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Eagles-Cowboys: A look at the rivalry

9/10/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Great idea by the Philadelphia Daily News to have its Eagles beat writers from the past share their favorite memories of the Cowboys-Eagles rivalry. Beginning in the late '70s, I watched most of the games, but you forget some of the remarkable and utterly bizarre moments.

It's also fascinating to see how successful a lot of the former writers have become. Apparently SI wouldn't allow Gary Smith to write about his time on the beat for contractual reasons, which is a shame.

But others such as Bud Shaw (now a columnist with the Cleveland Plain Dealer), Tim Kawakami (columnist with San Jose Mercury News) and Rich Hofmann (never left) told some great stories. Here's Hofmann with a story about former Eagles head coach Marion Campbell:

Nothing about the game was memorable; just another loss. But it was 1983, Marion Campbell's first season as head coach, and, 10 weeks into his tenure, a lot of people were wondering exactly what the franchise had gotten itself into.

The week before, Campbell had endured the first second-guess as head coach for trying a no-hope, 62-yard field goal at the end of a loss, a kick that fell 15 yards short. The next day, Campbell admitted to staying up all night and thinking about scrapping his beloved 3-4 defense in midseason because teams were running on it so easily. His candid helplessness was painful leading up to Dallas.

And then, right before kickoff, the door to the assistant coaches' booth in the press box swung open and there were owner Leonard Tose and his entourage. They all wore topcoats and grim expressions. Only later did we find out that one of them always carried a little canvas Eagles gym bag holding $25,000 in cash -- you know, in case the old man ever bumped into a stray blackjack table.

Anyway, Tose and the rest were standing behind the coaches, literally looking over their shoulders.

The problem was, the story demanded a picture. Really, the story was the picture. In the pre-cell phone days, that meant asking the Eagles to use their dedicated sideline telephone to alert a photographer. I asked Eagles public relations man Ed Wisneski to use the phone. He knew what it was about -- he and I, initially, were the first two people to spot Tose entering the booth because we both made eyebrow-raised eye contact when it happened.

Wisneski's face wore a pained expression. "Do you have to?" he asked. I said yes. Wisneski, a pro, handed me the telephone. It was a hell of a picture.

Stan Hochman covered the Eagles from 1967-75 and he talks about a Bounty Bowl that didn't include Jimmy Johnson or Buddy Ryan:

The bitter rivalry started with a bang, not a whimper. Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan banged his elbow into Tim Brown's jaw, fractured it, loosened six teeth.

"That started it, really," Brown said recently. "The year before, I'd run two kickoffs back for touchdowns [vs. the Cowboys]. They said they couldn't stop me. I said, the only guy who could stop me was [coach] Joe Kuharich. I wasn't getting the ball.

"But I always had good numbers against Dallas. That's why they went after me. I got a couple of phone calls before the game, from guys I knew. They said the Cowboys had a contract out on me."

A Bounty Bowl before Buddy Ryan's Bounty Bowl, before Mel Tom mugged Roger Staubach, before the Cowboys ended Harold Carmichael's streak at 127 games with a cheap shot. Jordan's elbow was the cheapest of shots, delivered in the late stages of a game in Dallas on Dec. 10, 1967. The Cowboys led, 31-3, at the time.

"I was a decoy on the play," Brown recalled. "It was supposed to be a pass to [another player]. It went incomplete. I'm slowing down and here comes the elbow. Fractured my jaw, loosened six teeth. I begged to go back in, but they said no.

"I guess I was thinking of El Cid, put me on a horse and turn me loose. I wound up eating nothing but liquids for a month and a half. Jordan got a 15-yard penalty and that's all.

"But I did lose a lot of respect for [coach] Tom Landry. Why play that way instead of using athleticism and sportsmanship?"

Brown played two more seasons then headed to Hollywood. Got a nice part in "M*A*S*H" but not much else. Still has the false teeth and the vivid memories of when Eagles-Cowboys turned nasty.

I'm headed out to Valley Ranch to visit with Tony Romo and T.O. right now, so I'll be out of commission for a few hours. While I'm gone, utilize the mailbag, located on the right side of your screen. I'm planning to write a hefty mailbag column, which will run later this evening or early in the morning.