1991 Review: Thank You, Steve Beuerlein
Between 1960 and week 9 of the 1986 season, the Cowboys won 72.3% of their games. During week 9 that season, Danny White broke his wrist, which precipitated the franchise’s collapse. We would be hard-pressed to find another single game that marked such a dramatic turning point.
Five years later, another game had a similar effect, only from a much more positive perspective. On November 24, 1991, the 6-5 Cowboys traveled to Washington to face the 11-0 Redskins. Dallas jumped out to a 14-7 lead thanks to an Emmitt Smith touchdown and a Hail Mary from Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper at the end of the first half.
On the opening series of the second half, though, the Cowboys lost Aikman with an injured knee. Most fans had to remember the end of the 1990 season in which the team failed to make the playoffs thanks to another Aikman injury. The 1991 season was different, thanks to Steve Beuerlein.
The veteran quarterback picked up from the Raiders just before the season began wasn’t especially flashy against the Redskins or any other team in 1991. Against the Redskins, he completed only 7 of 12 passes for 109 yards. However, he came through when it mattered most, hitting Michael Irvin on a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter give Dallas a 21-7 lead. The Cowboys held on to win, 24-21.
Between 1980 and week 9 of the 1986 season, the Cowboys went 67-30 during the regular season and 5-5 in the playoffs.
Between week 9 of the 1986 season and week 12 of the 1991 season, the Cowboys went 25-57 with no playoff appearances.
Between week 12 of the 1991 season and the end of the 1996 season, the Cowboys went 64-21 with a 12-3 playoff record.
Hard to say whether the Cowboys accomplish this if Aikman hadn’t been hurt, and I can recall debating this several times during the 1990s on the old ESPN boards. I still believe Beuerlein’s presence in the latter part of the 1991 season was vital in the team’s progression.
Here is a video focusing on the Beuerlein story in 1991: