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.
Like we do with Roger Staubach, we as fans tend to want to remember Emmitt Smith’s great highlights rather than what happened at the very end. Thus, in a more perfect world, perhaps Emmitt would have eclipsed Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards and then immediately walked off the field for good. Our final memory might be something like this—
Heck, he could have left for good after his final Thanksgiving Day game as a Cowboy, when he rushed for 144 yards in a 27-20 win.
But no, he kept going. In his last game as a Cowboy against Washington on December 29, 2002, Emmitt needed to rush for 38 yards to surpass 1,000 for the season. It would have marked the 12th consecutive season for him to rush for at least 1,000 yards.
Instead? 18 carries. 13 yards.
No, I am not going to post a picture from the game.
It was just an amazingly bad ending for such an amazing player. Offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet keep feeding Emmitt the ball, but Emmitt never got anything going. It was not his worst game as pro (16 carries for 6 yards against New Orleans in 1998 probably was), but this performance was one of the worst.
Emmitt’s final run occurred with 8:25 remaining in the game. He lost four yards.
Of course, Emmitt’s career continued after he left the Cowboys. He played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals.
His final game as a pro ended better than the last game with the Cowboys. He gained a total of 69 yards on 23 carries in a 12-7 Arizona win over Tampa Bay.
The last run of his career wasn’t one to remember, though: he lost two yards and fumbled the ball out of bounds. Ugh.
So in summary—
Final 100-Yard Game as a Cowboy: Gained 144 yards vs. Washington on November 28, 2002.
Final Game as a Cowboy: Gained 13 yards on 18 carries vs. Washington on December 28, 2002.
Final Rushing Attempt as a Cowboy: Lost four yards on a play in the fourth quarter vs. Washington on December 28, 2002.
Final 100-Yard Game as a Professional: 106 yards as an Arizona Cardinal vs. Seattle on October 24, 2004.
Final Game as a Professional: Gained 69 yards vs. Tampa Bay on January 2, 2005.
Final Rushing Attempt as a Professional: Lost two yards on a run with 1:56 remaining on the fourth quarter in a 12-7 Arizona win over Tampa Bay on January 2, 2005.