Drew Pearson Should Be In The Pro Football hall of Fame

When you think of the great NFL teams of the 1970’s, the team that usually comes to mind first are Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys. Now Pittsburgh Steeler fans will argue they were the team of the decade and most fans and pundits should think of their team first. Yet think about it… Whenever the 1970’s Steelers are brought up, everyone points to the 2 Super Bowls when they defeated Dallas. Very rarely are the Super Bowls brought up over the Rams or Vikings. Therefore, Dallas was the most visible team. One of the most visible performers on the NFL’s most visible team was standout WR Drew Pearson.

pearson1To the casual observer, Pearson only had two 1,000 yard seasons, 3 All Pro & Pro Bowl seasons. In 1974, only Drew and Cliff Branch topped 1,000 yards that year in receiving. Yet if you were cheering against the Cowboys, as many of us were in those years, no one struck more fear in you when the game was on the line.

From playing every year on Thanksgiving, to numerous appearances on Monday Night Football, and annually making the playoffs, we were always watching the Cowboys. The moment Pearson burst onto a nation’s conscience was the 1974 Thanksgiving tilt vs the hated Washington Redskins. Roger Staubach had been knocked from the game thrusting rookie Clint Longley into his 1st significant action.

In a nationally televised game, the Cowboys appeared headed for a loss down 16-3 in the 3rd quarter. Then out of nowhere Longley and the offense got hot. Two touchdown marches gave the Cowboys a 17-16 lead before the 4th quarter began. What gave the game a unique quality was the fact a rookie QB and Pearson, in only his 2nd season, were drawing up plays in the dirt. It was not Landry’s intricate precise passing game leading the charge.

After a Duane Thomas touchdown put the Redskins back on top, Landry’s unknown players had a chance to win it late. As they had turned this game around playing shoot from the hip football, Longley and Pearson drew up another play in the dirt with just seconds to go in the game. George Allen’s Redskins and Landry’s Cowboys coaching staff’s had been in place for 5 years at this point. They knew each other’s playbook. It took Pearson making an adjustment on a “16 Route” in Cowboys terminology, to what amounted to an in and up. The safety bit and Pearson blew by as Longley hit him with a last minute 50 yard bomb and a 24-23 triumph.

Millions of fans digesting Thanksgiving turkey fell out of their Lazy Boy’s as they watched a game still revered in Cowboy lore. Pearson had 5 rec. 108 yards and the game winning touchdown. Bolstered by the heroics performed and notoriety of this game, Pearson was voted All Pro and made his 1st Pro Bowl. In 1975 Pearson was a marked man and had less receptions and yardage yet combined with Staubach for 8 touchdowns during the regular season.

So what makes Drew Pearson Hall of Fame worthy?? The moments. To turn in clutch performances in the final minutes when many players shrink at the moment of truth. How many times have you heard a coach describe how they have to get their player into the game with play calling to keep him engaged?? Well the 10-4 wildcard Cowboys of 1975 made the trip to play the Minnesota Vikings in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game. Against one of history’s best defenses and on target to play in their 3rd straight Super Bowl, the Vikings had held Pearson without a catch. With the game on the line… it was 4th and 17 from their own 25 down 14-10 with :44 left when…

The Hail Mary to win the ’75 playoff in Minnesota not only propelled the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowl X, it marked Pearson as one of the NFL’s best clutch performers. The next two seasons he was voted to the Pro Bowl and the All Pro team. The second of which the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII to conclude the 1977 season.

As the late ’70’s beckoned, Pearson shared more of the spotlight with newcomers Tony Dorsett and fellow wideout Tony Hill. His numbers suffered but they were a better team as they appeared in back to back Super Bowls in 77 & 78. Everyone thought the magic would be over with the retirement of Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach after the 1979 season. Pearson had a mediocre season in ’80 (43 rec 568 yds 6TDs) as the Cowboys adjusted to new QB Danny White. Yet when the 12-4 wildcard Cowboys found themselves down 27-17 to the favored Atlanta Falcons in the divisional playoffs, it was Pearson to the rescue again. First he scored to close the gap to 27-24 midway through the 4th quarter.. then this happened with :49 left in the game.

Unfortunately this miracle touchdown didn’t propel the Cowboys to the Super Bowl as they fell in the first of 3 straight NFC Championships. However if you’re keeping count, from 1975-1982 Dallas played in at least the NFC Championship in 6 of 8 seasons and Pearson was the only featured performer on all 6. Staubach was only there for 3 of them. They played in 3 Super Bowls in a 4 year span and Pearson was able to make magic moments happen with 3 different quarterbacks.

Over the length of Drew’s 11 year career, he only scored 48 touchdowns. Yet he seemed to always score the money touchdowns that ruined opponent’s seasons. His career ended after a horrific car accident after the 1983 season and the Cowboys were never the same. In fact the very next year (1984) marked the first non playoff season for Dallas since 1974. In an era where the Dallas Cowboys became America’s Team, how can you talk about that era without mentioning his heroics??

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present Drew Pearson.

Epilogue 4/29/2017: In Philadelphia during the NFL draft, Pearson stepped to the mic and offered this passionate delivery in announcing Dallas’ 2nd round selection.  He honored every Dallas Cowboy who has ever played along with owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett:

 

Now imagine a Hall of Fame speech from him!!

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SUPER BOWL X RUNNER UP 1975 DALLAS COWBOYS

Heading into Super Bowl VI, Cowboy coach Tom Landry referred to the Miami Dolphins defense as “a bunch of no named guys.” The Dolphins and the sporting press spun Landry’s comment into the nickname “The No Name Defense”, that they would forever be known for. Yet little did he know he would return with an equally set of anonymous guys to the title game four years later.

1975.Dallas-Cowboys-Roger-Staubach-Super-Bowl-Ring-0002Don’t get us wrong there were known players on the Cowboy’s roster, they were aging and past their prime. Quarterback Roger Staubach had come of age in the 1975 playoffs and was in his prime. He took the Cowboys to Super Bowl X after engineering a miracle in Minnesota. A play that came to be known as The Hail Mary. However it was holdovers from the 1960’s defenses which included Middle Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan #55, Outside Linebacker Dave Edwards #52, DT Jethro Pugh #75, and future Hall of Fame CB Mel Renfro, that lent familiarity to long time fans.

1975.Dallas-Cowboys-Roger-Staubach-Super-Bowl-Ring-0003The 1974 season saw the Cowboys say goodbye to Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle Bob Lilly, Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, and longtime CB Cornell Green. To replenish the cupboard, Gil Brandt, Tex Shramm and Tom Landry loaded the roster with new players. An amazing 12 rookies made the team and became known as “The Dirty Dozen”. Yet none were stars or household names. Well at least not at the time.

The plain truth is the basis for a team that made the Super Bowl 3 times in 4 years, and 3 more NFC Championships games in the ensuing 4 years after that came from this draft. Long time MLB Bob Breunig, Hall of Fame DT Randy White, OLB Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, S Randy Hughes, OLineman Herbert Scott, Pat Donovan, and Burton Lawless were mainstays on this team. Had the bounce of the ball gone differently in Super Bowl X and/or Super Bowl XIII this group would have been remembered in many ways close to the Steelers 1974 draft class.

1975.Dallas-Cowboys-Roger-Staubach-Super-Bowl-Ring-0001Just think about it… had the Cowboys won Super Bowl X or XIII the tally would have been 3 wins by both Dallas and Pittsburgh. Dallas sends more players to the Hall of Fame and fewer Steelers would have been enshrined.

Speaking of Tom Landry’s no-name bunch: Roger Staubach, Tackle Rayfield Wright and Safety Cliff Harris were the only Pro Bowl selections. In fact, the ’75 Cowboys are one of 3 of the first 42 Super Bowl participants to have the fewest pro bowl players with 3. When you think of the ’75 Cowboys who were the runners?? Calvin Hill, Dwayne Thomas, Walt Garrison?? All were gone from the team and Tony Dorsett was 2 years away.

super-bowl-logo-1975Staubach’s taking the Cowboys to Super Bowl X was similar to John Elway taking the Broncos to the title game with “The Drive”. He capitalized on the momentum from the Viking playoff win and drove his team to the title game. He was the lone marquee name and took Super Bowl X down to the final play before falling 21-17.

The greatest of the first ten of these games stamped the Cowboys as a team to watch as the late 70’s beckoned.

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SUPER BOWL X CHAMPIONS 1975 PITTSBURGH STEELERS

At what point do you begin to erase an earlier label that was given to you as a player?  Can you totally overcome a negative stigma associated with that label?  At what point does a team peak with its full talent on display??superbowlx

Just think that only a year and a half earlier, the Steelers were 3-1-1 at midseason, and mired in a quarterback controversy between “Jefferson St” Joe Gilliam and Terry Bradshaw. Pittsburgh won with defense and a running attack in spite of the quarterback. After alternating between the ineffective Gilliam and Bradshaw, Noll finally gave the nod to Bradshaw.

Many speculated Pittsburgh wasn’t ready for a black quarterback. Did you know the 1974 Steelers were the only Super Bowl champion that completed less than 50% of their passes?? Gilliam went 4-1-1 in his starts completing 45.3% of his passes (96 of 212) for 1,242 yards 4TDs and 8 interceptions. Bradshaw finished completing 45.3% of his throws (67 of 148) for 785 yards 7 TDs with 8 interceptions. Terry, having gone 5-2, was sacked more and threw interceptions at a higher rate than Gilliam. So he really never beat him out.

superbowlxblack2After an upset victory in Super Bowl IX established them as league champion, the confident Steelers rolled through the next year with Terry Bradshaw at the helm. The Steelers were led by their famous front four known as the “Steel Curtain”, their powerful running game, and Bradshaw received some credit for being the quarterback of the champs.  Yet the respect afforded the Steelers QB was begrudging and not to the level of previous winners like Unitas, Staubach, Greise, Dawson, Starr, or even Fran Tarkenton who hadn’t won one yet appeared in Super Bowls twice.

The 1975 season began with a first time champion who was one of the youngest teams in football.  They were just developing as a team having come through the ’74 season with 8 rookies on the roster.  They hadn’t hit their peak as a team. Even Bradshaw was just shaking off the bad play that had him labeled as “Lil Abner” and a “dumb” quarterback.

He hadn’t lived up to his billing as the number 1 player in the 1970 draft until now, but with a pair of second year receivers in Swann and Stallworth, they were developing to complement the running game.  The strength of this team was its defense and running game.  Franco Harris again rushed for 1000 yards and the Steelers went 12-2 in the regular season. The Steelers were beginning to become bigger than life with Joe Greene, LC Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Jack Lambert and company.

The patch worn by each team in Super Bowl X.

The patch worn by each team in Super Bowl X.

Bradshaw had improved as a quarterback in 1975 as he emerged as a leader. He completed 57.7% (165 of 286) for 2,055 yards 18 TDs to just 9 picks. Yet his moment finally came in a Super Bowl performance that put him on the level of the quarterbacks who were treated with more acclaim. His stats were good but it was the way he stood strong in the pocket to deliver the game clinching 64 yard touchdown to Lynn Swann while being knocked out.

You could see he knew was going to get clocked as he side stepped Cowboy linebacker DD Lewis and gathered himself to throw deep. Much like present Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is thought of now. He was carried to his first Super Bowl by his teammates. In his second, he validated himself among the great quarterbacks by making the play to win the game.

super-bowl-logo-1975Super Bowl X validated the career of Terry Bradshaw and he didn’t have to look over his shoulder the rest of his career. Two more championship triumphs were to follow and this ring commemorated the Steelers becoming a dynasty. Bradshaw would go on to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, however the contributions of “Jefferson St” Joe Gilliam shouldn’t be forgotten.

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This article is dedicated in the memory of Joe Giliam.

Top Ten Super Bowl Games

When it comes to Super Bowl games, is it a curse or a blessing to have the last game of the season be great?  Funny how those games tend to give me the worst levels of anxiety from football withdrawal once they’re over.  This list is about the games that were the most exciting that left you wanting more football.  One where the outcome was in doubt

  1. Super Bowl XXXVIII- Patriots 32 Panthers 29:  Best ever played! We had a 0-0 defensive slugfest going when Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme gave us a preview of the 4th quarter each throwing TD passes for a 14-10 halftime score.  Then the defenses were getting ripped apart as each team scored  three times in the highest scoring quarter in Super Bowl history with 37 points.  Five TDs in the 4th quarter?? This was epic! In Carolina’s case it was 3 TDs which included a record 85 yard TD from Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad.  Brady set record for completions with 32 of 47 for 354 yards and 3 TDs for the game with Delhomme 16 of 32 for 323 yards 3TDs and get this, a higher QB ranking.  Adam Vinatieri won it with a last second field goal but this one took your breath away.
  2. Super Bowl XXXII-Broncos 31 Packers 24: Remembered for John Elway finally becoming a champion came in one of the hardest hitting Super Bowls of all time.  Terrell Davis rushed for 157 yards and 3TDs in an MVP performance while Dorsey Levens ran for 90 yards for Green Bay.  Brett Favre kept firing back and threw for 3 TDs and the game came down to its final play.
  3. Super Bowl XLIII- Steelers 27 Cardinals 24: Cardinals in the Super Bowl?  Oh, sorry about that.  This game had wild swings of momentum and the best finish ever. Once Arizona figured out how to move the ball on Pittsburgh’s #1 ranked defense, they were poised to take a 14-10 lead when James Harrison intercepted Kurt Warner and rumbled 100 yards for a TD on the last play of the first half.  Steelers 17-7 was the 14 point swing here.  Larry Fitzgerald got hot, catching 7 for 147 and 2TDs including a 64yarder to give the Cardinals their first lead with 3:24 left in the game.  Then Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes answered for the Steelers with a drive and then touchdow for the ages.  Holmes back of the endzone toe tap catch with :10 left was the best game winner ever.
  4. Super Bowl XXV- Giants 20 Bills 19: The drama came down to a final missed field goal, but the escapism this game provided the country at the outbreak of the Gulf War was tremendous.  Contrasting styles of the methodical, plodding Giants and the K-Gun flash of Buffalo made it interesting also.  New York played keep away by possessing the ball for over 40 minutes.
  5. Super Bowl XIV- Steelers 31 Rams 19: You have to admit when you were watching this game it was like the Steelers couldn’t make the Rams go away.  Backup Vince Ferragamo and the Rams stood toe to toe with the defending champions and wouldn’t flinch.  Halfback option passes for touchdowns, 10 plays of 20 or more yards including 5 plays of 39 or more. This game had 1 tie and 7 lead changes!  Terry Bradshaw shook off 3 interceptions and took a 4th quarter lead with a 73 yard TD to John Stallworth, then came back to him for a 45 yard gain to set up the last touchdown.  The latter came after the Rams were driving to retake the lead and Lambert picked off Ferragamo inside his own 20.
  6. Super Bowl XXIII- 49ers 20 Bengals 16: Best showcase of safeties in a game of defense.  David Fulcher of Cincinnati and Ronnie Lott of the 49ers were all over the place with Fulcher playing the better game. With a sack, a forced fumble, a touchdown saving tackle at the 2 which resulted in a missed field goal, and 7 tackles at or near the line of scrimmage. Fulcher was the game’s MVP had it not been for Jerry Rice’s heroics.  After losing Tim Krumrie to a broken leg the Bengal defense put in a Herculean effort to hold back the 49ers but Joe Cool prevailed again. Montana threw for 357 yards and led the famous 92 yard TD drive in the waning seconds to win it.  What would have happened had Lewis Billups not dropped that interception in the 4th quarter?
  7. Super Bowl XIII- Steelers 35 Cowboys 31: The battle of champions with the winner to be crowned Team of the Decade for the 1970s and the first Super Bowl to conclude in prime time. This time Dallas was the defending champion and we had the highest scoring first half in Super Bowl history with 35 points (Steelers 21-14 lead), longest TD with Stallworth’s 75 yard TD from Terry Bradshaw, surprise defensive TD with Hollywood Henderson and Mike Hegman.  The famous dropped TD pass of Jackie Smith was a signature play but the Cowboys started to really move the ball on Pittsburgh in the 4th scoring two late TDs.  It was Bradshaw’s first 300 yard passing game and both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth were the first tandem to go over 100 yards in the same Super Bowl. Game had everything and I haven’t talked about Staubach, Dorsett, Tony Hill or Franco Harris yet.
  8. Super Bowl XXXIV- Rams 23 Titans 16: Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf with Marshall Faulk  were on the edge of blowing out the Titans, but couldn’t do it.  The scrappy Titan defense kept forcing them to try field goals instead of the accustomed “Bob and Weave” TD celebration.  The late Steve McNair and Eddie George finally got going in the second half and in a game of the tortoise and the hare started their methodical comeback.  Dominated the second half in points and time of possession, rallied to tie it at 16-16.  Yet MVP Warner then threw a 73 yard TD to Isaac Bruce to take a lead that would come down to the frantic last Titan drive.  The imge of Kevin Dyson stretching for that last yard being tackled by Mike Jones is burned into the memory.
  9. Super Bowl X- Steelers 21 Cowboys 17:  The best of the first ten Super Bowls by far.  All except with that “Up With People” halftime show…yikes!! “Hollywood Henderson” , a linebacker on a reverse with the opening kickoff??  Almost broke it too had Roy Gerela not made the tackle and bruised his ribs.  Doomsday shut down Franco Harris, yet couldn’t stop MVP Lynn Swann whose 4 catches for 161 yards and a 4th quarter TD.  The Steelers kept missing field goals and the game remained close.  The defenses held the offenses in check but Roger Staubach was able to hit Drew Pearson on the first TD allowed by the Steelers for the entire 1975 season.  The Steelers sacked him seven times but Roger kept firing until the bitter end.  Pittsburgh gave the ball to the Cowboys on downs allowing 3 shots from midfield for the win.  The final pass intercepted by Glen Edwards as time expired.
  10. Super Bowl V- Colts 16 Cowboys 13: This game had to be fun to watch. It was like a drunk on rollerskates.  Eleven turnovers, Johnny Unitas knocked from the game. Duane Thomas fumbled at the goal line when Dallas could have taken a commanding lead.  Johnny Unitas’ 75 yard touchdown to John Mackey bounced off two other players.  A 4th quarter come from behind victory by the Baltimore Colts based off of interceptions by “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis and Rick Volk setting up the Colts in Cowboy territory for a Tom Nowatzke TD and last second field goal by Jim O’Brien.  How could anyone have watched this game and had a clue who would win. LOL  Now get this for the last bit of humor; Chuck Howley, Cowboys linebacker wins the MVP and was on the losing side of the ledger and wouldn’t accept the award.  Bubba Smith, Colts defensive end refuses to wear the ring, and Bill Curry who played center said he looks upon his ring with “mixed feelings”.  Laughably sloppy… one day I’ll sit down and watch it since I was one at the time.