1994 Review: Cowboys Roll to a 12-4 Record

Jerry had reason to cheer for most of the 1994 season.

The argument against giving Barry Switzer any credit for the Cowboys’ success in 1994-1996 is that the team was Jimmy Johnson‘s. The offense was the one installed by Norv Turner. The defense was built around speed using systems largely developed by Dave Wannstedt.

None of those three were in Dallas in 1994, but the Cowboys that season looked very much like the teams of 1992 and 1993.  Dallas jumped out to an 8-1 mark heading into a huge matchup against San Francisco in week 11. The 49ers came away with their first win over Dallas since 1990 and ended up with home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And unlike the two previous seasons, injuries would play a big role in the team’s ultimate success.

Week 1: Dallas 26, Pittburgh 9

Emmitt Smith carried the ball 31 times for 171 yards and a touchdown as the Cowboys destroyed the Steelers. New kicker Chris Boniol hit four field goals.

Week 2: Dallas 20, Houston 17

Troy Aikman‘s 53-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper in the third quarter proved to be a big difference-maker in the Cowboys’ win. Houston also made a blunder at the end of the first half, allowing the Cowboys to kick a field goal to take a first-half lead.

Week 3: Detroit 20, Dallas 17

In a battle of the league’s top two runners, Barry Sanders outgained Emmitt Smith 194 yards (40 carries) to 143. The team’s wound up tied at the end of regulation, but Dallas was driving late. However, Broderick Thomas stripped Aikman and recovered the fumble with about two minutes remaining, setting up the game-winning field goal by Jason Hanson.

Week 4: Bye

Week 5: Dallas 34, Washington 7

The controversy in the Cowboys’ 34-7 rout of Washington? Switzer missed a few seconds of the game because he had to relieve himself. The game was over by halftime, though, as the Cowboys jumped out to a 31-0 lead and held Washington to 110 total yards.

Week 6: Dallas 38, Arizona 3

For the second consecutive week, the Cowboys destroyed a division rival by beating the Cardinals, 38-3. Lincoln Coleman saw plenty of action with 20 carries for 48 yards.

Week 7: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 13

The Eagles outgained the Cowboys by also committee five turnovers. Smith had his third 100-yard performance of the year.

Week 8: Dallas 28, Arizona 21

The Cowboys were less dominant against the Cardinals in a game at Sun Devil Stadium. The Cowboys lost Aikman to a head injury in the first half and trailed Arizona 21-14 in the fourth quarter. However, a 65-yard touchdown pass from backup Rodney Peete to Michael Irvin tied the game, and the Cowboys were able to take the lead for good with a Smith touchdown run.

Week 9: Dallas 23, Cincinnati 20

Switzer caused a stir by comparing the Bengals to Iowa State, which did not sit well with Cincinnati coach David Shula. The Bengals played a competitive game, and after the Cowboys came back to win on a Boniol field goal in the fourth quarter, the coaches met at midfield. Shula to Switzer: “You can stick Iowa State up your (deleted).”

Week 10: Dallas 38, N.Y. Giants 10

Another division rival, another blowout. The Cowboys put up 450 yards of offense and stormed out to a 35-3 lead after three quarters against the struggling Giants.

Week 11: San Francisco 21, Dallas 14

In the biggest game of the regular season, the Cowboys faltered. Cornerback Larry Brown was burned by both Jerry Rice and John Taylor in the second half. Rice scored on a 57-yard bomb that gave San Francisco a 14-7 lead, and 32-yard play to Taylor set up a touchdown to Brent Jones that put the game away.

Week 12: Dallas 31, Washington 7

[Personal note: In my first trip to Texas Stadium…] The Cowboys had to use three quarterbacks due to injuries to Aikman and Peete, but Dallas controlled Washington throughout the game. Smith finished with two touchdowns– both in the first quarter– and the game was out of reach by halftime.

Week 13: Dallas 42, Green Bay 31

Cowboys’ fans continue to remember the Thanksgiving heroics of Clint Longley, but Jason Garrett’s performance on Thanksgiving in 1994 was even more impressive and important. The Cowboys had a terrible time stopping Brett Favre and Sterling Sharpe, as the Packers jumped out to leads of 17-6 and 24-13. Garrett, however, helped the Cowboys bounce back. Though he only completed 15 passes, he threw for 311 yards with two touchdowns in a 42-31 win.

Week 14: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 19

Aikman didn’t return to the lineup after the Thanksgiving game, but Peete did. He connected with Irvin for 117 passing yards and a touchdown. Darren Woodson saved the win for Dallas in the fourth quarter with a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Week 15: Cleveland 19, Dallas 14

Any chance that the Cowboys would come away with home field advantage in the NFC vanished when the Cowboys lost to the Browns in week 15, dropping the Cowboys’ record to 11-3. Dallas committed four turnovers, including two interceptions by Aikman in his return to the lineup.

Week 16: Dallas 24, New Orleans 16

In what may have been the most costly injury to the franchise since Danny White‘s broken wrist in 1994, Emmitt Smith hurt his hamstring in a generally unimpressive 24-16 win over the Saints. Smith’s injury would slow him down for the rest of the season.

Week 17: N.Y. Giants 15, Dallas 10

With nothing to play for, Switzer rested his starters for much of the meaningless season finale against the Giants. Blair Thomas made his debut as Smith’s backup and rushed for 63 yards on 18 carries.

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  • Jason Neighbors

    I always thought it was bogus that Switzer shouldn’t get any credit for the success he had early on. If he shouldn’t get any credit for any of the wins, then why should he get any blame for any of the losses? Hell, the Super Bowl win was two years removed from Jimmy Johnson. I think the problem as much as Switzer’s coaching style for the later decline of the team was that Jerry Jones just wasn’t a very good GM back in those days. He didn’t manage his talent very well. I think he’s been doing a heck of a job of late, though. He really seems to have learned from his past mistakes. Well, minus the Roy Williams trade, heh.

  • If Bill Belichick won a Super Bowl one season, started the next season 1-3 with all sorts of distractions and players missing, but found a way to get his team to rebound and finish with a 10-6 record and a playoff win, it would be because of Belichick’s genius. Switzer’s 1996 team did just that with nine starters and a whole bunch of backups who never played for Jimmy. But the season was considered a failure because we lost at Carolina in the playoffs (and because if Jimmy was coaching in the same circumstance we would have gone 16-0 and would have won our fifth straight Super Bowl!… never mind that the Cowboys beat Johnson’s Dolphins badly that year).

  • Jason Neighbors

    I think Barry said it best himself, paraphrasing here, “This isn’t rocket science here. You media guys, you’re the ones who make a coach out to be more than he is, some kind of guru or legend. That’s your fault. And it’s the coach’s fault when he starts to believe it himself, right?”

  • Jason Neighbors

    Btw, I still think the Cowboys could have won that Carolina game if Irvin hadn’t gone down hurt early in the game. I think Sanders got hurt, too, iirc.