Dallas Cowboys History

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Then and Now: Long Losing Streaks

This has nothing to do with the team's current losing streak.

This has nothing to do with the team’s current losing streak.

Dallas Cowboys fans are suffering through the team’s longest losing streak since the first year that Jerry Jones owned the team.

Maybe Jerry will sell the team, and these losing streaks can be suitable bookends?

Never mind.

Perhaps the current streak ends against Tampa Bay on Sunday, but now is a good time to compare previous losing streaks with this one.

Then (1960): The Cowboys opened their inaugural season with a ten-game losing streak. That streak ended on December 4 when the Cowboys tied the Giants.

Then (1989): The Cowboys opened the season with an eight-game losing streak and finished with a seven-game losing streak. In between was an unexpected 13-3 win over the Washington Redskins.

Now (2015): Unlike the 1960 and 1989 squads, these Cowboys were expected to contend for the NFC title. Instead, an injury to Tony Romo caused the club to tank. A 2-0 start turned into a 2-6 record at the season’s midway point.

Then (1960): The Cowboys had a future Ring of Honor player in Don Meredith at QB, but veteran Eddie LeBaron was the starter for most of the year.

Then (1960): The Cowboys had future Hall of Fame player Troy Aikman, but he only started 11 games due to injury.

Now: (2015): The Cowboys have a future Ring of Honor player in Tony Romo but have had to start Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel because of Romo’s broken clavicle.

Then (1960): The team’s leading rusher was a six-year veteran named L.G. Dupre, who was out of the league after 1961.

Then (1989): The team’s leader rusher was three-year veteran Paul Palmer, who was out of the league after 1989.

Now (2015): The team’s leading rusher is Darren McFadden, who may be back next year.

Then (1960): The team ranked dead last in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys had 50 giveaways compared with 26 takeaways for a ratio of -24.

Then (1989): The team ranked dead last in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys had 42 giveaways compared with 17 takeaways for a ratio of -25.

Now (2015): The team ranks 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys have 13 giveaways compared with 4 takeaways for a ratio of -9.

Then (1960): First-year head coach Tom Landry led the Cowboys to the playoffs by 1966 and a Super Bowl championship in 1971.

Then (1989): First-year head coach Jimmy Johnson led the Cowboys to the playoffs in 1991 and a Super Bowl championship in 1992.

Now (2015): Sixth-year head coach Jason Garrett has led the Cowboys to one winning record and one playoff appearance.






Then (1974) and Now (2015): A Four-Game Losing Streak

The 1974 Cowboys can let the 2015 team know how to overcome a four-game losing streak early in a season.

The 1974 Cowboys can let the 2015 team know how to overcome a four-game losing streak early in a season.

No fan of the Dallas Cowboys could possibly be happy with the fate of the 2015 team thus far. A 2-0 start has disintegrated into a 2-4 start, and the team could be out of the playoff race before Tony Romo returns later in November.

The Cowboys have been in a similar situation in the past. The team of the 1970s was nearly a dynasty, and by 1974 Dallas had been the playoffs eight consecutive years. Moreover, Dallas had at least made the NFC Championship Game in each season between 1970 and 1973.

The 1974 season was, however, one to forget. As you can see below, that season and the 2015 season have some similarities.


Then (1974): The Cowboys had reached the playoffs each season between 1966 and 1973. The team had reached the Super Bowl in 1970, won the Super Bowl in 1971, and reached the NFC Championship Game in 1972 and 1973.

Now (2015): The Cowboys have not had recent success like the 1970s Cowboys did, but Dallas reached the playoffs in 2014 and beat Detroit in the first round.

Then: Dallas dominated the Atlanta Falcons before losing consecutive games against the Eagles and Giants. Dallas also lost to the Vikings and Cardinals, leaving the Cowboys with a 1-4 record.

Now: Dallas recorded wins over the Giants and Eagles before losing to the Falcons. Additional losses to the Saints, Patriots, and Giants have left the Cowboys with a 2-4 record.


Then: Dallas rebounded with a 31-24 win over the Eagles in week 6. Dallas eventually won four straight to get back into the playoff race with a 5-4 record.

Now: Dallas faces the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in week 8.


Then: The Cowboys had a good backup QB with Craig Morton, but the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants early in the season. When Roger Staubach went down with an injury against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, backup Clint Longley entered the game. In one of the most famous games in team history, Longley threw two touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind in a 24-23 win.

Now: Dallas lost starting QB Tony Romo in week 2, and the team did not have a good backup. The team lost three straight games with Brandon Weeden, followed by a fourth loss with starter Matt Cassel.




Then: The Cowboys still had a quality starter at RB with Calvin Hill. However, Hill would leave the team after the 1974 season to join the World Football League. In 1976, Hill returned to the NFL, joining the division rival Washington Redskins.

Now: The Cowboys had arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2014 with DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left via free agency to join the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.

Then: Although the Cowboys finished with a winning record in 1974, the team missed the playoffs. Nevertheless, a strong draft in 1975 helped Dallas to rebuild quickly, and the team reached the Super Bowl in 1975.

Now: Jason Garrett’s teams have reached the playoffs just once since he took over as the head coach of the Cowboys. A feel-good season in 2014 has evaporated into a distant memory, and unless the team can turn things around in a hurry, the Cowboys will have another disappointing finish in 2015.


Then (1996) and Now (2015): A Week 6 Bye

imageThe Dallas Cowboys have had a bye week during week 6 several times in the past, including 2000, 2001, and 2009. Prior to that, the only other week 6 bye occurred in 1996, and that year is the focus of today’s then and now feature.

After the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, several in the local Dallas media expected the Cowboys to win one more time during the 1990s. A win after the 1996 season would have given Dallas four titles in five years, which would have been (and still would be) unprecedented. Of course, the Cowboys did not win another championship—and still haven’t.

Below we will compare and contrast the 1996 Cowboys and today’s Cowboys.


Then (1996): The Cowboys had gone 12-4 in 1995 before making it to and winning Super Bowl XXX. Dallas beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game before defeating Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. It marked the Cowboys’ third title in four years.

Now (2015): The Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014 but lost to Green Bay in the NFC playoffs. Dallas beat Detroit during the opening round of the playoffs, marking the team’s third playoff win in the past 19 seasons.

Then: Barry Switzer entered this third season as head coach in 1996. Although he received no credit for his football knowledge or coaching ability (of course, he was coaching Jimmy Johnson’s players), he had compiled a 28-8 regular season record and a 4-1 playoff record in two seasons.

Now: Jason Garrett is in his fifth season as head coach. He receives all the credit in the world for his intelligence (of course, he went to Princeton, so he’s smarter than any other coach who did not go to Princeton). Before 2015, he had a career coaching record of 41-31 with a playoff record of 1-1.

Then: The Cowboys lost wide receiver Michael Irvin to a five-game suspension before the season began. To make matters worse, Emmitt Smith suffered what appeared to be a devastating neck injury during the season opener. Although Smith did not miss a game, he struggled at times. For instance, during a 10-7 loss at Buffalo in week 4, Smith had only 25 rushing yards on 15 carries. Having Troy Aikman was not enough during the first five games as the future Hall of Fame quarterback failed to throw for more than 200 yards in four of those games.

Now: The Cowboys had a new version of the triplets in 2014 with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left the team via free agency, Bryant suffered a foot injury in week 1, and Romo suffered a broken clavicle in week 2.



Then: The Cowboys limped along without Irvin, losing to the Bears, Colts, and Bills. However, Dallas managed wins over the Giants and Eagles to remain in the race.

Now: The Cowboys looked strong in wins over the Giants and Eagles. However, without Romo or Bryant, Dallas has lost to the Falcons, Saints, and Patriots in consecutive games.

Then: Dallas should have suffered a whipping at the hands of the Eagles in week 5, but strong rushing by Smith and good defense allowed the Cowboys to sneak out of the game with a 23-17 win. The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 2-3.

Now: Dallas should have suffered and did suffer a whipping at the hands of the Patriots in week 5. The loss dropped Dallas to 2-3.

Then: The 1996 Cowboys showed guts and resolve. They overcame a 1-3 start to win 9 of their final 12 games. The 10-6 mark was enough to give Dallas another division title. Had Jimmy Johnson been the coach, the turnaround would have provided even more evidence of his genius. However, because Barry Switzer was the coach, most felt that he just won with Jimmy’s players.

Now: The 2015 Cowboys have not shown much of anything since losing Romo and Bryant. Although the defense showed signs of life early in the game against New England, the team appeared to all but give up in the second half. Jason Garrett is still a genius because he went to Princeton, and anyone who studies history at Princeton is a genius football coach. The genius nevertheless needs to find a way to win without his stars or the 2015 season will be lost.


Then (1971) and Now (2015): Cowboys vs. Patriots

Jethro Pugh (75) and Larry Cole (63) pressure rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett in the 1971 game between Dallas and New England.

Jethro Pugh (75) and Larry Cole (63) pressure rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett in the 1971 game between Dallas and New England.

The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots have never faced one another during a week 5 in the past. However, the teams have played during week 6 three times, including 1971, 2007, and 2011. New England won the last two of these three games while Dallas won the game in 1971.

Overall, Dallas leads the series, 7 games to 4. However, the Cowboys have not defeated the Patriots since 1996.

Let’s remember some better days today and review the 1971 game.

Then (1971): The Cowboys and Patriots had never played one another in a regular-season game. The teams faced off in 1971, one year after the NFL-AFL merger.

Now (2015): Dallas and New England play each other every four years under the current NFL scheduling system. The Cowboys won the first seven games against the Patriots, but New England has owned Dallas in the four games played between 1999 and 2011.

Then: The Patriots were led at quarterback by rookie Jim Plunkett. He was a highly touted Heisman Trophy winner, but he struggled for many years before leading the Oakland Raiders to two Super Bowl titles.

Now: The Patriots are led at quarterback by Tom Brady. He was a 6th-round pick out of college and entered the NFL without any expectations. However, he had immediate success and has led the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.

Then: The Cowboys reached the Super Bowl in 1970 with a rookie running back named Duane Thomas. He was such a disruption that the Cowboys traded him to the Patriots in August 1971. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later voided part of the trade because Thomas caused so many problems in New England, and Thomas played the 1971 season in Dallas.

Now: The Cowboys reached the playoffs thanks to the running of DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys let him leave via free agency, and the Eagles signed him. He has been ineffective thus far, leading at least a few Philadelphia fans to want to send him back to Dallas.

Then: Dallas head coach Tom Landry developed an ill-fated system of alternating quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. The system failed miserably, and by the time Dallas played New England, the team was 3-2.

Now: Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has had to rely on backup Brandon Weeden, who has been largely ineffective against the Falcons and Saints. Losses to those teams have dropped the Cowboys’ record to 2-2. Garrett may need to turn to backup Matt Cassel if Weeden continues to struggle.

Then: Dallas was a regular contender by 1971 and would eventually win the Super Bowl that season. New England, on the other hand, had been to the AFL playoffs only once and would not reach the Super Bowl for another 14 years (1985 vs. Chicago in Super Bowl XX).

Now: New England has been to six Super Bowls in the past 14 years, and the Patriots have looked like Super Bowl favorites thus far in 2015. Dallas, on the other hand, has been to the playoffs only five times during the past 15 years and has not reached the Super Bowl in 20 years.




Then (1983) and Now (2015): Cowboys vs. Saints

saintsFor the second consecutive year, the Cowboys will face the New Orleans Saints during the fourth week of the season. Last year, the Cowboys stunned many by routing the Saints in a 38-17 win.

The teams met during the fourth week of a season only once before. That game took place in 1983.


Then (1983): The head coach of the Saints was Bum Phillips, who never quite got the team over the hump. The team’s defensive coordinator was Bum’s son, Wade Phillips, who later became defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles and other teams. Wade eventually became the head coach for the Dallas Cowboys.

Now (2015): Wade Phillips once coached under Buddy Ryan in Philadelphia. Ryan’s son, Rob, later became defensive coordinator for the Cowboys before being fired. Rob is now the defensive coordinator for the Saints.

Then: The Cowboys began the 1983 season with a come-from-behind win over their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.

Now: The Cowboys began the 2015 season with a come-from-behind win over their division rivals, the New York Giants.

Then: Dallas began the season with a 7-0 record, and many thought the team was strong enough to make a run to the Super Bowl. It marked the last time that a Tom Landry team would be considered a Super Bowl contender.

Now: Many predicted that the Cowboys could make the Super Bowl, marking the first time that a Jason Garrett team has been considered a Super Bowl contender.

Then: The Saints were led by 38-year-old quarterback Ken Stabler, who had led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl championship in 1976.

Now: The Saints are led by 36-year-old Drew Brees, who led New Orleans to a Super Bowl championship in 2009.

* * *

The 1983 game was a wild one. Dallas led 13-10 at halftime but fell behind 20-13 in the fourth quarter.

The Saints lined up for a field goal to extend their lead, but Dallas blocked the kick, and Ron Fellows returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown.

New Orleans, however, blocked Rafael Septien’s extra point attempt, meaning the Saints still had the lead.

Later in the quarter, Dallas drove the ball into New Orleans territory. The Cowboys only needed a field goal, but Danny White threw an interception in the end zone.

Instead of falling the ball, linebacker Dirt Winston ran the ball out to the 6. Just over two minute remained, so it looked as if Dallas needed to make a stop and then drive to kick a game-winning field goal.

The Saints inexplicably called a play-action pass, and Dallas linebacker Anthony Dickerson sacked Stabler in the end zone for a safety. The two points were enough to give Dallas a 21-20 win.

Here is a video of the second half of the 1983 game.

Then and Now: Cowboys vs. Falcons, 1986 vs. 2015

The Cowboys lost a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons in week 3 of the 1986 season.

The Cowboys lost a shootout to the Atlanta Falcons in week 3 of the 1986 season.

The Cowboys have faced the Atlanta Falcons during week 3 of a season only once before. That game took place in 1986 at Texas Stadium.

This is the second time this year a Then and Now feature has focused on the 1986 season. The previous entry addressed the season-opener against the New York Giants.

Here is a look the matchup in 1986 (then) compared with Sunday’s game against the Falcons (now).

Then (1986): The Cowboys faced the Falcons nine times between 1966 and 1985. Dallas won eight of those games, including two playoff victories.

Now (2015): The Cowboys last played the Falcons in 2012, losing 19-13. Dallas has played Atlanta five times since 2001 and has lost three of those games. The last Dallas win came in 2009.


Then: Atlanta’s starting quarterback was David Archer. He played college football at Snow College in Utah and was not drafted in 1984. He started 23 games with the Falcons between 1985 and 1987.

Now: Dallas would have started its own undrafted quarterback, Tony Romo, but Romo suffered a broken clavicle against the Eagles last week. Instead, the Cowboys will start Brandon Weeden, who has started 21 games during his career with Cleveland and Dallas.

Then: The Falcons’ starting running back was Gerald Riggs. One year earlier, Riggs carried the ball 397 times and gained 1,719 yards. He was still effective in 1986, finishing the season with 1,327 yards. However, he had trouble staying healthy and never reached the 1,000-yard mark again after turning 27.

Now: The Cowboys had their own workhorse in 2014. DeMarco Murray carried the ball 392 times that season and rushed for a franchise-record 1,845 yards. However, running backs in the past, including Riggs, have usually struggled after touching the ball so many times in one season, and the Cowboys led Murray leave via free agency. In two games with the Eagles in 2015, Murray has gained only 11 yards in 21 carries.


Then: Atlanta had not made the playoffs since 1982 and had suffered through a 4-12 season in 1985.  Things looked good in 1986 as the team started at 4-0. However, the Falcons lost five straight in the middle of the season and finished at 7-8-1.

Now: Atlanta was one of the better teams in the league between 2010 and 2012. However, the teams suffered through a 4-12 season in 2013 and a 6-10 season in 2014. Hopes are higher now, as Atlanta won its first two games.


Then: The Cowboys won their first two games before losing to the Falcons. Dallas eventually improved its record to 6-2, but an injury to Danny White in week 9 caused a downward spiral. The Cowboys finished with a 7-9 record.

Now: The Cowboys have won their first two games but have lost both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for the next several weeks. Whether the Cowboys can avoid a downward spiral will determine whether the Cowboys can reach the playoffs again.

Then (1971) and Now (2015): Cowboys vs. Eagles in Week 2

The Cowboys have faced the Philadelphia Eagles on the road during week 2 on two previous occasions. One took place in 1974 in a Monday Night Football game where Dallas lost on a late field goal.

We’ll forget that one.

Philadelphia's Leroy Keyes tackles Mike Ditka in a week 2 game played on September 26, 1971.

Philadelphia’s Leroy Keyes tackles Mike Ditka in a week 2 game played on September 26, 1971.

The other took place three years earlier during the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl championship season. This week’s then-and-now feature focuses on that 1971 game.


Then (1971)—The Cowboys had overcome years of frustration by reaching the Super Bowl after the 1970 season. The Cowboys then added even more frustration by losing to the Colts in SB V.

Now (2015)—The Cowboys had overcome years of frustration by reaching the playoffs after the 2014 season. The Cowboys and their fans suffered more frustration, though, when Dallas lost the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.


Then—The 1970 Eagles had a miserable 0-7 start and finished with a 3-10-1 record.

Now—The 2014 Eagles appeared to be in a position to repeat as division champions, but three straight losses in December killed the Eagles’ chances.


Then—Philadelphia’s third-year head coach Jerry Williams was on the bubble in 1971, given that Philadelphia won only seven games in 1969 and 1970 combined. Williams’ team opened at 0-3 in 1971, and he was fired.

Now—Philadelphia’s third-year head coach Chip Kelly is not on the bubble, but he made some head-scratching roster movies during the 2015 offseason. The Eagles lost their 2015 season-opener to the Atlanta Falcons.


Then—The Eagles featured running backs that only the most dedicated trivia buff would remember. Ronnie Bull? Lee Bouggess? Tom Woodeshick?

Now—The Eagles traded their former all-pro back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo, but Philadelphia added well-known backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews to join Darren Sproles in 2015.


Then—The Cowboys opened their season on the road at Buffalo with a 49-37 shootout win. Craig Morton began the season as the starter, but a quarterback controversy developed. By the end of the season, Roger Staubach was the team’s leader.

Now—The Cowboys pulled off an improbable win against the New York Giants. Tony Romo has been the starter since 2006, and no other quarterback on this team will challenge him.


Then—Dallas jumped out to a 21-0 lead in a 42-7 win over the Eagles.

Now—Sunday at 3 p.m.

Thursday’s Then-and-Now: Opening the Season vs. N.Y. Giants

How the Giants handled the Cowboys' all-out blitz was a concern in the season opening in 1986.

How the Giants handled the Cowboys’ all-out blitz was a concern in the season opening in 1986.

Sunday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will be the sixth time the teams have faced one another during the opening week of the season. Dallas has a 5-0 record in the previous games.

One of those five games appeared on Monday Night Football on September 8, 1986. Here is a look at that game (then) and the Sunday night game this year (now).


The Cowboys rebounded after missing the playoffs in 1984 to capture the NFC East title. Two wins over the Giants, including a 28-21 win in week 15, were critical, as the Cowboys returned the postseason for the last time under Tom Landry.


The Cowboys broke a string of three straight 8-8 seasons to go 12-4 and capture the NFC East for the first time since 2009. Two wins over the Giants helped the team, as the Cowboys reached the postseason for the first time under Jason Garrett.


Dallas entered the 1986 season with veteran Danny White and unproven backup Steve Pelluer. White had started 14 games in 1985 and led Dallas to a 10-4 record in those games.

White started strong in 1986, as the team jumped out the gate with a 6-2 record. In six games, White threw 12 touchdown passes. However, Carl Banks of the Giants sacked White early in a week 9 game, and White’s wrist broke. Without White, Dallas struggled and finished with the team’s first losing record since 1964.


Tony Romo enters the season more healthy than he was in 2014. He had a strong season in 2014 despite his back problems, throwing for 3705 yards and 34 touchdowns.

An injury to Romo, however, would be as devastating to the Cowboys in 2015 as the injury to White was in 1986. Backup Brandon Weeden has not shown he can produce wins, so the Cowboys need to hope Romo stays on the field.


The Cowboys already had a former Heisman Trophy winner and future Hall-of-Famer at running back in Tony Dorsett. In 1986, the team added a second Heisman winner when Herschel Walker joined the team after a short career in the USFL. Walker eventually replaced Dorsett in the Dallas backfield.


DeMarco Murray rushed for more yards in one season in 2014 than Dorsett, Walker, or Emmitt Smith. However, instead of adding to the backfield in 2015, the Cowboys let Murray walk via free agency. The 2015 team will have committee at the running-back position.


Most of the rest of the 1986 team featured aging stars (Randy White, Too Tall Jones, Tony Hill) and rather mediocre role players. White’s injury marked the beginning of the end, as Dallas won only 11 games between 1987 and 1989.


Dallas freed itself of most of its fading stars, who included the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Miles Austin. The team replaced those players with a young and talented group, including three of the best young offensive linemen in the NFL.

Unlike the 1986 team, the arrow for the 2015 Cowboys is pointing up. But it will take a full season from Tony Romo and good performances from several new players on defense for this team to reach heights the franchise has not reached in two decades.

Thursday’s Then and Now: The Governor’s Cup

A picture from the first Governor's Cup in 1967.

A picture from the first Governor’s Cup in 1967.

The Dallas Cowboys will face the Houston Texans on Thursday night for the Governor’s Cup. This marks the 12th time the Cowboys have faced the Texans for the Cup, with Dallas holding a 6-5 edge in previous games. The Cowboys beat Houston in overtime last year on October 5.

Of course, the Cowboys used to face the Houston Oilers for the Cup, with Dallas winning 18 of 31 games dating back to 1967.

Notwithstanding the nearly complete lack of interest in tonight’s game, here is a comparison of the first Governor’s Cup game and tonight’s matchup.

Then (1967): The Cowboys traveled to Houston to face the Oilers at Rice Stadium. A total of 53,125 came to watch the teams face one another in an interleague exhibition for the first time.

Now: Both the Cowboys and the Texans play in state-of-the-art facilities. Dallas will host tonight’s game at Cowboys Stadium, which has a capacity of about 80,000.

* * *

Then: The game between the Cowboys and Oilers was unofficially dubbed the Texas Championship. The game was not officially played for the Governor’s Cup until 1969.

Now: As noted above, the Cowboys have won the Governor’s Cup 24 times over the years.

For several years, however, the Governor’s Cup had gone missing. The Cowboys’ former vice president, Joe Bailey, told the press that he had given the Governor’s Cup to a Houston equipment manager, who then lost the Cup. It was found in a cardboard box in a Houston office building in 1987.

* * *

Then: The Cowboys beat the Oilers in 1967 thanks to the passing of Don Meredith and Craig Morton.

Now: Dallas will try to avoid its second consecutive winless preseason with Dustin Vaughan and Jameill Showers leading the way.

* * *

Then: Houston QB Don Trull had all sorts of problems with the Dallas pass rush, and the Oilers only managed 54 yards during the first three quarters. Another QB, Jacky Lee, had better luck, leading Houston to two touchdowns. Dallas, however, still managed the win, 30-17.

Pete Beathard ended up staring nine games for Houston in 1967. Lee started three games but could only manage one win. Trull completed just four passes all year.

Now: The Texans have named Brian Hoyer as the starter after he beat out Ryan Mallett for the job. Chances are pretty good that in 48 years, folks won’t remember the names Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett any better than fans remember the names Don Trull and Jacky Lee.

* * *

Then: The 1967 Houston Oilers were a good team, finishing the season at 9-4-1. They lost to Oakland in the AFL Championship Game. Dallas lost to the Green Bay Packers in the 1967 Ice Bowl for the NFL Championship.

Of course, this means that the Cowboys and Oilers were one win a piece from having a second Texas Championship/Governor’s Cup that year, only the teams would have faced off at the Miami Orange Bowl in Super Bowl II.

Now: Dallas has not been the Super Bowl since the 1995, but the Cowboys won the NFC East in 2014 with a 12-4 mark. The Texans finished the 2014 season at 9-7 after winning just two games in 2013. Nobody expects a Cowboys-Texans Super Bowl, but stranger things have happened.

Their Final Plays: Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman

This is a series that focuses on the last games and/or (when possible) the last plays of various members of the Cowboys. The final plays for a few of these players, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin, are well known. Others may be more difficult to research, but I will do my best.

Anyone old enough to remember the Cowboys of the late 1990s and early 2000s will remember the last plays of Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman. For that reason, I present them together in this post.


Michael Irvin’s skills had eroded by the late 1990s. He was far less effective in 1997 and 1998. In fact, his poor performance against the Arizona Cardinals in the 1998 playoffs (four receptions, 32 yards) caused some to wonder if the Cowboys should release the future hall-of-famer, even though he was still a 1,000-yard receiver.

But then Irvin caught two touchdown receptions in a season-opening thriller against Washington, and it appeared that he might be back. He followed that performance with two sub-par games, but Dallas was 3-0 early in the 1999 season, so most did not focus heavily on Irvin’s importance.

And then…

Michael Irvin never played football again after this play.

Michael Irvin never played football again after this play.

Irvin went across the middle against the Eagles on a slant pattern, and Troy Aikman hit Irvin in stride. As he was being tackled, Irvin was hit on the back of the head by an Eagle defender. Irvin did not get up from the play and was carted off the field (as Eagle fans cheered the injury).

The result…

Dallas went 5-8 for the rest of the 1999 season. The team only won 15 games over the three seasons after that. No, it was not all because of Irvin’s injury, but the team lost a key leader, and the Cowboys were not the same team once he was gone.


Troy Aikman led Dallas to three Super Bowl titles and was only 34 years old in 2000. He played, however, more like he was 44. He threw only 7 touchdown passes compared with 14 interceptions, and fans routinely booed him and the Cowboys during a terrible season.

He started the week 14 game against Washington.

And then…


LaVar Arrington’s hit near the sideline gave Aikman yet another concussion, and Aikman never played another down of football in the NFL again.

Dallas had already declined when Aikman suffered his injury. However, his retirement led to the team’s carousel of quarterbacks. Dallas could not find a franchise quarterback until the emergence of Tony Romo six years after Aikman suffered his injury.