IRVING, Texas - With the Cowboys celebrating a half-century of football in 2010, DallasCowboys.com is reliving the entire journey, from winless upstart to the most valuable, relevant professional franchise in the sport.
From February to July we'll recap each season in detail, remembering the people, games, plays and moments which fostered the legend of America's Team.
We continue today with the story of the 1962 season:
While it wasn't happening overnight, success for this young Cowboys franchise was starting to increase by the year. After a winless season in 1960, followed by a four-win campaign the next year, the 1962 Cowboys kept marching forward, albeit with just one more victory. But still, a 5-8-1 record wasn't the only sign of improvement.
The Cowboys entered the season with just three Pro Bowlers in two years, but finished the schedule with five more selections. It's not every year a team has as many Pro Bowl players as victories, but that was the case in 1962. More importantly, stars were starting to develop at key positions, as quarterback Eddie LaBaron and Don Meredith were strong at quarterback, running back Don Perkins became more well-known, and of course, Bob Lilly showed why the Cowboys were so high on him the year before.
Storyline: Despite a changing of the guard at quarterback, the Cowboys' offense still ranked No. 2 in the NFL, averaging 350.8 yards per game. Eddie LeBaron started the season at quarterback and actually made the Pro Bowl, but by year's end, it was clear that Don Meredith would be the quarterback of the future. Both had similar numbers in 1962, as LeBaron passed for 1,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while Meredith had 1,679 yards and 15 touchdowns and eight picks.
MVP: It didn't matter who was throwing the ball, for the most part, Frank Clarke was the guy catching it, especially in the end zone. Clarke, who played both tight end and wide receiver for the Cowboys, caught 14 touchdowns in 1962, a club record that stood strong for 45 years until Terrell Owens had 15 in 2007. Clarke caught just 47 passes, but had 1,043 yards for a whopping average of 22.2 yards per catch.
Biggest Win: Although the Cowboys had just five in 1962, the biggest likely came against the Steelers, an established franchise that consistently finished atop the league standings. And while the Steelers eventually finished the season with a 9-5 record, they couldn't outlast the pesky Cowboys on a late-October game in Pittsburgh. LeBaron threw five touchdowns, including two in the final quarter, to rally the Cowboys to a 42-27 victory. Trailing 28-27 midway through the fourth, LeBaron found Clarke for a 13-yard score and then Lee Folkins for a game-clinching 26-yard touchdown. Oddly enough, LeBaron only completed nine passes in the game, but more than half resulted in a touchdown.
Toughest Loss: Following the Steelers victory, the Cowboys had a chance to win three straight games and get to a 4-2-1 record. Instead, Dallas committed too many mistakes in a home loss to the Cardinals. The Cowboys wasted a 409-yard offensive effort and 137 rushing yards from Don Perkins. After that loss, which dropped the Cowboys to 3-3-1, they only won two of their final seven games of the season.
Achievement: In a game against the Eagles, the Cowboys made history, becoming the first team in league annals to record two touchdowns of 100 yards or more in the same game. And they did it all in the fourth quarter. After the Eagles cut into the Cowboys' lead with a touchdown, Amos Marsh returned the ensuing kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown to extend their advantage to 34-12. After Philly scored to cut the lead to 15 and were knocking at the door again for another score, the Cowboys iced the game when Mike Gaechter picked off a pass and went 100 yards for a touchdown.
Best Acquisition: In the middle of the sixth round, the Cowboys drafted a defensive end from Marquette named George Andrie, who went on to play 11 years and was a valuable member of the defensive line. Andrie made five Pro Bowls in consecutive years from 1965-69.
Where Do We Go From Here?: Although Eddie LeBaron was a fan favorite and was productive enough to make the Pro Bowl, it was obvious that Don Meredith would take over. In the next season, Meredith was given the reins as the regular starter, beginning an era that saw him become the first real superstar quarterback in franchise history.