1989 Review: Cowboys Begin a New Era By Drafting Aikman
Jimmy Johnson did not conduct himself at the 1989 draft like a rookie head coach who was just feeling his way through it. He managed to draft a Hall-of-Fame quarterback and three other key starters who helped the Cowboys to become a dynasty just three years later.
Everyone expected the Cowboys to take UCLA’s Troy Aikman in the first round. Though Johnson was noncommittal about taking the rookie QB, there were no surprises on draft day. The only question was how much Aikman might make given reports that he would earn more than Joe Montana, who was the best QB in the game at that time (Aikman signed for $11.2 million over six years, which was indeed more than Montana).
In the second round, Raiders’ owner Al Davis desperately wanted Penn State guard Steve Wisniewski. The Cowboys drafted the guard but turned around and traded him and a 6th rounder to the Raiders for a 2nd, 3rd, and 5th from the Raiders. Wisniewski became an eight-time Pro Bowler, but the Cowboys did just fine. The picked up Syracuse fullback Daryl Johnston in the second round (using the Raiders pick).
Dallas found a Pro Bowl lineman in the third round in Mark Stepnoski. One round later, the Cowboys found a run-stopping defensive end in Tony Tolbert.
Here’s a look at the full draft:
1(1) Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA
2(29) Steve Wisniewski, G, Penn State
2(39) Daryl Johnston, FB, Syracuse
3(57) Mark Stepnoski, C, Pittsburgh
3(68) Rhondy Weston, DE, Florida
4(85) Tony Tolbert, DE, Texas-El Paso
5(113) Keith Jennings, TE, Clemson
5(119) Willis Crockett, LB, Georgia Tech
5(125) Jeff Roth, DT, Florida
7(168) Kevin Peterson, LB, Northwestern
8(196) Charvez Foger, RB, Nevada-Reno
9(224) Tim Jackson, DB, Nebraska
10(252) Rod Carter, LB, Miami (FL)
11(280) Randy Shannon, LB, Miami (FL)
12(308) Scott Ankrom, WR, TCU
1(1) Steve Walsh, QB, Miami (FL)
12(5) Mike Loman, RB, Coffeyville Community College
The remaining picks in the regular draft are hardly worth mentioning. Tight end Keith Jennings spent one year in Dallas before becoming a part-time starter with the Chicago Bears. The others who actually made the squad were special teams players.
The Cowboys could have entered the 1989 season with Aikman and Steve Pelluer. However, Johnson stayed with his QB from the University of Miami, Steve Walsh, who threw for 5,369 yards and 48 touchdowns in his college career. Some speculated that Johnson drafted Walsh with the idea of trading him, but Walsh ended up at training camp.
With the team picking up the young QBs, Johnson had to advise Danny White to retire in July. For several months, Steve Pelluer sought a trade, which was finally completed when Dallas shipped him to Kansas City in October. He played 18 total games with the Chiefs, starting only three.