Monday Night Football legend 'Dandy Don' Meredith dies
December 6th, 2010
12:09 PM ET

Monday Night Football legend 'Dandy Don' Meredith dies

Don Meredith, an all-pro quarterback who made his greatest impact on the game after he finished playing, died Sunday at a Santa Fe, New Mexico, hospital, according to a spokesman. Meredith, above at center, was 72.

The spokesman was unable to confirm the cause of death.

Meredith, nicknamed "Dandy Don," was part of the original Monday Night Football broadcast team when the program debuted on ABC in 1970.

At that time, virtually no NFL games appeared in prime time, and many at the time thought it would fail because - wait for it, wait for it - women who controlled the TV set at night would not want to watch football. (Digital video recorders could have solved a lot during such TV gender wars.)

But in a then-unprecedented three-man broadcast booth, Meredith and Howard Cosell - joined by Keith Jackson the first year and Frank Gifford (above at right) after that - created a broadcast unlike any other.

Cosell (above at left), a former New York lawyer, and Meredith, the Cowboy from Texas, provided commentary and entertainment that attracted football and non-football fans alike. Their success was chronicled in the 1988 book "Monday Night Mayhem."

Meredith left Monday Night Football in 1984, but the series has run for 40 years - first on ABC, and more recently on ESPN. (Both networks are owned by Disney.)

Before entering the broadcast booth, Meredith played college football for Southern Methodist University and eight years for the Dallas Cowboys. He made three Pro Bowls and was the league's player of the year in 1966.

ESPN plans to run a tribute to Meredith and an interview with Meredith’s longtime announcing partner Frank Gifford at halftime of tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones issued a statement on his passing in which he called him a "Dallas Cowboys original."

"His wit, charm, and strength of personality were matched only by his wonderful leadership, toughness and athletic skill. His persona defined the Cowboys of the 1960s and set the course for what the franchise became. Throughout 50 years of history, the Cowboys legacy has been built by dynamic and colorful personalities who could also compete at the highest level. No one fit that description better than Don Meredith," he said.

Jones also acknowledged and praised Meredith's transition to his legendary broadcast career.

"After guiding this team from expansion franchise to title contender, his charismatic style helped build Monday Night Football to a level of popularity that was unprecedented for sports television in America," Jones said in the statement.  "Few men have contributed, both on the field and as a broadcaster, to the impact that the NFL currently has on our country today more than Don.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and his spirit will be with Cowboys players and fans forever."

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soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Darrell

    The Best Memories.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    Why is Jerry Jones speaking on behalf of Don Meredith's family? Just because Jerry Jones currently owns the team doesn't mean he has to give all tributes to former players. I'm sure the Cowboy players that played under Landry don't care to have Jerry Jones speak on their behalf. RIP Don, one of the original Cowboys that helped put the shine on the star (that is currently being tarnished by the likes of people like Jerry Jones).

    December 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bet

      Agree! Don Meredith would have had little patience with a man like Jerry Jones. Don was a class act–
      Jerry is just class-less.
      But you know, Jerry– always wants to see his name & quote anywhere anytime anyplace.

      December 6, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick

    Wow Dandy Don is gone RIP. By the way wjk, Frank cheated on his wife Kathy Lee . Don wasn't involved

    December 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. morganvc

    This is a sad loss. Dallas' city magazine had a great article about Dandy Don–the author spent some time with him this fall. It's a great tribute that every fan should read: http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/D_Magazine/2010/October/Don_Meredith_the_First_Dallas_Cowboy.aspx

    December 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. midnitejax

    Turn out the lights......the party's over. Thanks for all those great memories. All the banter between Cosell and Merideth made the commentary colorful to say the least. That's when football was football..... and MNF was the best.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kim

    I think that there is an error, saying that he was a part of the original trio broadcasting MNF. I remember that 1st Monday night game and recall that the broadcasting trio was Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Fred "the Hammer" Williamson, a former defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs, who lasted only a short time on MNF and went on to be an actor in low budget films. Gifford replaced Jackson and Meredith replaced Williamson. When Meredith left, he was replaced by former Detroit Lion lineman Alex Karas. I recall the hesitation of ABC Execs, but the support of Roone Arledge, to the 3 men in the booth concept and the gamble that pro football could be successful in prime time.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bet

      I think the first MNF trio was Don Meredith, Howard Cosell, and Keith Jackson. Frank Gifford replaced Keith Jackson after the first year.

      December 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Torethia

    I will never forget Dandy Don--Turn out the lights. I still sing it after a football game or after someone is getting dogged...
    R I P

    December 6, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paul

    Best ad lib ever after the camera panned the, I think, Houston Oiler stands during a blow-out. A fan flipped "the bird" to the camera and Dandy Don deadpanned "That means, we're number one, folks"

    December 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Married with Kids

    WHO!?!?!??!?

    December 6, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Married with Kids

    Just kidding RIP big guy!!!

    December 6, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Protoman

    I watch Football fairly regularly and couldn't tell you who Don Meredith was until reading this article. I think some of you sports fans need to prioritize your lives. It's only a game and it's sole purpose is to make money. Maybe if some of the men in this country cared more about their children instead of some sportscaster then we'd see things get better in this country.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kenny

    I was about 16 when these 3 started their "Monday Night Football" gig and remember that the style they put forth could allow a blind man to visualize each and every play. Their game show gave details on every play and spoke of every player in such a manner that anyone could walk away from their TV set with the knowledge that they got more of the games that did all the people at the game. RIP DANDY.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GeoffW

    Favorite Don Meredith moment – the Houston Oilers were 0-10 at the time and getting destroyed at home something like 38-0 in the fourth quarter. The fans have pretty much cleared out of the Astrodome when the camera pans to a lone, very fat drunk dude pretty much sitting by himself who flips the bird to the camera. Without pausing, Meredith says "We're Number One." Very funny.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MacPherson

    I couldn't find a reference, so it is up to me: RIP, Danderoo...

    December 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Pat

    Turn out the lights.....The Party's over....

    December 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
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