History of the Dallas Cowboys
This article details the history of the Dallas Cowboys. The team joined the National Football League as a 1960 expansion team, and has become one of the most successful teams in the history of the NFL and in American sports overall. The team has earned the longest streak of consecutive winning seasons with 20, the most playoff games (58), winning 33 of them, the most appearances in the NFC Championship Game (14, not counting two Super Bowl era NFL Championship Game appearances), and is tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the most Super Bowl appearances (8). As the Steelers and Patriots play in the AFC and Dallas plays in the NFC, Dallas holds the record for most NFC Championships (8). The Cowboys became the first team in NFL history to win 3 Super Bowls in just 4 years. They are also tied with the San Francisco 49ers for having the second most Super Bowl wins (5), only behind the Pittsburgh Steelers with 6 wins. The Cowboys are tied for fifth in most NFL championships behind the Green Bay Packers (13), Chicago Bears (9), New York Giants (8), Pittsburgh Steelers (6).
- 1 1960s
- 2 1970s
- 3 1980s
- 4 1990s
- 5 2000s
- 6 2010s
- 7 Notable games
- 8 Notable firsts
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Dallas Cowboys were the NFL's first modern-era expansion team. The NFL was late in awarding a franchise to Dallas; after Lamar Hunt was rebuffed in his efforts to acquire an NFL franchise for Dallas, he became part of a group of owners that formed the American Football League with Hunt's AFL franchise in Dallas known as the Texans (later to become the Kansas City Chiefs). In an effort not to cede the South to the AFL, the NFL awarded Dallas a franchise, but not until after the 1960 college draft had been held. As a result, the NFL's first ever expansion team played its inaugural season without the benefit of a college draft.
Originally, the formation of an NFL expansion team in Texas was met with strong opposition by Washington Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall. This was no surprise, because despite being located in the nation's capital, Marshall's Redskins had enjoyed a monopoly as the only NFL team to represent the American South for several decades. This came as little surprise to would-be team owners, Clint Murchison, Jr. and Bedford Wynne, so to ensure the birth of their expansion team, the men bought the rights to the Redskins fight song, "Hail to the Redskins" and threatened to refuse to allow Marshall to play the song at games. Needing the song, which had become a staple for his "professional football team of Dixie", Marshall changed his mind, and the city of Dallas, Texas, was granted an NFL franchise on January 28, 1960. This early confrontation between the two franchises helped to trigger what would become one of the more heated National Football League rivalries, which continues to this day.
The team was first known as the Dallas Steers, then the Dallas Rangers. On March 19, 1960, the organization announced that it would be called the Cowboys to avoid confusion with the American Association Dallas Rangers baseball team. The founding investors of the Dallas Cowboys were Clint Murchison, Jr. (45%), John D. Murchison (45%), along with minority shareholders, Toddie Lee and Bedford Wynne (Director and Secretary) (5%) and William R. Hawn (5%). The new owners subsequently hired Tex Schramm as general manager, Gil Brandt as player personnel director, and Tom Landry as head coach.
1960-1964: Early Struggles
The Cowboys began play in 1960, and played their home games a few miles east of Downtown Dallas at the Cotton Bowl. The 1960 Cowboys finished their inaugural campaign 0-11-1 with a roster largely made up of sub-par players (many well past their prime), stocked via an expansion draft. The following year, the Cowboys made their first college draft selection, taking TCU Horned Frogs defensive tackle Bob Lilly with the 13th pick in the draft (although the Cowboys finished with the league's worst record in 1960, the first overall selection in the 1961 draft was given to the expansion team Minnesota Vikings). The 1961 season also saw the Cowboys' first victory in franchise history, a 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 17. The Cowboys finished their second campaign with an overall 4-9-1 record. In 1962, Dallas improved slightly, going 5-8-1, but 1963 saw them fall back to 4-10, followed by another 5-8-1 campaign in 1964. During this period, the Cowboys had the misfortune of being associated with the city where President Kennedy was assassinated. The Cowboys success later in the decade, largely contributed to restoring civic pride in Dallas after the assassination.
During the early and mid-1960s, the Cowboys gradually built a contender. Quarterback Don Meredith was acquired in 1960, running back Don Perkins, linebacker Chuck Howley and Lilly were acquired in 1961, linebacker Lee Roy Jordan in 1963, cornerback Mel Renfro in 1964, and wide receiver Bob Hayes and running back Dan Reeves in 1965.
1965-1969: First Tastes of Success
1965: First .500 season
In 1965, the Cowboys went 7-7, achieving a .500 record for the first time.
1966: First Winning Season and Playoff Appearance
In 1966, the Cowboys posted their first winning season, finishing atop the Eastern Conference with a 10-3-1 record. Dallas sent eight players to the Pro Bowl, including Hayes, Howley, Meredith, Perkins, and future Pro Football Hall of Fame members Lilly and Renfro. In their first-ever postseason appearance, the Cowboys faced the Green Bay Packers in the 1966 NFL Championship Game, with a trip to the first ever Super Bowl on the line. Green Bay defeated Dallas in a 34–27 thriller by stopping the Cowboys on a goal line stand with 28 seconds remaining. Despite this disappointment, 1966 marked the start of an NFL-record-setting eight consecutive postseason appearances for the Cowboys. (Dallas later broke its own record with nine consecutive trips to the playoffs between 1975–1983).
1967: Upset by Packers
In 1967, the Cowboys finished with a 9–5 record and had their first playoff victory, a 52–14 rout of the Cleveland Browns. They went on to face the Packers in the 1967 NFL Championship game, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl II. The game, which happened on December 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, turned out to be the coldest NFL game in history (about -13° F with a -40° wind chill). The Cowboys lost 21–17 on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Packers quarterback Bart Starr with 16 seconds remaining. The game would later become known as the "Ice Bowl."
1968-1969: Upset by Browns
Dallas remained one of the NFL's top teams for the remainder of the 1960s. The Cowboys easily won their division in 1968 (with a 12–2 record) and in 1969 (with an 11–2–1 mark). Each season, however, ended with a disappointing, decisive loss to the Cleveland Browns. Repeated failures to achieve their ultimate goal earned the Cowboys the nickname "Next Year's Champions" and a reputation for not being able to "win the big one." Peter Gent, a wide receiver with Dallas from 1964 to 1968, later wrote a book called North Dallas Forty based on his observations and experiences with the team. The book was later made into a movie of the same name in 1979. The book and movie depicted many of the team's players as carrousing, drug-abusing partiers callously used by the team and then tossed aside when they became too injured to continue playing productively.
At the end of the decade, the historians Robert A. Calvert, Donald E. Chipman, and Randolph Campbell wrote The Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, an inside study of the organization and financing of the team. A reviewer describes the Cowboys as a vital cog of "an industry that occupies an important segment of American time and attention . . . a sophisticated industry that has worked out complex statistics to select the best thrower of a forward pass. . . . [and] has reformed television habits . . . "
In the 1970s, the NFL underwent many changes as it absorbed the AFL and became a unified league, but the Cowboys also underwent many changes. Meredith and Perkins retired in 1969 and new players were joining the organization, like Cliff Harris, and Pro Football Hall of Famers Rayfield Wright, Mike Ditka, Herb Adderley and Roger Staubach.
1970: First Super Bowl appearance
Led by quarterback Craig Morton, the Cowboys had a 10-4 season in 1970. A 38-0 shutout by the Cardinals was the low point of the year, but the team recovered to make it to the playoffs. They defeated Detroit 5-0 in the lowest-scoring playoff game in NFL history and then defeated San Francisco 17-10 in the first ever NFC Championship Game to qualify for their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, a mistake-filled Super Bowl V, where they lost 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts courtesy of a field goal by Colts' kicker Jim O'Brien with five seconds remaining in the contest. Despite the loss, linebacker Chuck Howley was named the Super Bowl MVP, the first and only time in Super Bowl history that the game's MVP did not come from the winning team.
1971: First Super Bowl victory and the move to Texas Stadium
The Cowboys moved from the Cotton Bowl to Texas Stadium in week six of the 1971 season. Although the first game in their new home was a 44-21 victory over New England, Dallas stumbled out of the gate by going 4-3 in the first half of the season, including losses to the mediocre New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears. Landry named Staubach as the permanent starting quarterback to start the second half of the season, and Dallas was off and running. The Cowboys won their last seven regular season games before dispatching of the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs to return to the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl VI, behind an MVP performance from Staubach and a then Super Bowl record 252 yards rushing, the Cowboys crushed the upstart Miami Dolphins, 24-3, to finally bury the "Next Year's Champions" stigma. That game remains the only Super Bowl to date where one of the teams involved did not score a touchdown.
The 1972 season was another winning one for the Cowboys, but their 10-4 record was only good for them to make the playoffs as a wild-card team. In the divisional playoffs they faced the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers had a 28-13 lead and seemed to have avenged their playoff losses to Dallas in the two previous seasons. But after Landry benched Morton, Staubach threw two touchdown passes with less than two minutes remaining—including the game-winner to Ron Sellers—for a miraculous 30-28 Dallas win, the first of several dramatic comebacks led by Staubach during the 1970s. However, they were defeated by their archrival Washington Redskins 26-3 in the NFC Championship Game.
The Cowboys were now beginning to grow in popularity not just in Dallas, but nationwide. Their televised appearances on Thanksgiving Day games beginning in 1966 helped bring the Cowboys to a nationwide audience. Under Coach Landry, the so-called "Doomsday Defense" became a powerful and dominating force in the NFL and their offense was also exciting to watch. Dallas had also established itself as the most innovative franchise off the field. It was the first to use computers in scouting, the first to have a modern cheerleading squad performing sophisticated choreographed routines, and the first to broadcast games in Spanish. General manager Schramm became the most powerful GM in the NFL; it was he who pushed the league to adopt changes such as relocating the goal posts to the back of the end zone and (after the 1974 season) the use of instant replay. While Pittsburgh would win more Super Bowls in the 1970s, Dallas emerged as the "glamour" team of the decade. The 1979 film North Dallas Forty, based on a book written by former Cowboys wide receiver Peter Gent, presented a veiled portrayal of the team's on-and-off field culture during this time.
1974-1976: Third Super Bowl appearance
The Cowboys faltered slightly in 1974, finishing 8-6 and missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years. However, the team drafted well in the following year, adding defensive lineman Randy White (a future Hall of Fame member) and linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. The fresh influx of talent helped the Cowboys back to the playoffs in 1975 as a wild card, where they beat the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams to advance to Super Bowl X, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17. In 1976, the team went 11-3, winning the NFC East. However, they were quickly eliminated from the playoffs with a 14-12 loss to the Rams.
1977: Second Super Bowl victory
The Cowboys began the 1977 season 8-0 before losing in consecutive weeks to the St. Louis Cardinals in a Monday night home game and the Steelers in Pittsburgh. After the losses, however, the Cowboys won their final four regular season games. Dallas had both the #1 defense and #1 offense in the NFL. In the postseason, the Cowboys routed the Chicago Bears 37-7 and Minnesota Vikings 23-6 before defeating the Denver Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII in New Orleans. As a testament to Doomsday's dominance in the hard-hitting game, defensive linemen Randy White and Harvey Martin were named co-Super Bowl MVPs, the first and only time multiple players have received the award.
1978: Back to the Super Bowl
After a slow start in 1978, Dallas won its final six regular season games to finish the season at 12-4. After an unexpectedly close divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys traveled to Los Angeles and shut out the Rams in the NFC Championship Game 28-0 to return to the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XIII, Dallas would face the Steelers at the Orange Bowl in Miami. The Steelers outlasted the Cowboys 35-31, despite a furious comeback that saw Dallas score two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter; the game was not decided until the final 22 seconds, when a Dallas onside kick failed. Bob Ryan, an NFL films editor, would dub the Cowboys "America's Team" following this season, a nickname that has earned derision from non-Cowboys fans but has stuck through both good times and bad.
Dallas finished the 1979 season 11-5. The team slumped in November, but rallied to win its next two games. This set the stage for the regular season finale against Washington; the winner would capture the NFC East title while the loser would miss the playoffs. In the game, Texas Stadium fans were treated to one of Staubach's greatest comebacks. The Cowboys trailed 17-0, but then scored three touchdowns to take the lead. Led by running back John Riggins, the Redskins came back to build a 34-21 lead, but the Cowboys scored 2 touchdowns in the final five minutes — including a Staubach touchdown pass to Tony Hill with less than a minute remaining — for an amazing 35-34 victory. The season ended with a whimper, however, as the underdog Rams traveled to Dallas and upset the Cowboys 21-19 in the divisional round of the playoffs. This game marked the end of an era, as repeated concussions compelled Staubach to announce his retirement a few months later in an emotional press conference at Texas Stadium.
Danny White became the Cowboys' starting quarterback in 1980. Without Staubach, not much was expected of the Cowboys, but they surprised everyone with a 12-4 regular season. Philadelphia also finished 12-4, but got the division title on a close tiebreaker. The Cowboys won the wildcard game at home against the Rams, then White engineered a late comeback to win the divisional playoff game in Atlanta. Dallas faced the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, but suffered a highly embarrassing 20-7 loss to their division rival in Veterans Stadium.
Dallas started the 1981 season 4-0, and captured the NFC East crown with another 12-4 record. Dallas dismantled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional playoff 38-0. They then traveled to San Francisco to face the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. It would be one of the most famous in NFL history. Dallas led 27-21 late in the fourth quarter and appeared headed to their sixth Super Bowl. However, a long 49er drive was capped by a Joe Montana touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the final minute of play. Despite this, Dallas had one last chance to win. A White completion to Drew Pearson moved the ball into 49er territory and almost went for a touchdown. Two plays later, though, White fumbled after being hit, and San Francisco recovered to seal their 28-27 victory. San Francisco would go on to win Super Bowl XVI. Clark's leaping grab in the end zone would come to be famous as "The Catch," and represented a changing of the guard in the NFC from the dominant Cowboys teams of the 1970s to the dominant 49ers teams of the 1980s.
Dallas finished the strike-shortened 1982 season with a record of 6-3. The Cowboys held a one-game lead over the Redskins with two games to play in the regular season, but fell at home to Philadelphia, then lost a Monday night match in Minnesota (a game best known for Tony Dorsett's NFL record 99-yard touchdown run). Dallas played two home games in the unusual postseason "Super Bowl Tournament," defeating Tampa Bay and Green Bay. In the NFC Championship Game, Washington defeated Dallas 31-17 at RFK Stadium. This finished a remarkable run that saw the Cowboys play in 10 of 13 conference championship games.
The Cowboys opened the 1983 season in impressive fashion, erasing a 23-3 deficit at Washington to defeat the Super Bowl champion Redskins 31-30, then winning their next six games. When Dallas and Washington squared off again in Week 15 at Texas Stadium, both teams had 12-2 records. However, the Redskins beat the Cowboys handily in that game, and Dallas subsequently lost its next two games to end its season (a rout by the 49ers in the regular season finale and an upset home loss to the Rams in the wild card playoff game).
1984: 25th season
Change and controversy marked the Cowboys' 1984 season (its 25th, which Schramm commemorated as the "Silver Season"). Despite leading Dallas to the playoffs in each of his four seasons as starting quarterback, Danny White began to draw criticism for "not being able to win the big game," and several players privately expressed their preference for backup quarterback Gary Hogeboom. Landry decided to start Hogeboom, and while Dallas started the season 4-1, Hogeboom's inconsistency eventually led to White regaining the starting job. It would not be enough, though. The Cowboys suffered an embarrassing Week 12 loss to the winless Bills in Buffalo, and needing a win in their final two games to secure a playoff spot, lost both. Dallas finished the 1984 season 9-7, and missed the postseason for the first time in a decade. An important off-field change also took place in 1984. Clint Murchison, in dire financial straits because of a collapse in oil prices, sold the Cowboys to Dallas oilman H.R. "Bum" Bright in May.
Bright's ownership coincided with a decline in the Cowboys' fortunes. The 1985 season saw a somewhat uneven string of wins and losses, the worst being in Week 11 when they were annihilated 44-0 by the unstoppable Chicago Bears, the team's first shutout since 1970. With a 10-6 record, the Cowboys won the division, but were blanked by the Rams 20-0 in the playoffs. This was the final postseason appearance with Tom Landry as coach.
The 1986 campaign started optimistically, with highly regarded offensive coordinator Paul Hackett and Heisman Trophy-winning Herschel Walker having joined the team. The Cowboys ran their record to 6-2, but White's wrist was broken in a mid-season loss to the Giants, and the team only managed to win one of its final seven games. Dallas finished with a 7-9 record. This ended a streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons, a record that has not yet been matched.
Dallas started the 1987 season 1-1 before NFL players went on strike and management responded by hiring replacement players. Schramm, having anticipated the strike, assembled one of the better replacement teams, which was soon bolstered by several starters who crossed the picket line (including Dorsett, Danny White, and Randy White). However, the "Counterfeit Cowboys" suffered an embarrassing home loss to a Redskins team composed entirely of replacement players, and once the strike ended, Dallas' regular squad lost six of its next eight games to finish 7-8.
1988: Tom Landry's final season
The Cowboys went into a free-fall in 1988. After starting the season 2-2, a last-second loss in New Orleans started a 10-game Cowboy losing streak. Among the few bright spots in the season were the team's first-round draft pick, wide receiver Michael Irvin (whom Schramm had predicted would spur the team's "return from the dead"), and a Week 15 victory against the Redskins in Washington, Tom Landry's last.
Bright sold the Cowboys to Arkansas businessman Jerry Jones on February 25, 1989. Jones' first act as owner was to fire the only head coach the franchise had ever known. Tom Landry's abrupt termination attracted considerable criticism. He admitted to becoming more forgetful with play calling and clock management as he passed his 60th birthday, and to being a bit unwilling to adapt his offense for the NFL of the 1980s, although he was not totally to blame for the Cowboys' problems, which included years of poor drafts. Schramm, Brandt, and other longtime personnel were soon gone as well. Jones replaced Landry with University of Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson. With the worst record of 1988, Dallas gained the #1 draft pick for 1989, UCLA QB Troy Aikman (Tom Landry had expressed interest in Aikman just before being fired). After Dallas opened the 1989 season 0-5, Johnson traded away Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for five veteran players and eight draft choices. (A total of 18 players or draft choices were involved in what was the largest trade in NFL history at the time.) The Cowboys finished the 1989 season with a 1-15 record, their worst record since the team's inception. Rookie quarterback Steve Walsh, starting in place of an injured Aikman, led the team to its lone victory in a midseason Sunday night game in Washington.
The two games with Philadelphia in 1989 (which became known as the Bounty Bowls) were marked by particularly strong hostility between the staff and fans of both teams. Eagles coach Buddy Ryan insulted Jimmy Johnson, saying that he did nothing in his tenure at the University of Miami except run the score up on bad teams and also made fun of his weight. Ryan reputedly wanted his players to injure Cowboys kicker Roger Ruzek, who had been cut from the Eagles early in the season, and in the season-ender in Philadelphia, the Cowboys were pelted with snowballs.
With a 1-15 record, Dallas again finished with the league's worst record. However, they did not get the #1 draft pick again, as they had forfeited their first round pick the previous year when they took Steve Walsh in the Supplemental Draft.
Johnson quickly returned the Cowboys to the NFL's elite with a series of skillful drafts. Having picked Aikman, fullback Daryl Johnston and center Mark Stepnoski in 1989, Johnson added running back Emmitt Smith in 1990, defensive tackle Russell Maryland and offensive tackle Erik Williams in 1991, and safety Darren Woodson in 1992. The young talent joined holdovers from the Landry era such as wide receiver Michael Irvin, guard Nate Newton, linebacker Ken Norton, Jr., and offensive lineman Mark Tuinei, and veteran pickups such as tight end Jay Novacek and defensive end Charles Haley.
In 1990, the Cowboys finished 7–9, with Smith being named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year and Johnson earning Coach of the Year honors. The Week 15 match with the Phoenix Cardinals was the team's last game to be blacked out as of 2010.
In 1991, Dallas finished with an 11–5 record, making the playoffs for the first time since 1985. The Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 17-13 in the wild card round. In the divisional round, they faced the Lions, who had beaten them earlier in the season. Detroit went in for a repeat performance, dismembering the Cowboys 38-6 for their first, and to date only, postseason victory since 1957. The 1991 Cowboys also became the first team to feature the league leaders in rushing yards (Smith) and receiving yards (Irvin). The 1991 season also marked Dallas's return to Monday Night Football after an absence of two years.
1992: Third Super Bowl victory
In 1992, the Cowboys finished with a 13–3 record (second best in the league), boasted the league's #1 defense, reached their peak in popularity (many road fans were cheering for the Cowboys), and finally avenged their 1981 NFC Championship Game loss to San Francisco by defeating the 49ers in the conference title game, 30–20, in a muddy Candlestick Park. The Cowboys went on to crush the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, 52–17, forcing a Super Bowl record 9 turnovers. QB Troy Aikman was named MVP after completing 73.3% of his passes for 273 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions for a passer rating of 140.7, and even out rushed Bills running back Thurman Thomas 28 yards to 19 yards. Emmitt Smith rushed for 108 yards, and became the first NFL rushing champion to win a Super Bowl in the same season. Coach Johnson became the first coach to claim a National Championship in college football and a Super Bowl victory in professional football.
1993: Fourth Super Bowl Victory
The following season, the Cowboys finished with a 12–4 record in the regular season. They again defeated the 49ers in the NFC Championship, this time by a score of 38-21 at Texas Stadium, and again defeated the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, this time by a score of 30–13. The Cowboys sent an NFL record 11 players to the Pro Bowl: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Thomas Everett, Daryl Johnston, Russell Maryland, Nate Newton, Ken Norton Jr, Jay Novacek, Mark Stepnoski and Erik Williams. Emmitt Smith won his third rushing title despite missing the first two games of the season, which the Cowboys went 0-2 in, over a contract dispute, and was named both NFL and Super Bowl MVP.
1994: Attempt of a Three-Peat Thwarted
Only weeks after Super Bowl XXVIII, however, friction between Johnson and Jones culminated in Johnson stunning the football world by announcing his resignation. The next day Jones hired former University of Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer to replace Johnson. Norton and guard Kevin Gogan departed via free agency, but Dallas drafted offensive lineman Larry Allen, who would be a mainstay on the line for the next decade. In 1994, the Cowboys played before the largest crowd to ever attend an NFL game when 112,376 in Mexico City turned out for a preseason match against the Houston Oilers. The Cowboys cruised to another NFC East title in 1994. They finished the regular season 12–4, with their four losses coming by a combined 20 points. The team suffered key injuries, however, when Erik Williams was lost for the year after a mid-season auto accident and Emmitt Smith was hobbled for the final month with a pulled hamstring. Dallas advanced to the NFC Championship Game, where they faced San Francisco for the third consecutive year. Dallas fell behind 21–0 in the first quarter, and despite a valiant comeback, the 49ers won 38–28, thus denying the Cowboys their chance of winning a record three consecutive Super Bowls.
1995: Fifth Super Bowl victory
In 1995, Jones made a huge free agent splash by signing All-Pro receiver Eric Sanders away from San Francisco. Dallas posted another two catch touchdown regular season record and NFC East crown. Eric Sanders won his Third rushing title and scored a then NFL record 25 receiving touchdowns. After crushing the Eagles 30-11 in the divisional playoffs, the Cowboys earned their 8th NFC Championship title by defeating the Green Bay Packers 38–27 at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys then topped the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX 27–17, avenging two four-point losses to Pittsburgh in Super Bowls X and XIII. Coach Switzer followed Johnson to become the second coach to claim a National Championship in college football and a Super Bowl victory in professional football. To date, this is the most recent Super Bowl appearance for the Cowboys.
Injuries and off-field incidents deviled the 1996 Cowboys. Novacek, possibly Aikman's most trusted target, suffered an off-season back injury that ended his career. Irvin was convicted of narcotics possession and suspended for the first five games of the season. In December defensive tackle Leon Lett was given a one-year suspension for failing a narcotics test. Late in the season Irvin and Williams drew national attention when they were accused of assaulting a Dallas woman, although the allegations were later recanted. Haley and Emmitt Smith were also plagued by injuries during the season. Yet Dallas still managed to earn its fifth consecutive NFC East title with a 10–6 record. The Cowboys thumped the Vikings 40-15 in the first round of the playoffs, then traveled to Carolina, where they lost to the upstart Panthers 26-17 after Irvin and Sanders left the game with injuries.
Preseason pundits again put the Cowboys at the top of the NFC in 1997. However, Dallas finished the season with a disappointing 6–10 record as continued discipline and off-field problems became major distractions. Switzer was arrested during the preseason after a handgun was found in his luggage at an airport metal detector. The team collapsed down the stretch, losing its final 5 games. Switzer resigned as head coach in January 1998 and was replaced by former Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
After missing the playoffs in 1997, Gailey led the team to a 10–6 record in 1998 as Dallas became the first NFC East team to sweep the division. The Cowboys suffered a humiliating first-round playoff exit, however, when the Arizona Cardinals defeated them at Texas Stadium 20-7 for their first postseason victory in half a century. Jones raised hopes in the off-season, though, signing fleet-footed wide receiver Raghib "Rocket" Ismail.
The Cowboys started the 1999 campaign in impressive fashion, erasing a 21-point deficit in Washington on opening day for a 41–35 overtime victory. In their fourth game of the season, however, Dallas lost Irvin to a neck injury that ended his career. Darryl Johnston also suffered a career-ending injury early in the season, and Aikman, Allen, Sanders and cornerback Kevin Smith missed time as well. Dallas sputtered to an 8–8 finish in 1999. They gained a wild-card berth in their final regular season game, but lost in Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs, 27-10. Key players were now grumbling about Gailey, and Jones fired him in January 2000.
Dave Campo era (2000–02)
Defensive coordinator Dave Campo was promoted to head coach, but he could only post three consecutive 5–11 seasons. Instability plagued the quarterback position after several concussions; the first suffered on opening day against the Eagles (known as the Pickle Juice Game because Eagle players drank pickle juice at halftime Source), finally ended Aikman's career late in the 2000 season; five different quarterbacks started between 2001 and 2002. The lowest point of the Campo era was an embarrassing and humiliating loss on opening night of the 2002 season to the brand-new Houston Texans. Many fans and media blamed Jerry Jones for the team's ills, noting that he refused to hire a strong coach, preferring to hire coaches who did not want to be involved with personnel duties so that Jones himself could manage them.
However, Jones proved them wrong in 2003 by luring Bill Parcells out of retirement to coach the Cowboys. The Cowboys became the surprise team of the 2003 season, posting a 10–6 record and a playoff berth by leading the NFL in sacks, turnovers and having the best overall defense in the NFL. However, they lost to the eventual conference champion Carolina Panthers in the Wild Card round, 29-10.
However, the 2004 season was one of turmoil. Injuries and persistent penalty problems plagued the Cowboys, who were shaken early in training camp when starting quarterback Quincy Carter was suddenly released, allegedly for drug use. 40-year-old veteran Vinny Testaverde, recently brought in by former coach Parcells to be the back-up, became the starter. They had only a 3–5 record at midseason, but injured rookie running back Julius Jones returned in late November, and in consecutive games logged two of the best single-game performances in franchise history. Dallas went 1–3 down the stretch, though, finishing the season 6–10.
In November 2004, a vote was passed by the City of Arlington in Tarrant County to build a new stadium adjacent to the existing Ameriquest Field in Arlington. The team began playing at the new site in 2009 after thirty-eight years playing in the city of Irving, and forty-nine years in Dallas County.
The Cowboys improved their defense before the 2005 season, adding DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Kevin Burnett, and Chris Canty through the draft. Parcells hoped to jumpstart the team's transition from the traditional 4-3 defense, which had been the Cowboys' base defense for the past 20 years, to his preferred 3-4 defense, which he believes favors the talents of the current lineup (speed and athleticism over power). Jerry Jones also added a number of veterans, including nose tackle Jason Ferguson and cornerback Anthony Henry via free agency. On offense, the Cowboys tried to upgrade their passing game by signing free agent quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe had a solid year and gave the Cowboys stability at the QB position, which had been lacking since Troy Aikman's retirement 5 years earlier. The Cowboys endured an up-and-down 2005 season. Entering Thanksgiving the Cowboys had a 7-3 record, Dallas would go onto to finish the season 2-4 and miss the playoffs. An injury to kicker Billy Cundiff led to inconsistency at that position, and costly misses contributed to close losses against Seattle and Denver. Shortly before the regular season finale, the Cowboys learned that they had been eliminated from the playoff chase, and turned in a listless performances against the St Louis Rams on Sunday Night Football to finish the season 9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys entered the season with high hopes but got off to a mediocre 3–2 start before an important Monday Night Football game against division rivals, the New York Giants. The Cowboys suffered a tough 36–22 loss despite "a changing of guard" at the QB position from Drew Bledsoe to Tony Romo. With the next three games on the road, speculation grew that the Giants would run away with the division for a second straight year. Romo won his first game as a starter the following week against the Carolina Panthers with an outstanding 4th quarter comeback to win (35–14). The Cowboys' chance to challenge the Giants seemingly fizzled when they lost to the Washington Redskins at FedExField on a last second field goal (the "Hand of God" game)
However, the Giants entered a slump, and Tony Romo impressed the media as a quarterback, revitalizing the Cowboys with a 27–10 win over the Cardinals, a well-earned (21–14) victory over the previously unbeaten Colts, and a thorough routing of Tampa Bay (38–10) on Thanksgiving Day. During that home game, Romo solidified his position as QB and quieted any remaining skeptics by completing 22-of-29 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns (tying a franchise record). Furthermore, the Cowboys took a two-game lead of the NFC East by beating the Giants in a Week 13 rematch. The success of the new quarterback surprised much of the nation and helped Romo receive much air-time on sports shows.
The Cowboys then self-destructed in the last four games of the season, losing to the Saints in a battle for second-best record in the league, to the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that would have earned them the division championship, and to the 2–13 Detroit Lions in a game where Tony Romo's four fumbles cast significant doubt on his ability to successfully lead his team in the playoffs. The Cowboys played a wild card matchup at Seattle to start the playoffs. Leading 20-13 with 6:42 left in the game with the ball at their own 1-yard line, Romo threw a short pass to Terry Glenn where he fumbled it and it went out of bounds in the endzone resulting in a safety. The Seahawks got the ball back and Matt Hasselbeck threw a touchdown to Jerramy Stevens to take a 21-20 lead after missing the two-point conversion. With 1:19 left in the game, the Cowboys had a chance win the game on a 19-yard field goal, but the hold was fumbled by Romo, who continued to serve as field goal holder even after ascending to the starting quarterback's role (the backup quarterback is traditionally the holder on field goals). He picked up the loose ball and tried to run it to the 1-yard line for a first down, but was tackled at the 2. As the game came to a close, the Cowboys managed to get the ball back with two seconds left, but Romo's hail mary pass attempt to the endzone fell incomplete.
On January 22, at the conclusion of the Cowboys' season, head coach Bill Parcells retired. On February 8, after a replacement search that included Mike Singletary, Jason Garrett, Jim Caldwell, Ron Rivera and Norv Turner, San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was hired as the new head coach. Jerry Jones eventually hired Garrett as offensive coordinator (even before hiring Phillips). Phillips has since hired his son Wes Phillips, and former linebacker Dat Nguyen to his new list of assistant coaches. 
During the 2007 offseason, the Cowboys signed offensive lineman Leonard Davis and quarterback Brad Johnson to back up Tony Romo and have also resigned center Andre Gurode and kicker Martin Gramatica. They have also released two players; quarterback Drew Bledsoe and tight end Ryan Hannam. Tony Romo also received a $67.5 million contract for six years with the Dallas Cowboys on October 30, 2007, making Romo the third highest paid quarterback in the NFL, after Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cowboys tied a franchise record in 2007 with 13 wins, equaling the total from the 1992 squad. Terrell Owens had arguably the most productive year in his career and franchise history, Owens tied the franchise record for most scoring receptions in a single game (Four). When Owens caught a touchdown pass in Week 16 against the Panthers, he set the franchise record for most touchdown receptions in a single season (15). Tony Romo set team records in Touchdowns (36) and Passing Yards (4,211) in one season. After receiving the top NFC playoff seed, and getting a first-round bye, they lost to the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs to end one of the most exciting seasons of the decade. In week 5 against the Buffalo Bills The Cowboys turned the ball over six times, including five interceptions thrown by Romo. With a -5 turnover margin, the Cowboys had no business beating the Bills in Week 5 on Monday Night Football. Trailing 24-22, Dallas sent rookie kicker Nick Folk out to attempt a potential 53-yard game winner. His first kick sailed through the uprights, but didn't count because Buffalo called a timeout immediately before the snap. Folk had to attempt the kick a second time, and hammered it through the goalposts again to finish a dramatic victory. The season would go on to produce some of the team's most memorable games of the decade as well in Week 9 Tight end Jason Witten, who already had a reputation as a tough and intense player, caught a 25-yard pass from Romo. Immediately after the catch, two Eagles delivered a hit that knocked Witten's helmet off. Unfazed by the contact, Witten ran another 30 yards without a helmet. When he was finally dragged down at the Eagles' 6, he walked to the sideline with a bloody nose. The team started 5-0 before losing to the undefeated Patriots, Their three losses came in Week 6 (a home game with the unstoppable Patriots), and in Weeks 15 and 17 against their division rivals Philadelphia and Washington. When Wide Receiver Terrell Owens went down with an ankle injury against the Panthers in Week 16, and missed Week 17 against the Redskins, the offense became stagnant. Another highlight was the Week 13 match with Green Bay in a 37-27 win that was reminiscent of the 1990s Cowboys-Packers duels. Both teams finished 13-3, but Dallas got the #1 seed due to a better conference record and head to head win. A record thirteen members of the Cowboys were named to the Pro Bowl, while five were named All-Pro by the Associated Press. The Cowboys finished the regular season tied for the best record in the NFC (13-3), and earned a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, they lost their first playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants, a team that they had defeated in their two regular-season matchups. Dallas was the first number one seed in the NFC to lose in the divisional round since 1990. Meanwhile, their division rivals, who had lost both regular-season games with the Cowboys, went on to topple Green Bay in the NFC Championship and New England in the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys began the 2008 season by defeating the Cleveland Browns 28-10, Coming off their commanding road win over the Browns, the Cowboys played their Week 2 home opener under the MNF spotlight. In the last MNF game at Texas Stadium, Dallas would duel with their NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles. In the first quarter, the Cowboys trailed early as Eagles kicker David Akers got a 34-yard field goal. Dallas would answer in their first possession with QB Tony Romo completing a 72-yard TD pass to WR Terrell Owens In a game that had 9 lead changes, it also set different point records, including most first half points in MNF history (54) and most combined points in the rivalry's history (78). Dallas would hold on to win 41-37. After starting 4-1 the Cowboys flew to the University of Phoenix Stadium for a Week 6 Sunday Night Football showdown with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals would return the opening kick return for a touchdown but Dallas would tie the game 7-7 at halftime. With only 3:17 left in the 4th quarter Tony Romo would complete a 70-yard pass to Marion Barber III and the kicker Nick Folk hit a 52-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime. In overtime the Cowboys punter Mat McBriar had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown also in overtime QB Tony Romo broke his right pinkie finger. In the week following the game Tony Romo was listed as questionable and would go on to miss 3 games. In addition, Matt McBriar and Sam Hurd were placed in injured reserve, and Felix Jones was listed as out for 2–3 weeks with a hamstring injury. Furthermore, Adam (Pacman) Jones was suspended by the NFL for a minimum of 4 weeks after an altercation with his bodyguard. Lastly The Cowboys traded for WR Roy Williams with the Detroit Lions, in exchange for their first, third, and sixth-round picks. After the bye week, they won another four victories, Dallas would finish the season 1-3 losing its final game in Texas Stadium to the Baltimore Ravens 33-24 and a disastrous 44-6 loss to Philadelphia. With a 9-7 record, the team finished third in the division and failed to qualify for the playoffs. After the season ended highly controversial and productive receiver Terrell Owens was released after receiving a $34 million extension the previous June that supposedly would allow the wide receiver to retire a Cowboy. Jones said he released Owens because of production and "In this particular case, we have an outstanding player in Roy Williams, and it was a significant factor in the decision I made to release Terrell." In three seasons with the Cowboys, Owens had 235 receptions for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns, but his numbers declined last season, when he had 69 receptions for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.
2009: 50th season
The 2009 season marked the 50th season of play for the Cowboys. In May of that year, the new Cowboys Stadium was completed in Arlington, Texas. It was widely criticized for its appearance, cost (over a billion USD) and high energy use. The first game played in the team's new home was a preseason match with the Tennessee Titans on August 21, and the first regular season one was a three-point loss to the Giants on September 20. By Week 9, the Cowboys stood at 6-2 after defeating their arch rival Eagles in Philadelphia. Then followed a loss to the Packers, and victories over Washington and Oakland, the latter being on Thanksgiving. The team then fell to the Giants a second time, and lost at home to the Chargers. By this point, the Cowboys' playoff chances were doubtful, and the old talk of the "December curse" reappeared. The next game was a surprise upset of the 13-0 New Orleans Saints, followed by a shutout of Washington. Combined with Giants defeats, the Cowboys now found themselves guaranteed a wild card spot at the minimum. On January 3, they hosted the Eagles, who had won their last five games. Philadelphia's offense completely folded, and the team suffered a 24-0 shutout, making this the first time in franchise history that Dallas blanked two consecutive opponents. This gave them the division title and the #3 NFC seed, but also gave their opponent a wild card, which meant that they had to play in Dallas again the following week. The rematch saw the Eagles score 17 points, but their defense, which had been considered one of the NFL's best a few weeks earlier, again performed poorly and the Cowboys put up 34 points, to beat them for the third time in one season. Having won their first playoff game since 1996, the Cowboys traveled to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to face Brett Favre and the Vikings. Their season quickly ended after Minnesota scored four touchdowns and limited them to a single field goal. Linebacker Keith Brooking criticized the last touchdown pass of the game, arguing that it served no purpose other than to run up the score in a game the Vikings already had won.
The Cowboys opened 2010 in Washington against a revitalized Redskins team that now featured Donovan McNabb (traded from the Eagles in April) and former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. Although neither team performed well, Dallas lost unexpectedly when on the last play of the game Tony Romo threw a pass into the end zone that was nullified by a holding penalty. The Redskins thus won 13-10. In Week 2, Dallas fell to the Bears 27-20 in their second straight home opener loss. This was also the team's first 0-2 start since 2001. Desperate to win, they headed to Houston for the third "Battle of Texas" with the Texans (the first and second were in 2002 and 2006) and beat them 27-13. After coming back from their bye week, the Cowboys suffered another home embarrassment, this time against Tennessee. Dallas's fortunes continued to slide in Week 6 as they lost to Minnesota 24-21. Things steadily got worse the next week as Tony Romo was knocked out with a fractured collarbone while playing the Giants on MNF. Filling in for him was 38-year old QB Jon Kitna, who hadn't started in two years. Although rusty, he managed two touchdown passes and the Cowboys scored 35 points. But their division rival edged them out 41-35 to win in Cowboys Stadium for the second straight year. By Week 8, the Cowboys found themselves at 1-6 after losing at home to Jacksonville after six Jon Kitna interceptions. After a disastrous 45-7 loss in Green Bay, Wade Phillips was fired (thus breaking Jerry Jones's policy of not changing head coaches during the season) and replaced by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Now largely eliminated from playoff contention, the Cowboys headed to the Meadowlands for a rematch with New York. This time things would be different as Jon Kitna passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns. An all-around better performance by the team allowed them to win 33-20. After beating Detroit at home, the Cowboys lost a close Thanksgiving game to New Orleans. They next defeated the Colts in Indianapolis 38-35 on an OT field goal to retain faint playoff hopes. However, a home loss to Philadelphia mathematically eliminated them from playoff contention. Week 15 saw them beat the hapless Redskins 33-30. The Cowboys then lost a meaningless game in Arizona and followed that with a meaningless win over the Eagles to end their season at 6-10.
Jason Garrett era (2011-present)
After going 5-3 as interim head coach during the last eight games of the previous season, Jason Garrett took the head coaching position full-time. With Tony Romo back in action, the Cowboys headed to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets for a Sunday Night game commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. An early Dallas lead soon led to a 24-24 tie, but Romo threw an interception in the 4th quarter that allowed New York to get into the red zone and score a game-winning field goal. The next week, the Cowboys headed to San Francisco and won 27-24 after Romo made a valiant overtime comeback effort despite playing through a painful rib injury. Despite this and a punctured lung, Romo started in Week 3 as the Cowboys hosted Washington on MNF. They won 18-16 in a bizarre game with six field goals from rookie kicker Dan Bailey. Dallas's offense struggled the entire night with Romo handicapped by pain, multiple dropped passes, and several botched snaps from rookie center Kevin Kowalski.
They went 1-3 in the month of October including an embarrassing Week 7 34-7 loss by the division rival Eagles. They would turn things around by going undefeated in November. That run included a Week 10 44-7 blowout over Buffalo. Week 11 was an 27-24 OT victory over the Redskins on the road. They entered December with a 7-4 record vying for first place of their division with the Giants, whom the Cowboys were yet to play. After losing in OT against Arizona in Week 13, they headed to a Sunday Night primetime game against the Giants. Despite leading New York 34-22 with less than 6 minutes to play, the Cowboys lost 37-34 after a game tying field goal by Dan Bailey was blocked by Jason Pierre-Paul. They rebounded by the next week by defeating Tampa Bay 31-15. Week 16 brought another loss to Philadelphia. Despite entering Week 17 with an 8-7 record, Dallas was in a position to win the division. However so was their final regular season opponent the New York Giants. However Dallas would lose 31-14 to finish the season 8-8 while New York would go on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
The Cowboys started the 2012 season on a high note by defeating defending Super Bowl Champion the New York Giants 24-17. They were unable to capitalize on their momentum as they would drop 3 out of their next 4 games. One of those losses was a tight 31-29 game to eventual Super Bowl XLVII Champions the Baltimore Ravens. They entered their annual Thanksgiving home game with a 5-5 record. Their opponent on Turkey Day this year was upstart division rival Washington whom was being led by rookie QB Robert Griffin III. The Redskins got off to a quick start leading 21-3 at halftime. Dallas fought back in the second half but it wasn't enough which led to 38-31 loss. The Cowboys would win their next 3 games before losing on Week 16 to New Orleans. Going into Week 17 they were once again one win away from winning their division but so were their opponents that week the Redskins. The game was tight throughout. With less than 3 minutes to go, Dallas was down 21-18 but had the ball and were starting to drive down the field. Their playoff hopes were destroyed after Tony Romo threw a game ending interception. Dallas lost 28-18, ending their season with an 8-8 record and placing in 3rd in the NFC East for the second straight year.
For the second straight year Dallas opened the season by defeating their division rival New York Giants 36-31. This win was punctuated after Giants QB Eli Manning threw an interception to Brandon Carr whom returned it for a touchdown. This was the first time Dallas had defeated New York at AT&T Stadium which had opened in 2009. Just like the previous year though the Cowboys would lose 3 of their next 4 games. The 3rd loss of that run including a shootout to eventual AFC Champions the Denver Broncos 51-48. Numbers wise Tony Romo had an excellent day throwing for over 500 yards with 5 touchdowns. However late in the 4th quarter with the game tied at 48 he would throw an interception to Danny Trevathan which would set up a Broncos winning field goal. They rebounded in Week 6 by decisively defeating division rival Washington 31-16 whom has dashed the Cowboys playoff hopes the previous season with a Week 17 win over Dallas. Week 7 brought another division game, this time against the Eagles in Philadelphia. Dallas was firing on all cylinders that day winning 17-3. However the next week they lost to Detroit in a tight 31-30 loss to end the month of October.
They went 3-1 in the month of November which included another win over the Giants. Their sole loss that month was a Week 10 49-17 blowout loss to the Saints in New Orleans. They began December with 2 crucial losses to Chicago and Green Bay. The Week 15 loss to the Packers at home was especially bitter since Dallas had a 26-3 halftime lead but would lose 37-36. Talk of the annual "December Curse" was in full affect. They came into their Week 16 division matchup in Washington with a 7-7 record but still in the hunt with the Eagles for the NFC East crown. In the game vs the Redskins they started the 4th quarter down 23-14. They would battle back to win 24-23. The win was highlighted by a 4th and goal touchdown pass from Romo to DeMarco Murray from the 12yd line with 1:15 left. However Romo received a serious back injury during the 4th quarter. While he was able to finish the game, the injury prematurely ended his season. For the 3rd consecutive year Dallas entered Week 17 one win away from the division title along with their opponents the Eagles. Dallas came into the game with a 5-0 division record. With Romo out backup QB Kyle Orton started. With less than 2 minutes left and being down 24-22, Orton threw a game ending interception. Dallas finished 8-8 for the third straight year, but this time they finished in 2nd place in their division instead of in 3rd place in their division.
After starting 2014 with an embarrassing 28-17 loss to San Francisco, Dallas went on a roll winning their next 6 games. It was their longest winning streak since 2007. The highlight of this streak was defeating the defending Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seahawks 30-23 in Seattle. The Seahawks' loss in that game was only their 2nd home loss in the past three seasons. The streak was ended by their division rival Redskins in overtime 20-17. However Romo once again injured his back. He was out the next game against Arizona where backup Brandon Weeden started. The Cardinals won 28-17. Romo returned in Week 10 as Dallas played in London, England for the first time ever against Jacksonville in NFL International Series. The Cowboys beat the Jaguars 31-17. Dallas entered their annual Thanksgiving home game with an 8-3, identical with their opponents the Eagles. Philadelphia got off to a fast start and Dallas was never able to catch up. The Eagles won 33-10. They would rebound the next week over the Bears in Chicago 41-28 for win number 9 to clinch their first winning season since 2009.
Week 15 was a rematch against the Eagles this time in Philadelphia. This time Dallas got off to a hot start going up 21-0. However Philadelphia then scored 24 unanswered points. Dallas came back with a 78-yard drive capped with a DeMarco Murray touchdown. The next Eagles drive ended with Mark Sanchez get intercepted by Dallas defender J.J. Wilcox. Dallas took full advantage of that with Dez Bryant scoring his third touchdown of the evening, the most in one game in his career. The Eagles would have 2 more turnovers including another Sanchez interception to end the game. Dallas would win 38-27 to take over first place. Week 16 started with Eagles losing to the Redskins meaning the Cowboys could clinch their division if they were able to beat the Colts. They responded by blowing out Indianapolis 42-7 to win their first division title since 2009. Their final regular season game was on the road vs Washington where the Cowboys won 44-17 to finish the season at 12-4, the Number 3 NFC Seed, and undefeated in away games. They also finished December 4-0 which was huge for Dallas after they had struggled in the month of December during recent years.
In the Wild Card round of the 2014-15 NFL playoffs Dallas as the number 3 seed hosted the number 6 seed Detroit Lions. The Lions got off to a hot start going up 14-0 in the first quarter. Dallas initially struggled on both sides of the ball. However in towards the end of the 2nd quarter Romo connected to Terrance Williams for a 76yd touchdown pass. The Lions would hit a field goal before halftime to go up 17-7. Dallas came out swinging to start the second half by picking off Detroit QB Matthew Stafford on the first play of the 3rd quarter. Dan Bailey would miss a field goal during Dallas's ensuing drive. Detroit would then kick another field goal to make the score 20-7. A DeMarco Murray touchdown later in that quarter closed the gap to 20-14. A 51yd Dallas field goal almost 3 minutes into the 4th quarter put Dallas down by 3. The Lions got the ball back and started driving down the field. A 3rd and 1 pass 17 yard pass from Stafford to Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew was initially flagged as defensive pass interference against Dallas defender Anthony Hitchens. The penalty was then nullified by the officiating crew. Dallas got the ball back on their 41yd line and had a successful 59yd drive which was capped off by a 8yd touchdown pass from Romo to Williams to give Dallas its first lead of the game 24-20. The Lions got the ball back with less than 2 and 1/2 minutes to play. Stafford fumbled the ball at the 2 minute mark and was picked up by Dallas defender DeMarcus Lawrence who then fumbled the ball which gave the Lions the ball back. Lawrence would redeem himself by sacking Stafford on a 4th and 3 play which lead to Stafford fumbling the ball again which Lawrence recovered to end the game. Dallas won 24-20. This was the first time in franchise playoff history that that Dallas had been down by 10+ points at halftime to comeback and win the game. They would travel to Green Bay for the divisional round to face the Packers. It was the first Cowboys-Packers postseason matchup at Lambeau Field since the Ice Bowl. There was a lot of hype in the week leading up to the game, as during the regular season, Green Bay had gone 8-0 at home while Dallas had gone 8-0 on the road. At halftime Dallas had a 14-10 and would go up 21-13 in the 3rd quarter. However the Packers would come back to take a 26-21 lead in the 4th quarter. With less than 5 minutes in the game on a 4th and 3 play Romo threw a 30 pass to Bryant to put them at the 1yd line. However Packers head coach Mike McCarthy would challenge the catch and the ruling was overturned. The explanation given was that Bryant didn't maintain control of the ball as he came down with it. The ball would be turned over to Green Bay on downs and the Packers would run the clock out to win the game, thus ending the Cowboys season.
2 days after the game Dallas head coach Jason Garrett would sign a 5-year $30 million contract along with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli who signed a 3-year contract. Marinelli was largely credited for greatly improving the Dallas defense which was one of the worst ranked defenses the previous year under Monte Kiffin.
- The following is a selected list of memorable Cowboys games
- The Cowboys' first postseason appearance was for the NFL title and the right to appear in the first Super Bowl. A capacity Cotton Bowl crowd saw Green Bay build a quick 14–0 lead, but Dallas fought back to tie the score. The Packers led 34–20 late in the fourth quarter before a long Don Meredith touchdown pass to Frank Clarke pulled Dallas within a touchdown. Dallas advanced to the Green Bay 2-yard line on their next drive. Running back Dan Reeves gained a yard on first down. A false start on second down pushed the Cowboys back to the Green Bay 6, and Reeves, having just suffered a poked eye that blurred his vision, dropped a pass in the flat. Meredith found tight end Pettis Norman on third down to bring Dallas back to the 2-yard line. On fourth down with 26 seconds remaining, Meredith rolled left and threw an interception under heavy pressure. Green Bay held on for a 34–27 victory in one of the great NFL Championship Games.
- Better known as the "Ice Bowl", the 1967 NFL Championship Game still stands as the coldest game in NFL history. The official game-time temperature was -13 °F / -25 °C, with a wind chill around -48 °F / -44 °C. The bitter cold overwhelmed Lambeau Field's new turf heating system, leaving the playing surface rock solid and nearly as smooth as ice. Several players suffered frostbite and permanent nerve damage.
- It was also one of the greatest games in NFL history. The Packers jumped to an early 14–0 lead, but two turnovers cut their lead to 14–10 at halftime. Neither team could score in the third quarter, but the Cowboys took a 17–14 lead on the first play of the final period when running back Dan Reeves' completed a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Lance Rentzel on a halfback option play. Green Bay started its final drive at its own 32-yard line with 4:54 left in the game and drove to the Dallas 1-yard line before taking their final timeout with 16 seconds left. Quarterback Bart Starr then scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak to give the Packers a 21–17 victory and a trip to Super Bowl II.
- Linebacker Chuck Howley is named Super Bowl MVP, but the Cowboys lost to the Colts 16–13 on a last-second field goal. It was the first time a defensive player was named Most Valuable Player, and the only time the MVP came from the losing team. Sometimes known as the "Blunder Bowl" or "Blooper Bowl," the game witnessed 11 turnovers. It is the only time Dallas has worn its blue jersey in the Super Bowl.
- Roger Staubach's first miracle comeback. Staubach came off the bench in relief of an ineffective Craig Morton and erased a 28–13 deficit to the 49ers in the final two minutes. After Staubach hit Billy Parks on a 20-yard touchdown. Mel Renfro then recovered an onside kick, and Staubach drove the team to the San Francisco 10. He then hit Ron Sellers with 52 seconds left to give Dallas the win.
November 28, 1974, vs. Washington Redskins
- Rookie free agent quarterback Clint Longley threw two touchdown passes in relief of an injured Staubach on Thanksgiving Day. Longley hurled a 50-yard strike to Drew Pearson in the final minute of the game to give Dallas a 24–23 victory.
- The term "Hail Mary pass" first came to national awareness with this game. Trailing 14-10 with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter, Dallas got the ball on its own 15-yard line. Staubach managed a nine play drive to midfield. With 32 seconds now remaining, Staubach lined up in the shotgun formation, took the snap, pump-faked left, then turned to his right and threw a desperation pass to Drew Pearson, who was covered by Vikings cornerback Nate Wright. As the ball descended, Wright tripped over Pearson's leg and was unable to defend the pass. Pearson caught the ball by trapping it against his right hip at the 5-yard line and ran into the end zone, giving Dallas a 17-14 victory. Staubach, a Catholic, said that he "closed his eyes and said a Hail Mary." The expression stuck.
December 16, 1979, vs. Washington Redskins
- The game was played on the final week of the regular season. The winner would capture the NFC East title; the loser would miss the playoffs. In the game, Texas Stadium fans were treated to Staubach's last comeback, and one of his very greatest. The Cowboys trailed 17–0, but then scored three touchdowns to take the lead. Dallas trailed 34–21 in the fourth quarter, and Washington had the ball. Randy White recovered a fumble, and Staubach subsequently hit Ron Springs on a 26-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to six with less than five minutes remaining. The Redskins tried to run out the clock on the next drive, but on 3rd and short, Larry Cole stuffed John Riggins for a loss, forcing a punt. Staubach then moved the Cowboys to the Washington 8. He hit Tony Hill on a fade route with 38 seconds remaining to give Dallas a 35–34 victory. It was the 21st time that Staubach had led Dallas to a come-from-behind win in the fourth quarter, and the 14th time he did it in the final two minutes.
- Dallas trailed 24–10 after three quarters in Atlanta. Robert Newhouse scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to pull the Cowboys within a touchdown. After an Atlanta field goal raised its lead to 27–17, Danny White capped a 62-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 3:04 remaining. After forcing the Falcons to punt, Dallas then advanced 70 yards to score on Pearson's 23-yard touchdown grab with under 2 minutes left. The Cowboys pulled out a dramatic 30–27 win.
January 3, 1983, at Minnesota Vikings
- Dallas closed the 1982 regular season at the Metrodome against the Vikings. A Monday Night Football audience saw Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett set the NFL record for the longest run from scrimmage with a 99-yard touchdown. On first down, Dorsett burst through a hole on the right side and streaked down the field. He picked up a key block from Drew Pearson in Viking territory and, though coming dangerously close to the sideline, managed to stay in bounds for the score. Oddly, the Cowboys ran the play with only 10 players on the field. With the playoffs set, however, the game had no real implications. The Vikings won 31–27.
September 5, 1983, at Washington Redskins
- Dallas opened the 1983 season at RFK Stadium against the defending champion Redskins in a Monday night game. The Cowboys erased a 23–3 halftime deficit to win 31–30. Danny White threw two third-quarter touchdown passes to Tony Hill, then scored on a 1-yard run in the final period gave Dallas the lead. White later connected with tight end Doug Cosbie for a fourth touchdown to seal the win.
- With the Cowboys holding an insurmountable 52–17 lead late in the fourth quarter, Dallas defensive lineman Leon Lett picked up a Bills fumble and appeared to be headed for a 64-yard touchdown. As Lett started to showboat just before crossing the goal line, Buffalo receiver Don Beebe raced in and knocked the ball into the end zone. The ball then rolled out of bounds for a touchback. Had Lett scored, the Cowboys would have broken the record for most points scored in a Super Bowl (the San Francisco 49ers hold that record with 55 points in Super Bowl XXIV).
November 25, 1993, vs. Miami Dolphins
- On the day of the annual Thanksgiving game, the city of Dallas was hit with the  4th coldest day in its history.  Before the game, a mini-bulldozer had to scrape ice off the frozen AstroTurf. The temperature with 32 degrees; the wind chill in single digits, and ice and snow continued to pour into the stadium's roof. After a 77-yard touchdown run, Miami running back Keith Byars flopped down in the end zone and celebrated by making snow angels. Not to be outdone, Cowboy Kevin Williams returned a 64-yard punt and slid on his feet the final ten yards into the end zone.
- Trailing 14–13 with 15 seconds left in the game, Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich attempted a 41-yard field goal. But the ball was tipped by defensive lineman Jimmie Jones and spun forward toward the Cowboys' end zone. Players from both teams stayed away from the ball, because a blocked field goal is usually ignored according to the rule book. However, Leon Lett tried to jump on the ball, but instead slid on the slick field grazing the ball, and thus making it a live ball (i.e. a fumble). Jeff Dellenbach of the Dolphins recovered the ball at the 2-yard line, and Stoyanovich then kicked a 20-yard field goal as time expired, and Miami won 16–14.
January 2, 1994, at New York Giants
- The NFL Network has called this pivotal matchup "Emmitt Smith's gutsiest game." The Cowboys and Giants entered the final regular season game with identical 11-4 records; the winner would claim the division title, a first-round bye, and home-field advantage for the playoffs. Smith suffered a separated shoulder during the second quarter, yet returned to lead Dallas to an overtime victory. Smith finished with 168 yards rushing -- 41 of which came in the game-winning drive -- and 10 catches for 61 yards. After the 16–13 Cowboys victory, former Hall of Fame coach and sports broadcaster John Madden would visit Smith in the Cowboys' locker room – the only time Madden ever visited a player as a commentator.
November 18, 1996, vs. Green Bay Packers
- Kicker Chris Boniol scores seven field goals, tying the NFL record for most field goals in a single game. Seven years later on September 15, 2003, Dallas kicker Billy Cundiff would tie that record against the Giants. The two kickers they tied were Jim Bakken (St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, September 24, 1967) and Rich Karlis (Minnesota Vikings vs. Los Angeles Rams, November 5, 1989). 
September 12, 1999, at Washington Redskins
- In the last great game by "The Triplets" (Aikman, Smith, and Irvin), the Cowboys erased a 21-point deficit in the final 11 minutes of regulation to equal the biggest comeback in team history. A successful onside kick led to a touchdown, and the extra point ricocheted through the uprights to tie the game. A botched Redskin field goal attempt with three seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime. Dallas finally won the game on a 76-yard touchdown pass from Aikman to Raghib Ismail.
September 24, 2000, vs. San Francisco 49ers
- Best known as the "Star Incident," 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens celebrated his two touchdowns against the Cowboys by running to the center of Texas Stadium. The first TD by holding his hands out to the heavens and the second by slamming the ball into the Cowboys star logo just before  Dallas safety George Teague caught up with Owens and blasted him off of the star, leading to a near midfield brawl by both teams and Teague's ejection from the game. In between Owens' two touchdowns, Emmitt Smith scored a TD of his own, ran and kneeled onto the star himself, slammed the ball down, and stared down the 49ers bench yelling "This is our house!!" This led to the popular "Defend the Star" slogan used for Emmitt Smith's rush for the record in 2002. However, the 49ers won the game, 41–24. and the NFL fined Smith, Teague and Owens for their actions in the game. 49ers coach Steve Mariucci also suspended Owens for a week, docking him a week's pay.
- In a rematch on December 31, 2001 between the two teams that saw the Cowboys exact revenge on their most hated rival, Teague broke up a pass to Owens in the end zone, then flung Owens to the turf. The Cowboys won, 27-21.
September 19, 2005, vs. Washington Redskins
- Three former Cowboys were picked to be placed in the Ring of Honor in 2005 - running back Emmitt Smith (1990–2002), wide receiver Michael Irvin (1988-1999), and quarterback Troy Aikman (1989–2000). Known throughout the league as "The Triplets", they were the backbone of the great Dallas teams of the 1990s, and the first players from the Jerry Jones era to be placed into the Ring. "When you look at what each of these men did for those teams that became the best in the NFL," said Jones, "and how they complimented each other, it's fitting that Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith are going in the Ring of Honor together." Irvin, Smith and Aikman were honored during halftime.
- It appeared that Dallas might blank the Redskins, leading 13-0 with 5:58 left in the game. But on a fourth-and-15 drive from the Dallas 39, quarterback Mark Brunell threw a touchdown pass to Santana Moss. After a Dallas punt, Brunell then found Moss again on a 70-yard touchdown to spoil the evening.
January 6, 2007 at Seattle Seahawks, NFC wild card playoff game, "The Bobble"
- Trailing 21–20 with time winding down in the final quarter, the Cowboys drove inside the Seahawks 2-yard line, and Martin Gramatica came on to the field to attempt a chip-shot 19-yard field goal that would give Dallas a 23–21 lead. But Tony Romo mishandled the snap from L.P. Ladouceur, what is now known as "The Bobble" and Seahawks cornerback Jordan Babineaux tackled Romo before he could pick up a first down, leaving the Cowboys with a one-point loss.
October 8, 2007 vs. Buffalo Bills.
- On a disastrous evening that had seen quarterback Tony Romo throw 5 interceptions, Dallas found themselves trailing the Buffalo Bills (a team the Cowboys were widely expected to defeat handily) by an early fourth quarter score of 24-13. However, with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter, Dallas' offense mounted an 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from Romo to wide receiver Patrick Crayton. After a two-point conversion attempt (which would have tied the game) failed, Cowboys kicker Nick Folk executed a textbook on-side kick, which was recovered by Dallas tight end Tony Curtis near midfield. With no timeouts and 18 seconds remaining, Romo passed twice toward the sidelines, hitting Crayton for 4 yards and tight end Jason Witten for 8; enough to set up a 53-yard field goal attempt to win the game. Folk's kick split the uprights, but Bills coach Dick Jauron had called a timeout just before Folk's foot hit the ball in an effort to rattle the rookie kicker's nerves. Dallas again set up to kick, and again Folk's kick was true for a career best 53-yard field goal (his first game-winning field goal in the NFL) and the Cowboys came away with an improbable 25–24 victory. The 12 unanswered points in the 4th helped Dallas improve to 5–0, and the Cowboys became the first team to win a game on Monday Night Football with a -5 turnover margin.
December 19, 2009 vs. New Orleans Saints.
- Hoping to end the two-game skid from their tough losses to the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers, the Cowboys went to the Superdome to take on the undefeated New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys took the lead in the first half by scoring two touchdowns with a pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin and a touchdown run by Marion Barber. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware made a big play as he sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees and caused the ball to be fumbled. Anthony Spencer recovered the ball to put it in Dallas' hands. The Saints only points of the half were from a 43-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley. In the second half, the Cowboys scored their only touchdown in the third quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by Marion Barber. Finally in the fourth quarter New Orleans got a touchdown when running back Mike Bell scored from one yard out to make a 24–10 Dallas lead. Drew Brees also made a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Lance Moore. After that, Nick Folk attempted a 24-yard field goal, but the kick was no good. With a big advantage to take the lead as the clock was expiring, the Saints were driving for the game-tying score, but DeMarcus Ware made his second sack on Drew Brees, which again caused the ball to be fumbled. This time the ball was recovered by nose guard Jay Ratliff. With the ball in possession, Dallas took a knee to conclude the game.
December 23, 2013 vs. Washington Redskins
- Despite having a 7-7 record and losing their last 2 games, including being up on Green Bay 26-3 at halftime the week before only to lose 37-36, Dallas was very much in the hunt for the NFC East title with Philadelphia. After winning the division the year before led by Robert Griffin III, Washington was having a disastrous 2013 season coming into the game with a 3-11 season. Griffin received a serious knee injury in their 2012 Wild Card game loss against Seattle and was unable in 2013 to match his performance of the previous season. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan benched RG3 for the last 3 games of the year. Backup QB Kirk Cousins was promoted to starter for those 3 games. Dallas and Washington have a long storied rivalry, one of the best in the history of the NFL. This division game would be played at FedEx Field. After being down 14-6 at halftime, Washington scored 14 unanswered points in the second half. Dan Bailey scored a Dallas field goal at the start of the 4th quarter but Washington kicker Kai Forbath answered with a field goal as well. With 3:29 left in the game, Dallas started a drive from their 13 yard line. A 51 yard pass from Romo to rookie Terrance Williams sent the Cowboys deep into the Redskins territory. Romo then connected to wide receiver Dez Bryant for another 17 yards to put Dallas in the red zone. Dallas was unable to do anything in the next 3 downs which set them up on 4th and goal on the 10 yard line with 1:15 left. After the ball was snapped Romo backed up 2 yards and threw a touchdown to running back DeMarco Murray. A Bailey extra point gave Dallas a 24-23 lead. The Redskins got the ball back but turned the ball back over on downs clinching the win for Dallas. However in the 4th quarter Romo received a serious back injury. Even though he was unable to finish the game, the injury effectively ended his season. The win setup a Week 17 showdown against the Eagles for the NFC East title which the Cowboys lost 24-22. The Redskins would end the season 3-13 which would cost Shanahan his coaching job.
October 12, 2014 vs. Seattle Seahawks
- Seattle was the defending Super Bowl Champions and were the heavy favorites, especially since they had only lost 1 home game since the start of the 2012 seasons. Dallas had entered their road game against Seattle with a lot of momentum after coming in with a 4 game winning streak. The game started off well for Seattle after they blocked a 1st quarter Dallas punt which they returned for a touchdown to give them an early 10-0 lead. Dallas then scored 17 unanswered points to end the first half in the lead 17-10. Seattle started the 3rd quarter with 10 points but a Cowboys field goal led the game to tied to start the 4th quarter. Dallas was unable to get anything going at the start of the final quarter which led to a punt. Despite good field position, Seattle was only able to get a field goal out of this drive. In the next drive Dallas went 80 yards to take a 27-23 lead. Seattle had to turn the ball over on downs. Dallas got the ball back on Seattle's 23 yard line which led to another Cowboys field goal to put Dallas up 30-23. With over a minute left to play and needing a touchdown to tie the game to send the game into overtime, the Seahawks start their drive. On their 2nd play Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw a game ending interception to clinch an improbable win for Dallas. It was their most significant win since they defeated Philadelphia during a 2009 Wild Card playoff game.
The Dallas Cowboys team/franchise has been "first" in the record books for a whole host of accomplishments, a few of which include:
- The first NFL team to win three Super Bowls in four years.
- The first NFL team to play in eight Super Bowls. They have a 5–3 record in the Super Bowl, with all three losses by a margin of four points or less. Only two other teams have since accomplished this feat: the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose eighth appearance came in Super Bowl XLV, and the New England Patriots, whose eighth appearance came in Super Bowl XLIX.
- The first and only NFL team to lose a Super Bowl and still have a player selected as the Super Bowl MVP. (Linebacker Chuck Howley, who intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in Super Bowl V, became the first defensive player to win the award.)
- The first NFL team to win the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year. After losing Super Bowl V following the 1970 season, they won Super Bowl VI following the 1971 season. The only other team to do this is the Miami Dolphins, who followed up their Super Bowl VI loss to the Cowboys by going undefeated and untied the next season, capped off by a 14-7 win against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
- The first NFL team to lose the Super Bowl after winning it the previous year. After defeating the Denver Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII following the 1977 season, they were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII following the 1978 season. This has only happened three times since: The Washington Redskins lost Super Bowl XVIII 38-9 to the Raiders a year after winning Super Bowl XVII 27-17 against the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers lost Super Bowl XXXII 31-24 to the Denver Broncos a year after winning Super Bowl XXXI 35-21 against the New England Patriots, and the Seattle Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX 28-24 to the New England Patriots a year after winning Super Bowl XLVIII in a crushing 43-8 blowout against the Denver Broncos.
- The first team in NFC East history to sweep all of its division opponents (home and away), going 8-0 in 1998 against the Cardinals, Giants, Eagles, and Redskins.
- The first and only NFL team to post 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985).
- The first NFL team to send at least 13 players to the Pro Bowl (2007 season).
- The first and only NFL team to play 58 postseason games.
- The first NFL team to win 33 postseason games.
- The first wild card NFL team to go to the Super Bowl, 1975 after winning the NFC Championship.
- The first touchdown was scored by Darryl Hannah, Jr.
- "Dallas Eleven Changes Made". New York Times. 1960-03-20. p. S4.
- Ottawa Citizen - November 15, 1983
- Dallas Morning News reprint of original March 12, 1989 Sports Day article
- Breeders' Cup.com's William R. Hawn biography
- Team - Pro Football Hall of Fame
- "Book review of The Dallas Cowboys and the NFl". JSTOR 30238133.
- Robert A. Calvert, Donald E. Chipman, and Randolph Campbell, The Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970
- Pro-Football-Reference.com In multiple seasons, from 1970 to 1979, in the Regular Season, sorted by descending Date.