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100 Things Cowboys Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Ed Housewright, Joe Funk
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2008 Ed Housewrigh
All rights reserved.
1. Roger Staubach
Roger Staubach is the all-time greatest Dallas Cowboy.
Disagree? Okay, let's look at some of the other contenders.
Maybe you'd nominate Emmitt Smith, the National Football League's all-time leading rusher and an integral part of the Cowboys' three 1990s Super Bowl wins. You could make a case for defensive lineman Bob Lilly, the Cowboys' first-ever draft choice and one of the best in NFL history. Michael Irvin, the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver, and another cog in the Super Bowl wins of the '90s, deserves consideration. So does quarterback Troy Aikman. After all, Aikman won more Super Bowls than Staubach (three to two), had more completions (2,898 to 1,685), and threw more touchdown passes (165 to 153). All are great players. All are in the Hall of Fame, except for Smith, who will be soon.
But neither they, nor anyone else in the Cowboys' 48-year history, can match Staubach's intensity, leadership, and flair for the dramatic. Staubach engineered 23 fourth-quarter comebacks to win games, including 14 in the final two minutes or overtime. He beat opponents with his elusive scrambling and pinpoint passing.
"He was the epitome of a competitor, the leader of leaders," said Cowboys defensive back Charlie Waters.
Staubach's heroics on the field, combined with his clean living off the field, made him an icon in Dallas. He helped create the image of the Cowboys as America's Team.
Staubach's story is enhanced by his uphill journey to success. He didn't take his first NFL snap until he was 27 years old. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he won the Heisman Trophy, Staubach had to fulfill a four-year military commitment. As a result, teams shied away from him in the 1964 draft. The Cowboys invested only a 10th- round pick in him, but Staubach quickly showed his desire to succeed in the NFL. He stayed in tiptop shape while in the service, quarterbacked a Navy base team, and practiced with footballs mailed to him by the Cowboys. Staubach studied the playbook and worked out with the team during training camp.
When he finally joined the Cowboys in July 1969, he wasn't guaranteed to make the team, much less become the starter. Craig Morton seemed to be the quarterback of the future. Morton had spent four years as a capable backup to Don Meredith, who had retired just as Staubach was arriving.
Staubach impressed the coaches early on, but Morton, as expected, won the starting job. In his rookie season, Staubach threw only 47 passes, completing 23, and throwing one touchdown. In his second year, he played more, completing 44 of 82 passes with two touchdowns. By 1971, Staubach had won coach Tom Landry's confidence. Landry began the season alternating Staubach and Morton as starters. But with a 4–3 record at the midpoint, Landry made a move that forever changed the franchise's direction. He named Staubach the lone starter.
In his first game, he led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win — a fitting omen for the future. Staubach completed 20 of 31 passes, and the Cowboys defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 16–13. The Staubach-led Cowboys won the remaining six games. He completed almost 60 percent of his passes during the season, throwing 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
In the playoffs, Staubach guided the Cowboys to two straight playoff wins, and a berth in Super Bowl VI. He capped his magical season with a 24–3 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins. Staubach threw two touchdown passes and took home the Most Valuable Player award.
The Staubach legend was born.
2. First Season
In their first season in 1960, the Cowboys were abysmal. They finished 0–11–1 and gave no indication of the successful decades yet to come. The Cowboys lost by scores of 48–7, 45–7, and 41–7. Teams pummeled them week after week.
The season's highlight was a 31–31 tie against the New York Giants, the team Tom Landry left to coach the Cowboys. He had been the Giants' defensive coordinator, and his knowledge of the Giants helped account for the unexpected outcome.
The Cowboys had no stars and few good players the first year. Eddie LeBaron, known as "Little Eddie" because of his 5' 7" stature, quarterbacked the team. He had recently retired from a respectable career with the Washington Redskins, and the Cowboys persuaded him to come back and lead the expansion team.
Dallas didn't have the benefit of a college draft in 1960 to fill the roster with young talent. Instead, the league's 12 other teams each made three players available for selection. With a few exceptions, such as linebacker Jerry Tubbs and receiver Frank Clarke, most of the Cowboys' picks were over-the-hill veterans or unprepared young players.
Dallas residents greeted the new team with apathy. The largest crowd was 30,000 — less than half the 75,000-seat capacity of the Cotton Bowl. The last home game drew only 10,000 spectators. Cowboys' officials tried unsuccessfully to generate interest in the team. Midway through the first year, officials sent several players to the State Fair of Texas, in Dallas, to sign autographs and give away Cowboy keychains.
"We sat out there a couple of hours, trying to give away trinkets and pictures, and nobody wanted them," said running back Don McIlhenny.
The Cowboys were hurt by competition from the Dallas Texans, of the new American Football League. The Texans, like the Cowboys, began play in 1960, and both teams called the Cotton Bowl their home. But the Texans drew larger crowds and generated more interest, largely because they were exciting and won games. The Texans finished 8–6 their first year, with an outstanding roster that included future AFL stars Len Dawson, Jerry Mays, and E.J. Holub.
"I was a big Texans fan, and so were all my friends," said Cowboys' fullback Walt Garrison, who grew up in a Dallas suburb. "We didn't go to any Cowboy games."
Both the Cowboys and Texans lost money their first year. Clint Murchison Jr., the Cowboys' owner, and Lamar Hunt, the Texans' owner, each hoped the other would abandon the market. Murchison got his wish when Hunt moved the Texans to Kansas City before the 1963 season, and renamed them the Chiefs.
But even without the Texans as competition, the Cowboys drew few fans. The first sellout wouldn't occur for another five years. The future looked bleak.
3. Tex Schramm
More than anyone else, Tex Schramm built the Dallas Cowboys. Texas Earnest Schramm Jr. was born in California. He came to the Lone Star State in 1939 to attend the University of Texas. After graduating in 1947 he went to work for the Los Angeles Rams and rose to the position of general manager. Later he worked for CBS television in New York.
The Cowboys' owner, Clint Murchison Jr., hired Schramm as general manager in 1959, on the advice of Chicago Bears' owner George Halas. Murchison, who was a hands-off owner, turned over the club's operation to Schramm, who loved the challenge.
"As far back as I can remember, I dreamed of the opportunity to take a team from scratch and build it," Schramm said.
He made a series of brilliant moves early on. First, he hired Tom Landry as coach. At the time, Landry was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, and had no head coaching experience. But he was a highly regarded assistant with a brilliant mind. Once he came to the Cowboys, Landry developed multiple-set offenses and complex defenses that revolutionized professional football.
Schramm also hired Gil Brandt as player personnel director. Brandt, who had been a part-time scout for the Rams, had a remarkable eye for talent. During his long career with the Cowboys, he consistently found unheralded players at small, out-of-the-way colleges who blossomed into stars. Schramm's influence even extended to naming the team.
"Before we got the franchise, we planned to name the team the Dallas Steers," he said. "But after thinking about it, nobody liked the idea of a castrated bull."
From the beginning, Schramm marketed the Cowboys brilliantly. He understood the potential of television while it was still in its infancy, and he got the Cowboys on the air as much as possible.
"We would always play whenever they wanted us for a national telecast," Schramm said. "As a result, we got more exposure down through the years than any other team."
Schramm had many talents, but he could also be difficult. People called him stubborn, arrogant, and impatient for good reason. He had a reputation for being cheap with salaries. Lee Roy Jordan, the team's star middle linebacker of the 1960s and '70s, often butted heads with Schramm over his pay. He once staged a brief holdout before finally receiving a new contract.
Schramm quickly rose to great power within the NFL. Along with commissioner Pete Rozelle, Schramm negotiated the merger between the American Football League and the National Football League that took effect in the 1970 season. Later, Schramm came up with innovations such as sudden-death overtime, the wild-card playoff format, and instant replay.
Schramm resigned from the Cowboys in 1989, two months after Jerry Jones bought the team from its second owner, Bum Bright. In 1991, Schramm was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2003, he received another honor when Jones inducted Schramm into the team's Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium.
Schramm joined legendary players such as Bob Lilly, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, and Randy White. Jones said he wanted to put aside any hard feelings from his takeover, and acknowledge Schramm's immense team contributions.
"Tex will always be recognized ... as the architect and the man who started and built the Cowboys into America's Team," Jones said.
4. Tom Landry — Early Years
NFL coaches usually don't last long. If a coach has a losing season or two, he often gets sent packing. Lasting 29 years, the second-longest tenure of any coach with an NFL team, Tom Landry proved to be the exception.
But in the early years, Landry's job security seemed shaky. In his first season in 1960, Landry didn't win a game. After four seasons, he had only a 13–38–3 record. Dallas fans were becoming impatient with losing.
"People were getting tired of waiting till next year," general manager Tex Schramm said. "They were ready for us to start winning, and there was a growing list of people around town who had decided we weren't going to be able to do so with the coach we had."
Owner Clint Murchison Jr. stood by Landry. He silenced speculation about Landry's future by rewarding him with an unprecedented 10-year contract extension in 1964. Landry was as surprised as anyone by the vote of confidence.
"I fully expected to be fired at some point, knowing that it would probably take longer to build the team than most felt it would take," Landry said.
Ironically, Landry wasn't even sure he wanted the job in the first place. He was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, and was rumored to be their next head coach when Schramm offered him the Dallas job before the 1960 season.
Landry wasn't looking to move, but he liked the idea of returning to Texas. He had grown up in South Texas and attended the University of Texas on a football scholarship. After college, he played defensive back for the Giants from 1950 to 1955 before retiring and joining the coaching staff. Landry lived in Dallas during the off-season and sold insurance. He expected insurance, not football, to be his eventual career.
"I knew becoming head coach of a new team wouldn't be a very secure position," Landry said. "And yet, a head coaching job in Dallas, even if it lasted only two, maybe three years, could buy me the time I needed to build my business to the point I could adequately support my family."
Landry never built up his insurance business. Shortly after signing the long contract extension, he turned the Cowboys into a winner. In 1965, they finished 7–7, their first non-losing season. In 1966, they improved to 10–3–1, and advanced to the NFL Championship Game against the legendary Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys lost, 34–27, but played well and had a chance to win.
In 1967, the Cowboys earned a rematch with the Packers, and again, fought until the end. This time, they lost 21–17 in the closing seconds of the infamous Ice Bowl. Despite the narrow defeats, Dallas had made a meteoric rise from the bottom of the NFL to the top.
Landry accounted for much of the success. He was a different breed of head coach. He was quiet and studious, more like a college professor than a fire-and-brimstone coach. He rarely yelled at players or screamed at officials.
During games, he normally kept a stoic impression. He didn't overreact to good plays or bad plays. Like a chess player, he was always pondering his next move.
"If you're calling plays on the sidelines, you don't have time to be emotional," Landry said. "Anytime you show emotion, your concentration or train of thought is broken."
Even his clothing conveyed order and control. Landry always wore a well-tailored sport coat, tie, and his trademark fedora during games. He could have passed for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His appearance mirrored the preparation he put into each game.
"Coach Landry prepared us so well," said Dan Reeves, a running back and later assistant coach. "There are very few times I can remember us being surprised or not ready for something."
5. Ice Bowl
The Cowboys faced two formidable opponents in the 1967 NFL Championship Game: the Green Bay Packers and the weather. No game had ever been played in such inhospitable conditions. At kickoff, the temperature in Green Bay was 13 below zero. A blustery wind made it feel even colder. Players weren't prepared for the brutal cold, because the day before, temperatures had hovered around 20 degrees — balmy by comparison. Cowboys players scrambled to find ways to stay warm before the game.
"I put on two pairs of longjohns and wrapped Saran wrap around my feet," Cowboys' defensive lineman Bob Lilly said.
Packers' guard Jerry Kramer, who was used to playing in frigid weather, said he felt a little sorry for the Cowboys.
"As bad as the cold was for us, it had to be worse for them," Kramer said. "They were all hunched over, rubbing their hands, moving their legs up and down, trying to persuade themselves that they weren't insane to be playing football in this ridiculous weather."
The cold hurt the Cowboys' game plan because they relied on complex formations and a wide-open offense. The unsure footing of frozen Lambeau Field neutralized the Cowboys' biggest advantage, speed. The Packers, by contrast, used a basic, straight-ahead running game that emphasized power over speed. Their game wasn't hurt as much by a field that resembled an ice-skating rink.
Excerpted from 100 Things Cowboys Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Ed Housewright, Joe Funk. Copyright © 2008 Ed Housewrigh. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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