1987 was a trying year for the NFL. A Players Strike interrupted the season resulting in teams fielding replacement players for three games. At best, the play of the replacement players was fun, at worst, farcical. The Cowboys, with their superior scouting, fielded one of the league’s strongest “Strike Teams” and, had the NFL replacement players played all season, the Cowboys may have won the Super Bowl! Back in reality the Cowboys posted a 5–9 record in regular “union” games, helping to bring an end to the Landry era.
That year started off with two disasters before the season even started: first was the arrest of Rafael Septien for the allegation of sexual assault of a minor, followed by young star Mike Sherrard breaking his leg in a scrimmage. Then the strike happened after week two of the season and week three games were cancelled.
Cowboys management was anticipating the strike and kept close tabs with players who were the final cuts of the preseason. The always shrewd GM Tex Schramm inserted clauses into several veteran’s contracts stating if players missed a game or practice due to something other than a football injury, players would lose a large annuity built into their pay structure. This caused veterans like All-Pro Randy White to cross the picket line, starting a rift between White and the rest of the striking players. Tony Dorsett referred to him as “Captain Scab,” only to pathetically join White across the picket line when Schramm reminded him of his soon-to-be lost annuities (Dorsett was referred to as “Captain Stab”).
Discord grew when Danny White crossed the line. He couldn’t afford to give up the paycheck as his manufacturing business was in debt $250,000 and he was under investigation for mail fraud. “Too Tall” Jones crossed due to the lost annuities situation and a lawsuit was threatened by players against the Cowboys. Only Doug Cosbie and Everson Walls didn’t cross though they stood to lose annuities.
The ever-detached Tom Landry coached his newfound players for the three strike games to the best of his abilities while player representative Doug Cosbie stood helpless as he watched 21 veterans cross the picket line. Seven of the replacement players showed promise and stayed on the roster after the strike was over. In the second last game of the season Danny White coached the team briefly against Rams while coach Landry dealt with a threat on his life – an omen if there ever was one. Sadly, the strike experience and the losing carried into the 1988 season where the team dipped to an embarrassing 3-13 record.
RetroCards gives focus to this strange season with two Cowboy 18-card sets. The first (pictured above) contains players that did not have a card in 1987: Gordon Banks, Vince Albritton, Nate Newton, Garth Jax, Reggie Collier, Gene Lockhart, Ray Alexander, Doug Cosbie, Johnny Holloway, Roger Ruzek, Ron Francis, Danny Noonan, Mark Tuinei, Ron Burton, Everson Walls, and Todd Fowler. There is also a team card and a yellow bordered “box bottom” card of Herschel Walker.
The second series (to be shown in a separate blog entry) focuses on the replacement players and players who crossed the picket line who did not have a regular card in 1987. First the replacement players: Kevin Sweeny, Kelvin Edwards, Tommy Haynes, Cornell Burbage, Mike Dwyer, and Robert Williams. Players who crossed: Randy White, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Mike Renfro, Johnny “Lam” Jones, Robert Lavette, Paul McDonald, Kevin Brooks, Kelvin Martin, and Karl Powe. A Cowboys management card featuring Schramm and Landry gets a special place in series two along with a Strike Team card, and a yellow bordered “box-bottom” card featuring “Co-Captain Scab,” Tony Dorsett. Both are available now!