1961 Dallas Cowboys season

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1961 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coachTom Landry
OwnerClint Murchison, Jr.
Home fieldCotton Bowl
Division place6th NFL Eastern
Playoff finishdid not qualify

The 1961 Dallas Cowboys season was their second in the National Football League. The team finished with 4 wins, 9 losses, and 1 tie, placing them 6th in the Eastern Conference.


The Cowboys participated in their first NFL college draft following the 1960 season. Despite owning the league's worst record, the team picked second overall because the expansion Minnesota Vikings received the first overall selection. However, the team previously traded away their first round pick in the 1961 draft to the Washington Redskins for quarterback Eddie LeBaron. The Cowboys had another selection in the first round (13th overall) that they acquired from the Cleveland Browns, and with that selection they chose defensive lineman Bob Lilly from Texas Christian University. Other notable selections in the draft included offensive linemen E.J. Holub, Billy Shaw, and Stew Barber. However, all three chose to sign with teams in the rival American Football League.

Other notable acquisitions by the Cowboys during the offseason included trading for linebacker Chuck Howley from the Chicago Bears, and signing rookie free agents Amos Marsh and Warren Livingston.

The Cowboys played in the NFL's Western Division for the 1960 season, but were a "swing team" and played each of the other 12 teams in the league that year. When the Minnesota Vikings joined the league for the 1961 season, the owners of the Eastern Division teams were allowed to vote on which expansion franchise they wanted to be permanently assigned to their division. In April 1961, the Eastern Division owners voted for Dallas, largely as a safeguard against early winters in Minnesota.[1] This also pleased Western Division owners, who preferred the Vikings because of lower travel expenses and natural geographic rivalries with teams like the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. This resulted in both Eastern and Western Divisions having seven teams.[2]


Week Date Opponent Result Game site Record Recap Attendance
1 September 17, 1961 Pittsburgh Steelers W 27–24 Cotton Bowl 1–0 [1]
2 September 24, 1961 Minnesota Vikings W 21–7 Cotton Bowl 2–0 [2]
3 October 1, 1961 at Cleveland Browns L 25–7 Cleveland Stadium 2–1 [3]
4 October 8, 1961 at Minnesota Vikings W 28–0 Metropolitan Stadium 3–1 [4]
5 October 15, 1961 New York Giants L 31–10 Cotton Bowl 3–2 [5]
6 October 22, 1961 Philadelphia Eagles L 43–7 Cotton Bowl 3–3 [6]
7 October 29, 1961 at New York Giants W 17–16 Yankee Stadium 4–3 [7]
8 November 5, 1961 St. Louis Cardinals L 31–17 Cotton Bowl 4–4 [8]
9 November 12, 1961 at Pittsburgh Steelers L 37–7 Forbes Field 4–5 [9]
10 November 19, 1961 Washington Redskins T 28–28 Cotton Bowl 4–5–1 [10]
11 November 26, 1961 at Philadelphia Eagles L 35–13 Franklin Field 4–6–1 [11]
12 December 3, 1961 Cleveland Browns L 38–17 Cotton Bowl 4–7–1 [12]
13 December 10, 1961 at St. Louis Cardinals L 31–13 Busch Stadium 4–8–1 [13]
14 December 17, 1961 at Washington Redskins L 34–24 D.C. Stadium 4–9–1 [14]

Season recap[edit]

Coming off of a winless first season, the Cowboys wasted no time getting their first win in franchise history in their second season. The first game in the history of the Cowboys was a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team's first victory came against the Steelers in a 27–24 home game in the season opener, the winning points coming on a last second field goal. The Cowboys would go on to win two of their next three, both easy victories coming over the expansion Minnesota Vikings, and a month into the season the Cowboys found themselves tied for first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 3–1.

While much improved over their first season, the Cowboys would continue to be outclassed by the better teams in the league. In between their victories over the Vikings the Cowboys suffered a 25–7 defeat at the hands of perennial powerhouse Cleveland. The following weeks after their 3–1 start quickly dampened any realistic chance they had of contending for the Eastern Conference championship, with home losses to the New York Giants and the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles coming by a combined score of 74–17. However, the following week the team stunned the Giants at Yankee Stadium, 16–14, on another late field goal, and the Cowboys found themselves with a winning record at the midway point of the season at 4–3.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there, as the Cowboys didn't win another game all season. The Cowboys gave up 28 points or more in each of their remaining seven games, and were beaten by 14 or more points in five of them. The Cowboys managed a tie against the woeful Washington Redskins in week 10, a game in which quarterback Don Meredith, who had been splitting playing time at the position with Eddie LeBaron, suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder, and wouldn't play again the rest of the season. The final game of the season saw the Cowboys lose to the Redskins at D.C. Stadium (the Redskins first win at their new home), 34–24, the only win of the Redskins season.

Offensively, the Cowboys were an improved lot across the board. The offense moved the ball at a decent pace, finishing 8th in the league in yards gained. Quarterbacks Eddie LeBaron and Don Meredith had quality targets at the receiver position, which helped the team finish 6th in passing yardage. Veteran Billy Howton established a career-high in receptions with 56, and Frank Clarke developed into one of the league's top deep threats, averaging 22.4 yards per catch and scoring 9 touchdowns. Tight end Dick Bielski represented the Cowboys at the Pro Bowl. The Cowboys may have showed the most improvement in the running game. Rookie Don Perkins was one of the league's top running backs with 815 yards, and Amos Marsh and J.W. Lockett contributed as well, improving the Cowboys to 10th in total yards rushing, and improving the yards per carry from 3.4 in 1960 to 4.4 in 1961. On the negative side, the offense turned the ball over 48 times during the season, second worst in the league, and the offensive line continued to struggle protecting the quarterback. The team only scored 236 points (13th in the league) despite the Cowboys improved offensive play.

Defensively, the team continued to struggle against the run, allowing 2161 rushing yards (12th in the league) and 4.8 yards per carry. Against the pass, the secondary allowed too many long completions (a league worst 15.7 yards per completion) and the defensive front didn't apply much pressure on the quarterback. The defense did make more than its share of big plays, forcing 43 turnovers. Cornerback Don Bishop had 8 of the defense's 25 interceptions.

Rookie kicker Allen Green struggled much of the season. His 36.7 yards per punt was worst in the league, and after going 5 of 15 on field goal attempts (though two of the field goals provided the game winning points) he was replaced by Dick Bielski, who made 6 out 9 field goals the rest of the season. Rookie running backs Amos Marsh and Don Perkins helped improve the kickreturn game, with Marsh in particular standing out with a 25.7 yard average on kick returns.

NFL Draft[edit]

1960 Dallas Cowboys draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 13 Bob Lilly   DT TCU
2 16 E. J. Holub *  C Texas Tech Signed with the AFL
3 30 Stew Barber *  OT Penn State Signed with the AFL
4 44 Arnold Davis  E Baylor Played linebacker
7 86 Art Gilmore  RB Oregon State
8 100 Don Talbert  OT Texas
9 114 Glynn Gregory  E SMU Played also defensive back
11 142 Norris Stevenson  RB Missouri
12 156 Lowndes Shingler  QB Clemson
13 170 Don Goodman  RB Florida
14 184 Billy Shaw   OG Georgia Tech Signed with the AFL
15 198 Julius Varnado  OT San Francisco State
16 212 Jerry Steffen  RB Colorado
17 226 Everett Cloud  RB Maryland
18 240 Randy Williams  RB Indiana
19 254 Lynn Hoyem  OG Long Beach State
20 268 Jerry Morgan  RB Iowa State
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career


Dallas Cowboys 1961 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
38 Active, 3 Inactive


NFL Eastern Conference
New York Giants 10 3 1 .769 9–2–1 368 220 T1
Philadelphia Eagles 10 4 0 .714 8–4 361 297 W1
Cleveland Browns 8 5 1 .615 8–3–1 319 270 T1
St. Louis Cardinals 7 7 0 .500 7–5 279 267 W3
Pittsburgh Steelers 6 8 0 .429 5–7 295 287 L1
Dallas Cowboys 4 9 1 .308 2–9–1 236 380 L4
Washington Redskins 1 12 1 .077 1–10–1 174 392 W1

Note: Tie games were not officially counted in the standings until 1972.

See also[edit]

1961 NFL season
1961 NFL Draft


  • The Football Encyclopedia ISBN 0-312-11435-4
  • Total Football ISBN 0-06-270170-3
  • Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes ISBN 0-446-51950-2


  1. ^ "NFL Shift Puts Dallas With Eastern Division New Vikings Placed In Western Bracket". Pampa Daily News. April 12, 1961. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Vikings Will Play in Western Division". The Republic. April 12, 1961. Retrieved 30 May 2019.

External links[edit]