Danny White was a terrific player for the Dallas Cowboys for years. Despite setting team records that stood for years, however, he was under-appreciated. That’s what happens when you follow Don Meredith and Roger Staubach and are followed by Troy Aikman.
His name’s being bandied about for something other than his legendary Arena League coaching career again, though, now that Tony Romo is shattering those old records. As always, number 11 is handling it with class.
Since 1983, White has held most single-season passing records for a franchise with guys named Meredith, Staubach and Aikman at the QB position. Sound impressive? Well, it is.
Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s not easy for Danny White to get in touch with his feelings at a time like this. â€œWhen all is said and done, I think Romo will be one of the great quarterbacks in the history of the game. Iâ€™m happy for him,â€ said White. â€œBut to be honest about it, I enjoyed holding those records. I hate to see them go.â€
Romo, born the same year White became a Cowboys starter (1980), already has wrested away one White team record â€” touchdown passes: White, 29 in â€™83; Romo, 35 TD passes.
Here are other White marks expected to fall:
White, 3,980 yards in â€™83; Romo, 3,654, needs just 327 yards with three games left.
White, 334 completions in â€™83; Romo, 287, needs to average 16 a game over the final three weeks.
When White set these club records, he barely missed out on becoming one of only six passers in NFL history to eclipse 4,000 yards in a season.
â€œCoach Landry took me out of our last regular-season game [at San Francisco] because we were either way ahead or way behind [actually, the Cowboys lost 42-17],â€ White recalled. â€œHe had no idea. He had no clue. That was Coach Landry. He didnâ€™t bother himself with stuff like records.â€ And so, White was pulled just 20 yards shy of 4,000.
Before â€™83, only Joe Namath (Jets), Dan Fouts (Chargers) and Brian Sipe (Browns) had thrown for 4,000 yards or more. That season, Lynn Dickey (Packers) and Bill Kenney (Chiefs) became the fourth and fifth 4,000-yard passers in NFL history.
Since then, by comparison, 31 players have joined the NFLâ€™s 4,000-yard club, including five last season alone.
â€œItâ€™s still a pretty darned good season,â€ White said of his 3,980 yards. â€œSo, I really thought that [would stand] for awhile. But 29 touchdown passes is a low number for a franchise record, so I knew it was just a matter of time before that one got broken.â€
In â€™83, Dallas finished 12-4 and made the playoffs as a wild card (Washington won the NFC East). The Los Angeles Rams, behind Vince Ferragamo and Eric Dickerson, bounced the Cowboys 24-17 in the first round.
For White, who is now head coach of the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League and lives in the Phoenix area, 1983 remains special in his memory bank. Ron Springs impressed Landry so much as a receiver out of the backfield that Springs ended up leading the â€™83 team with 79 catches. â€œWe spread the ball all around that year,â€ said White, who had six receivers with 40 or more catches (Springs 79, Tony Hill 49, Drew Pearson 47, Doug Cosbie 46, Butch Johnson 41 and Tony Dorsett 40).
By comparison, Romo will end up with four 40-plus catch receivers: Jason Witten, Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton and Marion Barber.
â€œIâ€™m looking forward to meeting Tony sometime,â€ White said. â€œIâ€™ve heard great things about him. Everyone tells me heâ€™s a genuine guy. I can see he plays the game with a lot of passion. I like that.â€
White laughed when asked to compare Romoâ€™s social life to his own in 1983. By then, Danny was married a dozen years. â€œI hope someday â€” aside from breaking my records â€” Tony can get as lucky as I did when it comes to finding a wife. I really got lucky,â€ said White, who celebrated his 36th wedding anniversary earlier this week.
One wish that White has for himself: To come back and play in the spread-out, wide-open NFL offenses of today. â€œThe Cowboys have a great one,â€ White said. â€œLook at Brett Favre in Green Bay. Heâ€™s back for one more year just to play in an offense where you throw caution to the wind. Thatâ€™s how the game is played today.â€
On the Romo-Favre comparison, White can see it. But he also sees a subtle difference. â€œRomo is a little more conservative,â€ White said. â€œFavre throws a lot of bad passes and makes a lot of bad decisions … usually when pressured. That might happen to Tony someday. But right now, heâ€™s getting great protection from that offensive line of his.â€
Comparison across eras is fruitless because of the constant evolution of the game. White was one of the best of his era, although not quite on par with Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway, and others who played in the 1980s. Romo has the potential, at least, to surpass White’s career if he can lead this team to a Super Bowl.
He’s got some doing, though, to catch up to White as a man. That’s not a knock on Romo, who seems like a genuinely good guy. But like White in taking over for Staubach, he’s got some mighty big shoes to fill.
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