Tag Archives: Tom Landry

From the ’66 Cowboys to the ’13 Broncos: ‘It’s fun to see greatness’

The leading scorer (non-kicker category) for the explosive Broncos offense through four games is wide receiver Wes Welker, who has caught six touchdown passes from Peyton Manning.

The leading scorer (non-kicker category) for the only team to score more points than the Broncos through four games, the 1966 Dallas Cowboys, was a 22-year-old halfback named Dan Reeves, who would be named head coach of the Broncos 15 years later. Reeves scored eight touchdowns on the ground and another eight through the air that year.

In fact, Reeves scored so often that when he failed to register a touchdown in the Cowboys’ sixth game, against Cleveland, his father called to see what was wrong.

Reeves was part of a cast that featured bigger names like Don Meredith at quarterback, Bullet Bob Hayes at wideout and Don Perkins at fullback.

The Cowboys scored 183 points in the first four games of the ’66 season, including a 52-7 victory over the New York Giants and a 56-7 demolition of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Broncos scored 179 in their first four games this year, good for second all time, including lopsided victories over the Giants and Eagles.

While the Broncos’ explosive offense is built on Manning’s precision passing to an array of potent weapons, the Cowboys’ early-season dominance was based more on the element of surprise.

In an effort to jump start an offense that had ranged from bad (12th of 14 teams in 1964) to mediocre (seventh in ’65), Cowboys coach Tom Landry moved Pro Bowl safety Mel Renfro to running back in the 1966 training camp. Renfro, who had been a two-way player in college, tore it up during the exhibition season, but was injured in the first regular-season game, against the Giants.

Reeves’ work on special teams had earned him a roster spot the previous year, as an undrafted rookie free agent. When Renfro went down, Landry sent in Reeves to replace him. The former running quarterback at the University of South Carolina caught six passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns in that first game. The Cowboys blew out the Giants and Renfro went back to defense. Reeves finished sixth in the NFL in rushing that year.

“Probably nobody was more surprised than I was, because I’d been a quarterback through high school, through college,” Reeves told us on the radio show yesterday, by telephone from his home in Atlanta. “Came to the Cowboys, they switched me over to running back. Made the team basically on special teams my first year. Then I got an opportunity because Mel Renfro got injured. And the offense was really set to take advantage of that position and what they would do with Bob Hayes.

“I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t a great player, but I was a beneficiary of being around some great people who had a great offense. Down on the goal line, we had some great plays that took advantage of a guy that would keep his pads down, and I could do that, and run through a little bitty hole. So I scored some touchdowns that way and then was able to catch some passes to get in the end zone, too.

“We had a really good offense, but that was really unusual, sort of like everybody doing the spread attack now, and the shotgun and doing like no-huddle and so forth. It was just unique and people weren’t ready to defense that and we just had some unbelievable scores early in the season.”

By the fifth week, word had gotten out about Landry’s new multiple-set offense. When the Cowboys arrived in St. Louis, the Cardinals were ready.

“They were really a good defensive team,” Reeves said. “You’re talking about (safety) Larry Wilson, (defensive end) Joe Robb. They had some outstanding players and that was our biggest rivalry at that time; the St. Louis Cardinals were really playing good football. And plus, they were able to see us on film, and I think that makes a lot of difference.”

The Cardinals battled the Cowboys to a 10-10 tie that day. After scoring at least 47 points in three of their first four games, the Cowboys would exceed 31 only once in the last 10, although they still finished first in scoring that year.

Reeves keeps in regular contact with about a dozen members of those Cowboys teams of the ’60s. In fact, he’ll see a bunch of them, along with some former Green Bay Packers, in Dallas on Dec. 12 at a reunion of surviving participants in the Ice Bowl, the immortal NFC championship game contested in frigid conditions in Green Bay the following season.

“I have 10 or 12 guys that we’ve stayed in touch — Leroy Jordan, Walt Garrison, Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley,” Reeves said. “Back then was a little different. Guys are changing (teams) now because of free agency. (Back then) you really stayed. I mean, we lost to the Packers in the NFC championship game in ’66 and ’67. In ’68 and ’69 we lost the (conference semifinals) to Cleveland both times. Got in the Super Bowl in ’70 and lost on a last-second field goal (to the Baltimore Colts), and then finally won it in ’71 against Miami. So that whole team stayed together and suffered through all those things and basically it was the same team from 1966 until 1971.”

Although Reeves’ playing career continued through 1972, he never equaled the numbers he put up in 1966.

When the Broncos travel to Dallas this weekend, the Cowboys of 47 years ago will be fading in the rearview mirror in the race for gaudiest scoring totals. The biggest points producer through five games is the 2000 St. Louis Rams, the Greatest Show on Turf, which had just been handed from Dick Vermeil to Mike Martz. The Rams scored 217 points in their first five games that year, including a 41-36 victory over the Broncos in the opener.

The Broncos would need 38 points in Dallas to equal the Rams’ mark. Reeves doesn’t plan to miss it.

“The Broncos are just a great team to watch,” he said. “It’s like watching somebody carve, or paint a picture or something. I mean, he’s just picking people apart.

“When you’re coaching, you’d like to give your team the best chance with the best play call you possibly can. But what I think (Manning) does so well is he takes them out of a bad play and puts them into a good play. Whether it be run or pass, and he doesn’t seem to discriminate, doesn’t make any difference where he throws it or runs it. They’re just an awesome offensive team to watch right now. And they’re fun to watch. I mean, it’s fun to see greatness.”

Craig Morton turns 69: ‘Life is not that bad’

Not to make you feel old if you remember the Broncos’ first trip to the Super Bowl as if it were yesterday, but Craig Morton’s 69th birthday is Sunday, the same day as Super Bowl XLVI.

“I live in northern California, right outside of San Francisco in Mill Valley,” the former Cowboys, Giants and Broncos quarterback told us on the Dave Logan Show recently.

“I was working with the University of California at Berkeley for the last seven years as a fundraiser and helped raise about $320 million. They had some cutbacks and so they kind of said, ‘Well, I guess you’re getting real old, Craig, so we’ve got to get rid of you.’

“So I’m just sitting here looking at the tulips and I’m looking at San Francisco across my little balcony here, so life is not that bad.”

Morton played in the AFC championship game that catapulted the Broncos to their first Super Bowl after spending the preceding week in the hospital, but he wasn’t above playing it up a little to inspire his teammates.

“I was in the hospital from after the Steeler game until Sunday morning of the championship game,” Morton recalled, referring to the Broncos’ 34-21 victory over Pittsburgh in the divisional round.

“I couldn’t move the leg. They would try everything. Jack Dolbin really helped me a lot. He found this machine called the galvanic stimulator and it helped pump some blood through it. They’d come in five times a night and try to drain the blood from my leg.

“A friend of mine came in to pick me up to take me to the stadium on Sunday morning and he said, ‘You’ve worked all your life for this opportunity again; do not consider not playing.’ When he said that, I said, ‘Get me to the stadium.’ I sat in the whirlpool for a few hours and I really played it up. I sat on the training table and made sure everybody could see my black leg as I was turning colors.”

Various accounts at the time described Morton’s hip as black, blue and, in some places, a certain shade of green.

“I could back up and throw,” he said. “If I had to run, I couldn’t do it. But it worked out. I just said, ‘If they don’t touch me, we’ll win this game.’ I think they touched me twice. The defense played great and Haven (Moses) came through and the offensive line came through and we did it.”

As a result of that victory over the Raiders, Morton became the first player in NFL history to start Super Bowls for two different teams — the Cowboys in Super Bowl V and the Broncos in Super Bowl XII. Kurt Warner later became the second.

Part of Morton’s enduring affection for his days in Denver arises from Denver’s enduring affection for him. In Dallas, he’d been part of a running quarterback controversy with Roger Staubach. In New York, by his own account, he was not exactly a fan favorite.

“What (Cowboys) coach (Tom) Landry did to me two or three times, this is kind of his relationship with me,” Morton recalled. “He’d call me at about 10:30 at night when he was trying to make his decision who to go with, Roger or myself. And he’d say, ‘Craig, you’re home.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m home.’ Whatever my reputation is, I would never break curfew. I mean, who wants to feel bad? I’m a single guy, (but) I’m not going to go out the night before a game or any of that stuff.

“And he says, ‘Can you come over?’ So I said, ‘Sure.’ So I go over and his wife, Alicia, would answer the door. Tom would be there and he said, ‘Come into my study.’ And I go into his study and I sit down and he says, ‘Craig, you know, I’ve just got this feeling, I think I’m going to go with Roger. Thanks for coming over.’ And that was it.

“And I said, ‘What do you mean you’ve got this feeling? And what do you mean coming over here for five seconds? Let’s get into this a little bit more.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that in person, so thanks for coming over.'”

When he finally asked the Cowboys for a trade, they moved him to New York. He played two and a half seasons there before the Giants moved him to Denver before the 1977 season.

“Going to Denver was a whole new deal because I wanted to leave New York so badly because we were so bad and they didn’t like me at all,” Morton said. “The last game I played with the Giants was against Denver and I said, ‘Boy, this team could be great if they just had a quarterback that wouldn’t make any mistakes.’

“Then coming in and seeing what their offense was, that’s exactly what they did, is play to (defensive coordinator) Joe Collier and his defense. That’s what my role was. I knew it. They didn’t have to tell me. You knew, just give the defense a chance to give you better field position.”

Morton got to see a limited number of telecasts featuring this year’s Broncos, but I asked him for his take on the option offense offensive coordinator Mike McCoy installed to take advantage of quarterback Tim Tebow’s skill set.

“I don’t know if he could play any other offense,” Morton said. “I’ve heard that John (Elway) was considering working with him. He’s got a lot of work to do in his footwork and his hips. But he’s got great talent and he’s a winner and he’s one of the great role models I’ve seen in the last 20 or 30 years and man, I hope he’s successful.

“He’s got a pretty good arm. He’s got some hitches in it, but with his athletic ability and how strong he is, he can get that ball up a little higher and he can throw that ‘out’ at 15 (yards). He just needs a little work on it. But he wins. And I know Elway will make the right decision because he’s the best quarterback I’ve ever seen play. If he can rub a little bit off on Tim Tebow, then he’ll have great success.”

It’s been 34 years since he helped the Broncos win their first AFC championship, but Morton still has fond memories of that team.

“We were a great, close team that had a tremendous amount of fun,” he said. “We spent hours after games together. We had dinners together. We had great guys that loved Red Miller, that loved Fred Gehrke and just loved the whole situation that we were thrust into. Denver adapted to us and cheered us on and painted everything orange. It was just a magical thing that certainly will never happen again.

“Our team was just fortunate to be as close as we were. And we let the whole town in on our fun, too, so that was a great time.”