The 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.