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.

 

1995 Review: Second-Half Interceptions Help Cowboys to a 5th Title

Larry Brown picked off two passes to help the Cowboys to a 27-17 win in Super Bowl XXX.

For the first third of Super Bowl XXX, it looked as if the Cowboys would easily run away with their fifth title. The Dallas offense had little trouble moving the ball and jumped out to a 13-0 lead by the second quarter. The lead would have been 17-0 had Michael Irvin not been flagged for offensive pass interference on what was otherwise a 24-yard touchdown. But when Pittsburgh finally manged to stop Dallas and get the ball back with 3:52 left in the first half, the Cowboys’ dominance evaporated. Neil O’Donnell’s six-yard pass to Yancey Thigpen with 13 seconds left in the half closed the gap to 13-7.

Until the NFC Championship Game, when he picked of Brett Favre, Larry Brown was mostly known as the weaker of the starting cornerbacks on the team. This was true whether he was playing opposite Kevin Smith or Deion Sanders. Many forget that Brown had picked off a pass in Super Bowl XXVII, and in 1995 he had a career high six interceptions plus another in the NFC Championship Game. However, most tended to remember Brown for being torched by Jerry Rice in the NFC Championship Game in 1994.

Midway through the third quarter, he made the first of the two biggest plays of his career. O’Donnell attempted a pass that sailed over everyone and ended up in Brown’s hands. Brown returned the ball to the Dallas 18. A pass from Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin moved the ball to the Dallas 1,  and Emmitt Smith was able to score on the next play to increase the Dallas led to 20-7.

Pitttsburgh, of course, didn’t give up. A Norm Johnson field goal cut the Dallas lead to 20-10, and Bill Cowher followed that by calling for an onside kick attempt that was successful. The Steelers scored on their next drive to bring the score to 20-17. Dallas then could not move the ball and had to punt it back to Pittsburgh with 4:14 remaining.

As he did on his previous interception, O’Donnell looked to his right on a second down pass. Once again, Brown stepped in front of the pass without a receiver near the ball. Brown moved the ball inside the 10, and Smith’s second touchdown sealed the win for the Cowboys.

Pittsburgh had 310 yards to the Cowboys’ 254, but the three turnovers killed the Steelers’ chances. Unlike James Washington, who had saved Super Bowl XXVIII, no offensive player outshined Brown, and he won the MVP award.

1995 Review: Cowboys Dominate Eagles and Survive Packers to Reach SB 30

Michael Irvin goes to grab a pass in front of Craig Newsome in the 1995 NFC Championship Game.

A win over the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas evening in 1995 allowed the Cowboys to earn home field advantage in the playoffs, but there were still concerns. After the Eagles trounced the Lions 58-37 in the wildcard round of the playoffs, the Cowboys had to endure a week of listening to pundits question Barry Switzer’s 4th-and-1 call that effectively cost the Cowboys the game at Veterans Stadium a few weeks earlier. Most also assumed that Dallas would face San Francisco for a fourth consecutive year, given that the 49ers had home field against the Packers. However, Green Bay had other ideas.

As before, below are the video highlights of both playoff games, followed by the summaries.

Dallas 30, Philadelphia 11

Early in the Cowboys’ game against Philadelphia, safety Darren Woodson made a crushing hit on Eagle QB Rodney Peete, knocking Peete from the game with the Cowboys leading 3-0. Philadelphia had to turn to former starter Randall Cunningham, who had reportedly not even brought his playbook to Dallas. In the coldest game played at Texas Stadium at that time (26 degrees with a -2 degree wind chill factor), the Dallas defense shut down Philadelphia for most of the game. Deion Sanders scored his first touchdown as a Cowboy on a reverse in the second quarter, and other TDs by Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were enough to turn the game into a rout. Oddly, the TD was Irvin’s only reception for the game, but Kevin Williams came through to catch six passes for 124 yards. Sanders also added an interception on defense.

Dallas 38, Green Bay 27

The Cowboys had beaten the Packers in the playoffs during the two previous seasons, but this marked the first time that the Packers had made the conference championship game since 1967 (which was actually the NFL Championship Game). Dallas quieted Green Bay’s excitement when Troy Aikman hit Irvin on two touchdown in the first half, but Brett Favre responded with TDs to Robert Brooks and Keith Jackson to reclaim the lead. Dallas stormed back again, though, and a touchdown run by Smith gave Dallas a 24-17 halftime lead.

The third quarter gave Dallas fans plenty of reasons to sweat, as the Packers scored 10 unanswered points to take a 27-24 lead. The Dallas defense stiffened, but the Cowboys found themselves starting a drive at their own 1 in the fourth quarter. Huge plays by Smith and Irvin, though, helped the Cowboys to move downfield, and Smith’s five-yard run gave Dallas a 31-27 lead. Brett Favre had a chance to move the Packers back into scoring range, but he threw an ill-fated pass that was picked off by oft-maligned CB Larry Brown. Irvin then caught a pass that had tipped off the shoulder pad of CB Doug Evans, and the play helped move Dallas into position for Smith to score on a 16-yard run.

Smith finished with 150 yards on 33 carries with 3 TDs. Irvin added 100 receiving yards on seven receptions with 2 TDs.

And for the third time in four years, Dallas was headed back to the Super Bowl.

1995 Review: Cowboys Stumble, but Still Manage Home Field Advantage

The Cowboys had reason to celebrate when they beat the Cardinals 37-13 in the final week of the 1995 season.

The Cowboys’ impressive 6-1 start continued in early November, as the Cowboys improved to 8-1. Deion Sanders joined the team and bolstered the talent on both sides of the ball.

Just as the Cowboys appeared to cruise to the home stretch, Dallas faced San Francisco. Losses to the 49ers, Redskins, and Eagles left the Cowboys with a 10-4 record. It looked as if the team might have to travel to Candlestick Park yet again to reach Super Bowl XXX. Some good fortune changed the path to Tempe.

Here are the highlights, followed by summaries.

Week 9: Dallas 28, Atlanta 13

In the Cowboys ‘ first visit to the Georgia Dome since winning Super Bowl XXVIII, Dallas improved to 7-1. After having possession of the ball for only 5:47 of the first quarter, the Cowboys scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions before an interception interrupted the string midway through the final quarter. Michael Irvin caught a pass in his 73rd straight game, breaking Tony Hill’s club record. Emmitt Smith added 167 yards on the ground.  Deion Sanders made his Cowboys debut, contributing a pass defended and a reception for six yards.

Week 10: Dallas 34, Philadelphia 12

The Cowboys defense had its most productive outing since the opening game of the season in knocking off division-rival Philadelphia. The Eagles were held to 230 yards of total offense. Larry Brown returned an interception 20 yards for his first NFL touchdown. Emmitt Smith’s 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter pushed him over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.

Week 11: San Francisco 38, Dallas 20

The Cowboys suffered their third consecutive loss to the 49ers in front of 65,180, the most people to watch a game at Texas Stadium since the 1993 NFC Championship Game against San Francisco. On the second play of the game, 49ers quarterback Elvis Grbac connected with Jerry Rice for an 81-yard touchdown. Two plays into Dallas ‘ first possession, Merton Hanks returned a Michael Irvin fumble 38 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 49ers lead. Following a Rickey Jackson interception of Troy Aikman, San Francisco tacked on a 26-yard Jeff Wilkins field goal to build a 17-0 lead five minutes into the game.

Week 12: Dallas 34, Oakland 21

The Cowboys secondary contributed three interceptions, while the offense got back on track. Deion Sanders intercepted a Jeff Hostetler pass and returned it 37 yards to set up the Cowboys offense. Aikman, en route to a 19-of-24 day, connected on 13 consecutive passes during one stretch. Michael Irvin’s 109 yards receiving gave him 8,104 career receiving yards, becoming the first Cowboy to eclipse the 8,000-yard barrier.

Week 13: Dallas 24, Kansas City 12

Dallas moved to an NFL-best 10-2 with the Thanksgiving Day win. In building a 14-0 first-quarter lead, Dallas controlled the ball for 12:54. Michael Irvin’s touchdown gave him nine scores on the season, establishing a new career high. Emmitt Smith scored his 92nd career rushing touchdown, which ranked fifth in NFL history. However, he left the game late in the third quarter with a sprained left knee. Chris Boniol extended his club record for consecutive field goals to 15.

Week 14: Washington 24, Dallas 17

For the first time since 1991, Dallas lost to an NFC East team at Texas Stadium, and the Redskins swept the season series with Dallas . Michael Irvin established an NFL record for most 100-yard receiving games in a season with 11 as he tallied 101 yards. Irvin’s 10 catches gave him 98 on the year, setting a club record. Emmitt Smith scored his 22nd rushing touchdown, setting a team record and placing him second in NFL history for rushing touchdowns behind John Riggins’ 24.

Week 15: Philadelphia 20, Dallas 17

In the infamous 4th-and-1 game, Dallas lost consecutive games for the first time since 1993. After stopping the Cowboys on fourth-and-one at the Dallas 29-yard line with two minutes left, Philadelphia’s Gary Anderson kicked the game-winning 42-yard field goal. Troy Aikman was sacked at the Cowboys ‘ 45 to end the game. Even with the loss, Dallas clinched its fifth consecutive playoff berth.

Week 16: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 20

On the first play of the game, Brock Marion picked off Dave Brown at the Cowboys ‘ 48-yard line. Nine plays later, Chris Boniol connected on a 27-yard field goal. Dallas drove 58 yards late to set up Boniol with his fifth field goal attempt of the day. Boniol drilled the 35-yarder as time expired to give Dallas a 21-20 come-from-behind victory. His five field goals tied the club record for most field goals in a game and extended his string of consecutive field goals made to 22.

Even with the win, the Cowboys and 49ers both stood at 11-4. If San Francisco beat Atlanta in the final week of the season, the Cowboys would lose home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

But Atlanta’s Terance Mathis scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass in the 4th quarter to give the Falcons a 28-27 win, providing the Cowboys with the opportunity to clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win over Arizona.

Week 17: Dallas 37, Arizona 13

The Cowboys came through, clinching their fourth consecutive NFC East title and securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Midway through the final period, Emmitt Smith went around left tackle for a three-yard touchdown, his 25th of the year and the 100th of his career. Smith’s 25 touchdowns established a new NFL season record. Kevin Williams had nine catches for 203 yards, both career highs. Williams also recorded 307 total yards (203 receiving, 21 rushing, 83 on kickoff returns), the highest recorded by a Cowboy in one game.

1995 Review: The Cowboys Start with a 6-1 Record, and Then Add Deion

Emmitt Smith helped the Cowboys jump out the gate in 1995 by rushing 60 yards for a TD in an opening-game win over the Giants.

It was tough to say that many expected the Cowboys to seriously pursue a fifth Super Bowl title in 1995. The team still had talent, but the loss of Alvin Harper, Mark Stepnoski, Ken Norton (in 1994), and others in the previous two offseasons left the Cowboys will some holes to fill.

The Cowboys changed minds quickly in the first week of the season, dominating the Giants in the opening game. The win was bittersweet because the team lost cornerback Kevin Smith for the season with an injury. Because of Smith’s injury, and because of what Deion Sanders did for the 49ers the year before, Jerry Jones aggressively pursued the free agent cornerback. Dallas signed Sanders on September 9, but he did not take the field until after the Cowboys’ week 8 bye. At that point, the Cowboys were already 6-1.

Week 1: Dallas 35, N.Y. Giants 0

The Cowboys opened before 77,454 at Giants Stadium and a Monday Night Football audience. Emmitt Smith scored on the Cowboys ‘ third offensive play when he broke up the middle for a 60-yard touchdown run. Smith finished with 163 yards on 21 carries and four touchdowns. He also became the Cowboys ‘ all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 75, breaking Tony Dorsett‘s record of 72. Kevin Smith left with a partially ruptured Achilles’ tendon in the second quarter and would miss the remainder of the season.

Week 2: Dallas 31, Denver 21

The Cowboys overcame a sluggish start to improve to 2-0 in front of 64,578 at Texas Stadium. Brock Marion led the Dallas defense with a career-high 11 tackles, while Charles Haley contributed five tackles and two sacks. Emmitt Smith, who finished with 114 yards on 26 carries, extended his club record of consecutive games with a rushing touchdown to nine.

Week 3: Dallas 23, Minnesota 17 (OT)

The Cowboys needed a little extra time at the Metrodome. The Vikings tied the score with 30 seconds left when Cris Carter catches an eight-yard Warren Moon pass for the touchdown. Dallas took the overtime kickoff and drove 73 yards, capped by Emmitt Smith’s 31-yard touchdown run. Michael Irvin finished with eight catches for 107 yards his 27th career 100-yard receiving day, breaking Tony Hill’s club record.

Week 4: Dallas 34, Arizona 20

The Cowboys’ 4-0 start was their best since 1983. Dallas started off strong against the Cardinals, scoring on the game-opening drive. Dallas maintained the lead when Larry Brown intercepted a Dave Krieg pass in the end zone. On the following drive, Sherman Williams broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run, his first pro touchdown. Brock Marion finished the Cardinals’ next possession when he intercepted Krieg at the Dallas 34.

Week 5: Washington 27, Dallas 23

The Cowboys suffered their first defeat of the season at RFK Stadium. The Redskins lead, 20-10, before halftime when Gus Frerotte found Terry Allen for a five-yard touchdown pass. Following an Emmitt Smith fumble to start the third quarter, Allen increased the Redskins’ lead to 27-10 with a one-yard touchdown run. In the final period, Wade Wilson, in for an injured Troy Aikman, hit Michael Irvin with a 28-yard touchdown. Wilson was intercepted at the Redskins’ 21 with four seconds left to seal the Washington victory. Aikman left the game following Dallas ‘ first series with a strained calf and did not return.

Week 6: Dallas 34, Green Bay 24

Dallas defeated the Packers for the fifth consecutive time at Texas Stadium. Troy Aikman, playing with a strained calf, was 24-of-31 passing for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Irvin caught eight passes for 150 yards, his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving day, a Cowboys record. For the fifth time in 1995, the defense allowed less than 100 yards rushing.

Week 7: Dallas 23, San Diego 9

The Cowboys defeated the defending AFC champion to move to 6-1 heading into the bye week. Dallas opened with Larry Brown picking off his third pass of the season at the Cowboys ‘ seven. On the next play, the Chargers’ Reuben Davis sacked Troy Aikman in the end zone for a 2-0 lead. Following a Gale Gilbert fumble, Emmitt Smith capped off a 48-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run to give Dallas a 7-2 advantage. Brock Marion preserved the lead as he picked off Gilbert in the end zone. Aikman, who finished 21-of-30 for 222 yards, broke Don Meredith’s club record for consecutive passes without an interception with 160.

Coming up…

Good way to win a championship...and cause salary cap problems for years to come.

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1995 Review: Cowboys Employ Disasterous Draft Strategy

Tight end Eric Bjornson was the best player taken in the 1995 draft.

In 1994, the Cowboys found a future Hall of Famer in Larry Allen, so the fact that the rest of the draft was so poor was forgivable. In 1995, the Cowboys decided that instead of drafting potential future starters or even the best players available, the team would look for backups and special teams players. In 1998, the Cowboys were still regretting the decisions made in that draft.

Despite snickers from around the NFL, [Jerry] Jones and [Scouting Director Larry] Lacewell followed through with their unorthodox strategy that spring – with undeniably disastrous results:

Running back Sherman Williams – released earlier this month. Guard Shane Hannah – in training camp in Carolina. Tight end Kendell Watkins – cut last year and trying to stick in the NFL as a guard with Denver.

Hannah, a second-round pick, admitted to reporters on draft day that he didn’t expect to be taken until the fifth or sixth round – if at all. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ third-round pick, safety Charlie Williams, was deemed free-agent material by most teams.

And so on, and so on . . .

Here’s a look at the result of this strategy:

2(46) Sherman Williams, RB, Alabama
2(59) Kendell Watkins, TE, Mississippi State
2(63) Shane Hannah, G, Michigan State
3(92) Charlie Williams, DB, Bowling Green
4(110) Eric Bjornson, TE, Washington
4(129) Alundis Brice, DB, Mississippi
4(130) Linc Harden, LB, Oklahoma State
5(166) Edward Hervey, WR, USC
5(168) Dana Howard, LB, Illinois
7(236) Oscar Sturgis, DE, North Carolina

The DMN provided more about the effects that these draft picks had on the team over the next several years:

[B]ecause Sherman Williams was fumble-prone and undedicated in his preparation as Emmitt Smith’s much-needed backup, the Cowboys gave up on him and signed former Seattle Seahawk Chris Warren to a three-year, $2 million contract that included a $600,000 signing bonus.

Because Hannah was such a bust as a second-round selection at guard, the Cowboys were forced to sign Everett McIver – formerly of their practice squad – away from the Miami Dolphins at a cost of $9.5 million over five years, including a $1.6 million bonus.

Because Bjornson hasn’t been able to stay healthy for any length of time, the Cowboys felt they had to trade up to take LSU tight end David LaFleur in the first round of the 1997 draft. The cost? $5.325 million over five years, including a $1.8 million bonus.

And because Charlie Williams showed no ability to be a starting free safety after incumbent Brock Marion left for Miami in free agency last spring, the Cowboys asked journeyman George Teague back at a cost of $1.3 million over two years.

The financial hit from those four moves alone: $18.125 million in commitments just to clean up the mistakes of ’95.

The Cowboys traded the 28th overall pick to Tampa Bay for two second-round picks. The Buccaneers took linebacker Derrick Brooks. The Cowboys used one of the second-round picks on Hannah, who was injured in training camp in 1995 and never played a down in the NFL. Running backs available when Dallas took Sherman Williams included Terrell Davis and Curtis Martin.

Free agency caused further erosion to the Cowboys’ talent base, as the team lost center Mark Stepnoski, receiver Alvin Harper, defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, backup quarterback Rodney Peete, defensive back Kenny Gant, and safety James Washington.

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1994 Review: Cowboys’ Three-Peat Attempt Fails

Deion Sanders breaks up a pass intended for Michael Irvin in the 1994 NFC Championship Game.

The Cowboys entered the 1994 playoffs wondering whether their offense would be effective with Emmitt Smith still hobbled by a hamstring injury. A divisional-round win over the Packers gave Dallas fans greater hope for a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, but the Cowboys could not overcome an early deficit against the 49ers.

Divisional Round, 1994 NFC Playoffs: Dallas 35, Green Bay 9

For the second consecutive year, the Cowboys faced the Packers in the playoffs. Smith only carried the ball seven times for 44 yards, but it hardly mattered. Troy Aikman completed 23 of 30 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns, including a 94-yarder to Alvin Harper. Harper, Michael Irvin, and Jay Novacek each finished with more than 100 receiving yards in the Dallas blowout.

NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 38, Dallas 28

Within five minutes of the NFC title game, the 49ers had a 21-0 lead thanks to an interception return for a touchdown and two fumbles that led to two other 49er touchdowns. Dallas cut the San Francisco lead to 10 three different times, but the 49ers were extend their lead to 17 twice. Barry Switzer went nuts when Deion Sanders was not called for pass interference, and when Switzer bumped an official, the Cowboys were penalized 15 yards. The poor call and the penalty helped to kill a late drive that could have cut the 49er lead to 3, but the bottom line was that the Cowboys could not afford the early mistakes.

The 49ers turned the tables on the Cowboys by playing error-free football as Dallas had done in winning the last two NFC title games. On Sunday, the Cowboys committed five turnovers, missed a short field goal, shanked a punt, made Twilight Zone play-calling decisions on both sides of the ball and, thus, ended their season.

The miserable highlights:

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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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Cowboys Well Represented in the Hall (for a 50-Year-Old Franchise)

Emmitt Smith is the 12th Dallas Cowboy to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame

With the induction of Emmitt Smith into the Hall of Fame on Saturday night, the Cowboys are now represented in Canton by 12 players, coaches, and executives who made their principal mark in Dallas. Six other players in the Hall of Fame also played with the Cowboys. Here is the list:

Played Principally in Dallas

Troy Aikman (1989-2000)
Tony Dorsett (1977-1987)
Bob Hayes (1965-1974)
Michael Irvin (1988-1999)
Tom Landry (1960-1988)
Bob Lilly (1961-1974)
Mel Renfro (1964-1977)
Tex Schramm (1960-1989)
Emmitt Smith (1990-2002)
Roger Staubach (1969-1979)
Randy White (1975-1988)
Rayfield Wright (1967-1979)

Other Players

Herb Adderley (1970-1972)
Lance Alworth (1971-1972)
Mike Ditka (1969-1972)
Forrest Gregg (1971)
Tommy McDonald (1964)
Jackie Smith (1978)

The Cowboys don’t rank especially high on the list of teams with the most Hall-of-Famers, but most of the franchises ahead of Dallas existed long before the Cowboys were born in 1960. The Bears have a total of 26 members, though 19 of them played before the Cowboys even existed. Other franchises with more members likewise existed for decades before the Cowboys birth, including Green Bay (21), N.Y. Giants (18), Pittsburgh (18), and Washington (18). The Cardinals are the league’s oldest team, yet the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona franchise can claim only 11 members.

As for teams formed near the time of the Cowboys, only the Raiders have more Hall of Fame members with 13. The Vikings have 10 with the induction of John Randle.

Although there will be a push to see Drew Pearson inducted, the next Cowboy with the best chance of making it to Canton is Larry Allen, who will be eligible in 2013.

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1994 Review: Larry Allen Highlights an Otherwise Woeful Draft Class

The selection of Larry Allen was the highlight of the 1994 draft.

Heading into the 1994 season, the Cowboys had very few holes to fill. The biggest loss was linebacker Ken Norton, Jr., who signed with San Francisco. However, Dallas still had pretty good depth at the linebacker position, which helped to soften the blow.  The Cowboys otherwise had lost some important role players in Jimmie Jones, Thomas Everett, John Gesek, Kevin Gogan, and Bernie Kosar. Dallas also lost offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who became the head coach of the Redskins. However, the core of the team and many of its important reserves would return.

Down the road, though, the 1994 offseason was similar to those to come, as the team slowly saw its core gutted and failed to bring in enough talent to remain a championship caliber team.

As for the effect of the biggest loss in 1994– Jimmy Johnson– the Cowboys probably needed his drafting insight. The team moved up from 28th to 23rd to snag Arizona State defensive end Shante Carver, though some considered him to be a reach in the first round.

From the Dallas Morning News:

[S]everal NFL personnel directors compiled scouting reports on Carver that differed sharply from the Cowboys’. While the Philadelphia Eagles included Carver in the top 20 players, the San Francisco 49ers listed him a potential third-round draft choice. That is the round in which they drafted Haley in 1986. The personnel directors for two other NFC teams considered the Cowboys’ decision a reach for the 23rd overall pick.

Despite a school-record 41 sacks for Arizona State, Carver is considered undersized and somewhat slow to be a successful pass rusher in the NFL.

The result: 52 games in 4 seasons with 11.5 sacks.

The second-round pick may have appeared to be a reach as well, but Larry Allen turned out to be perhaps the best lineman in team history. In 12 seasons, he made the Pro Bowl 10 times and was named All-Pro six times. He will almost certainly be the next player to earn a trip to Canton.

The others didn’t come close to Hall of Fame status, to say the least.

1(23) Shante Carver, DE, Arizona State
2(46) Larry Allen, G, Sonoma State
3(102) George Hegamin, T, North Carolina State
4(109) Willie Jackson, WR, Florida
4(131) DeWayne Dotson, LB, Mississippi
6(191) Darren Studsill, DB, West Virginia
7(216) Toddrick McIntosh, DE, Florida State

George Hegamin became a starter by 1997 when Mark Tuinei went down with an injury. However, Hegamin was gone by 1998. Of the other four, only Studsill played in a game for the Cowboys (one game in 1994).

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1994 Review: The Unthinkable Becomes Reality as Switzer Replaces Johnson

Jimmy Johnson compiled a 44-36 record in Dallas, including a 7-1 record in the playoffs.

The Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993 became only the fifth franchise to win consecutive Super Bowls. Their coach, Jimmy Johnson, had in five years won as many championships as Tom Landry did in twenty nine.

Most fans had set their sights on an unprecedented third title.

On Tuesday, March 22, 1994, Jerry Jones opened his mouth at the league meeting on Orlando, Florida and suggested that he could hire any one of 500 coaches to lead the Cowboys to a title.

The next day, Randy Galloway wrote:

What we really have here is a frustrated coach, or better yet, a frustrated general manager. And while Jones is proudest of the general manager title he’s given himself, it wounds him deeply when the media refers to Johnson as “his own general manager.”

Anyway, this frustration has been building for Jones since after the first world championship. And it must have boiled over early Tuesday morning in a hotel bar in Orlando.

He’s going to do what? Fire Jimmy Johnson ? Hire Barry Switzer?

Somebody better call 9-1-1 and ask for the psycho ward.

One week after Jerry’s comment, Jimmy was out as the Cowboys’ coach. Sure, Jimmy later said that he planned to leave after five years anyway, but at the time the feud was a non-stop soap opera.

One day after Jimmy announced his departure, the Cowboys hired the third coach in team history when Switzer came on board.

Here’s a clip that shows part of the press conference and discusses Switzer’s arrival in Dallas:

Things didn’t get bad in Dallas for a few more years, but the euphoria that surrounded the 1992 and 1993 seasons was gone.  Also gone was the string of remarkable drafts, which we will address in the next post.

Bad Blood (Sports Illustrated, April 11, 1994)

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