Tim Cowlishaw, love him or hate him, always has an opinion and made an interesting comparison of the 2013 Denver Broncos to the 1966 Dallas Cowboys. The article (http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/columnists/tim-cowlishaw/20131005-cowlishaw-denver-broncos-the-best-offense-since-the-66-dallas-cowboys.ece) was rather shallow and based on the number of points scored in the first 4 games of each season (179 for the Broncos, 183 for the Cowboys), but it brought back pleasant memories of an earlier time for this old codger. So with all due respect to Dawn, the BtB resident historian, I’m going back through the cobwebs of my memory banks and offer a more detailed analysis of the offenses of the two teams, starting naturally with the Big Uglies:
LOT – Chris Clark (Broncos) vs. Jim Boeke (Cowboys)
Had Ryan Clady not been injured, this would be a "no contest"; however, you have to go with what you got. Clark is a 5 year veteran picked off Minnesota’s PS by the Broncos 4 years ago as he was signed as a UDFA in 2007. Boeke was a 19th round draft selection by the Los Angeles Rams in 1960 (#217 overall, which equates to a 7th round pick today) out of Heidelberg College (bonus points if you know the mascot). Normally if there was a holding call in 1966, you could figure either Boeke or Neely were the culprits (as the referees did not announce the number of the guilty player, nor anything else as they were not miked up and you had to know the hand signals for the various infractions); however, what was considered holding in 1966 is business as usual today as offensive lineman could not use their hands and were required to keep their fists and forearms locked into their jersey numbers. Let’s call this one a push.
LOG – Zane Beadles (Broncos) vs. Tony Liscio (Cowboys)
Beadles is a 4 year veteran drafted by the Broncos from Utah in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft and Liscio was a 4 year veteran drafted by the Packers from Tulsa in the 3rd round of the 1963 draft. Dallas traded for Liscio (Lombardi later said the trade was one of his biggest regrets), who was an outstanding athlete (for the era) and ended up replacing Boeke at LOT. He retired prior to the 1971 season but was called back into action after Ralph Neely broke his leg and started at LOT for Dallas’ first Super Bowl Champions. Beadles may prove to have as good a career, but I’ll give Dallas the edge in this one.
OC – Manny Ramirez (Broncos) vs. Dave Manders (Cowboys)
This would be no contest even if Dan Koppen or J.D. Walton were not injured for the Broncos . . . although Ramirez, the huge OG drafted out of Texas Tech by Detroit in the 4th round of the 2007 draft has played out of position reasonably well, Manders was a Pro Bowl performer at the pivot. Manders pedigree is misleading, as he was signed as a UDFA by Dallas in 1962 out of Michigan State to play LB; although he didn’t make it the first time around, he came back in 1964 and claimed the center position in 1965 and played it on Dallas’ first two Super Bowl teams. Always graded well on his ability to maintain leverage against larger opponents, Dallas wins this position going away.
ROG – Louis Vasquez (Broncos) vs. Leon Donohue (Cowboys)
Yet another huge Red Raider on the Broncos’ OL, Vasquez was drafted in the 3rd round by San Diego in the 2009 draft and the undersized Donohue was drafted by San Francisco in the 9th round (118 overall) in 1961. (A couple of footnotes must be made here: I am surprised John Moffitt has not beat out Vasquez yet and the following year, John Niland, who was a rookie in 1966 and we all know what Coach Landry thought of rookie OL, replaced Donohue which would also impact this rating.) Vasquez gets the edge here.
ROT – Orlando Franklin (Broncos) vs. Ralph Neely (Cowboys)
The huge (I should quit using that word, as player size differential from the two eras should be obvious) Jamaican was drafted out of Miami (FL) by Denver in the 2nd round (46 overall) of the 2011 draft. Neely had a pre-season game named after him, as the Sooner was drafted by both Baltimore (28 overall) for Dallas and Houston (15 overall) in both the NFL and AFL 1965 drafts. Neely went on to a distinguished career, playing both LOT and ROT for the Cowboys in their Super Bowl runs. Edge here goes to the Cowboys.
TE – Julius Thomas (Denver) vs. Pettis Norman (Cowboys)
The Portland State basketball-turned-football player (look it up, lettered all 4 years in basketball, led the Vikings to their first 2 NCAA Tournament appearances) was drafted in the 4th round (129 overall) by the Broncos in the 2011 draft. Norman started his career as a 16th round draft choice of the Dallas Texans (123 overall) from Johnson C. Smith University, but took one of Gil Brandt’s sweetheart UDFA deals instead. In a nutshell, Thomas is the superior receiver, Norman was a superior blocker . . . and since we’re talking offense, Denver gets the edge here.
WR – Demaryius Thomas (Denver) vs. Bob Hayes (Cowboys)
The Ramblin’ Wreck was selected in the 1st round (22 overall) by Denver in the 2010 draft, while "Bullet" was selected by Dallas in the 7th round (88 overall) out of Florida A&M in the 1964 draft (Footnote time . . . and also by Denver in the AFL draft that same year). Last year, Thomas had 94 receptions for 1,434 yards (15.3 ypc) and 10 TD’s in 16 games . . . in his Pro Bowl and All-Pro year of 1966, Hayes recorded 64 receptions for 1,232 yards (19.3 ypc) and 13 TD’s in 14 games, not to mention punt returns, kickoff returns and being the point of origination for NFL zone defenses. Dallas wins this matchup.
WR – Eric Decker (Denver) vs. Pete Gent (Dallas)
"Possession" receivers was not a term used in 1966 (Gent would tell you it was a term to be avoided off the field), but the 6’3" former Gopher and the 6’4" former Spartan basketball player were similar in their respective roles. Decker was a 3rd round selection of Denver (87 overall) in the 2010 draft and Gent was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets after leading Michigan State in scoring 3 consecutive years. He was another Gil Brandt gamble, as the Cowboys paid the UDFA a nice sum to try football. In 2012, Decker had 85 receptions for 1,064 yards (12.5 ypc) and 13 TD’s in 16 games. Gent recorded 27 receptions for 474 yards (17.6 ypc) and 1 TD in the 14 games of 1966 . . . Decker wins the tangibles debate, while Gent wins the intangibles by helping Dandy Don get high for the game and writing "North Dallas Forty".
RB – Knowshon Moreno (Denver) vs. Don Perkins (Dallas)
Yes, I know Perkins played FB in 1966 . . . but he was a converted HB from the early 60’s and Dallas utilized him as a key RB from the FB position. Moreno was a 1st round draft choice by Denver (12 overall) out of Georgia in the 2009 draft and Perkins was a 9th round choice by Baltimore (106 overall) out of New Mexico in the 1960 draft. Moreno is coming off two injury-marred seasons, but gained 779 yards in 182 carries (4.3 ypc) for 5 TD’s and 37 receptions for 372 yards (10.1 ypc) and 3 TD’s in 2010. In Perkins’ Pro Bowl season of 1966, he toted the rock 186 times for 726 yards (3.9 ypc) and 8 TD’s and 23 receptions for 231 yards (10.0 ypc) and no TD’s. However, there is no way Moreno comes close to Perkins’ blocking skills, as Don was a complete back. Advantage Dallas.
Slot/HB – Wes Welker (Denver) vs. Dan Reeves (Dallas)
Closest match I could come up with, trying to compare a couple of "do-it-all" players . . . Welker entered the NFL in 2004 with San Diego as a UDFA out of Texas Tech and Reeves played QB at South Carolina and had offers from Dallas, San Diego and the Pittsburgh Pirates, but signed with Dallas as a UDFA in 1965. His opportunity came in 1966 after Mel Renfro (who had been shifted to HB after an All-Pro season at FS) was injured in the first game. In 2012 with New England, Welker recorded 118 receptions for 1,354 yards (11.5 ypc) and 6 TD’s and carried the ball twice for 20 yards. Reeves carried the ball 175 times for 757 yards (4.3 ypc) and 8 TD’s, had 41 receptions for 557 yards (13.6 ypc) and 8 TD’s, plus completed 3 of 6 passes for 48 yards on HB options. Both utility players made enormous impacts on their teams’ successes . . . I’m going to call this one a push.
QB – Peyton Manning (Denver) vs. Don Meredith (Dallas)
While Peyton is "personality plus" in his many commercials that are televised, he has to rank 2nd in this category to Dandy . . . but comparing the QB statistics is useless, as this is a different era, different game and different protection for the glamour positions (I don’t think Peyton ever had a broken nose, nor do I think he ever wore a single-bar face mask). But to be consistent, Peyton was selected #1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts out of Tennessee in 1998 and Don was selected in the 3rd round (32 overall) out of SMU by the Chicago Bears in 1960. In 2012, Peyton completed 400 of 583 passes for 4,659 yards and 37 TD’s with 11 Int, while in Don’s Pro Bowl year of 1966, he completed 177 of 344 passes for 2,805 yards and 24 TD’s with 12 Int. The advantage here goes to Denver, but not by as large a margin as you might think . . . just as Meredith had Green Bay as a nemesis during the 60’s, Manning had New England in his way for additional Super Bowl chances.
Two teams, two totally different eras, compared based on their ability to score in their first 4 games . . . I appreciate your indulgence in my stroll down memory lane. Memories are always sweeter, like my memories of Grandma’s meals at the old farm house . . . I enjoyed the game of yesteryear, but athletes today are superior. My comparisons were based on the abilities versus defenses of their day and I hope you enjoyed this post.