YOUR DALLAS COWBOYS FLASHBACK FRIDAY
Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, the Dallas Cowboys’ dynamic duo, patrolled the defensive backfield together, the last line of defense for the fabled DoomsDay Defense of coach Tom Landry, for 10 years. They remain perhaps the best safety tandem in NFL history. Sure, there have been more notable individuals at the free safety or strong safety position—like Ronnie Lott , Ken Houston, or Ed Reed—but never has there been a better twosome than Harris and Waters.
Both men joined the Dallas Cowboys as rookies in 1970. Charlie Waters, a Clemson product, was a third round draft choice. Cliff Harris, who played his ball at tiny Ouachita Baptist, was an undrafted rookie free agent, one of the great finds of legendary scout and innovator, Gil Brandt.
Waters and Harris helped the Cowboys make the 1970s one of the most dominant decades for any NFL team ever. Eight times, their team played in the NFC championship game. Five times, they represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. Twice they won the Super Bowl. Twice they fell to the Steelers in bitterly fought, classic games.
Charlie Waters: the Post-Season Giant
ESPN.com, in its list of 50 greatest Dallas Cowboys of all time, places Charlie Waters at number 29. They point out that in his 11-season career, the Cowboys made the playoffs 10 times. They also point out that in the biggest games, Waters played his best ball. He retired with an NFL record nine career postseason interceptions.
Waters was elected to the Pro Bowl three times. He was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, but was not elected.
After his retirement as a player, Waters went into coaching. He spent two seasons as defensive coordinator on Dan Reeves’ staff in Denver and one season as DC for the University of Oregon.
Charlie Waters remains one of the most recognizable names in Dallas Cowboys history.
Cliff Harris: Call him “Captain Crash”
That ESPN list of 50 greatest Cowboys of all time places Cliff Harris at number 15. And why not? In a ten-year career, he made six straight Pro Bowls (1974-1979) and was named All-Pro at his position three times.
Because of his intense play and reckless abandon, Harris’ teammates nicknamed him ‘Captain Crash.’ Cowboys nemesis, Hall of Fame Washington Redskins coach George Allen, once described Harris as a “rolling ball of butcher knives.”
Cliff Harris remains a notable oversight by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This from his Wikipedia page:
Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Larry Wilson said of Harris, “I feel Harris is the finest free safety in the business today. He changed the way the position is being played. You see other teams modeling their free safeties around the way Harris plays the pass, and striking fear in everyone on the field because he hits so hard.”. The Cowboys’ defense ranked in the top 10 every year with him in the lineup.
Harris is in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1970s. But he has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, where just about everyone who ever watched him play or played against him knows he belongs.
Just as Harris ought to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his teammate and later business partner and co-author Charlie Waters belongs in the Ring of Honor.
For those of us fortunate enough to have been fans and followers of the 1970s Cowboys, the names Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters will always be on the marquee of our football memories.