50 Seasons Series
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Review each year in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, starting with the planning stages in 1959 and through the present day.
There are a few ways we might describe the decade of the 2000s for the Dallas Cowboys. Just a few stabs at it:
And so forth.
The decade itself mercifully comes to an end tonight, so hopefully we can turn the page on ten mostly forgettable years in this franchise’s history.
Here’s a question, though: was the decade of the 2000s truly the worst in franchise history? The answer, ironically, might depend on how the Cowboys perform during the first month of the new decade.
The game between Cowboys and Eagles is, of course, part of the 2009 season. Thus, the result of that game along with the results of any playoff game should be counted as part of the decade of the 2000s rather than the decade of the 2010s. Here is why this has any significance:
Between the 2000 and 2009 seasons, the Cowboys have had an overall record of 81-78, giving the team a winning percentage of .5094. This is the second-worst winning percentage for a decade in team history behind the team’s 67-65-6 (.5076) record during the 1960s. A win against the Eagles gives the Cowboys a winning percentage of .5125. Should Dallas lose to Philadelphia next Sunday, though, the Cowboys’ record will drop the winning percentage to .5063, which would be the worst of any decade.
Also consider this: Dallas had only one playoff win during the 1960s and an overall record of 1-4 in the playoffs during that decade. The only worse decade was the current one, during which Dallas has gone 0-4. However, the Cowboys could at least tie the 1960s’ mark with one playoff win, and the team could even surpass the record from the 1960s with two wins.
Though the decade of the 2000s did not see a dreadful season such as the 0-11-1 season of the 1960 team or the 1-15 season in 1989, this decade marked the first time that the team has given up more points than it has scored.
Below is a list of the team’s record per decade, not including Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
1970s: .7292 (105-39)
1990s: .6313 (101-59)
1980s: .5197 (79-73)
2000s: .5094 (81-78)
1960s: .5076 (67-65-6)
* * *
Incidentally, the decade of the 2000s (in calendar terms) started and ended on good notes for the Cowboys.
Ten years ago at this time, the Cowboys thought they were out of the playoffs. Dallas stood at 7-8 and needed a bunch of help to make the playoffs. That help came in the form of a complex tiebreaking scenario, and all the Cowboys needed on January 2, 2000 was a win over the Giants to secure a playoff berth. Troy Aikman threw two touchdown passes, including a 90-yarder to Jason Tucker, to help the Cowboys to a 26-18 win.
Ten seasons later, on December 27, 2009, the Cowboys needed a win over a division rival to make the playoffs. The team came through, giving us hope that the new decade will bring better times.
In 1990, the Cowboys were one year removed from a 1-15 record. After 14 games, the Cowboys were 7-7 and needed to win just one of their last two games to clinch a playoff berth.
Dallas was coming off of a 41-10 rout of the Phoenix Cardinals when the team traveled to Philadelphia. But in the first quarter, Troy Aikman separated his shoulder. Backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg completed only 13 of 36 passes for 140 yards and four interceptions in a 17-3 loss.
In the final game of the season, Dallas merely needed a win at Atlanta, which entered the game at 4-11. Laufenberg was no better than he was the previous week, completing only 10 of 24 passes in a 26-7 loss. When New Orleans beat the L.A. Rams, the Saints earned a trip to Chicago for the playoffs rather than the Cowboys.
The 1991 season was slightly better than the 1990 season, but the Cowboys were merely 6-5 when they traveled to Washington to face the unbeaten Redskins. Aikman injured his knee in the game and would be lost for the rest of the regular season. Dallas’ new backup in 1991 was Steve Beuerlein, who had thrown only five passes all year prior to Aikman’s injury. But Beuerlein quickly proved he could do what Laufenberg couldn’t: win. Dallas beat Washington in a great 24-21 game, and the Cowboys followed by winning four straight.
The Cowboys’ final two opponents in 1991 were again Philadelphia and Atlanta, as was the case in 1990. Wins in either game meant that Dallas would return to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. Beuerlein came through in both games, leading Dallas to a 25-13 win over Philadelphia and a 31-27 win over Atlanta. Dallas won a playoff game that season for the first time since 1982 by beating Chicago on the road.
There are certainly some differences between 1991 and 2009. Most notably, the 1991 squad was two years removed from a 1-15 season, while the 2009 Cowboys are two years removed from a 13-3 record. Moreover, the 1991 squad won its last five in a row, while the current Cowboys only have a two-game streak heading into next Sunday’s game against Philadelphia.
But the 2009 Cowboys have an opportunity at season’s end that is much like the opportunity that the 1991 squad had: to erase a bad memory from last season.
Nobody has forgotten that the 2008 Cowboys needed only one win in its final two games, including the final game played at Texas Stadium, to clinch a playoff berth. The defense failed the team against the Ravens before the whole team fell apart in a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia.
During the entire offseason, nobody could forget that loss to the Eagles. Pull up just about any website focusing on the Cowboys, and one of the first things you would likely see was that score.
One year after last season’s collapse, and the Cowboys needed one win in the final two weeks to clinch. The team went out a dominated the Redskins. A win against the Eagles may come close to eradicating the effects that last year’s collapse had on many people’s opinions of the heart of this team.
It wouldn’t quite be Christmas on this blog if I didn’t post one of the videso from Dallas Cowboys’ Christmas ’86, which I first posted a few years ago (and which YouTube had deleted from my own account at least three times).
As for the holiday itself, while the Cowboys have played nearly every Thanksgiving Day since 1966, they have only played four times on Christmas Day. The results are mixed: wins during two Super Bowl seasons, a loss during a very bad season, and a loss just before the playoffs.
December 25, 1971: Dallas 20, Minnesota 12
The first time the Cowboys played on Christmas Day was in the first round of the 1971 playoffs. The Cowboys jumped out to a 20-3 lead before holding off a Minnesota comeback. The Cowboys were Super Bowl champions three weeks later.
December 25, 1995: Dallas 37, Arizona 13
The Cowboys’ 37-13 win over the Cardinals will be remembered for two reasons. First, it marked the game when second WR Kevin Williams came to life, catching 9 passes for 203 yards and 2 TDs. Second, the win gave the Cowboys a boost of confidence that propelled the team to a win in Super Bowl XXX.
December 25, 2000: Tennessee 31, Dallas 0
Few Cowboy fans probably remember this one, and for good reason. Starting quarterback Anthony Wright completed 5 of 20 passes for 35 yards and 2 interception (and yes, he played the entire game).
December 25, 2006: Philadelphia 23, Dallas 7
Christmas and profanity should have nothing to do with one another, but that was not the case in many households when the Cowboys tanked a game against the Eagles leading up to the 2006 playoffs. Nobody on the Dallas offense had a good game, and the loss called into doubt whether the Cowboys were ready for the playoffs.
As part of its centennial celebration, the University Interscholastic League announced its all-century Texas high school teams. Several current and former members of the Cowboys made this list.
Here are the links to the teams:
The Cowboys who made the list include the following:
First Team WR – Roy Williams, Odessa Permian. Williams is currently a member of the Cowboys.
First Team TE – Martellus Bennett, Alief Taylor. Bennett is currently a member of the Cowboys.
First Team OL – Leonard Davis, Wortham. Davis is currently a member of the Cowboys.
Third Team WR – Mike Renfro, Fort Worth Arlington Heights. Renfro played in Dallas from 1984 to 1987.
Note: E.J. Holub was the Cowboys’ second-round pick in 1961, but he decided to play for the Dallas Texans.
First Team DL – Bob Lilly, Throckmorton. “Mr. Cowboy” played in Dallas from 1961 to 1974.
First Team DL – Ray Childress, Richardson Pearce. Childress spent 11 years with the Houston Oilers. He joined the Cowboys near the end of the 1996 season and played three games with Dallas.
Second Team DB – Kevin Smith, West Orange-Stark
For a brief time during the 2008 season, the Cowboys had the
best all-time winning percentage among NFL franchises. By the start of the 2009
season, however, the Cowboys had fallen to third. Here is a look:
Prior to the 2009 season:
1. Miami Dolphins: 380-272-4 (.583)
2. Chicago Bears: 686-499-42 (.579)
3. Dallas Cowboys: 423-309-6 (.578)
Since then, the Cowboys have gone 8-3, while the Dolphins have gone 5-6 and
the Bears have gone 4-7. The result is that the Cowboys are closing in on the #1
Winning Percentages Through Week 12:
1. Miami Dolphins: 385-278-4 (.581)
2. Dallas Cowboys: 431-312-6 (.580)
3. Chicago Bears: 690-505-42 (.577)
It would be something else if the Cowboys could complete their 50th season as
the NFL’s winningest franchise, and there is now a good chance of that
happening. Here are the possibilities (excluding ties, because I am too
dumb/lazy/dumb to calculate those):
(a) If the Dolphins win all five of their remaining games, Miami would remain
at the #1 spot with a winning percentage of 58.3832%. The best the Cowboys can
do by winning all five of their remaining games is finish with a percentage of
(b) If the Dolphins win four of their last five (58.2335%), the Cowboys have
to win all five of their games to earn the #1 spot (58.2888% with five wins).
(c) If the Dolphins win three of their last five (58.0838%), the Cowboys have
to win at least four of their five games (58.1551% with four wins).
(d) If the Dolphins win two of their last five (57.9341%), the Cowboys have
to win at least three of their five games (58.0214% with three wins).
(e) If the Dolphins win one of their last five (57.7844%), the Cowboys have
to win at least two of their five games (57.8877% with two wins).
(f) If the Dolphins fail to win another game (57.6347%), the Cowboys have to
win one of their final five games (57.7540% with one win).
It is possible for the Bears to surpass the Cowboys once again, but it would
take a huge turnaround in Chicago for that to happen.
Part of the 50 Seasons Series
The Cowboys lost some big guns after the 1983 season with the retirement of Harvey Martin, Drew Pearson, Billy Joe DuPree, and Pat Donovan. The team had suffered through some mediocre drafts and could use a strong draft in 1984. Instead, the Cowboys got more of the same.
The team’s first-round pick had a famous name thanks to his father, but Billy Cannon, Jr. only played in eight games due to an injury suffered in his rookie season. The draft featured the selection of Eugene Lockhart, but most of the rest were largely forgettable.
Round(Position): Name, Pos., College
1(25): Billy Cannon, Jr., LB, Texas A&M
2(40): Victor Scott, DB, Colorado
3(81): Fred Cornwell, TE, USC
4(110): Steve DeOssie, LB, Boston College
5(113): Steve Pelluer, QB, Washington
5(137): Norm Granger, RB, Iowa
6(152): Eugene Lockhart, LB, Houston
6(166): Joe Levelis, G, Iowa
7(193): Ed Martin, LB, Indiana State
8(222): Mike Revell, RB, Bethune-Cookman
9(232): John Hunt, T, Florida
10(278): Brian Salonen, LB, Montana
11(304): Dowe Aughtman, DT, Auburn
12(334): Carl Lewis, WR, Houston
* Lockhart played with Dallas until 1990. He unofficially set a team record by recording 222 tackles in 1989.
* Pelluer filled in for Danny White in 1986 and eventually became a full-time starter by 1988. He finished his career with a record of 8-19 as a starter with Dallas.
* Scott played five seasons in Dallas but only managed five interceptions. He is noteworthy as the last player to wear #22 before Emmitt Smith’s arrival in 1990.
* DeOssie played five seasons in Dallas before becoming a starter with the Giants. He retired in 1995.
* Cornwell, Granger, Hunt, Salonen, and Aughtman had short careers in Dallas.
Part of the 50 Seasons Series.
The 1983 Cowboys had an uphill climb if they were going to return to their fourth straight NFC title game, let along Super Bowl XVIII. They never came close.
Week 17: San Francisco 42, Dallas 17
In the final week of the season, Washington beat the New York Giants, giving the Redskins a 14-2 record, the NFC East title, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With nothing to play for, the Cowboys faced the improved San Francisco 49ers in the first matchup between the teams since “The Catch” in 1981.
Dallas played like a team with nothing to play for against the 49ers. Thanks to a Dana McLemore punt return and a 77-yard touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Freddie Solomon, San Francisco raced out to a 21-3 first quarter lead. Dallas cut the lead to 28-17 at one point, but San Francisco pulled away from there.
Dallas turned the ball over five times, and Tony Dorsett only managed 32 yards on 15 carries.
Wildcard Playoff Round: L.A. Rams 24, Dallas 17
The Rams and Cowboys faced off in the playoffs for the seventh time in 1983. The Cowboys had won four of the previous six games against Los Angeles, but the ugly play continued for Dallas in the playoffs. Dallas turned the ball over four times in a 24-17 loss.
The score was tied at the half, and the team had some success moving the ball through the air. Danny White threw for 330 yards with two touchdowns, with nine of his throws going to Tony Hill for 115 yards. White’s three interceptions were another matter, though. All occurred on consecutive possessions of the second half, leading to 10 Los Angeles points.
Dallas trailed 24-10 in the fourth quarter, and despite scoring to close the gap to a touchdown, the Cowboys could not come back.
Doomsday for Cowboys (DMN)
Part of the 50 Seasons Series.
The 1983 Cowboys entered into their week 15 matchup with the Washington Redskins with a 12-2 record. One win and the Cowboys would set a club record for wins in a season. One win and the Cowboys would wrap up the NFC East. One win and perhaps Danny White would get another shot at making the Super Bowl.
Dallas trailed 14-10 in the third quarter and faced a 4th-and-1 from midfield. Dallas lined up, obviously trying to pull the Redskins offsides. At some point during the snap count, though, Danny White decided to audible into a running play. He handed the ball off to Ron Springs, who ran left. Washington defensive end Charles Mann crashed the right side of the line, and guard Herbert Scott could not block him. Springs lost two yards, and the Cowboys lost momentum they had gained since coming back from an early 14-0 deficit.
The video clearly shows an angry Tom Landry screaming, “No! No! No, Danny, No!”
Though the Redskins did not score immediately, the tide had turned. Later in the third quarter, Joe Theismann hit Art Monk on a 47-yard touchdown pass, and the game turned into a blowout. The Cowboys could not even stop the Redskins from performing the “fun bunch” celebration after the Monk score.
Dallas managed only 33 rushing yards, setting a team mark for futility on the ground. Although the Cowboys could still win the NFC East the following week by hoping for a New York win over Washington coupled with a Dallas win over San Francisco, the prospects for a Super Bowl run looked bleak.
For 14 weeks of the 1983 season, the Cowboys looked as if they could contend for the NFC title. The Cowboys started at 12-2 leading to a winner-take-all game against the Washington Redskins. We will get to that game a little bit later.
After the Cowboys opened the season with a 31-30 win over the Redskins, Dallas tore through its next six opponents. The Cowboys narrowly lost to the Raiders and Chargers, but Dallas’ high-scoring offense looked like it could compete against anyone.
Week 2: Dallas 34, St. Louis 17
Dallas erased an early 10-0 deficit and defeated St. Louis 34-17 in week 2. Ron Springs rushed for two touchdowns in the win.
Week 3: Dallas 28, N.Y. Giants 13
Two touchdown passes from Danny White to Doug Cosbie gave Dallas a first-half advantage, and defensive touchdowns by Michael Downs and Dexter Clinkscale secured the win for the Cowboys.
Week 4: Dallas 21, New Orleans 20
In one of the most bizarre wins in franchise history, the Cowboys trailed New Orleans 20-13 in the fourth quarter. The Saints lined up for a field goal, but Dallas blocked the kick, and Ron Fellows returned the ball 62 yards for a touchdown. Rafael Septien missed his first field goal attempt in three years, though, meaning that Dallas trailed 20-19.
With just over two minutes remaining, Danny White threw an interception in the end zone, but New Orleans defender Dennis Winston tried to run the ball out and only got to the New Orleans 5. On a second down pass play, Anthony Dickerson sacked Saint quarterback Ken Stabler for a safety, giving Dallas a 21-20 win.
Week 5: Dallas 37, Minnesota 24
The Cowboys overcame a 24-13 halftime deficit to beat the Vikings in the Metrodome. Tony Dorsett led the Cowboys with 141 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
Week 6: Dallas 27, Tampa Bay 24
The winless Buccaneers nearly pulled off the upset against the unbeaten Cowboys. With the Cowboys trailing 24-17 with only 57 seconds remaining, White hit fullback Timmy Newsome along the left sideline for a 52 yard touchdown. Here is a video clip of the play:
Septien kicked a field goal in overtime to give Dallas a 27-24 win.
Week 7: Dallas 37, Philadelphia 7
Dallas jumped out to a 23-7 first-half lead against the Eagles and never looked back. Four different players scored for the Cowboys, who improved to 7-0 on the season.
Week 8: L.A. Raiders 40, Dallas 38
In a seesaw battle that saw six lead changes, the Raiders prevailed in a 40-38 shootout. Mike Hegman’s nine-yard touchdown return of a fumble gave Dallas a 38-34 win, but the Raiders managed two field goals to pull out the win. The teams combined for 838 yards of total offense.
Week 9: Dallas 38, N.Y. Giants 20
White completed 15 of 33 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-20 blowout win vs. the Giants. It marked the first time that White threw for five touchdowns in a game, tying a team record.
Week 10: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 20
White threw touchdown passes to Tony Hill and Timmy Newsome in a 27-20 win for the 9-1 Cowboys.
Week 11: San Diego 24, Dallas 23
Thanks to a great game by San Diego backup quarterback Ed Luther, the Chargers raced to a 24-6 lead in the third quarter, but the Cowboys roared back. Dallas cut the lead to 24-23 with just over eight minutes to play, but the Cowboys could get no further and suffered their second loss of the season.
Week 12: Dallas 41, Kansas City 21
Two Tony Dorsett touchdowns gave Dallas a 27-0 lead, and the Cowboys barely looked back in a 41-21 win over the Chiefs. Dorsett finished with 108 yards.
Week 13: Dallas 35, St. Louis 17
Though the Cowboys gave up a 71-yard touchdown pass from Neil Lomax to Roy Green early in the game, the Cowboys took a 21-7 halftime lead in a 35-17 win. Dorsett had another good day, rushing for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Week 14: Dallas 35, Seattle 10
For the third consecutive game, Dorsett topped the 100-yard mark. The Cowboys outgained the Seahawks 418 to 216 in the Dallas win.
This post is part of the 50 Seasons Series.
The Cowboys may have struggled to find ultimate playoff success during the 1980s, but they were still one of the stronger teams in the league for the first half of the decade. To open the 1983 season, they had to return to RFK Stadium in Washington to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Redskins.
Washington raced out to a 23-3 halftime lead. The most memorable moment in the first half was a 77-yard run by Tony Dorsett, but even that play was overshadowed by rookie Darrell Green running Dorsett down from behind.
By 1983, Tony Hill had become the team’s best receiver, and when Danny White went deep to Hill in the second half, good things happened. White connected with Hill on touchdown passes of 75 and 51 yards to cut the Washington lead to 23-17. A White touchdown run followed by a TD pass to Doug Cosbie gave the Cowboys the lead for good. Washington scored late to close the gap to 31-30, but Dallas was able to run out the clock.
Here is a great video on YouTube by a user named rowisdan showing the highlights from this Monday Night Football game.