Do You Know Your Dallas Cowboys History?

The Dallas Cowboys are known as “America’s Team” and are a storied franchise.  Dallas was founded in 1960 to compete with the Dallas Texans of the American Football League, 40 years after the founding of the NFL.  Tex Schramm was hired as the General Manager, Tom Landry was the new head coach, and Gil Brandt was hired as the personnel director.  It took a few years for the team to get going, but then the team caught a foothold and started to dominate the league, ultimately becoming “America’s Team” along the way.

Below we have many podcast episodes and articles from various members of the Sports History Network.  You can use the table of contents to jump to your favorite, or you can scroll through and read/listen to them all.

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Football Is Family (Cowboy History)

America's Team : The Dallas Cowboys

This team has been a staple on Thanksgiving Day since 1966, meaning that, on every Thanksgiving Day, after the Detroit Lions play, this team will play. 

This team can boast- 28 Hall of Famers, 5 Super Bowls, 10 Conference Championships, 23 Division Championships, one of the greatest head coaches of all time, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and scores of great memories.

           Of course, this team is the Dallas Cowboys. This team is as well known around the world as any other team in any other sport, maybe only rivaled by the New York Yankees in notoriety. If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s, you probably were a fan of either the Steelers or the Cowboys. You either wanted to be Terry Bradshaw or Roger Staubach when you played backyard football. This team, love them or hate them, really shows how football can become family.

           Here are some trivia facts about the Dallas Cowboys.

  1. They are the first of the NFL’s modern expansion teams.
  2. Their first year’s record was 0-11 (as of the end of 2019, their win/loss/tie record is 520-388-6; they really did turn that 0-11 record around in a hurry).
  3. Their first coach was Tom Laundry. He was fired in 1988, having served as the Cowboys’ only coach over that span. Since that time, the Cowboys have had eight coaches.
  4. They have won five Super Bowls (71, 77, 92, 93, 95), and, if it wasn’t for the Steelers, they would have won more.
  5. They are the first team to send at least 13 players to a single Pro Bowl (2007).
  6. From 66-85, the Cowboys had 20 consecutive winning seasons.
  7. Bob Lilly was the first draft pick. From 61-74, he played/started 196 games, All NFL teams in 1960 and 1970, top 100 NFL player of all time, 7 time first team All-Pro, 11 Pro Bowls- I think he did ok.
  8. Played in the now-mythic Ice Bowl in 1967 (-13 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off, with -40 degree wind chill).
  9. Lost Super Bowl 5 against the Baltimore Colts. This game is historical because it marks the only time in NFL history that the losing team (Cowboys) had a player win the MVP (Chuck Howley).

10.1989- The “Great Train Robbery” trade sent Herschel Walker to the Vikings for a lot of draft picks- this helped build the Cowboys’ dynasty in the 90’s.

11.First td scored in team history- Darryl Hannah, Jr.

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    Yesterday's Sports (Life Long Fan)

    Mark Morthier Becomes A Cowboys' Fan

    The year was 1969. The Dallas Cowboys had just lost to the Cleveland Browns, 38–14, in the NFL playoffs. Dallas wasn’t supposed to lose. They had compiled an 11–2–1 record in the regular season. One of those losses was to the Browns, 42–10, in Week 7. Still, the Cowboys were favored to beat the Browns and move on to face the mighty Minnesota Vikings in the NFL title game.

    It would be the fourth year in a row that the Cowboys were good enough to reach the Super Bowl but didn’t. They lost two heart breakers to the Green Bay Packers in the 1966 and 1967 NFL title game (known as the “Ice Bowl.”

    They lost in 1968 to the Browns and, now again, to the Browns.  I was only seven years old, and it was the first year I followed the NFL; I don’t remember the details of the game all that well, but I remember watching it.
    My interest in football started with playing it, not watching it. My father gave my brother and me a football and a helmet for Christmas. We would play in the yard and sometimes in the park.

    I do remember football being on our black & white TV at home. My father and brother watched the games often, but I was still too young to understand it, and I also had trouble sitting still.

    My Love For Football

    My interest in watching football started with football cards. I don’t remember where I obtained them, but I got my hands on some 1969 Topps football cards. I loved looking at those cards with bright, vibrant colors. I was captivated by the colorful uniforms, the helmets, and, especially, the team logos.

    I would read all the information on the back of the cards. It gave you the players’ height, weight, age, stats, what year he started in the league, and what job he had during the offseason (yes, they had regular jobs in the offseason). It was like a whole biography on each player.

    That Christmas–three days before the Cowboys vs. Browns playoff game–my mother gave my brother and me Dallas Cowboys sweatshirts–our first! She ordered them from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. But at this point, I had two favorite teams–the Cowboys and NY Giants. My father was a Giants fan, and he had watched all the great Giants teams of the 1950s and early 1960s. Because we were from New Jersey, we were supposed to root for local teams (in our case, the Giants and Jets).

    I Pick My Team

    But my father said it was up to me which team I liked best. I liked the Giants because my father did, but I also liked the Cowboys because my brother did.

    My brother is 3 & 1/2 years older than me. He started rooting for the Cowboys during the 1967 NFL title game against the Green Bay Packers. He was a big fan of wide receiver Bob Hayes, nicknamed “The Bullet” because of his blazing speed. Hayes won a Gold Medal in the 1964 Olympics and, with that, was deemed “The Fastest Man in the World.”

    My brother convinced me to choose the Cowboys over the Giants, which didn’t take much convincing. The Giants had fallen on hard times–without a winning season for six years. Even my father–a lifelong Giants fan–was down on them. He criticized them for trading away his favorite player, Sam Huff, after the 1963 season.

    The Cowboys, on the other hand, were winning. They had the sharpest looking uniforms in the league. They had great players, too, like Hayes, as mentioned earlier on offense and Bob Lilly on defense. Lilly would quickly become my favorite player.

    That’s what made the playoff loss to the Browns so disappointing–especially to my brother, who had watched them lose for the fourth year in a row.

    1970 would be different, we thought. It would be the year the Cowboys would finally win it all.

    My interest in sports peaked that year, too, thanks in part to my 2nd Grade teacher, Miss Macia. She was born and raised in Wisconsin, and she was a big sports fan.

    I was usually a shy kid, but I loved talking sports with her. Understandably, she was a Green Bay Packers fan. She liked to tease me about how the Packers had beaten my Cowboys two years in a row in the NFL title game. But I was only 4-years-old in 1966 and 5 in 1967 and didn’t remember either of those games.

    One day in class (as part of a history lesson), she showed us an 8-millimeter film on the 1967 title game. It was the first time that I had seen the game. It was dubbed “The Ice Bowl” because of minus 16-degree temperatures. I was mesmerized! I found myself dissecting every play, understanding it all for the first time. I thanked her for showing it, and we talked football for the remainder of the school year. She’ll always be my favorite teacher.

    The 1970 Season

    The 1970 season–the one that my brother and I had such high hopes for–didn’t start well. After nine weeks, Dallas was 5–4. Two of those losses were humiliating defeats–38–0 to the St. Louis Cardinals and 54–13 to the Minnesota Vikings.

    I was starting to regret not picking the Giants as my team. The Giants record stood at 6–3, and they had defeated the Cowboys in Week 8.

    But, suddenly, the Cowboys got hot. They won the remaining five regular-season games and made the playoffs for the 5th straight year.

    Dallas defeated the Detroit Lions in the first round and the SF 49ers in the NFC title game. In their last six games, the defense had allowed a total of just 25 points– and two touchdowns in 24 quarters of football. The “Doomsday Defense” was living up to its name.

    We were sure the Cowboys would beat the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t to be. The Cowboys were brilliant on defense–just as it had been the previous six weeks–but the team still lost, 16–13, on a last-second field goal.

    The Cowboys had now missed a chance to be champions for the 5th year in a row. Miss Macia made sure to remind me every chance she got. Oh, how it hurt to be a Cowboys fan!

    1971 started much the same as in 1970. The Cowboys started 4–3, which included upset losses to two bad teams, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. In Week 8, Coach Tom Landry decided to go with former Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach as his starting quarterback. The Cowboys then reeled-off nine wins in a row, including a playoff victory over the Vikings and a win over the 49ers in the NFC title game.

    The Cowboys were back in the Super Bowl, up against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys were the better team, but my brother and I were still pretty nervous–knowing the Cowboys’ history. But Dallas won easily, 24–3, and we finally had our long-awaited Super Bowl victory!

    By now, our bedroom was filled with Dallas Cowboys pictures and memorabilia. My Christmas wish list consisted of mostly everything Dallas Cowboys–shirts, jackets, coats, and helmet–all ordered from Mom’s Sears and Roebuck catalog.

    The 1972 Cowboys picked up right where they left off in 1971, standing 8–2 after ten weeks. We had high hopes for a 3rd straight Super Bowl appearance. But we began to worry after a 31–10 defeat to the 49ers on Thanksgiving Day. Then there was a 23–3 defeat to the Giants in the final regular-season game. It would be the first time in seven years that the Cowboys didn’t finish 1st in the division.

    They would play the 49ers in the playoffs. Dallas fell behind, 28–13, with just minutes left in the game. It looked like the season was over. But then Roger Staubach entered the game to replace the struggling Craig Morton. Staubach had missed most of the season due to injury. Staubach rallied the team to a fantastic last-minute, 30–28, comeback win. But, the following week, our Super Bowl hopes were dashed with a crushing 26–3 loss to the archrival, Washington Redskins. To make matters worse, one of our favorite baseball players, Roberto Clemente, died in a plane crash that same day. It was New Year’s Eve, but neither my brother nor I felt much like celebrating.

    The Cowboys started 3–0 in 1973 before losing again to the rival Redskins on Monday Night football 14–7. The Cowboys had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but fullback Walt Garrison was stopped at the goal line by Redskins’ safety, Ken Houston, who had just joined the team after being acquired in a trade with the Houston Oilers.

    Dallas lost the following week to the LA Rams in a 37–31 shootout. The team rebounded with a Week 6 win over the Giants but then lost again in Week 7 to the Eagles. At 4–3, the Cowboys appeared to be sleepwalking.

    But then–as they always seemed to do–the team went on a winning streak, this time winning six out of seven, including a much-needed 27–7 win over the rival Redskins. Dallas then avenged its early-season loss to the Rams, 27–16, in the playoffs. But they once again lost in the NFC title game. This time to the Minnesota Vikings 27–10.

    1974 started with a 24–0 win over the Falcons, but then came four straight losses. I was stunned. I had never seen the Cowboys lose four games in a row. They won seven of the next nine, including a thrilling, 24–23, come-from-behind win over the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, but failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1965.

    It was clear that changes needed to be made.

    We Were Hooked

    By this time, rooting for the Cowboys had become a family event. If the Cowboys were on TV, time stood still–the do not disturb sign was out on the door, and whatever had to get done was done before the game started.

    We went to Mass on Saturday evening or early Sunday morning, which allowed us to spend our Sunday afternoons with the Cowboys. Visits to our Grandparents and other family were all planned out according to the Dallas Cowboys schedule. Everyone knew not to call us or visit us when the Cowboys were on TV.

    My mother planned our dinner either before the game or after the game. When the Cowboys scored a touchdown, no one cheered louder than Mom, and in her eyes, Roger Staubach and Tom Landry could do no wrong.

    My father, who had been a NY Giants fan his whole life, was now rooting for the Cowboys. I guess he didn’t want to root against the team that had become so important in the lives of his two sons.

    The Pivotal 1975 Season

    We didn’t know what to expect from the 1975 season. Veterans Bob Lilly, Cornell Green, Dave Manders, and Walt Garrison had all retired during the off-season. The Cowboys traded Bob Hayes, John Niland, and Craig Morton. Star running back, Calvin Hill joined the WFL. That’s a lot of big shoes to fill.

    But we knew as long as Coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach was there, the team was not in all that bad of shape. Regardless, most of the so-called experts had predicted a long season for the Dallas Cowboys. Most said they would be fortunate to finish with a 500 winning percentage, and the playoffs were highly unlikely. It would be a rebuilding year for Dallas. But what the experts failed to understand is that the Cowboys don’t rebuild; they reload!

    Led by the Cowboys VP Gil Brandt, the scouting team for the Cowboys pulled off one of the best drafts in NFL history. In all, twelve rookies made the team. Among them were offensive tackle Pat Donovan, who went on to a great career–earning pro bowl honors four times.

    Middle linebacker Bob Breunig went on to play in three pro bowls, and guard Herb Scott was also a three-time pro bowl selection. Thomas Henderson, perhaps the best all-around athlete on the team, became one of the best outside linebackers in the league until a drug addiction led to his downfall.

    One of them, a young man named Randy White, went on to have a hall of fame career. They nicknamed him “the Manster,” and they tagged the 12 rookies as the “dirty dozen.”

    Another valuable addition to the team was Preston Pearson, who came over from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Along with Pearson and the dirty dozen, the Cowboys still had some seasoned veterans on the team. Players like Rayfield Wright, Jethro Pugh, Lee Roy Jordan, and Mel Renfro provided valuable leadership.

    To everyone’s surprise, the Cowboys started the season off with four wins in a row and finished the season at 10–4. They were to meet the defending NFC champion Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs. Dallas was the underdog in this game, but going into the 4th quarter, the Cowboys held the lead at 10–7 in a hard-hitting defensive battle. The Vikings had only one good offensive drive the whole game, but it came at the right time.

    In the 4th quarter, the Vikings scored the go-ahead touchdown to take a 14–10 lead. Dallas had the ball with just under two minutes left in the game, but they couldn’t get anything going and faced a 4th down and 16 for the first down. It looked like their Cinderella season was over.

    But Roger Staubach thought otherwise and hit Drew Pearson for a 25 yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, from the 50-yard line, Staubach launched a pass to Drew Pearson that was slightly underthrown. Pearson reached back for the ball, caught it against his hip, and ran it in for the winning touchdown. After the game, a reporter asked Staubach about the play. Staubach said he just threw the ball up and said a Hail Mary prayer. The play became known as the Hail Mary pass.

    Dallas traveled to LA to face a powerful Rams team that had destroyed an excellent St. Louis Cardinals team in the playoff game. The Rams entered the NFC title game with a 13–2 record. There were still some who refused to give the Cowboys their due, saying they won on a fluke play and ignoring the fact that Dallas had outplayed Minnesota. The Cowboys had outgained the Vikings 356 yards to 215.

    The Cowboys played perhaps their best game of the entire season against the Rams. It was never even close. Dallas beat LA in every phase of the game and walked away with a 37–7 victory. Now it was on to Miami for their 3rd Superbowl appearance.  This team that few predicted to finish with a winning record had proven everyone wrong.

    Dallas would be facing the defending Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Once again, no one gave the Cowboys a chance to win, but here they were, leading by a 10–7 score in the 4th quarter.

    The Steelers went on to win, 21–17, in one of the best Superbowl’s ever played. Naturally, our family was disappointed that they lost, but it had been a fantastic season that none of us could have expected. We all looked forward to the 1976 season.

    The Rest of the 70s

    After ten weeks, the Cowboys stood at 9–1, and we were all feeling very confident about a return trip to the Superbowl. But in their next five games, the Cowboys lost three times, including a 14–12 loss to the Rams in the playoffs. Just like that, the season was over.

    Four of the dirty dozen were no longer with the team, but the other eight players were now in their 3rd season, and they were all contributing to the team’s success–especially Randy White.

    White was not a starter in his first two seasons, simply because they couldn’t quite decide which position was right for him. They tried him at middle linebacker, outside linebacker, and defensive end. During the offseason, White trained extra hard with heavy weightlifting and gained about 15 pounds of muscle. They decided to try him at defensive tackle, where he developed into a hall of fame player.

    But the most significant boost to the team was getting Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett in the draft. Dorsett finished the season with over 1,000 yards and gave the Cowboys their first game-breaking runner since Calvin Hill left the team before the ’75 season.

    After eight weeks, the Cowboys were undefeated. They then lost two straight but bounced back with four wins in a row. They faced the Walter Payton led Chicago Bears in the NFC playoffs, and it was no contest– the Cowboys breezed to a comfortable 37–7 win, holding Walter Payton to just 60 yards rushing.

    The following week they faced the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game. Once again, it was no contest, as the Cowboys coasted to a 23–6 victory, earning them a trip to their 4th Superbowl appearance, where they faced the Denver Broncos.

    The Cowboys doomsday defense made life miserable for former Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton. Randy White and Harvey Martin were named Co — MVP’s as Dallas defeated the Broncos 27–10 to win their second Vince Lombardi trophy.

    After opening the season with a 38–0 win over the Colts on Monday night football, the Cowboys lost 4 of their next nine games–but then proceeded to win eight in a row, which included a hard-fought win against the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs and a 28–0 win over the Rams in the NFC title game.

    In the playoff game against the Falcons, Roger Staubach suffered a concussion and had to leave the game. With the Cowboys trailing 20–13 at half time, backup QB Danny White came off the bench and rallied the team to a 27–20 victory.

    After their win over the Rams in the NFC title game, the Cowboys headed to Miami for their record 5th Superbowl appearance. Their opponent would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. The winner of this game would become the first team to win three Superbowl’s.

    Unlike the defensive battle between these two teams just three years earlier, this Superbowl turned into a high scoring offensive attack. The lead went back and forth until the Steelers broke it open in the 4th quarter with a 35–17 lead. Led by “captain comeback” Roger Staubach, the Cowboys came roaring back but fell short 35–31.

    It was a tough loss to take for our family because it was now the 3rd Superbowl they lost, with all three going down to the final minute. But we felt confident that this would not be their last Superbowl appearance. Little did we know they wouldn’t see a Superbowl again for the next 13 years.

    Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, and Tony Dorsett all gained over 1,000 yds. Although it was a good season, it was not one of their best. They finished the regular season with an 11–5 record, and at one point in the season, they lost 4 out of 5 games. The season’s highlight was a thrilling come from behind victory over the Redskins in the final game. The Cowboys had to come back twice in this game–In the 3rd quarter, they took a 21–17 lead after trailing 17–0, and in the 4th quarter, they had to come back again from a 34–21 deficit.

    They won the game 35–34 in one of Roger Staubach’s finest games. The win not only put them in the playoffs but knocked the rival Redskins out of contention.
    They faced the LA Rams in the playoffs and led 19–14 with just over two minutes to play, but a 50-yard touchdown pass gave the Rams a 21–19 victory–and just like that, the Cowboys season was over. Little did anyone know, it would be Roger Staubach’s final game.

    Through the 80s

    On March 31, 1980, Roger Staubach announced his retirement. Back up, Danny White would now be the starting quarterback.  The season started with a convincing 17–3 win over the Redskins, and the Cowboys finished the regular season with a 12–4 record.

    They would play the Rams in the wild card playoff game. They had just played the Rams two weeks earlier on Monday night football and suffered an embarrassing 38–14 defeat. However, they turned the tables on the Rams in the playoff game, winning easily 34–13. Tony Dorsett ran wild, gaining 160 yards on the ground and scoring two touchdowns.

    The following week they played the Falcons. Although Dallas fell behind 24–10, Danny White, who must have paid close attention to all those Roger Staubach comebacks, performed a remarkable comeback of his own, and the Cowboys prevailed 30–27.  In the NFC title game against the Eagles, the half time score was 7–7. But the Cowboys offense could not move the ball in the second half, and Eagles running back Wilbert Montgomery ran for 196 yards. The Cowboys lost 20–7.

    Safety Cliff Harris retired after the 1979 season, so the Cowboys were looking to strengthen their secondary. They drafted cornerback Everson Walls, and he did not disappoint. Walls led the league in interceptions with 11 and made the pro bowl team. Tony Dorsett had the best season of his career, rushing for 1,646 yds.
    After ten weeks, the Cowboys were 8–2 and finished the season with a 12–4 record. In the playoffs, they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38–0. They then traveled to San Francisco for the NFC title game.

    The 49ers had beaten Dallas by a 45–14 score in week 6, but this game would be different. It was a close game all the way through, and Dallas held a 27–21 lead with less than a minute left in the game. But with 58 seconds remaining, Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point made the score 28–27.

    Dallas got the ball back on the kickoff, and Danny White hit Drew Pearson at the 50. Pearson was off to the races for what seemed to be a touchdown–until Eric Wright reached out to grab Pearson from behind with a game-saving tackle. The Cowboys fumbled on the next play, and our hopes for a 6th Superbowl appearance were dashed.

    In a strike-shortened season, the Cowboys finished 6–3. They made short work of the Buccaneers and the Packers in the playoffs and were off to Washington DC to play the Redskins in the NFC title game.  The Redskins came into this game with a 10–1 record, including their two playoff wins, their one loss coming against the Cowboys. This time, the Redskins got their revenge.

    John Riggins ran for 140 yards on 36 carries, and the Redskins won 31–17, making it the 3rd year in a row the Cowboys lost the NFC title game. We were beginning to lose hope that they would ever get to the Superbowl again.

    The Cowboys started the season with a rematch against the Superbowl Champion Washington Redskins on a hot and humid night in DC. The Redskins jumped out to a 23–3 halftime lead, but the Cowboys came back to win 31–30.

    After seven weeks, the Cowboys were undefeated–and it looked like that 6th Superbowl appearance was still possible after all. But they lost 5 of their next 10, including a loss to the Rams in the playoffs.

    The Cowboys finished with a disappointing 9–7 record and missed the playoffs for only the second time in nineteen years.

    After eight weeks, the Cowboys were 6–2, but they lost 5 of their next 9. Three losses were humiliating defeats, losing 44–0 to the Bears, 50–24 to the Bengals, and 20–0 to the Rams in the playoffs. It was clear the Cowboys dynasty was coming to an end.

    The Cowboys suffered their first losing season since 1964, finishing the season with a 7–9 record. It only got worse from that point. In 1987 they finished 7–8, and in 1988 they finished an embarrassing 3–13.

    Some pointed the blame at Coach Tom Landry, saying the game had passed him by. But what really caused the Cowboys’ demise was that they no longer dominated the draft as they had in the 1960s and 1970s. The other teams had caught up to them regarding the draft, and they were no longer getting the best players or the undiscovered players.

    In 1989 Jerry Jones took over as the new owner. Jones fired coach Landry and hired Jimmy Johnson as the new coach. Three years later, the Cowboys won their third Superbowl. They won their fourth the following year and a fifth two years later.
    1992–1995 were gratifying years to be a Cowboys fan, but nothing would ever compare to the Dallas Cowboys of my youth,


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