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.

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SUPER BOWL XII CHAMPION 1977 DALLAS COWBOYS

Super Bowl XII, Cowboys 27-10 over the Denver Broncos…very painful game…didn’t get to watch it…long story …and LIVED in Denver at the time…I’m still upset at my Mom for that!! TV with a blown picture tube and couldn’t go to a friend’s house to watch th……sigh…deep breaths Jef. Remember how many of us played this game over and over on electric football?

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This team was known for several firsts:

  • The only AFL or NFL champion to finish #1 offensively and defensively
  • The first Super Bowl where the participants faced each other during the season.
  • Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett were the first pair of Heisman winners in the backfield of an NFL champion.
  • The Cowboys were the first dome team to win a Super Bowl. Lets face it… Dallas played in a dome with a hole in the roof. It was a cheap way to not have air conditioning at Texas Stadium.
  • It was the first time since the AFL NFL merger where a quarterback faced his former team in the championship game (Craig Morton)
  • Super Bowl XII was the first played in a dome. The first NFL championship game played indoors was actually 1934.

Everyone talks about Dallas and the great train heist that was the Herschel Walker trade… what about the deal to get Tony Dorsett??Seattle traded their #1 pick to Dallas for several picks in 1977. The Cowboys landed Tony D. and Seattle got some substitute teachers and their cars washed. Overnight the Cowboys returned to the league’s elite because they were down in 1974 where they missed the playoffs. Dorsett became the anchor for the Cowboys rushing for 1,000 yards in 8 of the next 9 seasons.

This game ruined the legacy of the Orange Crush defense because they were special…after 7 turnovers they still only gave up 27 points.

*How did Butch Johnson’s touchdown not be ruled an incomplete pass?*

cowbEnough of that Cowboy haterism….Did you know that this was the only Super Bowl champion to finish the season #1 on offense and #1 on defense in the same year?? To say that the Dallas Cowboys weren’t the best team in football is to deny what was Tom Landry’s best team ever. Pittsburgh was run over in Denver in the 1977 AFC Divisional playoff 34-21, so Steeler fans you gotta stay quiet with this one and they got handled in that game. Randy White, Ed “Too Tall” Jones mixed in with Larry Cole and Harvey Martin were the sickest pass rush in football. Unofficially Martin recorded 26 sacks in just 14 games.

Drew Pearson was in his prime, rookie Tony Hill was doing his thing at receiver, coupled with Hall of Famers: Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett at RB…they made you hate them with their air of invincibility if you weren’t a Cowboy fan. It was at this point when NFL Films dubbed them “America’s Team” that has stuck to this day…whether or not it bothered you or other players and teams. For one year this was about as powerful a champion as you can find.

Sour grapes? Maybe but Dallas’ pass rush was ridiculous. Craig Morton should have been the MVP for all the Halloween candy he passed out in interceptions that day. Yet Randy White and the late Harvey Martin earned the honor of the only Co-MVPs in Super Bowl history. Amazingly that gave the Cowboys 2 Super Bowl MVPs wearing the number 54 (Chuck Howley in V). We should have seen the loss coming, for both teams had identical 12-2 records and Dallas beat Denver in the last game of the regular season. So you couldn’t say it was a fluke.

super-bowl-logo-1977Dallas’ 2nd best team of the 70’s was the team that lost in the chance to repeat in Super Bowl XIII to the Steelers, but this team in 1977, was solid at every position, and spectacular at others, and Staubach quarterbacked them to their second Super Bowl win.

With the Cowboys one of the  NFL’s youngest teams, Tom Landry seemed destined to win more Super Bowls.

Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #7 1977 Dallas Cowboys

For all the talk of the Gritz Blitz and the Orange Crush Defense in 1977, it was the year of The Doomsday Defense II. They faced off with the Denver Broncos down in New Orleans in Super Bowl XII and the better defense won. They carried their season statistical domination into that game and forced a then Super Bowl record 8 turnovers. This was the last NFL champion to finish #1 on defense and #1 on offense. In giving up just 229.5 yards per game, most don’t realize that was better than the 1978 champion Pittsburgh Steelers (260.5) or even the great ’76 version (237.5).

After Craig Morton was benched, Hollywood Henderson and Doomsday treated Norris Weese to a rough outing. Super Bowl XII

After Craig Morton was benched, Hollywood Henderson and Doomsday treated Norris Weese to a rough outing. In Super Bowl XII

Unofficially that year was the little known fact that DE Harvey Martin recorded 26 sacks. The league didn’t start keeping that statistic until 1981 or that would still be a record. It was arguably his best season as he was named All Pro and made the Pro Bowl. Surprisingly he was only joined by SS Charlie Waters, FS Cliff Harris, and DT Randy White.

Yet this group does have some knocks against it. They only faced 3 top ten offenses that year and gave up  212 points  for the season. The highest of our top ten. However they were 2-1 in those games and were the first Super Bowl champion to face their eventual Super Bowl opponent during the season. Winning the finale 14-6.

Supe Bowl XII Co-MVPs Randy White and the late Harvey Martin.

Supe Bowl XII Co-MVPs Randy White and the late Harvey Martin.

So why are they in the top ten??

The number one reason this group is here is this was the height of The Flex Defense. Their dominance was felt in a season long display. They held 7 of their 14 opponents to 10 points or less then became the first team since the merger to hold their 3 postseason opponents to 10 points or less. One of those was the #3 ranked offense of the  Chicago Bears and NFL rushing champion Walter Payton. He was held to 60 yards on 19 carries in a 37-7 win in the divisional round.

The havoc they raised in Super Bowl XII with 4 sacks, countless hurries that led to 4 interceptions on the biggest stage didn’t hurt. When half your line, DT Randy White and DE the late Harvey Martin, become the first defensive linemen to win Super Bowl MVP, that puts on an exclamation point on the season.

Other talents such as Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson made names for themselves as well. They would defend their championship in the following Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers where they ranked #2 in defense. That’s another story for a different time.

landry.2Epilogue: This was the crowning jewel in the late Tom Landry’s coaching career. Where he engineered a majority of the tactics to bring the 4-3 to be the modern staple of defense in the NFL. It was his ability to innovate that defense and come up with the Flex Defense to read and react as well as keep the Middle Linebacker (Bob Breunig) free of potential blockers.

Dedicated in the memory of both Tom Landry and Harvey Martin.

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My man Hollywood’s parting shot:

Hollywood Strikes Back!

Hollywood Strikes Back!

 

The Soul Of The Game: Randy White

Randy White... easily a Hall of Fame player.

Randy White… easily a Hall of Fame player.

When it comes to great hitting in the NFL, much of it takes place on the line of scrimmage, away from the camera following the football. However there are players who deliver those hits on quarterbacks, running backs and those same offensive linemen. Randy White was one of those players. An intense desire burned in him if you ever watched him play.

In fact it was that desire which helped him turn in probably the NFL’s greatest defensive play in our CEO’s estimation. In the 1980 season finale, Dallas needed to beat the Eagles by 25 points to win the NFC East. The Eagles were near midfield when they completed a slant to wide receiver Scott Fitzkee, who took off for the goal line. White, who had seen the pass whiz by turned and chased down Fitzkee tackling him at the 5 yard line. Ask yourself when was the last time you saw a defensive lineman chase down a receiver after a 49 yard gain??

Of course that wasn’t a great hit but it showed unbelievable heart. When you thought of the Dallas Cowboys during the late 1970’s and thought of toughness, he was the one that came to mind. He wasn’t that big either and thrived on his quickness to get into the “A” gap of opposing offenses.

One aspect of his play that is unusual is his size for a defensive tackle. The Cowboys had him listed at 6’4″ 257 lbs but that was a smokescreen. He looks like he’s about 6’1 or 6’2 and played at a weight where most of his contemporaries were pushing 275-280 lbs. We have yet to see in any film where White was bigger than a player trying to block him.

Randy White was a flat out beast for the Dallas Cowboys.

Randy White was a flat out beast for the Dallas Cowboys.

Over his 14 year career he made the Pro Bowl 9 times and was voted All Pro in 8 of them.  He was the impetus to the Doomsday Defense II that followed the original unit Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, Dave Edwards, and Chuck Howley played on. In fact along with Howley, White shares the distinction of being named Super Bowl MVP while wearing #54 for the Cowboys. Howley did so as the only player from a losing team, to nab that distinction in Super Bowl V.

As for White, he was the co-winner along with the late Harvey Martin for chasing Craig Morton all over the Super Dome in game number XII. In that contest he and the defensive line hounded Denver quarterbacks into 4 interceptions on 8 of 25 passing for 61 yards. In a Super Bowl?? Yikes. For his career he finished with 9 Pro Bowls and 7 – 1st team All Pro selections. A sure Hall of Fame performer which raises an interesting question: Who was the Dallas Cowboys all time greatest defensive tackle?? Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lilly or Randy “Manster” White??

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NEXT: Andre Reed Belongs In The Pro Football Hall of Fame

1964 AFL Champion Buffalo Bills

1964 AFL Champion Buffalo Bills Ring

To the casual football fan, the legacy of the Buffalo Bills is that of a four time Super Bowl participant that lost them consecutively, or OJ Simpson and what later became of his life with a double murder trial.  Yet a further look into the legacy of MY beloved Buffalo Bills and you’ll find out about Robert Kalsu: The only professional football player to give his life serving his country in the Vietnam War.  You will also find that in the AFL, the Buffalo Bills came within a game of becoming a THREE-PEAT champion…and one of the most powerful champions in history.

Well when you think of the AFL you think of wide open offenses and high scoring football games.  It was the wild west up until this defensive mountain rose up to stop the onslaught of points.  It happened in Buffalo. Joe Collier developed a 4-3 defense that took advantage of cocking defensive end Tom Day #88 in the gap between the center and guard.  This was later made famous by Joe Greene and the Pittsburgh Steelers a decade later….yet I digress

A  solid front four that stopped the run with big Tom Sestak #70 that could get after the quarterback.  This team believed in roughing up the quarterback with safety blitzes the first to do so, George Saimes was the AFL pioneer with this tactic. Furthermore this was the first team to employ the bump and run tactics at cornerback, not the Oakland Raiders, in Booker Edgerson and Butch Byrd.

Byrd was arguably the best cornerback in Bills history and maybe the best in AFL history. He was 6-1 215 lbs, or 1 inch shorter and same weight as Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham a decade later. He punished receivers at the line of scrimmage yet could swoop in and pick off quarterbacks, leading the league with 7 interceptions.  Along with Mike Stratton, this defense sent 3 to the Pro Bowl and MLB Harry Jacobs should have gone.

On offense, the late Jack Kemp was quarterback yet the fuel to this team was Cookie Gilchrist.  Cookie ran for 948 yards and was the game closer when they needed to run the ball at the end of games.  He was the AFL version of Jim Brown with his power and speed.  Kemp had arrived a season before when he was placed on injured reserve by the San Diego Chargers.

There was some technicality that kept him from returning to the San Diego Chargers and the Bills were off and running.  Gilchrist and Daryle Lamonica (yes Oakland “The Mad Bomber”) each ran for 6 TDs in the regular season while Elbert “Wheels” Dubenion was the deep threat catching passes for 1,139 yards and 10TDs. Jack Kemp led a steady ball control offense and was a Pro Bowl performer in 1964 with Gilchrist, Dubenion, and TE Ernie Warlick.  They went 12-2 in the regular season and the two games they lost were by a combined 9 points.  Going into the 1964 AFL Championship they would have to take on the defending Champion Chargers.  How strong were they??

Buffalo AFL Championship Trophies

If you take a look back to 1963, the Chargers nearly became the first team in pro football to have two 1,000 yard rushers in Paul Lowe (1,010 yds) and Keith Lincoln (826 yds).  They teamed with Hall of Fame WR Lance Alworth and ancient Tobin Rote, who was Jack Kemp’s backup, to roar to the AFL Title with a 51-10 pasting of the Boston Patriots. The widest margin of victory during the 10 years of the AFL for a championship game.  The following year the team transitioned into John Hadl as the starting QB and with a bullseye on their back returned to the ’64 championship game. Only this time they had to travel to Buffalo’s War Memorial Stadium.

The Bills were the only team that could defense the Chargers of that era and did so to win the title 20-7.  In fact the most famous play in AFL history took place in this game when early on when Keith Lincoln was leveled by Linebacker Mike Stratton on a swing pass breaking several ribs.  The Chargers fighting spirit dissipated as they watched their star running back writhe in the mud in obvious pain.  A rubber match took place in ’65 out in San Diego and the Chargers didn’t come close to scoring in a 23-0 defeat. Buffalo was back to back AFL Champions.

Yet a look back at the 1964 Buffalo Bills and our fans would tell you “we could have beaten the Packers”.  To the casual fan who only knows football through the lens of ESPN, they know Lombardi and the Packers as Gods when they were just men. A closer look at the statistical analysis and it was Buffalo who had the better offense and defense:

1964 Buffalo Bills: 400 pts for 242 against or a 158 point differential: All #1 rankings

1964 G.B. Packers: 342 pts for 245 against or a 97 point differential: Which rank 5th, 2nd, and 3rd

Coach Lou Saban, Pete Gogolak, and Jack Kemp

Alas this team doesn’t get its due yet many firsts started with this team.  Another issue that took place a year before was the fact that the Oakland Raiders had run out of money and were on the verge of folding.  Knowing the league couldn’t operate with only 7 teams, it was Ralph Wilson that stepped in lending the Raiders $425,000 for a stake in the team.  Which is illegal but it had to be done to save the league.

Each team lives on in the present NFL for having done so. Another full circle situation with Lou Saban’s defense is defensive co-ordinator Joe Collier who built the AFL’s first superior 4-3 defense.  He would move on to become the Denver Broncos defensive co-ordinator in the post merger NFL and was the second team to make it to the Super Bowl playing the 3-4 defense in Super Bowl XII.  Take a wild guess as to who was his assistant at that time he taught the 3-4 defense to?? Bill Belichick who would take it with him and Bill Parcells to New York and the Giants and Lawrence Taylor with Harry Carson was born.

Another notable is longtime NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer was a linebacker on this team. Then you have Pete Gogolak who was the first soccer style kicker.  How important was he? It was the New York Giants signing him to a contract with the rival NFL that touched off the bidding war that forced the AFL / NFL merger.  Which goes to show that the legacy of the 1964 Buffalo Bills is a lasting one and they were one of the best teams ever.

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