Game #12: The Offseason Comes Early

Ken Stone looks to the heavens for Divine Intervention that would not be forthcoming. Luke Longley ruined many a Thanksgiving dinner for Washington fans November 28, 1974.
Dallas 24, Wash. 23

That high-pitched screaming sound you heard last Sunday was probably the football players taking cold showers after the game. If you are a Washington fan you are used to losing to the Giants. It is now 9 losses out of the last 11 games. How bad is that Giants team? Well, given six turnovers the game was still in doubt within the final minute. Try that against Dallas this week and the score would be a stunning rout. It may well be anyhow. But, that loss to the Giants was just unpardonable. If the hot water failure had been confined to the Washington locker room it would have been just deserts. As it was it’s doubtful that the New Yorkers were complaining. They were leaving town surprisingly victorious.

The fumbles were atrocious. They killed some nice drives. Then the Defense contributed by making Saquan Barkley into the second coming of Tiki Barber. For all the world it looked like Jack Del Rio’s Linebackers and Defensive Backs had never before seen a Wheel Route. Falling behind is kryptonite to this rickety Offensive Line. Sam Howell is taking a beating for his three interceptions. The first one was on him. Then the Giants’ #5 Kayvon Thibodeaux proceeded to turn Left Tackle Charles Leno into a turnstile. Washington produced 9 sacks. But, the Giants tormented Howell. He then started making questionable decisions. There were at least two dropped interceptions. It would be a lot of fun to see Howell behind a decent O-Line. The fumbles turned a very winnable game into a miserable loss.

The game ended any hopes for a winning season. With six games remaining and four of them against formidable opponents…well…you get the picture. Washington’s losses in three games against inferior opponents puts them now at risk of finishing last in the Division…yet again.

Before he donned his famous fedora hat Dallas Head Coach Thomas Wade Landry wore a different cap. At age-19, with one semester of college under his belt Landry was flying B-17s in World War II. Before he started flying his older brother had died in a B-17 that exploded while on the delivery flight over the Atlantic. Tom flew 30 combat missions over far-flung targets including Czechoslovakia that required him to land with very little fuel left, occasionally on only two engines stretching the petrol. Veterans would come to describe those missions as, “Six-hours out, six-hours back, and two minutes of pure hell in the middle.”

The Dallas Cowboys franchise came into being in 1960. Its inception was prompted by competition. Lamar Hunt, the son of Oil Tycoon HL Hunt wanted an NFL franchise in Dallas. So did another Oil man, Clint Murchison. Eventually Murchison won out and got the expansion team in 1960, first named the “Steers.” Washington owner George Preston Marshall vehemently opposed the creation of the Cowboy franchise. Washington was the NFL team for all of the former Confederate states. Murchison was a sharp cookie. He purchased the unprotected rights to the, “Hail to the Redskins” fight song. Then he threatened Marshall with not being able to play the song at home games. Marshall dropped resistance in exchange for the song rights.

Hunt didn’t take this lying down. He convinced NBC that a rival league was a good bet. The American Football League came into existence because of this feud between oil men. Hunt’s team, the Dallas Texans would move to Kansas City three years later.

The fear by the NFL that the AFL would take control of Texas caused them to hastily approve the franchise after the college draft. Each team had to make three players available to the Cowboys in an expansion draft. There weren’t any All-Pro caliber players in that batch. Ironically the starting QB that first year was a player Washington had made available; The “Little General” Eddie LeBaron, all 5’9″ 168 lbs of him. The Head Coach for the new team was stoic Tom Landry. He had been the Defensive Coordinator for the New York Giants for six years. The corresponding Offensive Coordinator for five of those years was Vince Lombardi. Giants Coach Jim Lee Howell lost both of his coordinators and future Hall-of-Famers at the same time. Howell lasted only one season without them. He was replaced by Allie Sherman.

What gave Dallas the boost into relevance was an innovative genius gifted with nearly total recall. His name was Gil Brandt. He’s been labelled as the, “Godfather of Modern Scouting.” Dallas suddenly found talent in little known backwater schools. Brandt convinced General Manager Tex Schramm to draft Naval Academy grad, and Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach in the TENTH Round of the 1964 draft. Staubach fulfilled his post-graduate service time to the Navy before joining the team in 1969. Like most of Brandt’s moves, it was brilliant. During the glory years of the Washington/Dallas rivalry Roger “The Dodger” and Diron Talbert waged delicious football war. Times have certainly changed.

Dallas and Washington have little in common when it comes to success on the field in the last generation. Washington won the 1991 Super Bowl. Dallas won its last with “The Triplets” in 1995. Neither has sniffed a Conference Championship Game since. During that time Dallas has had 11 winning seasons with 12 corresponding playoff appearances for a total of 239 wins (8.5 per season). Washington has had 7 winning seasons with 8 corresponding playoff appearances for a total of 194 wins (6.9 per season). If you’re keeping score that’s 21 seasons out of 28 (75%) without a playoff appearance. The gulf is fairly wide between these two.

One thing Washington and Dallas have in common is that neither has beaten a team with a winning record. (Same thing with Miami.) The stark difference is that Dallas hasn’t lost to a team with a losing record. They feast on lesser opponents, especially at home. In their 4 home games against teams with a losing record they have outscored the opponents by an average of 25 points. Glumly one has to admit that a 4pm Thanksgiving Dinner time means that the competitive portion of the game may be over before sitting down to view it.

Dallas’ domination against lesser teams while unable to handle winners adds to the intrigue: Are they really Gold or Iron Pyrite? The answer won’t come until the post-season. Typically they then turn into pumpkins. They have been the personification of tease. If you think the Washington fan base is the only one wanting the Head Coach on the next train out of town, think again. The Dallas faithful are far from in love with Mike McCarthy. They have even less affection towards Quarterback Dak Prescott. For this squad a return to the NFC Championship Game is the bar to clear. If they don’t get there changes could be coming.

Come to think of it, there are changes coming to Washington also.

Edited to correct a misidentified player.

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