Turn Back the Clock: The 1985 Dallas Cowboys

The end of an era arrived in 1985 as the Cowboys consecutive season winning streak end. Photo Courtesy: www.masterofnothing.com
The end of an era arrived in 1985 as the Cowboys consecutive season winning streak end. Photo Courtesy: www.masterofnothing.com

By Will Martin

Once upon a time there was a term that was used rather freely to best explain the success of a team. These days the word you will often hear is parity (equality). Go back 20-30 years and you used the word ‘dynasty’.

Rest assured there wasn’t a duck around for miles either. 1985 was an interesting year for the Dallas Cowboys in that the team would experience a multitude of highs and lows.

1985 would mark 20 consecutive years that the Silver and Blue under Tom Landry-the only coach the team ever had-would have a record of better than .500.

1974 was one of the few years the team missed the playoffs despite an 8-6 record. Be that as it may 1985 would begin auspiciously enough under the Monday Night Lights on September 9th.

Danny White took the majority of the snaps with a success ratio of 59%. 21 Touchdowns to 17 Interceptions (And you guys give Tony Romo a hard time? Ouch!) and 3,157 yards completed. Occasionally spelled at the position by Gary Hogeboom. He threw for a little under 1,000 yards with 5 Touchdowns and 7 Interceptions. The QB ratings for White and Hogeboom were 80.6 and 70.6 respectively.

The preseason went perfectly with victories at home over Green Bay, Chicago, and Houston on August 10th, 26th, and 31st by scores of 27-3, 15-13, and 20-10 along with one overtime win in San Diego 27-24. Hindsight may indeed be 20/20 but one look at the makeup of this squad you can see that the best years of many of these players were behind them.

Tom Rafferty was your Center, with Jim Cooper and Kurt Peterson at Right Guard and Right Tackle with Doug Cosbie as Tight End with Mike Renfro as Wide Receiver on that side. Glen Titsensor, Chris Schulz, and Phil Pozderac evenly split up the Left Guard and Left Tackle duties. Tony Hill was your Wideout for that side. Behind Danny White you had Tony Dorsett at Running Back flanked by Fullback Timmy Newsome.

Defensively you had Ed Jones and John Dutton at Left Tackle and Left End, Randy White and Jim Jeffcoat to the Right. Your Linebacker corps featured ‘The Hitting Machine’ Eugene Lockhart in the Middle, Mike Hegman left side and Jeff Rohrer to the right.

Everson Walls was your left cornerback while Ron Fellows and Victor Scott manned the opposite end. Dexter Clinksdale and Michael Downs were your safeties. Mike Saxon handled all punts. Rafael Septien handled all kicking duties.

Ah yes the season in question. It began 09/9/85 on ABC and was quite the homecoming for Team Tom Landry. A night where the defense created many a turnover, four interceptions. Two that I can recall by Dennis Thurman and Victor Scott for 26 and 21 yards in what was to be a 44-14 blowout of the Washington Redskins.

Fans who attended that game might remember a derisive ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to Joe Theismann after a porous beginning. Little did we realize his career was two months from being ended on a Monday Night Game with the Giants. A great beginning to 1985.

Following a 26-21 road loss in Detroit on September 15th Dallas would crank out four victories in a row on the Browns (20-7 in Irving), at Houston (17-10), at the Giants (30-29) and at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-13 on October 13th. 5-1 after six weeks and not a worry in the world, right? Wrong!

The record would slip to 5-2 with a heartbreaking defeat at Philly 16-14 alongside a 21-10 road loss in St. Louis to the Cardinals to start November. Veterans Day Weekend saw another hard fought victory by the Cowboys over the Redskins in the Nations capital 13-7 before 55,750 dejected Hogs and Hogettes. This would take us to the game of the year if you were a fan of the hyperbole.

November 17th the Chicago Bears were in town. They would be your ultimate Super Bowl champion with two bickering coaches in Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan. The 46 Defense was the story of the year and it was on display this date at Texas Stadium as Chicago buried the Cowboys 44-0. What was amazing was how often the defense created turnovers and scored more so than Jim McMahon and the offense.

The worst ever defeat by a Cowboy team in their history, easily surpassing an embarrassing 38-0 defeat to the Cardinals on ABC at home with Don Meredith in the booth in 1970 and cries of ‘We Want Meredith! We Want Meredith!’

The Cowboys would bounce back beautifully with two home victories over the Eagles and Cardinals 34-17 and 35-17 the week of Thanksgiving leaving them with a record of 9-4. Enter December with a 50-24 blowout in Cincinnati on the 8th and a season ending road defeat in San Francisco 31-16 on the 22nd. Sandwiched in between was a 28-21 victory over the Giants.

In 1976, 1979, and 1983 Dallas would face quick and painful playoff exits at home in the first round against the Los Angeles Rams 14-12, 21-19, and 24-17 (Leroy Irvin with a 95 yard interception). As it were, the 10-6 regular season record was good enough for 1st in the East and a 1st round bye.

1985 would end quicky on 1/4/86 in Anaheim when Eric Dickerson went ballistic with the rushing yards-248 to be exact-in a 20-0 shutout whitewash of the Dallas Cowboys and that was that. 66,351 cheered ever so happily each time the pride of Sealy, Texas ran with the ball.

A 20-year run of success would then be followed by six years of also-rans as Tom Landry would make way for Jimmy Johnson and Tex Schramm stepped aside for Jerry Jones. Tony Hill, Randy White, Everson Walls, and Doug Cosbie were your only Pro Bowlers that year. Tony Hill led all receivers with 1,113 yards on 74 catches. Doug Cosbie had 64 catches for a little under 800 yards. Mike Renfro amassed 955 yards on 60 catches.

Tony Dorsett would surpass 1,300 yards on 305 carries which was good enough for a 4.3 average good for seven touchdowns. One was a 60-yard jaunt. Timmy Newsome had 88 touches for 252 yards. For the season the Silver and Blue would outscore the competition 357-333 yet were outscored in the 1st and 3rd quarters 164-133.

Everson Walls would once again shore up the defense with nine picks, Dennis Thurman followed with five while Ron Fellows and Bill Bates got four apiece. 1985 began with so much promise in North Texas only to fall so harshly. With all the talk about December collapses since Tony Romo arrived I am reminded that even the 5-5 finish to this season wasn’t bad.

One year later the Dallas Cowboys (who remembers the London exhibition with the Bears?) would again shine brightly on a Monday Night to start the 1986 season and go on a 6-2 run…only to go 1-7 the rest of the way and start a string of non-playoff appearances. To look back now at what Tom Landry achieved was truly amazing.

1966-1985…twenty years of above .500 performance in the Lone Star state. I doubt we’ll ever see that again in our lifetime. Parity won’t allow for that!