In the football-craziest state in the nation resides perhaps the NFL’s most successful franchise. The team’s cumulative mark of 502-374-6 is the league’s all-time best, and over the years has earend them equally-sized legions of dyed-in-the-wool fans and ardent haters.
But like it or not, few teams beyond the New York Yankees and Manchester United are so closely associated with their sport, and until relatively recently the Cowboys’ track record had lived up to the reputation. The ‘Pokes were the first NFL team to have appeared in eight Super Bowls – all between V and XXX – and until 1997 had racked up an impressive 31-18 mark in the playoffs. Following the Super Bowl XXX win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, Dallas has had difficulty surviving September with a cumulative 3-10 record.
The Dallas Cowboys are also unique in that this is certainly the only sports franchise in North America (and possibly the world) whose main rivalry was born before the franchise. See, Washington franchise owner George Preston Marshall essentially sought and fought to keep his team’s monopoly over the entire Southern market in the days well before franchises were based in Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, etc. Thus did he block for years attempts by Clint Murchison Jr. and Lamar Hunt to base a team in Dallas after the NFL’s Dallas Texans had folded in 1952.
However, in 1959, Murchison’s bid to base a team in Dallas was to be heard by the NFL owners. As revenge, Murchison pulled off one hell of a swell trolling of Marshall by purchasing the rights to the song, “Hail to the [Washington football team].” Murchison then perpetuated the franchise’s first-ever transaction, trading the rights to the fight song for Marshall’s vote. Shazam, the Dallas Cowboys were born.
The Cowboys’ second great victory as an NFL franchise happened at the turnstile. While the Cowboys and the AFL’s new Dallas Texans both drew upward of 21,000 per game in their inaugural seasons of 1960, by ’63, the two-time champion Texans relocated (!!!) to become the Kansas City Chiefs. The Cowboys had the Dallas market, and became just one of two teams (along with the Los Angeles Rams) to chase out their rogue-league market rival.
As for on-field matters, the Cowboys wen through six years of mediocrity before … something happened in 1966. From ’65 to ’66, all the key players – QB “Dandy Don” Meredith, RB Don Perkins, WR Bob Hayes, DL Bob Lilly plus some other dudes not named Don or Bob – and head coach Tom Landry wasn’t going anywhere. Yet for no discernible reason, the Cowboys went 10-3-1 in that season, proceeding to go on a historical tear of eight consecutive playoff appearances, including two Super Bowl appearances and the crushing 24-3 defeat of the Miami Dolphins in VI.
After missing the playoffs in 1974, Landry introduced a neat little innovation called “the Shotgun Formation” for his quarterback Roger Staubach to exploit. The tweak led immediately to three Super Bowl appearances in four years, including the 27-10 win over the Denver Broncos in XII; four more consecutive playoff runs with Danny White at QB followed that.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and one of the all-time greatest coaches ever retired in 1988 with the third-most wins as an NFL coach and two Lombardi trophies.
Jimmy Johnson became the second-ever Dallas Cowboys head coach in 1989 and promptly convinced team owner Jerry Jones to complete the greatest NFL trade ever made. By divesting the team of Herschel Walker, the Cowboys ultimately ended up with some 13 compensatory draft picks over the next two seasons plus lots of financial wiggle room to sign free agents and castoffs. Today, we’d call an early version of “The Process,” but Johnson merely put those team-building skills he’d learned at the University of Miami. The move was significant enough to inspire at least one short documentary, featuring a swaggering Jones himself.
By 1991, the Cowboys were back in the playoffs. The following two seasons were capped by back-to-back blowouts of the Buffalo Bills and early acknowledgements that the 90s Dallas Cowboys of Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Darren Woodson, etc., were one of the NFL’s all-time great teams, up there with the 70s Steelers and 80s 49ers.
As it turned out, though, just about the only matter Johnson and Jones had seen eye-to-eye on was the Walker trade. After Super Bowl XXVIII, Johnson left in a huff. Oklahoma Sooners coach Barry Switzer was brought in to helm Johnson’s creation and the winning continued, with a run to the NFC championship game followed by the Super Bowl XXX victory.
The years of near-perpetual prominence were coming to an end for the Cowboys, however. Jones’s overbearing presence, a series of ho-hum head coaches, and ineffable amounts of, likesay, bad luck have led to two decades of the aforementioned underachievement beginning with Switzer’s last season in Dallas. We’ll see whether the 2020s are kinder, but with the division-mate Philadelphia Eagles looking like a nascent juggernaut, NFLbets reckons it won’t be easy for the ’Boys…
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