1993 Review: Smith’s Holdout and Other Distractions Lead to 0-2 Start

Jerry Jones took a bit of a gamble by not signing Emmitt Smith before the start of the 1993 season. An 0-2 record made Jerry change his mind.

Before 1993, the Cowboys had never repeated as Super Bowl champions. The 1972 squad lost running back Duane Thomas to a trade and then lost quarterback Roger Staubach for most of the season with an injury. That team lost to the Redskins in the NFC Championship Game. Six years later, the 1978 team looked as if it had a strong chance to repeat, but the Cowboys suffered a loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.

Neither the 1972 nor the 1978 teams had to deal with the distractions that the 1993 Cowboys did. Throughout the off-season, much of the focus was on whether the Cowboys would be able to sign running back Emmitt Smith and whether Troy Aikman would be able to come back from off-season surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. Never mind that the Cowboys also had to deal with general distractions that come with being Super Bowl champions. Between 1980 and 1992, the only team that had managed to repeat was the great 49ers team of the late 1980s.

At one point in the off-season, there was talk that the Cowboys were trying to trade for Ram running back Cleveland Gary. In fact, Dallas tried to obtain Gary by trading wide receiver Jimmy Smith.

Meanwhile, Jerry Jones played hardball with Smith, saying at one point that Smith was not worth more than $10 million over four years even though Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas had signed for $13.5 million over the same time period. Jerry had some backing, too. A Dallas Morning News poll showed that 51 percent of fans backed the owner, compared with only 35 percent who backed Smith.

That all changed very quickly when…

Week 1: Washington 35, Dallas 16

The Cowboys were completely out of  whack all evening in the season opener. Dallas turned the ball over four times, including a fumble by rookie Kevin Williams on a punt return. Troy Aikman found Alvin Harper for two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder early in the game. However, the defense could not stop the Redskins, who gained 171 yards on the ground.

Week 2: Buffalo 13, Dallas 10

The rematch of Super Bowl XXVII wasn’t about the offenses. Buffalo only managed 229 total yards, including 68 in the second half. However, the Cowboys made many mistakes, including two Troy Aikman interceptions and two missed field goals by kicker Lin Elliott. With the game winding down, the Cowboys had the ball on the Buffalo 10. Aikman tried to thread the needle to hit tight end Jay Novacek, but the ball bounced into the hands of Buffalo safety Matt Darby, giving the Bills the win.

The Cowboys had to face the Phoenix Cardinals in week 3, and the Cardinals had just beaten the same Washington team that had dismantled the Cowboys. No Dallas team had ever repeated as champion, and not team to that point had ever started a season at 0-2 and won a Super Bowl title.

The news got a bit better on Thursday, September 16 when the Cowboys announced that they had signed Smith to a four-year deal worth just over $13.5 million, making Smith the NFL’s highest paid running back.

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  • I just recently re watched the ‘America’s Game’ episode of the 1993 Dallas Cowboys. Wow, i can’ believe its been that long ago… (17 years).

    I had season tix back then and saw all but 1 or 2 of the home games including the playoff games.. It was a thrill to re watch those exciting times.. I’m not sure we will ever see a team so dominant as that team was… fingers crossed we do but I’m not sure we will!

  • Mike Little

    I don’t think people realize how close that ballclub was to imploding w/o Emmitt getting signed.Three things that possibly turned it around.Jimmy telling Jerry sign him now.Charles Haley slamming his helmet through a locker room wall yelling get Emmitt in here now,and last but not least,Derrick Lassic was no Emmitt.Season,and team of the 90’s saved.Thanks for the contract Jerry.