13, 1975, both teams had 8-4 records. The Redskins had already defeated the Cowboys earlier in the season, so a Dallas loss would have knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs.

Washington took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Cowboys took control in the second thanks to a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Golden Richard and a touchdown run by Staubach.

Dallas then put the game away in the fourth quarter with 17 points.

With the win, Dallas knocked Washington out of the playoffs because the Cowboys finished with a better division record. The Redskins missed the playoffs for the first time since 1970.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, reached their third Super Bowl, thanks to a Hail Mary against the Vikings and dominating win over the L.A. Rams. The Cowboys started a new playoff streak that would last until the 1984 season.

 

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

Part 2, November 22, 1970: “Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Part 3, November 7, 1971: “The Dodger Era Begins”—Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

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 Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 2 (1970)

This is the second part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, the Mad Bomber game from Thanksgiving Day in 1974 is a famous game, but it was hardly pivotal, given that the Cowboys missed the playoffs that year.

Likewise, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.

Instead, this series focuses on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.

1970November 22, 1970: 

Dallas 45, Washington 21

“Road to the Super Bowl Begins in Washington”

By 1970, the Dallas Cowboys had become Next Year’s Champions. The team had highly successful regular seasons but faltered in the playoffs.

The 1970 season looked different, but not in a good way. The Cowboys started out with a 5-2 record before losing to the New York Giants on the road on November 8. One week later, the bottom fell out as the Cowboys lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 38-0.

Nine weeks into the season, the Cowboys were 5-4. They trailed both the Cardinals and the Giants in the division and had already lost to the Cardinals twice.

It appeared that Dallas would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1965. This was hardly the best start to the first season after the NFL-AFL merger.

Fortunes changed on Sunday, November 22.  Quarterback Craig Morton, who entered the game with a completion percentage of 41.5, hit on 12 of 15 pass attempts. His two touchdown passes in the second quarter helped the Cowboys build a 24-7 halftime lead en route to a 45-21 rout.

The Cardinals ended their game in a tie with Kansas City. St. Louis improved to 8-2-1 the following week but lost three straight to end the season at 8-5-1.

The Giants lost two of their last five to finish at 9-5.

Meanwhile, Dallas won its final five games of the regular season to win the division with a 10-4 record. The Cowboys then beat the Lions and 49ers in the NFC playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.

Of course, Dallas lost to the Colts in Super Bowl V, so this season did not have a happy ending. Nevertheless, the team had gone one step further than it ever had, setting the stage for their first championship season one year later.

Previously:

Part 1, December 5, 1965: “A Loser No More”—Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

 

Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 1

This is the first part of a ten-part series focusing on ten pivotal regular season games in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not all famous games will appear on this list. For example, the Mad Bomber game from Thanksgiving Day in 1974 is a famous game, but it was hardly pivotal, given that the Cowboys missed the playoffs that year.

Likewise, Roger Staubach’s final regular-season game against the Redskins was unforgettable, but the Cowboys turned around two weeks later and lost to the Rams in the playoffs.

Instead, this series will focus on games that marked turning points—good and bad—in franchise history.

cowboys.eagles

December 5, 1965

Dallas 21, Philadelphia 19

“A Loser No More”

Between the first game in franchise history on September 24, 1960 and week 11 of the 1965 season, the Dallas Cowboys had a combined record of 22-53-4. The ’65 team lost to the Washington Redskins in week 11, dropping the Cowboys’ record to 4-7 with three games remaining.

Dallas had to travel to Franklin Field in Philadelphia to face the Eagles in week 12 on December 5, 1965. Both teams were 4-7 and seemed to be heading nowhere.

Former Dallas kicker Sam Baker kicked his third field goal of the game to give the Eagles a 16-14 lead in the second half.

Baker lined up for another field goal  late in the third quarter. However, Jethro Pugh managed to break through the line to block the kick. Mike Gaechter recovered, giving Dallas the ball in Eagle territory. Don Meredith soon found Frank Clarke on a 21-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys the lead in the third quarter.

Cornell Green blocked another field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, and Baker missed on a short field goal late in the game. Dallas pulled out the win, 21-19.

Not an important game at first glance, but the win sparked a three-game winning streak to end the 1965 regular season, giving Dallas a 7-7 record. Dallas even played in the Playoff Bowl, losing to the Baltimore Colts.

The rest of the 1960s for the Cowboys looked much different than the first half. The Cowboys’ combined record between week 12 of the 1965 season and the rest of the 1960s was 45-12-2. Dallas would not have another losing season until 1986.

Dallas 24, Washington 23: A Faint Heartbeat

With their season on the line, the Dallas Cowboys found a way to turn a 14-6 halftime lead over the Washington Redskins into a 23-14 deficit.

DeMarco Murray hauled in a Tony Romo pass and fell into the end zone to give Dallas the go-ahead touchdown against the Redskins. Dallas won the game, 24-23.

DeMarco Murray hauled in a Tony Romo pass and fell into the end zone to give Dallas the go-ahead touchdown against the Redskins. Dallas won the game, 24-23.

How? A fumble by fullback Tyler Clutts, who had not touched the ball in a regular season game since 2011, set up a touchdown. A Tony Romo interception on a play where Dez Bryant fell down set up a second touchdown. A completely stupid personal foul penalty on J.J. Wilcox allowed Washington to continue a drive and kick a field goal.

So when the Cowboys took control of the ball with 14:46 left in the game and trailing 23-14, it was easy to make a couple of assumptions.

First, it was easy to assume the Cowboys would not run the ball again for the rest of the game. And second, it was easy to assume this team was just about ready to quit.

Both assumptions were quite false.

On the Cowboys’ first drive of the fourth quarter, DeMarco Murray carried the ball 8 times for 26 yards, helping Dallas to move the ball 71 yards to set up a field goal.

When the defense needed to make one stop, the defense came through, stopping the Redskins after one first down.

The Cowboys’ offense took the ball at the Dallas 13 and had to move the ball 87 yards in 3:39 to win the game. It was that simple.

Two passes, including a 51-yarder, to Terrance Williams gave the Cowboys a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown. The Cowboys moved the ball to the Washington 1 at the two-minute warning.

It appeared that the biggest concern was not whether the Cowboys would score but whether the Redskins would have too much time to drive for the game-winning field goal.

However, Washington stuffed Murray on a 2nd-and-goal from the 1. Then disaster struck, as Murray tried to reverse his field on an outside run, and he somehow lost 9 yards. Dallas faced a 4th-and-goal from the 10.

Romo had one more chance. He bought some time on the play before looking to his right and finding Murray. Romo threw to the back, who dove into the end zone. The extra point gave Dallas the lead.

The Redskins still had 1:08 remaining but had no timeouts. A penalty moved the ball back to the Washington 13. The maligned Dallas defense needed to make plays.

And it did. Yes, the plays stopped a 3-11 team playing with its backup quarterback, but the Dallas defense forced a turnover on downs, giving the Cowboys a chance to play for the NFC East title against Philadelphia next Sunday.

* * *

The final couple of games for Dallas are similar to the final games in 2009. That year, the Cowboys had a 9-5 mark when they visited Washington in week 16. The Cowboys qualified for the playoffs with a win over the Redskins, setting up a season finale with the NFC East title on the line.

Dallas thumped the visiting Eagles in week 17 and then beat the Eagles again for the franchise’s only playoff win since 1996.

* * *

A few notes about stats:

  • Murray now has 1,073 rushing yards, making him the first Cowboy since 2006 to rush for at least 1,000 yards.
  • Bryant caught his 12th touchdown reception, matching his number from 2012.
  • The Cowboys allowed 297 yards, bringing the team’s average yards per game down to 418.6. This still ranks dead last in the NFL.
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If the Cowboys Miss the Playoffs Again…

With the Eagles’  24-16 win over the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys at 5-5 now sit a half-game out of first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys are also a full game behind the 49ers, Bears, and Cardinals for the last wildcard spot. Even if Carolina loses to New England tonight, the Panthers would still have a 6-4 record.

9013775-largeDallas now has to travel to the Meadowlands for a rematch with the resurgent Giants, who have won four straight. In fact, none of the remaining games are going to be easy for the Cowboys, and it is possible that Dallas will have to beat the Redskins on the road and Eagles at home in the final two weeks of the season to reach the playoffs.

On the positive side, that is exactly what the Cowboys did in 2009, the last year the Cowboys made the playoffs.

On the negative side, should the team fail, the Cowboys will have the third-longest playoff drought in franchise history.

The longest period where the Cowboys missed the playoffs was the first six years of the team’s existence from 1960 to 1965.

The next longest period was the five years from 1986 through 1990, which included the final Landry years and the first two years under Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones.

The current Cowboys have missed the playoffs three straight years. That was the same number of years the franchise missed the playoffs under Dave Campo.

Yes, the current Dallas Cowboys could have a longer streak of missing the playoffs than the teams led by the rotating of quarterbacks that included an aging Troy Aikman, an aging Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, and Chad Hutchinson.

Jerry gave more money to Tony Romo last off-season than any other player in team history, yet one more season without the playoffs means that the Quincy Carter (et al.) era may start looking better than what we are seeing now.

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Dallas 31, Washington 16: Hail to the No-Names

This post comes a day late after the Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins 31-16 on Sunday night. The win gave the Cowboys a 3-3 record and a tie for the lead in the NFC East.

Tony Romo did not win (or lose) this game. Nor did DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, or even Sean Lee.

Instead, players coming up with big plays included the likes of Kyle Wilber and Cole Beasley. And the player with the biggest plays was returner Dwayne Harris.

Kyle Wilber (51) and George Selvie caused a huge turnover on a sack of Robert Griffin III.

Kyle Wilber (51) and George Selvie caused a huge turnover on a sack of Robert Griffin III.

Harris returned a punt 86 yards in the second quarter to give Dallas a 14-3 lead. He also returned a kickoff 90 yards in the third quarter to set up a touchdown pass from Romo to Terrance Williams.

Harris’ 222 combined return yards are the fourth most in team history behind Mel Renfro (273 vs. Green Bay in 1964); Felix Jones (247 vs. Philadelphia in 2008); and Reggie Swinton (224 vs. Denver in 2002).

The Redskins held Bryant to 5 receptions for 36 yards, and Austin did not catch a pass. However, Williams scored a big touchdown, and Beasley had 4 receptions for 44 yards. Three of those receptions came on a fourth-quarter drive that ended with a Dallas field goal.

The Cowboys were without Ware for much of the game due to a quad injury, but Wilber and George Selive were able to come up with a huge sack that caused a fumble in the fourth quarter. Wilbur recovered the fumble inside the Washington 5.

Following the recovery, Joseph Randle, who will likely start with Murray out due to injury, scored from 1 yard out to close out the scoring.

The defense gave up 433 yards but managed to record two key turnovers.

It is the third time this season that the Cowboys have held their opponents to less than 20 points. However, in three other games, opponents have scored 30 or more.

Four of the next five games for the Cowboys are on the road, so this win was absolutely necessary.

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Recent 1-0 starts by the Dallas Cowboys

It would seem that an opening-game win for an NFL team would be significant.

For the Dallas Cowboys, a fan could point to a huge 45-35 win over the New York Giants in 2007 as a catalyst for a 13-3 season.

A win during Kickoff Weekend is usually good for the Cowboys.

A win during Kickoff Weekend is usually good for the Cowboys.

Conversely, a fan could look at the team’s disappointing loss to the Redskins to open the 2010 season as a major factor in the team’s 6-10 record.

A opening-game win, though, is hardly a predictor. For instance, the 2003 Cowboys opened with a loss to the Falcons, but the Cowboys wound making the playoffs with a 10-6 mark.

One year later, the Cowboys opened with a loss to the Vikings, but the Cowboys reversed their record from a year before by going 6-10.

In 2011, the Cowboys lost a frustrating game in New York, falling to the Jets in a 27-24 loss. The team finished at 8-8.

In 2012, the Cowboys won on the same field, beating the Giants, 24-17. The team finished 8-8.

So how much does the opening-game win mean? Consider this:

The Cowboys won five of their last ten opening games dating back to 2003 (not including the recent win over the Giants).

In the five seasons when the Cowboys have gone 0-1, the team has had a combined record of 39-41 with two playoff appearances.

By comparison, when the team has gone 1-0, the Cowboys have a combined record of 50-30 with two playoff appearances.

Incidentally, the last time the Cowboys went 2-0 was 2008, when the team finished poorly and wound up missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

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Washington 28, Dallas 18: Cowboys’ Season Ends with Another Thud

 

Tony Romo's third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Tony Romo’s third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls. He capped off his great career by leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington after trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter in a regular-season finale with the NFC East on the line.

 

Tony Romo has led the Cowboys to one playoff win. He is well-remembered for dropping a snap on an easy field goal that might have given the Cowboys a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to a 44-6 loss to the Eagles to end the 2008 season; a 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs; and 31-14 loss to the Giants when the NFC East title was on the line in the season finale in 2011.

We may not remember Romo for those failures, though, thanks to his final interception of the 2012 season.

Dallas trailed 21-10 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Dallas finally forced a Washington punt, and Dwayne Harris returned the ball to the Washington 31. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 16.

Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a touchdown. A two-point conversion cut the Washington lead to 21-18.

The defense forced another stop. Dallas got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. Romo moved the ball to the Dallas 29 on a pass to Jason Witten.

And then he threw another pass. He lofted a ball in the left flat towards DeMarco Murray, and the ball seemingly hung in the air like a short punt. Murray didn’t catch it. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson did.

We fondly remember Staubach hitting the likes of Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Ron Springs, and Preston Pearson in that 1979 finale against the Redskins. We may spend years remember Romo lofting a ball to the flat and into the waiting arms of a Washington linebacker.

Another 8-8 season. No playoffs.

Dallas barely stopped Alfred Morris all night, and Morris ran six times on the ensuing drive. Dallas might have forced a field goal attempt, but Jason Hatcher hit Robert Griffin III‘s helmet on a third-down play and drew a penalty.

Romo finished the night with three interceptions, having thrown two in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Cowboys gave up a touchdown run by Morris later in the quarter.

When Griffin scored in the third quarter, Washington took a 14-7 lead. That meant the Cowboys trailed in every single game this season. Moreover, the Cowboys held halftime leads in only 3 games. No wonder the team finished 8-8.

The makeshift defense gave up 200 rushing yards to Morris, who eventually scored three times. Murray finished with 76 yards.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both left the game early with injuries, forcing the Cowboys to play Ogletree, Harris, and Cole Beasley. Those were the receivers in the game when the Cowboys started their drive that ended with Romo’s last interception.

So, we have about 116 days until the NFL Draft. The Cowboys will pick 18th. I’m not the least bit excited about anything.

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