The Dallas Cowboys joined the National Football Conference (NFC) in 1960 and play in the Eastern Division. They are the wealthiest and most successful American football team in sporting history.
Otherwise known as ‘America’s Team’, the Cowboys have made eight Super Bowl appearances and won 18 Divisional Championships. Boasting 27 winning seasons, they also became the first team to win 20 consecutive seasons in the National Football League (NFL) in 1985.
Originally based at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Fair Park, the Cowboys relocated to the Texas Stadium in 1970. A new home ground is currently under construction and the team are due to move into the record breaking $650 million dollar stadium in Arlington in 2009.
In 2007, valued at an estimated $1.5 billion, Forbes named the Dallas Cowboys as the most valuable sports franchise in the world.
In The Beginning
The Dallas Cowboys were relative latecomers to the National Football League (NFL), joining nearly twenty years after current Eastern Conference rivals, the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
Initially, the founders of the Dallas Cowboys, Clint Murchison Jnr and Bedford Wynne, faced difficulties securing this NFL franchise, when the Washington Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall, objected to an expansion team which could affect their dominance in the league.
However, Murchison would not be deterred and overcame this obstacle by purchasing the rights to the Redskin’s anthem, ‘Hail to the Redskins’, from composer Barnee Beeskin. In doing so, he could legally refuse permission for the song to be used by Marshall’s team. The musical ransom paid off and, on 28 January 1960, the Dallas Cowboys became the thirteenth NFL franchise. It sparked a rivalry that continues to this day.
Originally called the Steers, followed by the Dallas Texans, Murchison was forced to make a name change to avoid confusion with a local baseball team using the same title. On 24 February 1960, the newly named Dallas Cowboys played their first official game on home turf, at the Cotton Bowl Stadium, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Under the leadership of former New York Giant and Texan, Tom Landry, the Cowboys suffered a 35-24 game loss which was followed by a further nine defeats. It was not until their penultimate game of the season that the team managed a 31-31 draw against the New York Giants, before returning to losing ways in their final game. The Cowboys finished a disappointing first season without a single win.
In 1961, the Cowboys moved from the NFL’s Western Conference into the Eastern Conference and enjoyed a promising start by winning three out of the first four games. However, their success was short lived and a series of defeats followed. The Cowboys were yet to prove their capabilities on the football field, after finishing the season in sixth place out of a possible seven. Another four seasons passed before the Cowboys took the world of American Football by surprise.
Highs and Lows
In 1966, the Cowboys started an impressive season with four convincing wins, before playing Cleveland Browns in a historical Divisional Championship which saw the first football game ever to be played on Thanksgiving.
A 26-14 win put them in the top spot and secured a meeting with the Green Bay Packers for the first NFL Championship game since the NFL and AFL merger, earlier in the year. Despite a courageous effort, to a 75,000-strong home crowd, the Cowboys lost 34-27 to the eventual winners of the Super Bowl.
The following year, in temperatures of a staggering -25 degrees Celsius, the same team denied the Cowboys this title once again. The Cowboys also needed to wait a little longer for their first Super Bowl appearance. Their time came in 1970 but, despite an impressive display, they suffered a narrow 16-13 defeat against the Baltimore Colts in the dying seconds of the game.
With increased optimism and growing support throughout Dallas, it was announced that a new $35 million Texas Stadium would be built for the Cowboys in suburban Irving. The 65,675 capacity arena became their new home ground in 1971.
It was a new beginning for a successful season and the team went on to celebrate a Super Bowl victory, following a convincing 24-3 win against the Miami Dolphins. They became the first team to receive the title without conceding a single touchdown. The 1970’s proved to be a monumental decade for the team, culminating in two Super Bowl finals and a Super Bowl win.
Between 1980 and 1982, the Cowboys reached the NFC Championship Game three times but failed to enjoy their previous Super Bowl success. In 1984, Murchison sold the team to H.R. Bright but, following a string of defeats, Jerral ‘Jerry’ Jones became the new owner after paying a staggering $150 million in 1989. Jimmy Johnson replaced a popular Tom Landry but the Cowboys struggled to return to their winning ways.
A New Era
Following a period of instability, newcomers Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith joined established players such as linebacker, Ken Norton Jnr, and defensive end, Charles Haley. It was a successful combination and, in 1992, the Cowboys faced and beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
The team went on to celebrate their first Super Bowl success and Aikman received the coveted Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. The Cowboys repeated their Super Bowl success, against the same team, in the following year. A week later, a record number of 11 players were voted to compete in the annual Pro Bowl competition which brings together the best NFC and AFC players.
The next season brought more success as the Cowboys took home the Conference Championship title and Super Bowl once again, this time, Smith picking up the Super Bowl MVP.
However, in 1994, as the NFL celebrated its 75th anniversary, a rift between Jones and Johnson resulted in the shock resignation of the Head Coach. Replacement, Barry Switzer, was appointed and joined by new defensive assistant, Ernie Zampese.
Despite a time of unrest, the team went on to celebrate a 35-9 win against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Championship before narrowly missing out on the Conference Championship title to the San Francisco 49ers. The best was yet to come.
Following a string of successes in the following year, the Cowboys collected their fifth Conference Championship title and won their third and final Super Bowl of the 90’s. In doing so, Switzer became only the second coach to celebrate these two successes within the same year. Smith also set a record by touching down 25 times over the course of the season, whilst cornerback, Larry Brown, picked up Super Bowl’s MVP, despite the tragic death of his son.
Whilst the decade produced a record number of victories for the team, the latter part also brought controversy. In 1997, Switzer was found and charged with carrying a concealed gun at Dallas-Fort International Airport.
He retained his position with the Cowboys after settling a record $75,000 fine with Jones but, following the team’s failure to reach the playoffs for the first time in ten years, he announced his resignation. Replacement coach, Chan Gailey, could only enjoy a short lived success.
With renewed optimism, the team won the NFC East Championship but were defeated by the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs. The following season they lost key players, such as Aikman and Smith, to injury and the team finished second in NFC East before losing 27-10 to the Minnesota Vikings.
Gailey became the first coach unable to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl final and, following this unprecedented failure, was sacked. Defensive assistant, Dave Campo, was promoted to take over the coaching reins and was joined by new signing, Day Nguyen. Nguyen was, and still is, the only Vietnamese-American footballer in the history of the game.
Cowboys in the Millennium
Campo failed to produce a promising start in 2000. Following an injury-ridden defeat in the first game, the season ended with the Cowboys in fourth place. Whilst a popular Smith set a new record after reaching his tenth 1,000 yard season, the team also received unwelcome notoriety when new signing, Dwayne Goodrich, was arrested for a hit and run incident which killed two people.
The struggling side failed to improve during 2001 and 2002 and the seasons ended with them in fifth and fourth positions respectively. Former football player and retired coach, Bill Parcells, was eventually called upon to make drastic changes.
Despite the recent release of Cowboys legend, Smith, the team reached second place in NFL East and boasted the best defense in the football league. However, the team missed the playoffs over the next two seasons and Parcells returned to retirement and part time sports commentary.
Wade Phillips was appointed as Head Coach and the former San Francisco Chargers’ coach catapulted the Cowboys to success once again. In 2007, he led his new team to their 16th NFC Championship title.
In 2008, the Dallas Cowboys enter their 48th season in the NFL and can reflect on a staggering success to date. They have broken the record for most number of consecutive games played to a full stadium (160) and share a record five Super Bowl wins with the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers (boasting three successes within four years).
With seven players named as the competition’s MVP, it is another record breaking achievement. This was particularly notable following Super Bowl V, when linebacker, Chuck Howley, became the first defensive player to receive the accolade after playing for the losing side.
In 2009, the Dallas Cowboys will move to new state-of-the art stadium. Covering 104 million cubic feet, it will be the largest closed stadium in American Football and, with a roof spanning 660,800 square feet, it will also be the world’s largest column free and domed structure.
Records and Statistics
Super Bowl Appearances
1971, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1995
Hall of Fame players