When people think of Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman are understandably the first two to come to mind. I have always felt that Danny White has gotten kind of a raw deal because he was a great quarterback but the teams of his era never did quite make it to the Super Bowl.
But in most people’s minds (or at least in mine) those three are pretty much it when you think of the Cowboys’ quarterbacks. You’ve got your Mortons, your Pelleuers, your Hogebooms, your Carters, your Bledsoes, and Romo shows some promise.
Despite being a die-hard Cowboys fan since the early 70s, I’ve never paid much attention to Don Meredith. When I first started following the team it was at the time of the Craig Morton vs. Roger Staubach quarterback controversy. Don Meredith was just a guy on Monday Night Football. I was aware that he had played for the Cowboys but always figured he was just some guy, nothing special.
First I read a history of the Cowboys early days (I can’t remember the title now) that talked about how good those late 60s teams were and what a shocker it was when Meredith retired. That was a bit of an eye opener for me. Then another one came along today. Over at Football Outsiders they have an analysis of the quarterback rating system. Turns out that the way it was designed it has caps on the number of points you can earn in the various categories and that many individual game performances are artificially brought down by these totals.
The article includes tables of the top single games under the existing system, the top single games under the existing system with the point caps removed, and then with a modified system that the writer thinks is a better way to rate overall quarterback performance. Under the existing system there are no performances b y any Cowboys quarterback. Under the latter two categories there is only one quarterback. Not Staubach, not Aikman, not even Danny White: Don Meredith.
Meredith has two of the top 20 single game performances in the ‘uncapped current system’ table, and he has 2 of the top 7 single game performances in their new ‘adjusted yards per attempt’ system. He must have been a lot better quarterback than I had realized (and having Bob Hayes on your team is going to be a big boost for your yards per attempt).