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.


1992 Review: Cowboys Post 13-Win Regular Season

Emmitt Smith was a steady force in 1992, gaining 1,713 yards and winning another NFL rushing title.

Some may have doubted whether the youthful Dallas Cowboys of 1992 were ready to seriously challenge for a Super Bowl title, but those doubts were slowly erased throughout the season. The Cowboys jumped out to an 8-1 record en route to a 13-3 mark, giving the game the most wins in a season in franchise history.

Here is a review of the regular season.

Week 1: Dallas 23, Washington 10

Ike Holt blocked a punt for a safety and Emmitt Smith scored a touchdown in the first quarter, giving the Cowboys a 9-0 lead. Dallas held on to post a 23-10 win over the defending Super Bowl champions.

Week 2: Dallas 34, NY Giants 28

Dallas jumped out to a 34-0 lead early in the third quarter, then watched Phil Simms lead four consecutive touchdown drives. Dallas finally held the Giants on a drive late in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys the 34-28 win.

Week 3: Dallas 31, Phoenix 20

Michael Irvin surpassed the 200-yard mark for the only time in his career, catching eight passes for 210 yards. His 87-yard catch-and-run for a TD gave Dallas an early lead, and he caught two more to help Dallas to cruise to a win.

Week 4: Bye

Week 5: Philadelphia 31, Dallas 7

The Cowboys struggled throughout the game at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys outgained the Eagles but turned the ball over four times in the loss.

Week 6: Dallas 27, Seattle 0

For the first time since 1978 (vs. Baltimore in week 1), the Cowboys posted a regular-season shutout. Dallas only gave up 62 yards of total offense in the blowout win.

Week 7: Dallas 17, Kansas City 10

Dallas jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the second quarter but struggled to hang on to the lead. The Cowboys did not seal the win until Ray Horton picked off a Dave Krieg pass in Dallas territory late in the game.

Week 8: Dallas 28, at LA Raiders 13

The Cowboys limited the Raiders to 165 yards, but the game was only 14-13 in the third quarter. Touchdown runs by Smith and Troy Aikman put the game away, however. Smith finished with 152 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Week 9: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 10

Smith continued to be the workhorse for the Cowboys, carrying the ball 30 times for 163 yards in the Cowboys’ 20-10 win over the struggling Eagles. After giving up just 190 total yards, the defense moved into the top spot in defensive rankings.

Week 10: Dallas 37, Detroit 3

The Cowboys avenged their loss in the 1991 divisional playoffs by destroying the Lions. Smith rushed for three touchdowns in the win.

Week 11: LA Rams 27, Dallas 23

Dallas had trouble stopping running back Cleveland Gary, who rushed for 110 yards. Dallas took a 23-21 lead late in the game thanks to a Kelvin Martin punt return for a touchdown, but two Ram field goals were enough to give L.A. the win.

Week 12: Dallas 16, at Phoenix 10

The Dallas defense was once again dominant, holding the Cardinals to 149 total yards. Aikman threw two touchdowns to lead the Cowboys to their ninth win of the season.

Week 13: Dallas 30, NY Giants 3

Emmitt Smith broke open a 9-3 game in the third quarter with a touchdown reception and a 68-yard touchdown run, giving Dallas a 27-point win.

Week 14: Dallas 31, Denver 27

For one of the few times in 1992, the Cowboys had to come from behind. With Denver leading 27-24 in the fourth quarter, Aikman led the Cowboys on a final drive by completing seven of eight passes for 78 yards. Smith’s three-yard touchdown run with 2:47 left was his 16th of the season, tying the club record set by Dan Reeves in 1966.

Week 15: Washington 20, Dallas 17

Dallas had a 17-7 lead at halftime but watched it slip way in the second half. Leading 17-13 with 3:22 remaining, Aikman fumbled the ball in the end zone, and when Smith tried to pick up the ball and run with it, he fumbled as well. Washington’s Danny Copeland recovered the ball for a touchdown.

Week 16: Dallas 41, Atlanta 17

Smith put on a highlight show, carrying the ball 24 times for 174 yards with two spectacular touchdown runs.

Week 17: Dallas 27, Chicago 14

Smith gained 131 yards on 20 carries to give him 1,713 for the season, which was good enough for him to earn his second NFL rushing title. The win was the 13th of the season for Dallas, marking a club record.

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1992 Review: Cowboys Continue to Stockpile Talent

The Cowboys found a leader with second-round pick Darren Woodson of Arizona State.

Not everyone was convinced that the Cowboys were ready for a championship heading into 1992, but the 1992 draft certainly helped. The team focused heavily on defensive backs, taking seven with the team’s overall 15 picks.  Dallas did not enjoy success with its picks in the later rounds, but the team found starters with four of the first five picks.

Highlighting the draft was the selection of Arizona State strong safety Darren Woodson, whom the Cowboys took with the 37th overall pick in the second round. Woodson not only had good size for a safety at 217 pounds, but he also recorded a 4.3 in the 40 on grass. It would take a couple of years before he moved into the starting role for good, but he became one of the franchise’s best players over the next decade.

Dallas made a number of trades on draft day, trying to convert two first-round picks into three. However, their effort to grab Miami University safety Darryl Williams, who wound up in Cincinnati. Dallas still managed to pick up cornerback Kevin Smith of Texas A&M as well as East Carolina linebacker Robert Jones, both of whom wound up starting during their rookie seasons.

Dallas went with a receiver in the second by taking Jackson State’s Jimmy Smith, who suffered through an injury-plagued career in Dallas before having a long career in Jacksonville. Dallas also found a part-time starter in the third round by taking cornerback Clayton Holmes.

Here is a complete list:

1(17) Kevin Smith, CB, Texas A&M
1(24) Robert Jones, LB, East Carolina
2(36) Jimmy Smith, WR, Jackson State
2(37) Darren Woodson, DB, Arizona State
3(58) Clayton Holmes, DB, Carson-Newman
3(82) James Brown, T, Virginia State
4(109) Tom Myslinski, G, Tennessee
5(120) Greg Briggs, DB, Texas Southern
5(121) Ron Milstead, G, Delaware State
6(149) Fallon Wacasey, TE, Tulsa
9(248) Nate Kirtman, DB, Pomona-Pitzer
9(250) Chris Hall, DB, East Carolina
10(275) John Terry, G, Livingstone
11(302) Tim Daniel, WR, Florida A&M
12(317) Don Harris, DB, Texas Tech

Brown, Myslinski, and Milstead wound up starting for other teams, but none ever played for the Cowboys. Hall saw action in one game for Dallas in 1993, while Briggs eventually made the team in 1995.

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1991 Review: Cowboys Cap Off Hot Streak with a Playoff Win

Jerry Jones cheered the Cowboys' first playoff win since 1982.

It had been a very long time since the playoffs really meant anything to the Dallas Cowboys. The team that lost three consecutive NFC title games in the early 1980s had been back twice since 1982, only to bow out to the L.A. Rams in two forgettable games. Since 1985, the team hadn’t even qualified.

After winning five straight to end the 1991 campaign, though, the team rolled into the playoffs on the hottest season-ending winning streak that Dallas had seen since 1978. The Cowboys didn’t blow teams out, but the team played solid defense and made few mistakes.

Week 14: Dallas 20, Pittsburgh 10

The play that most remember from this game is Steve Beuerlein’s 66-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin, where Irvin caught a crossing route in front of two defenders and then outraced Rod Woodson to the endzone, breaking Woodson’s tackle just before running it in. The Dallas defense helped the cause by holding the Steelers to just 199 yards in total offense. Russell Maryland had a huge game with two sacks.

Week 15: Dallas 23, New Orleans 14

The team that snagged the final playoff spot in 1990 instead of the Cowboys visited Texas Stadium in 1991. Former Cowboy Steve Walsh led the Saints and even helped New Orleans to a second-half lead with a pair of touchdown passes. However, a Ken Willis field goal and a touchdown by Tommie Agee gave Dallas a 23-14 win.

Week 16: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 13

For the second straight year, the Cowboys needed a win at Philadelphia to secure a playoff berth. With Randall Cunningham hurt, the Eagles went with former Ram and Seahawk Jeff Kemp (also son of Senator and former Buffalo Bill Jack Kemp), who gave the Eagles a 10-8 lead heading into the fourth quarter. From that point, the Cowboys took over, scoring 17 fourth-quarter points to pull out the win. Beuerlein only completed 9 of 31 passes for 145 yards, but his touchdown to Irvin sealed it.

Week 17: Dallas 31, Atlanta 27

For the third straight week, the Cowboys faced a team that had ruined their 1990 season. The Falcons had beaten the Cowboys in the final week of 1990 and were on a hot streak coming to Texas Stadium to end the 1991 regular season. In a back-and-forth game, marred by the Cowboys’ four turnovers, the Falcons had a 27-24 lead after three quarters. Just before the end of the third quarter, though, linebacker Ken Norton had partially blocked a punt, and Emmitt Smith’s touchdown gave Dallas the lead for good. The defense held off a last-minute rally, and Dallas finished with an 11-5 record.

Smith managed to do something that Don Perkins, Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas, Tony Dorsett, and Herschel Walker hadn’t: he won the NFL rushing title, edging out Barry Sanders 1,563 yards to 1,548.

Wildcard Round: Dallas 17, Chicago 13

Chicago held the ball 37:29 seconds. Jim Harbaugh threw the ball 44 times, compared with 18 for Steve Beuerlein. And the Bears managed several drives inside the Dallas 10.

Importantly, the Dallas defense held the Bears to just a single field goal on three of those drives inside the 10, including two drives in the first half. The Dallas offense wasn’t great, but the team did enough to take a 10-3 lead at the half.

The Bears cut the lead to 10-6 in the third, but Dallas answered when Beuerlein hit Jay Novacek on a three-yard TD pass to give the Cowboys a 17-6 lead.

Chicago finally scored inside the 10 in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win it late. However, Bill Bates came away with the game-winning pick with less than two minutes remaining.

For the first time since 1982, the Cowboys had won a playoff game. Up to that point, it had been the longest drought in franchise history.

* * *

Divisional Playoffs: Detroit 38, Dallas 6

Beuerlein hadn’t been great against the Bears, and Troy Aikman wasn’t happy about riding the bench. That was a big part of the storyline heading into the team’s playoff game at Detroit on January 5.

I, on the other hand, was fuming over having to drive my sister from St. Louis to Chicago at the start of the second semester of her freshman year in college. That’s entirely another matter, of course, but I missed the entire first half of the game thanks to this.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys also missed the first half of the game, and by the time Barry Sanders was running right through the Dallas defense on a vintage 47-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the game was already over. Dallas turned the ball over four times and gave up three Erik Kramer touchdowns in the loss. Aikman’s return in the second half did nothing to spark the Cowboys.

Immediately, the Dallas press predicted the Jimmy Johnson would go into “rebuilding” mode to cure the problems that popped up in the loss to Detroit. That, he did.

1991 Review: Thank You, Steve Beuerlein

Steve Beuerlein replaced an injured Troy Aikman and helped to lead the Cowboys to five straight victories.

Between 1960 and week 9 of the 1986 season, the Cowboys won 72.3% of their games. During week 9 that season, Danny White broke his wrist, which precipitated the franchise’s collapse. We would be hard-pressed to find another single game that marked such a dramatic turning point.

Five years later, another game had a similar effect, only from a much more positive perspective. On November 24, 1991, the 6-5 Cowboys traveled to Washington to face the 11-0 Redskins. Dallas jumped out to a 14-7 lead thanks to an Emmitt Smith touchdown and a Hail Mary from Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper at the end of the first half.

On the opening series of the second half, though, the Cowboys lost Aikman with an injured knee. Most fans had to remember the end of the 1990 season in which the team failed to make the playoffs thanks to another Aikman injury. The 1991 season was different, thanks to Steve Beuerlein.

The veteran quarterback picked up from the Raiders just before the season began wasn’t especially flashy against the Redskins or any other team in 1991. Against the Redskins, he completed only 7 of 12 passes for 109 yards. However, he came through when it mattered most, hitting Michael Irvin on a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter give Dallas a 21-7 lead. The Cowboys held on to win, 24-21.

Consider this:

Between 1980 and week 9 of the 1986 season, the Cowboys went 67-30 during the regular season and 5-5 in the playoffs.

Between week 9 of the 1986 season and week 12 of the 1991 season, the Cowboys went 25-57 with no playoff appearances.

Between week 12 of the 1991 season and the end of the 1996 season, the Cowboys went 64-21 with a 12-3 playoff record.

Hard to say whether the Cowboys accomplish this if Aikman hadn’t been hurt, and I can recall debating this several times during the 1990s on the old ESPN boards. I still believe Beuerlein’s presence in the latter part of the 1991 season was vital in the team’s progression.

Here is a video focusing on the Beuerlein story in 1991:

1991 Review: Ups and Downs Result in a 6-5 Start

Troy Aikman and the Cowboys had their up-and-down moments in 1991, as the team had a 6-5 record by mid-November.

In the first 11 games of 1991, the Cowboys appeared to be well on their way to matching the 8-8 record that several predicted for the team. Dallas opened the season with a win for the second straight season, but the team suffered several losses within the NFC East.

By mid-October, the Cowboys looked as if they may be for real, having won four games in a row before their bye week. However, the team had its struggle in November and held a 6-5 record.

Week 1: Dallas 26, Cleveland 14

In Norv Turner’s first game as the Cowboys’ offensive coordiantor, Emmitt Smith rushed for more than 100 yards, and Michael Irvin had more than 100 receiving yards. Dallas held the ball for 38 minutes and won the game thanks to Ken Willis’ four field goals.

Week 2: Washington 33, Dallas 31

Smith looked like he might rush for 400 yards after gaining 104 in the first 11 minutes of the game against the Redskins. However, he suffered stomach ailment, and with Smith sitting on the bench, Dallas lost a 21-10 lead.

Week 3: Philadelphia 24, Dallas 0

The Eagles sacked Troy Aikman 11 times in a ugly game for the Cowboys. Dallas only gained 27 yards in the first half and had already fallen behind 17-0 by halftime.

Fortunately, Dallas did not suffer another shutout until 2000.

Week 4: Dallas 17, Phoenix 9

The Cowboys evened their record at 2-2 thanks largely to Smith’s 182 rushing yards. He had runs of 13 and 37 on the team’s drive that resulted in a game-winning field goal.

Twelvth-round draft pick Larry Brown became the first member of the 1991 draft class to start.

Week 6: Dallas 21, New York Giants 16

The Cowboys gave up 487 yards to the Giants but still came away with the win. Aikman directed an 84-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 23-yard pass to Irvin on a slant pattern with 2:13 remaining.

Week 7: Dallas 20, Green Bay 17

Tight end Jay Novacek caught 11 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in a game where the Cowboys held the ball for almost 41 minutes. Smith carried the ball 32 times for 122 yards.

Week 8: Dallas 35, Cincinnati 23

Reserve running back Ricky Blake scored on a 30-yard touchdown run on his first NFL carry. It was his only NFL touchdown, but it helped the Cowboys to a 35-23 win over the Bengals. Rookie Dixon Edwards returned a tipped pass for a touchdown.

Week 9: Bye Week

Week 10: Detroit 34, Dallas 10

The Cowboys held Barry Sanders to 55 rushing yards and outgained the Lions 415 to 208. However, Dallas turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions that led to touchdowns.

Week 11: Dallas 27, Phoenix 7

Robert Williams was a holdover from Landry era, and by 1991, he was largely a forgotten player. Against the Cardinals, though, he came up huge. He blocked a punt that set up a Smith touchdown, and Williams later intercepted a pass that killed a Phoenix drive in Dallas territory.

Week 12: Houston 26, Dallas 23 (OT)

Although the Cowboys gave up 583 yards to the Oilers, Dallas had a chance to steal a win in Houston. Dallas forced overtime thanks to a touchdown pass from Aikman to Irvin. However, Smith fumbled the ball for the first time all season in overtime, leading to a Houston field goal that won the game.

Week 13: New York Giants 22, Dallas 9

Jimmy Johnson blamed a bad call on an apparent fumble for the Cowboys’ 22-9 loss to the Giants. With Dallas trailing 16-9, Rodney Hampton appeared to cough up the ball at the New York 20. However, the referees ruled that Hampton was down, keeping alive a drive that eventually resulted in a New York touchdown.

1991 Review: Pundits Skeptical of Cowboys’ Improvement

The Cowboys made a huge move in 1991 by acquiring Steve Beuerlein.

Although there were plenty of reasons to be excited about the Cowboys’ future heading into the 1991 season, several critics thought that the moves the team had made might start to pay off around 1993.

Begin with Randy Galloway, who didn’t buy Jimmy Johnson’s claim that the Cowboys would make the playoffs in 1991:

Now that Johnson’s summer construction project for 1991 is complete, let’s inspect his work. Overall The Right — Despite his upfront boast about making the playoffs now, Johnson never lost sight of the real goal. Which is having a Super Bowl contender in two years. With this roster, the emphasis is not on now. It’s probably the youngest team in the NFL. Johnson will have to eat that playoff claim for this season, but he’s still on course for 1993.

Galloway wasn’t big on the draft, noting:

The nicest way to describe this draft class is that it’s too early to tell. Ten members stuck, but none on an impact basis, including Russell Maryland. The highlights for now are Leon Lett, Tony Hill and Larry Brown, who were down-the-line guys. Give it at least a year before passing judgment, but more was expected early, particularly at the top.

As for Galloway’s prediction, try 8-8:

How could anybody be talking 10 wins this year?

Eight would be great. Eight is tops. Forget the playoffs, but the building stays on schedule.

Galloway wasn’t the only one saying 8-8, either. Dr. Z of Sports Illustrated thought the Cowboys would finish 8-8 and in a tie for third place in the NFC East. Of course, given that the Cowboys hadn’t won a playoff game since 1982, it’s hard to blame anyone for being skeptical.

The Cowboys helped their cause by making two more moves during the summer of 1991. The first move was trading a second-round pick to Atlanta for defensive tackle Tony Casillas, who started 45 games for Dallas over the next three seasons. Less than a month later, Dallas sent a fourth-round pick to the Raiders for QB Steve Beuerlein, who had been a part-time starter. Sometime around, oh, say, November 24, 1991, the Beuerlein trade proved not only to save the season but also to propel the Cowboys forward beyond what anyone expected.

1991 Review: Cowboys Strike Gold by Wheeling and Dealing in the 1991 Draft

Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson made a dizzying number of trades before and during the 1991 draft, but the results were outstanding.

For years in the latter part of the Tom Landry era, the story of the draft was the same. Dallas needed to add young talent to replace its aging nucleus, but when the draft results were in, all the Cowboys had were some mediocre players who weren’t about to return the franchise to championship glory.

Heading into the 1991 draft, the Cowboys were already a team with a bunch of young talent. The draft added much more, including seven players who eventually became starters for the team at some point during their careers.

This draft featured Jimmy & Jerry’s wheeling and dealing at its best. Before the draft, the Cowboys had traded Landry holdovers Ron Francis and Eugene Lockhart, along with first- and second-round picks, to the Patriots for the first overall pick in the draft. There was some discussion of the Cowboys using the pick to take Notre Dame receiver Rocket Ismail, but Dallas settled for Miami defensive tackle Russell Maryland.

The Cowboys still had two first-r0und picks left, and the team grabbed the high-jumping receiver Alvin Harper from Tennessee.

With the #20 pick overall, the Cowboys selected defensive tackle Kelvin Pritchett, but the team traded him to Detroit for picks in the second, third, and fourth rounds. Dallas used the second-round pick to take linebacker Dixon Edwards.

A trade with San Diego allowed the Cowboys to pick up linebacker Godfrey Miles. A previous trade with New Orleans for QB Steve Walsh gave the team a third-round pick with which Dallas took tackle Erik Williams.

Another trade gave the Cowboys a seventh-round pick. The choice: DT Leon Lett. The Cowboys even managed, for goodness sake, to pick up the best deep-snapper in the league by trading a seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Dale Hellestrae.

Okay, so the Cowboys didn’t trade their twelfth-rounder. That was a good thing, given that the Cowboys found CB Larry Brown with the 320th overall selection.

Here is a complete summary:

1(1) Russell Maryland, DT, Miami
1(12) Alvin Harper, WR, Tennessee
1(20) Kelvin Pritchett, DT, Mississippi
2(37) Dixon Edwards, LB, Michigan State
3(62) Godfrey Myles, LB, Florida
3(64) James Richards, G, California
3(70) Erik Williams, T, Central State (Ohio)
4(97) Curvin Richards, RB, Pittsburgh
4(106) Bill Musgrave, QB, Oregon
4(108) Tony L. Hill, DE, Tennessee-Chattanooga
4(110) Kevin Harris, DE, Texas Southern
5(132) Darrick Brownlow, LB, Illinois
6(153) Mike Sullivan, G, Miami
7(173) Leon Lett, DE, Emporia State
9(235) Damon Mays, WR, Missouri
10(264) Sean Love, G, Penn State
11(291) Tony Boles, RB, Michigan
12(320) Larry Brown, DB, TCU

Of the others, Richards, Brownlow, and Hill had backup roles with the team.  Musgrave, Sullivan, and Mays caught on with other teams but never developed into starters. Pritchett became a starter with the Lions, but he was a disappointment overall and ended up playing in a backup role with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

1990 Review: Quick Turnaround Boosts Jimmy & Jerry’s Popularity

Jimmy and Jerry were quickly becoming saviors of the franchise after the team's turnaround in 1990.

Jerry Jones’ decision to fire Tom Landry in 1989 and Jimmy Johnson’s role as the man who replaced Landry made both men public enemies in eyes of the Dallas Cowboy faithful. But after rebounding from a 1-15 season to post a 7-9 mark in 1990 and nearly make the playoffs, the two were becoming rising stars.

On January 4, 1991, Dallas Morning News writer Rick Gosselin wrote this story:

Jerry Jones did the unforgivable in 1989. He fired Tom Landry.

Not quite two years later, all appears to be forgiven. Amazing, isn’t it, what a few victories, a run at the playoffs and a return to respectability can do for the image of the Cowboys’ owner? “What is happening — and should happen — is that the focus is now on the progress and success of the team on the field,’ Jones said.

Jones dug himself a huge hole in the community when he bought the club in February 1989 and replaced Landry, the only coach the franchise had known, with friend and former University of Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson . Jones was cast as the villain, and everything he said and did in his first year on the job was examined under a negative microscope. “Landry is a buzzword to describe the problems,’ said Mike McCoy, a Cowboys’ vice president and longtime friend of Jones. “But it was deeper th an just Coach Landry. It was the change. This was such a drastic change for both the media and the public. “The only thing that could change the perception was the passage of time and success . . . and both have occurred. The problem is not behind him, b ut it is small enough that none of us waste any time worrying about it any more.’ Jones made several public relations gestures in 1990 to turn public opinion in his favor.

On the field, he paid out $1.03 million in signing bonuses, allowing the Cowboys to land 16 Plan B free agents and upgrade the on-field talent. Off the field, he moved pre-season training camp from Thousand Oaks, Calif., to Austin and made several improvements at Texas Stadium, such as putting a restaurant on the premises, installing television monitors at refreshment stands and increasing the parking.

Jones also tried to make peace with Landry last fall, offering him a spot in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium. Landry has yet to take Jones up on the invitation.

But the bottom line was in Jones’ turnaround was his team’s 7-9 – record this season. That’s a six-game improvement from his first year. The Cowboys even went to the final day of the season before being eliminated from the playoff chase. The Cowboys finished with seven consecutive home crowds of 60,000 or more and six sellouts. “Everything I’ve ever done in my life was on the line here,’ he said. “In something as visible as the Dallas Cowboys, I said right there in front of everybody that we were going to get the job done.

That hasn’t changed. What I hope has changed are the initial impressions that were there. “I hope that I can earn our community’s respect and confidence.

I’d like to be well thought of, but what comes first is the success of the team. What we all want is to see the Dallas Cowboys back on top.”

In the same month that the Philadelphia Eagles fired Buddy Ryan, Johnson was named NFL Coach of the Year. Young talent was developing very well, and many were excited about the future.

Jimmy and Jerry certainly didn’t rest on their laurels, though. The team released two coaches who were holdovers from Landry’s staff, including secondary coach Dick Nolan and tight ends coach Alan Lowry. Johnson also demoted offensive coordinator David Shula, who moved on the Cincinnati Bengals’ staff rather than accept a lesser position with the Cowboys. Johnson offered the coordinator position to Miami Dolphins quarterbacks coach Gary Stevens, but Stevens turned down the job. Johnson kept looking, and thanks to a tip from L.A. Rams’ offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, the team contacted Rams’ receiver coach Norv Turner.

Stevens continued to make a name for himself as a quarterbacks coach and now hosts high school football camps. Thanks to Turner, the Cowboys ended up with a Super Bowl caliber offense, so things worked out just fine.

1990 Review: Cowboys Improve but Miss Playoffs

Jimmy Johnson had more to smile about in 1990 thanks to a four-game winning streak that nearly helped the Cowboys to a playoff berth.

The 1990 Cowboys stood at 1-3 after four games, but the season would not turn out to be the disaster that the team experienced in 1988 and 1989. The Cowboys had their first four-game winning streak in 1985, and as a result, the team was in a position to make the playoffs. However, when Troy Aikman suffered an injury in week 15, the team was left with backup Babe Laufenberg, who didn’t quite come through.

Week 5: Dallas 14, Tampa Bay 10

The Cowboys’ schedule helped them to get back on track as they faced Tampa Bay twice in a three-week period. In the first of these games, Emmitt Smith had the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career, gaining 121 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown.

Week 6: Phoenix 20, Dallas 3

Dallas was awful against the Cardinals in week 6, managing only 100 total yards of offense. Troy Aikman completed only nine passes for 61 yards.

Week 7: Dallas 17, Tampa Bay 13

The Buccaneers jumped out to a 10-0 lead over the Cowboys, but Dallas came back. Cornerback Issiac Holt’s 64-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game at 10 in the fourth quarter, and Aikman and receiver Michael Irvin won it when Aikman hit Irvin on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

Week 8: Philadelphia 21, Dallas 20

Thanks to two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys led the Eagles 20-14 in the fourth quarter in what could have been the Cowboys’ first win over the Eagles since the strike season of 1987. Instead, Randall Cunningham hit Calvin Williams on a 10-yard touchdown with 44 seconds remaining, giving the Eagles the win.

Week 9: N.Y. Jets 24, Dallas 9

The Cowboys outgained the Jets 321 yards to 187, but the Cowboys could not turn yards into points. The Jets extended a 10-6 lead after three quarters by scoring twice in the fourth, giving the Cowboys their sixth loss of the season.

Week 10: San Francisco 24, Dallas 6

Dallas had no way of slowing down Jerry Rice, as the receiver caught 12 passes for 147 yards.  The Cowboys only managed 158 yards of total offense.

After the loss, several members of the offense, including Aikman and Smith, began to grumble about the offensive playcalling.

Week 11: Dallas 24, L.A. Rams 21

In a back-and-forth game, the Cowboys and Rams were tied at 21 heading into the fourth quarter. Dallas took advantage of a Ram turnover in Dallas territory early in the fourth, and the Cowboys were able to drive for what turned out to be the game-winning field goal.

Both Aikman (303 passing yards) and Smith (171 total yards, including 117 receiving yards) had huge games, ending the complaining.

Week 12: Dallas 27, Washington 17

The Cowboys overcame a 17-10 third-quarter deficit thanks to two rushing touchdowns by Smith, who finished with 132 rushing yards.

Week 13: Dallas 17, New Orleans 13

For the second consecutive week, the Cowboys overcame a second-half deficit in a win over the Saints. Steve Walsh was the starter for New Orleans, and he and Aikman finished with very similar statistics (177 passing yards for both).

Week 14: Dallas 41, Phoenix 10

The Cowboys evened their record at 7-7 and had the final playoff spot in their grasp with a blowout win over the Cardinals. Smith had a huge game with four rushing touchdowns.

Here is a blurb from a Sports Illustrated article that appeared after the game:

Before the Cowboys’ 41-10 win over the Cardinals, Dallas  running back Emmitt Smith said, “Cowboy fans are looking for me to replace Tony Dorsett. They’ve been looking for a lot of things ever since their great players left the game.” Smith  then had the first four-touchdown day by a Cowboy since Duane Thomas and Calvin Hill each did it during the 1971 season. Smith  also gained 103 yards to push his season total to 842. He needs 166 yards and two scores to break Dorsett’s team rookie records for rushing and TDs. After the Phoenix  game, Cowboy pro personnel director John Wooten said, “The similarities have come to reality.”

Week 15: Philadelphia 17, Dallas 3

In the first quarter of the Cowboys’ important game at Philadelphia, Troy Aikman separated his shoulder. Backup Babe Laufenberg managed to throw for only 140 yards with four interceptions, as the Cowboys dropped to 7-8.

Even with the loss, the Cowboys could still make the playoffs with a win over the Falcons on December 30 or a loss by New Orleans against the Rams the following evening. Didn’t happen.

Week 16: Atlanta 26, Dallas 7

Running back Mike Rozier had a career day, rushing for 155 yards against the Cowboys. Defensive lineman Tim Green recorded a safety by tackling Smith in the end zone, and Deion Sanders returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys, meanwhile, managed 151 total yards of offense and were never in the game.

Unfortunately, not all copies of this game were destroyed, and someone on YouTube actually posted the game in its entirety (bad quality, though). Here’s one clip from the game, showing a Dallas drive that ended in a missed field goal.

* * *

Given that the team lost a chance to make the playoffs because if its backup quarterback situation, it was easy to second-guess the decision to trade Steve Walsh. After all, it was Walsh and the New Orleans Saints who traveled to Chicago to play the Bears in the first round of the playoffs. However, at least one local critic, Randy Galloway (then of the Dallas Morning News) thought the draft picks the team received from the Walsh trade were more important than keeping Walsh.

As a starter for the Saints, Walsh has been reduced to suspect status, which is where most of the NFL had him rated when he played for Jimmy. And if the Saints nose out the Cowboys this weekend for that final NFC wild card, it will be in spite of Walsh ‘s performance level.

In the long run, Galloway was right, of course. The Walsh trade resulted in the Cowboys obtaining Russell Maryland and Erik Williams, while Walsh only started a total of 22 games for five different teams through 1999.

Cowboys’ Anniversaries Haven’t Been Great

The Cowboys this week unveiled the logo for the 50th anniversary season. Here it is:

You might recall that the last two anniversary seasons didn’t take place 10 and 25 years ago, respectively. Instead, the Cowboys celebrated their Silver Season in 1984 and their 40th anniversary in 1999. Both of those seasons screamed MEDIOCRITY!, so here’s hoping that by moving the 50th celebration from the 50th season to the 50th annual year will have better returns.

Below are the emblems used in the previous anniversaries.

The Cowboys missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade during the Silver Season of 1984.

For some reason, the team felt it appropriate to celebrate team's 40th season in 1999. The team finished at 8-8, slipping undeservedly into the playoffs before getting knocked out.

Here’s a question for the older-timers than me: Did the Cowboys celebrate their 10th anniversary in either 1969 or 1970? I’ve gone through my books, and I don’t see any reference to a celebration. Neither of those seasons were bad, though both were marred by postseason failures.