Sports Outside the Beltway

Don Meredith in Hall of Fame as Broadcaster

Dandy Don Meredith has been enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a broadcaster. Some think he should already be in for his career as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

Don Meredith finally made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Meredith was recognized for his 15-year broadcast career, winning the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. He was honored at a dinner Friday night. “I really appreciate that,” Meredith said. “It’s a nice thing to be honored in any way, so I can certainly say thank you, thank you very much. That’s what Elvis would say.”

Meredith’s best friend, Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, argues that Meredith might be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player if he hadn’t played for an expansion team. A trade for future draft picks was worked with the Chicago Bears so Meredith could be signed by the expansion Cowboys. He began his career as a backup to Eddie LeBaron.

“The expectations in Dallas are much higher than they are in other places, so as soon as you get somebody like Meredith, who was a high school hero in Texas and an SMU hero, so much more is expected of him,” said Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ former player personnel director. “So whatever he did, it was going to be, ‘Well, why didn’t he do more?’ “He played with broken ribs. He played when other guys would not play. The guy was a special guy.”

Meredith played in 104 games in nine seasons, passing for 17,199 yards and 135 touchdowns. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 1966, ’67 and ’68, and was named the Maxwell Club’s NFL Player of the Year in ’66 after throwing for 2,805 yards and 24 touchdowns while running for 242 yards and five touchdowns.

He led the Cowboys to the NFL Championship Game in 1966, when they lost to the eventual Super Bowl I champion Green Bay Packers 34-27. The following year, the Cowboys lost to the Packers in the Ice Bowl, 21-17, which decided the NFL title and a trip to Super Bowl II. “I did think we had the best team that year,” Meredith said of the Ice Bowl loss to the Packers. “… Under better [weather] circumstances, I think we would have a better outcome. Our whole offense [was] based on speed and running and passing.”

Meredith’s legacy might have been different, too, if not for Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak, which still ranks as one of the NFL’s most memorable plays. “They make [Meredith] the governor of Texas if the Cowboys win that game,” Gifford said.

Meredith, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and has a second home in Palm Springs, Calif., disappeared from public view after retiring from broadcasting in 1984. He has rarely granted interviews or been seen, even by his teammates, since.

I was born in November of 1965, so don’t recall Meredith’s days as a Cowboy, although I have seen replays of a couple of those championship games. He was among the stars of his era; whether he deserves to be in Canton without a championship, though, I don’t know.

I can vouch for the fact that he added a lot of color to those Monday Night Football broadcasts, though. And it’s arguable that MNF helped make the NFL what it is today: by far the most popular spectator sport in America. Howard Cosell was more instrumental to that than Meredith but it was definitely a team effort.

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