Cowboys Top 10 Gaffes (From Yesteryear)

Cowboys media watchdogs perpetuates stereotypes about today's Jerry-led franchise caring more about marketing than winning, not letting the coach coach, preferring flashy players to linemen, and erecting a stadium in honor of his own ego. Our top-10 look back says this Cowboys regime isn't so different from its icon-filled predecessor.

If you were an unbiased observer of the Dallas Cowboys universe, you would think that Jerry Jones introduced stupidity and underachievement to a pristinely successful franchise. After all, the press corps constantly perpetuates stereotypes that Jones cares more about marketing than winning, doesn’t let his head coach pick his assistant coaches, prefers flashy players to linemen, and has a stadium erected in honor of his own ego.


For Jason Garrett, he is one of five Cowboys head coaches that is flat-out incompetent and a Jerry Jones’ puppet. The guy can’t even really coach, what with icing his own kicker and poor clock management. All he does is stand around and clap about "process.''

Political science professor W. Lance Bennett identified four media biases in his book "News: The Politics of Illusion,'' which are personalization, dramatization, fragmentation, and authority disorder bias. Some of the Cowboys mainstream press corps employ "authority disorder bias'' frequently, but another one of the favorites is the fragmentation bias, where the author of a piece only wants the audience to have tunnel vision inside the story’s boundaries and not look elsewhere and see the bigger picture.

Too often, we see sports journalists drop into the readers’ laps: “Oh, Jerry won’t get out of his own way. Next case.” Cowboys fans are left to believe that dysfunction is a hallmark of the Jones era (D-Mag photo credit above) without having any idea that such dysfunction was present during the reign of founder Clint Murchison, Jr., general manager Tex Schramm, and head coach Tom Landry.

What if I told you there are examples of Jerry-like behavior and Garrett-esque "processes'' before 1989, the year the Jones family purchased the Cowboys? Let me provide 10 examples for you, and see for yourself organizational mistakes aren’t exclusive to Jones or coaching errors to Garrett. Take a look at these 10 examples and just ponder: what if this happened today?

10. Roger Staubach getting hurt in 1972 College All-Star game

In 2012, tight end Jason Witten lacerated his spleen during Week 1 of the preseason in Oakland. His status was in doubt heading into Week 1 of the regular season. The Cowboys coaching staff reacted in the other direction the next season by leaving their star players on the bench during the 2013 Hall of Fame Game in Canton.


Let’s go back to 1972, when the inaugural preseason game wasn’t the Hall of Fame Game, but rather the annual College All-Star Game in Chicago. The match always featured the Super Bowl champion against a squad consisting of the NFL’s upcoming rookies. In this exhibition game played on July 28th, a full two months before the regular season, three College All-Stars smash Staubach and knock him out of the game six minutes before halftime.

This is the first game of the NFL preseason, not the playoffs. The MVP of Super Bowl VI is playing 23 minutes into a meaningless contest and sustains a concussion! If that happened to Tony Romo in last year’s Hall of Fame Game, Twitter would've imploded.

What did Tom Landry have to say after the game his team won 20-7?

“They played well but we won the game.”

Yes, risking your franchise quarterback is certainly worth the outcome of a preseason game.

9. Clint Murchison splitting up Gil Brandt’s marriage

In 1975, Anne Brandt divorced her husband Gil Brandt, the chief talent scout for the Cowboys, and was remarried in June of that year. So what? No-fault divorce has been around since 1970, and you can get married in Vegas in a drive-thru. Maybe it’s a big deal when, you know, Anne is leaving Gil to be with Cowboys founding owner, Clint Murchison, Jr., with whom, history says, she had been carrying on an affair.

8. Schramm taking 11 skill positions versus Jerry’s 9

As you well know, Jones only likes “splashy” draft picks that can sell jerseys. He eschews picking anything but running back, wide receiver, and cornerback in the NFL Draft because those picks can sell jerseys. Linemen cannot. And it’s true because this canard is repeated constantly.

By definition, Tex Schramm was all about picking “splash” players with his first-round picks. From 1961 to 1988, Schramm took 11 such players with the team’s first-round pick. From 1968 to 1972, Schramm took four skill positions with his five first-rounders, and among those four skill positions were four running backs.

Jerry Jones has only taken nine skill positions in the first round since 1989. Wait – I forgot. Everything involving the Jerry Jones era necessitates we obliterated the years 1989-96 wherein we might find some success in order to perpetuate the myth of mediocrity. Therefore, from 1997 to 2014, Jerry Jones has taken six skill positions. From 1961-78, Schramm took eight.

7. Tex Schramm on the sidelines kvetching about uniforms


GM Schramm would regularly visit with Cowboys equipment manager Buck Buchanan before each game and point out which players weren’t in compliance with Schramm’s uniform code. That happened before every game until the NFL adopted a league-wide uniform policy. Schramm would also regularly bug Buchanan about the color and design of team uniforms, specifically with how the uniforms would look on TV.

Shouldn’t a general manager of a football franchise be more focused on what team he is fielding rather than how his team looks on TV?

6. Schramm makes Landry switch to the 3-4

At the conclusion of the 1985 season, Cowboys owner Bum Bright thought that Landry’s offense needed to incorporate some facets of the modern game, and that’s how Paul Hackett entered into Cowboys lore as offensive coordinator from 1986 to 1988. Tex went along with Hackett’s hiring, and Landry didn’t really like having him there in Dallas.

During the 1988 season, Landry essentially demoted Hackett in preparation for his eventual termination. During what little off-season Landry had before Bright sold the team to Jones, who immediately fired the team’s only head coach, Landry managed to fire Hackett and was just on the verge of promoting quarterbacks coach Jerry Rhome, an old Landry lieutenant, to the role.

However, Schramm said there had to be a tradeoff.

To promote Rhome and go back to the old ways on offense, Schramm told Landry that he would have to give up his beloved 4-3 Flex defense and convert to the 3-4. The Cowboys were set to hire George Hill, who was the defensive coordinator in Indianapolis from 1985 to 1988, to initiate the transition. In this process of hiring Hill, longtime defensive coordinator Ernie Stautner left the Cowboys after 23 seasons feeling unappreciated and hurt.

5. Giving Landry a 10-year extension

When older fans reminisce about the “Good Old Days,” one claim that is made is that original Cowboys owner Murchison didn’t “meddle” like Jerry does. He never got involved in team affairs, only leaving that to the exclusive purview of Tex.

Murchison meddled mighty heavily at the end of the 1964 campaign. Rather than let his GM either choose to keep Landry or find his replacement like Bear Bryant, as some media supported, Murchison directly involved himself in the day to day operations of the Cowboys, overstepped Schramm’s authority, and gave Landry at 10-year contract that was to start in 1966.

4. America’s Team nickname

In 1979, Bob Ryan from NFL Films called Doug Todd, PR director for the Cowboys, and suggested a title for their annual season documentary. Ryan was going to title the film "Champions Die Hard,'' but Todd said the Cowboys were actually on the rise. Therefore, the title didn’t exactly fit. When Ryan suggested "America’s Team,'' Todd approved.

Tex Schramm loved the move because this was the identity he was trying to create for a long time. It was why Schramm jumped at Pete Rozelle’s idea to have a second Thanksgiving Day game. It was why Schramm tried to put the team on as many nationally-televised games as possible. It was why Schramm added a red stripe to the Cowboys’ helmets, which already had white and blue, during the United States’ bicentennial. For the Cowboys to be “America’s Team” was another brilliant marketing win.

Of course, not only did Tom Landry hate the nickname, saying, “It gives the appearance that we are saying we are the best team in the country,” but the players similarly hated it. Now, they had a target on their back and the games were about much more than football.

Imagine that: the Ultimate GM, Tex Schramm, put marketing ahead of football.

3. The final play of the 1966 NFL Title game

Most Cowboys fans would rather forget this final play of a contest that would send the winner to play in the first ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game. On fourth-and-two from the two yard line with 45 seconds left, Tom Landry sends 5-11, 185-pound wide receiver Bob Hayes in for 6-1’’, 215-pound tight end Frank Clarke, who always played goal line in these situations.

As a result, Packers linebacker Dave Robinson strafes Hayes and immediately pressures Don Meredith rolling out to his right just as the play is designed. Facing such immediate pressure, Meredith heaves a desperation pass that Tom Brown intercepts.

“Split end” (X receiver) Buddy Dial walks up to Landry after the game and cusses him out, blaming him for making the wrong call in such a clutch moment.

It makes news when Dez Bryant walks away in frustration from watching an opponent in victory formation. How much news would it make if a Cowboys player came up to Garrett and chewed him out after losing a close game?

2. Trading Bill Gregory and a third-rounder in the ’79 draft that became Joe Montana

Prior to the 1978 NFL season, the Cowboys traded defensive tackle Gregory and their 1979 third-round pick to Seattle for the Seahawks’ third round pick and sixth-round pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. With those draft picks, the Cowboys selected tight end Doug Cosbie and defensive end Tim Lavender. Another brilliant personnel move by Schramm to move a career backup to an expansion franchise and get a draft pick that became a three-time Pro Bowler and Billy Joe DuPree’s successor?

What if I told you that third-round pick the Cowboys dealt away (82nd overall) would become Joe Montana, the same Hall of Fame quarterback who burned Dallas with “The Catch” in the 1981 NFC Championship game? Research this and see how the press corps never wrote articles or produced radio bits connecting the dots. In other words, they never seemed to notice the front office whiffed on Montana the way Jerry failed to take Randy Moss in the 1998 NFL Draft.

If Dallas has the Montana pick, the question of Danny White’s successor is immediately answered, or they have excellent trade bait to produce more draft picks later.

1. Texas Stadium, or “Murch World”

A Cowboys owner actually did build a stadium to satisfy his own ego, but we’re led to believe the first was Jerry Jones. Try Clint Murchison, Jr.


In 1966, the Cowboys founding owner wanted city money to pay for a stadium in downtown Dallas. Then-Mayor Erik Jonsson, one of the founders of Texas Instruments, told Murchison only money would be given to refurbish the Cotton Bowl.

Murchison wasn’t pleased and stunned everyone by purchasing 90 acres in Irving to build his new stadium. Murchison wanted to build specifically so he could have luxury suites for corporate sponsors. As a result, ticket prices at Texas Stadium skyrocketed and working-class fans felt squeezed.

Murchison responded to that charge by saying, “If we discriminated against them, we discriminated against them, but no more than all America discriminates against people who don’t have money to buy everything they want.”

How many iPhone touch screens would be broken furiously tweeting if Jerry Jones said that?

Building Texas Stadium also put Murchison’s wants ahead of his players. The Cotton Bowl’s grass playing surface was less prone to causing injuries than the artificial turf at Texas Stadium. Players like Mel Renfro and Duane Thomas hated it at Texas Stadium, not only because of the increase in injuries, but because of how reserved the crowd was in comparison to the old Cotton Bowl crowd.

This is not a defense of the "present'' or an attack on the "past.'' I also recognize that the old guard's success on the field hides some of these gaffes. But gaffes they are, even as they came in the time of Cowboys management icons like Landry and company.

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