1996 Review: Let the Era of Distractions Begin!
The Cowboys had distractions during their Super Bowl years, including Erik Williams missing much of the 1994 season after a car wreck; Williams facing charges that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old dancer (later dropped); Leon Lett and Clayton Holmes facing drug suspensions; and so forth. Still, the talk of the town after Super Bowl XXX was that the Cowboys would go for an unprecedented fourth title in five years. The team had the talent to do so, but then…
On March 3, receiver Michael Irvin was arrested in a hotel room in Irving, and police found cocaine and marijuana in his room. Irvin and teammate Alfredo Roberts were in the room with two dancers/models (and I’ll let you recall on your own what was going on in the room).
There was news that the Cowboys had rented a house– referred to as the White House– where players could share drugs and women. The Cowboys also decided to sign linebacker Broderick Thomas, who a year earlier faced charges unlawfully carrying a weapon as well as for drunk driving. Sadly: “if this is America’s team, then woe is America.”
The Cowboys continued their string of subpar drafts in 1996 as well, which didn’t help matters. Dallas had five picks in the second and third rounds and did manage to find a quality starter in linebacker Randall Godfrey. However, second-round pick Kavika Pittman only managed 10 total sacks in four years. Center Clay Shiver didn’t make anyone forget about Mark Stepnoski. Stepfret Williams caught 30 passes in 1997, which was his final season in Dallas. The others who played at all played special teams.
Here is the draft summary:
2(37) Kavika Pittman, DE, McNeese State
2(49) Randall Godfrey, LB, Georgia
3(67) Clay Shiver, C, Florida State
3(94) Stepfret Williams, WR, La.-Monroe
3(95) Mike Ulufale, DT, BYU
5(157) Kenneth McDaniel, T, Norfolk State
5(167) Alan Campos, LB, Louisville
6(207) Wendell Davis, DB, Oklahoma
7(243) Ryan Wood, RB, Arizona State
The Cowboys also continued to lose quality players that robbed the team of its talent level and depth. Jay Novacek never played a game again after Super Bowl XXX because of his back problems. Russell Maryland and Larry Brown both signed as free agents with the Oakland Raiders. Linebacker Dixon Edwards left for Minnesota, while linebacker Robert Jones left for St. Louis. Charles Haley only saw limited action because of injury and only managed one sack in 1996.
What would help the Cowboys was that Deion Sanders was still the premiere shutdown corner in the NFL. He also spent the offseason preparing to play receiver, and after Irvin’s trial and subsequent five-game suspension, the team needed Sanders on offense more than it would like.