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.


1993 Review: Cowboys Overpower Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII

Emmitt Smith's second half earned him the MVP award of Super Bowl XXVIII.

The Cowboys jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the first quarter of Super Bowl XXVIII, but something was a little bit off. Troy Aikman appeared to struggle with the effects of the concussion he suffered a week earlier, and he threw a costly interception in the second quarter. By halftime, Dallas trailed 13-6, giving Cowboy fans much more to worry about compared with the Super Bowl against the Bills a year earlier.

Then came the third quarter.

On the third play of the second half, the Bills had a 1st and 10 on their own 43. Thurman Thomas ran three yards before he was stripped by Leon Lett. James Washington recovered and returned the ball 46 yards for a touchdown that tied the game.

On the next drive, Buffalo had great field position thanks to a Dallas penalty that was enforced on the kickoff. However, Charles Haley and Jim Jeffcoat sacked Jim Kelly for a loss of 13 on third down, resulting in a punt.

What followed was the greatest drive in Emmitt Smith’s career and the greatest moment for any Dallas offensive line in team history. Dallas took the ball over at its own 36, and Jimmy Johnson decided to feed the ball to Smith. The result:

Dallas 36, 1–10      E. Smith 9 run right.
Dallas 45, 2–1     E. Smith 3 run right.
Dallas 48, 1–10     E. Smith 9 run right.
Buffalo 43, 2–1     E. Smith 7 run middle.
Buffalo 36, 1–10     E. Smith 14 run right.
Buffalo 22, 1–10     E. Smith 4 run right.
Buffalo 18, 2–6     Aikman 3 screen pass to Johnston left.
Buffalo 15, 3–3     E. Smith 15 run right, touchdown (8:42). Murray kicked extra point.

Every Buffalo drive from that point on ended in a punt until the very end of the game. Smith scored again on a one-yard touchdown to put the game away.

Smith earned the MVP by rushing 30 times for 132 yards. He equal as far as heroism, though, was Washington,who not only scored on the fumble recovery by also forced a fumble, intercepted a pass, and recorded 11 tackles.

Here’s the video:

Super Bowl XXVIII Box Score

Worth repeating … How ’bout them Cowboys!

Play-by-Play (USA Today)

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1993 Review: Cowboys Dominate Packers and 49ers to Reach SB XXVIII

Charles Haley hits Steve Young during the 1993 NFC Championship Game.

The Cowboys entered the 1993 playoffs rested after a bye week. There were still concerns over Emmit Smith‘s shoulder following the season finale against the Giants, but otherwise the team was peaking at the right time. Dallas had won five straight.

Divisional Round: Dallas 27, Green Bay 17

Green Bay narrowly made the playoffs and then won on a last-second touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sterling Sharpe. This combination was the biggest concern for the Cowboys in their opening playoff game. And with the Cowboys shutting down the Packers’ rushing offense, Green Bay became one-dimensional. The Cowboys managed to post a 17-3 halftime lead thanks to Kenny Gant causing a fumble late in the first half. Smith only managed 60 yards on 13 carries, and the Cowboys had to rely more on Troy Aikman than normal. He completed 28 of 37 passes for 302 yards with three touchdowns and two picks. Michael Irvin hauled in nine of those passes for 126 yards.

The Cowboys were less than pleased with their overall performance. The disappointment led Jimmy Johnson to call into a local radio show and guarantee a win over the 49ers (see the video clip below).

NFC Championship Game: Dallas 38, San Francisco 21

The 49ers had only managed a 10-6 record in 1993 and had lost three of their final four games before the playoffs. However, they dominated the Giants in the opening round, 44-3. However, Johnson’s guarantee got into the heads of San Francisco’s players, including Jerry Rice. Dallas dominated the first half, taking a 28-7 lead at the half. It looked all but over until Troy Aikman suffered a concussion early in the third quarter. San Francisco cut the lead to 28-14, and with Bernie Kosar at quarterback for Dallas, there were a few concerns. However, Kosar put the game way when he hit Alvin Harper on a slant pattern that resulted in a 42-yard touchdown pass. The game was never in doubt after that, and the Cowboys were headed to their seventh Super Bowl.

Here are some highlights from the America’s Game video on the 1993 Cowboys:

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Classic 1993 Interview with Tom Landry

Tom Landry Interview from 1993.

In 1993, journalist Charlie Rose conducted an interview with Tom Landry, who had just been inducted into the Cowboys‘  Ring of Honor. The interview took place during the week after the Cowboys had beaten the Giants and were preparing to play the Phoenix Cardinals. A few highlights about the interview:

* Jerry Jones originally wanted to induct Landry about a year after Jerry bought the club. However, Jones was still in the process of firing members of the old guard, so Landry thought it wasn’t time.

* Landry on the 1993 Cowboys: Quarterbacks are getting destroyed, especially in the NFC East. He said the team would go all the way, barring an injury to Aikman, Smith, etc.

* Landry was not very big on agents, but he acknowledged that the 1990s were a “new era.” The old seniority system by 1993 was gone.

* Closest players to Landry: Roger Staubach and Bob Lilly. Landry “divorced himself” from relationship with players during their careers, but he became friends with several after their playing days.

* Landry’s memory wasn’t great– he referred to the Cowboys’ 1972 miracle win over the 49ers, but he said it happened in “oh, about ’70.”

* Toughest coach, according to Landry: Paul Brown.

* Rose asked Landry if there were any circumstances that would bring him back to football. Landry: “Not at all… Go find Joe Gibbs.”

The clip (which is over an hour long) also features interviews with Jerry Jones and CBS’ Jim Nantz.

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1993 Review: Cowboys Rebound to Set Up Classic Season Finale

Dallas fullback Daryl Johnston runs with the ball in the snow in the Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day game against Miami in 1993.

Once the Cowboys signed Emmitt Smith after the second week of the 1993 season, the team took off. Dallas won seven consecutive games before stumbling a bit, followed by another rebound.

By the season finale at the Meadowlands, both the Cowboys and Giants had 11-4 records. Their game was for all the marbles– NFC East title and a bye in the opening round of the playoffs. In a single game, Emmit showed he was worth every dime the Cowboys paid him.

A fairly big story during the middle of the 1993 season was the team’s signing of former Cleveland quarterback Bernie Kosar. His presence was even more important in the playoffs.

Another noteworthy feature of the 1993 season was that it was the first and only season where teams received two bye weeks. The experiment failed.

Here are the summaries for the rest of the regular season:

Week 3: Dallas 17, Phoenix 10

Smith debuted after signing three days later. But it was Derrick Lassic who rushed for 60 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns in the team’s first win of the season.

Week 4: Bye

Week 5: Dallas 36, Green Bay 14

Troy Aikman had a huge day, completing 18 of 23 passes for 317 yards, including a 61-yarder to Michael Irvin. New kicker Eddie Murray (formerly of the Lions) hit five field goals to tie a team record.

Week 6: Dallas 27, Indianapolis 3

The Cowboys picked off Indianapolis quarterbacks four times, while Smith had his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season.

Week 7: Dallas 26, San Francisco 17

Receiver Michael Irvin came up huge in the rematch of the 1992 NFC Championship Game, as he caught 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown. It marked the first time since 1980 that the Cowboys had beaten the 49ers during the regular season.

Week 8: Bye

Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 10

In one of Smith’s signature games, the running back broke Tony Dorsett‘s single-game rushing record by gaining 237 yards in the Cowboys’ fifth straight wi

Week 10: Dallas 31, NY Giants 9

The Cowboys jumped out to a huge lead on the Giants, but with the Cowboys ahead 17-6, Troy Aikman hurt his hamstring. His injury left the team with Jason Garrett at quarterback until the Cowboys decided to bring Kosar on board

Week 11: Dallas 20, Phoenix 15

With just three days of practice, Kosar filled in for Garrett and completed 13 of 21 passes for 199 yards, including an 86-yard pass play to Smith. The 20-15 win gave the Cowboys a 7-2 record.

Week 12: Atlanta 27, Dallas 14

Smith missed most of this game with a thigh bruise, and Kosar struggled to get the offense going. Bobby Hebert threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Falcon win.

Week 13: Miami 16, Dallas 14

In one of the most peculiar game in team history, the Cowboys and Dolphins played in a snow storm at Texas Stadium that few could forget. The Cowboys appeared to win the game when Jimmie Jones blocked Pete Stoyanovich’s 41-yard field goal attempt. However, Leon Lett made an infamous mental mistake when he slid in the snow and touched the ball after the block. Stoyanovich’s 19-yard kick on the final play lifted Miami to victory and left the Cowboys staring at a 7-4 record.

Week 14: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17

The Cowboys snapped the losing streak at two but failed to answer many questions in barely holding off the outmanned Eagles. Smith had another monster game with 172 yards on 23 carries, giving him more than 400 rushing yards in two regular-season games against Philadelphia.

Week 15: Dallas 37, Minnesota 20

The Dallas offense looked back on track against the Vikings as the Cowboys jumped out to a 27-6 lead. However, Jimmy Johnson said he was unhappy with a late touchdown scored by the Vikings and that the Cowboys had a long way to go before getting ready for the playoffs. It was the last regular-season game in which the defense would give up two touchdowns.

Week 16: Dallas 28, NY Jets 7

Dallas shut down the Jets’ struggling offense to raise its record to 10-4. The game was an ugly one as the teams combined for nine turnovers, including five by the Cowboys. Jets coach Bruce Coslet, who later coached in Dallas, confronted Johnson after the game, thinking the Cowboys should have backed off in the final minutes.

Week 17: Dallas 38, Washington 3

In what is still the biggest blowout in series history, the Cowboys dominated the Redskins at Texas Stadium to avenge the opening-game loss. Smith had his third 100-yard rushing effort in four games.

Week 18: Dallas 16, N.Y. Giants 13

By the time Eddie Murray nailed a 41-yard field goal in overtime, Emmitt Smith had practically guaranteed he would make the Hall of Fame. Dallas had jumped out to a 13-0 lead at the half, but the team struggled in the second half.  The teams finished regulation tied at 13.

Smith touched the ball 42 times in the game. On the final drive in overtime, Smith accounted for 41 of the 52 yards to put the team in field-goal range.

Here’s the America’s Game clip focusing on this game:

With the win, the Cowboys had a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since 1977.

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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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1993 Review: Jimmy Johnson Runs His Final Draft for the Cowboys

Times were still happy during the 1993 offseason.

Between 1977 and 1992, the NFL Draft consisted of 12 rounds. In 1993, the league reduced the number to eight rounds.

With the Cowboys holding the final pick in the first round, Dallas pulled off a trade with the Packers. Dallas exchanged its first- and fourth-round picks for two second-round picks, a fourth-round pick, and an eighth-round pick.

With those two second rounders, Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones focused on two players from the University of Miami: wide receiver Kevin Williams and linebacker Darrin Smith. Williams replaced Kelvin Martin as the team’s slot receiver and punt returner, while Smith’s speed helped him to develop into a starter during his rookie season in 1993.

Dallas found some quality players in the later rounds, including safety Brock Marion. However, most of these players had better success with other teams later in their careers. Here is the complete draft for the Cowboys:

2(46) Kevin Williams, WR, Miami
2(54) Darrin Smith, LB, Miami
3(84) Mike Middleton, DB, Indiana
4(94) Derrick Lassic, RB, Alabama
4(96) Ron Stone, G, Boston College
6(168) Barry Minter, LB, Tulsa
7(196) Brock Marion, DB, Nevada-Reno
8(203) Dave Thomas, DB, Tenneseee
8(213) Reggie Givens, LB, Penn State

Lassic replaced Emmitt Smith to begin the 1993 season, which turned out to be Lassic’s only NFL season.  Marion became a starter with the Cowboys before becoming a Pro Bowl player in Miami. Dave Thomas became a starter with Jacksonville, while Ron Stone became a Pro Bowl player with the Giants and 49ers. Minter never played for the Cowboys but became a starter for the Bears.

Given that the Cowboys had so much talent already, this was a good draft. Williams had several good moments, and Smith was a solid starter for four years in Dallas.

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1993 Review: Free Agency Becomes the New Offseason Game

Emmitt Smith threatened to leave the Cowboys via free agency after the 1992 season.

Until 1993, NFL teams were generally in control of the players who might have wanted to leave teams for greener pastures. The Dallas Cowboys never had to worry about Roger Staubach or Tony Dorsett signing with other teams– unless the Cowboys decided to let these players go.

The headline in the February 25, 1993 issue of the Dallas Morning News was thus disheartening: “Smith Expects Offers, Prepared to Leave Cowboys.” Yes, that was the same Emmitt Smith who had just led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl championship after winning his second consecutive NFL rushing title.

The article read in part:

This is possibly rhetoric in the absence of real leverage, because Emmitt Smith cannot simply take the money and run. But the Cowboys running back and two-time NFL rushing champion said Wednesday he is prepared to change teams to obtain the highest contract.

Smith, who is about to become a restricted free agent, said for the first time he plans to make personal appearances with teams interested in him. He also anticipates at least one will make him a lucrative offer to leave the Cowboys.

“I see ways I could leave here,” Smith said. “Whether I’m going to remain with the Dallas Cowboys remains to be seen.”

Just after this article was published, the Cowboys announced that they had made Michael Irvin their transitional player, giving Dallas the right to match any offer made for Irvin by another team.

Smith made some waves by meeting with the Buccaneers and Dolphins during the offseason, but he obviously never signed with these teams. On the other hand, his contract issues weren’t resolved for several months.

Dallas didn’t manage to avoid all losses during this first free agency period. Backup QB Steve Beuerlein signed with the Arizona Cardinals, and WR Kelvin Martin signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

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1992 Review: Landry’s Cowboys on the 1992 Super Bowl Team

Tom Landry was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1993.

In the America’s Game special on the 1992 Cowboys, Michael Irvin says that one of his first moves when Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson took over the team was to inform the two of players who were performing under Tom Landry simply to earn a paycheck.

By the time the Cowboys had won Super Bowl XXVII, only nine players who were on one of Tom Landry’s roster remained on the team. These players include:

G Kevin Gogan (8th round, 1987)
WR Michael Irvin (1st round, 1988)
DE Jim Jeffcoat (1st round, 1983)
LB Ken Norton (2nd round, 1988)
G Nate Newton (Free agent, 1986)
WR Kelvin Martin (4th round, 1987)
P Mike Saxon (Free agent, 1985)
T Mark Tuinei (Free agent, 1983)
S Bill Bates (Free agent, 1983)

Not a bad list. Of these players, Irvin and Tuinei were starters. Jeffcoat had lost his job to Charles Haley earlier in the season, though Jeffcoat continued to play an important role as a backup in the defensive line rotation. Gogan was a starter at guard in 1991 and 1993, but he only started one game in 1992. Martin was the team’s slot receiver.  Saxon was out as the team’s punter after the 1992 season.

Bates, of course, did not play in SB XXVII because he had been injured for most of the 1992 season. Because he came back, I included him. On the other hand, Danny Noonan was on the team to begin the 1992 season, but he was released after two games. Thus, I left him off.

So, anyway…

Here is the America’s Game clip for the 1992 Cowboys.

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1992 Review: Cowboys Dominate Bills in Super Bowl XXVII

Emmitt Smith finds a hole in Super Bowl XXVII

The Cowboys had already climbed a huge mountain by beating the 49ers in the NFC title game, but the biggest game had yet to be played. The Bills had lost the two previous Super Bowls, but some believed that Buffalo would be able to knock off the young Cowboys.

The game even provided some suspense, as the nervous Cowboys went three and out before Buffalo blocked a Mike Saxon punt. Thurman Thomas scored to give the Bills a 7-0 lead.

From that point on, the Bills did everything they could give Dallas the game, while the Cowboys looked nearly flawless. The Cowboys tied the game at 7 when Troy Aikman found Jay Novacek on a seam route for a 23-yard touchdown. Just seconds later, Charles Haley knocked the ball from Jim Kelly, and Jimmie Jones recovered to score a touchdown. Dallas never trailed again.

Aikman found Michael Irvin on two famous touchdown passes in the second quarter, and the Cowboys went into the locker room with a 28-10 lead.

The Cowboys ate the clock for much of the third quarter, but a fluke touchdown from Frank Reich to Don Beebe cut the Dallas lead to 31-17 at the end of the third quarter. Reich was obviously over the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball, but the referees never caught it.

Any concerns that Reich would lead the Bills from behind were quickly erased in the fourth quarter. Aikman threw his fourth touchdown pass, Emmitt Smith scored on a ten-yard run, and the defense continued to force the Bills into mistakes.

With the 52-17 win, the Cowboys were championship for the first time since 1977.

Here are the video highlights, thanks to Hulu.

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1992 Review: Cowboys Knock Off Eagles and 49ers to Reach Super Bowl XXVII

Jimmy Johnson celebrates after the Cowboys knocked off the 49ers to earn a trip to Super Bowl XXVII.

This post continues the discussion of the 1992 Dallas Cowboys.

Divisional Playoffs: Dallas 34, Philadelphia 10

The Cowboys‘ 13-3 record and NFC East title ensured that the team would host its first playoff game since 1983.

For only the second time in franchise history, the Cowboys would face the Philadelphia Eagles in the postseason thanks to the Eagles’ 36-20 win over the Saints. The Cowboys had only managed a 2-9 record against Philadelphia since 1987, but those two wins had occurred during the previous three games.

The game turned out to be a blowout. Dallas ran out to a 17-3 halftime lead, and by the time Derrick Gainer had scored in the fourth quarter, the game was all but over. The Cowboys outgained the Eagles 346 yards to 178. Emmitt Smith had a strong day, gaining 114 yards on 25 carries. In his first playoff start, Troy Aikman was sharp, completing 15 of 25 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

NFC Championship Game: Dallas 30, San Francisco 20

Much was made of the parallels between the 1981 NFC Championship and the 1992 contest. San Francisco was the more experienced team, and given that the game was played at Candlestick Park, the 49ers were the favored team.

In one of the great games in franchise history, the Cowboys pulled out the win. After the teams managed a 10-10 tie at the half, the Cowboys grabbed the lead in the third quarter to cap off a 78-yard drive. Dallas looked as if it had iced the game when Emmitt Smith scored on a 16-yard touchdown reception with 12:25 left, and on the ensuing drive, Ken Norton Jr. picked off a Steve Young pass.

Dallas drove the ball to the 7 and faced a 4th-and-1. Jimmy Johnson decided to put the game away, so he went for it even though a field goal would have increased the Dallas lead to 27-13. The 49ers held, and four short minutes later, a San Francisco touchdown cut the Dallas lead to 4 at 24-20.

When the Cowboys got the ball back, most expected heavy doses of Emmitt Smith. Instead, Aikman threw a slant pattern to Alvin Harper, who broke free of the 49er secondary and ran the ball all the way to the San Francisco 9. A touchdown pass from Aikman to Kelvin Martin three plays later gave Dallas a 30-20.

For the first time since 1978, the Cowboys were going back to the Super Bowl.

Here’s the NFL Films version of the 1992 NFC title game. Enjoy.

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