You’ve heard the expression “for a song.” As in “no one else wanted it so I was able to buy it for a song.”
Well, in the case of the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL's first modern-era expansion team, they were literally brought into existence “for a song.”
The year was 1960 and the upstart American Football League had just put a franchise in the city of Dallas. The team was called the Texans. Eventually, in 1963, they would move to Kansas City, Missouri and change their name to the Chiefs.
In a desperate attempt to have a presence in the south, the NFL awarded Clint Murchison, Jr. and Bedford Wynne a franchise in Dallas.
One would think the ingenious, but somewhat hasty, decision would be welcomed by all in the NFL. However, Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was adamantly opposed to the NFL expanding into the Lone Star State. In Marshall’s eyes, the Redskins were the South’s one and only team.
Murchison and Wynne, predicting Marshall’s objections, purchased the rights to the Redskins’ fight song, “Hail to the Redskins.” The duo then threatened to bar Marshall from playing the song at Redskins games if he blocked the installation of the Dallas franchise. With the fight song a staple at Redskins games Marshall had no other alternative but to acquiesce.
The NFL owes the existence of its greatest franchise to a song.
Saying Dallas is the league’s greatest team isn’t necessarily hyperbole. The Cowboys are the world’s second most valuable sports franchise with an estimated worth of $1.612 billion (Manchester United of the English Premier League is number one).
The Cowboys are arguably the most popular football team in America. Depending on the venue, at away games they generally have as many fans in the stands as their opponents. In the 1990’s, the Cowboys established an NFL record of playing in front of 160 consecutive sold-out arenas including 81 sell-outs on the road.
On the field, the Cowboys have won five Super Bowls and eight conference championships. In the early 1990’s they became the first franchise to win three Super Bowls in four years.
From 1966 to 1985, Dallas had 20 straight winning seasons. Overall, the franchise has posted 25 seasons with 10 or more wins and made the playoffs 29 times—both are NFL records.
They’ve appeared in 14 NFC Championship Games and a record 8 Super Bowls. The team has produced the most Super Bowl MVP’s with seven. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has seen the induction of 11 Cowboys.
Their long list of accomplishments have earned them legions of dedicated fans. In fact, their popularity is so immense they are known as “America’s Team.”
The nickname is quite fitting. For no other team in the NFL is as adored or as despised as the Dallas Cowboys. No one is lukewarm when it comes to the Cowboys; you either love them or hate them. That’s why the moniker “America’s Team” is so appropriate. It can be used by fans or derided by detractors.
Dallas received the appellation “America Team” in 1979. Vice President and editor-in-chief of NFL Films, Bob Ryan, needed a name for a film recapping the Cowboys’ 1978 season. Ryan came up with “America’s Team” after noticing how many ardent fans the franchise attracted to both home and away games. The next season an announcer at CBS called them “America’s Team” and the name stuck.
The Cowboys didn’t begin life as America’s Team they began life as America’s losers. They finished their inaugural season 0–11–1. The season was doomed from the start since the franchise entered the NFL after the 1960 draft.
Slowly but surely, head coach Tom Landry and general manager Tex Schramm began to acquire a slew of top notch talent. They drafted future hall of famer Bob Lilly with their first ever selection in the NFL draft. Then they acquired quarterback Don Meredith, running back Don Perkins, linebacker Chuck Howley, cornerback Mel Renfro and wide receiver Bob Hayes.
With this collection of Pro Bowl talent the Cowboys played in the 1966 and the 1967 NFL Championship Games, losing both times to the Green Bay Packers. The 1967 game is known as the Ice Bowl—the coldest professional sports game ever played in the United States.
As the decade waned, the Cowboys acquired another wave of hall of fame talent, like tackle Rayfield Wright, quarterback Roger Staubach, tight end Mike Ditka, running back Calvin Hill and cornerback Herb Adderly.
Despite having Staubach, a future hall of famer on the roster, Landry used the more conventional quarterback, Craig Morton. He led the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 1970 season.
Cowboys lost Super Bowl V 16-13 due to a last second field goal by Baltimore Colts kicker Jim O’Brien. The game is now known as the “Blunder Bowl” due to both teams combining to turn the ball over 11 times.
The Cowboys would return to the Super Bowl the following season and defeat the Miami Dolphins 24-3. It’s the only time a Super Bowl team has failed to score a touchdown. Staubach was named the game’s MVP.
In the 1970’s, thanks to defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones, defensive tackle Randy White, wide receiver Drew Pearson and running back Tony Dorsett, the team would reach the Super Bowl three more times.
The Cowboys lost Super Bowl X and XIII to the Pittsburgh Steelers in what has become the NFL’s best inter-conference rivalry.
At the end of the 1977 season, Cowboys defeated the Denver Broncos 27-10 to win Super Bowl XII.
The Cowboys would finish the 1970’s as the decade’s winningest team.
The next decade started off promising for the Cowboys. Danny White, Staubach’s replacement at quarterback, led the Cowboys to three straight NFC Championship Games from 1980-1982.
The Cowboys would fail to reach the Super Bowl in the 1980’s and by the end of decade they had devolved into one of the NFL’s worst teams.
However, the team’s fortunes would change in 1989 when the franchise was purchased by Arkansas oil tycoon Jerry Jones.
Jones did the unthinkable and fired the great Tom Landry, the only coach in franchise history. He replaced the icon with the brash and brilliant Jimmy Johnson.
In much the same way Landry stockpiled talent in the early 1960’s, Johnson began to stockpile talent in the early 1990’s. One of the reasons he was able to amass a large number of good players was because he was on the right side of one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history. It’s now known as the Herschel Walker trade.
In October of 1989, Johnson traded one of the Cowboys best players, running back Herschel Walker, to the Minnesota Vikings for five players and eight draft picks. Those picks would eventually be used to select five time Pro-Bowl safety Darren Woodson and the NFL all-time leading rusher, hall of fame running back Emmit Smith.
In 1993, Smith became the only running back in NFL History to win a Super Bowl, the MVP award, the NFL rushing title, and the Super Bowl MVP award in the same season.
Brimming with draft picks and an intimate knowledge of the college football talent pool, Johnson would go to draft quarterback Troy Aikman, fullback Daryl Johnston, center Mark Stepnoski, defensive tackle Russell Maryland, and offensive tackle Erik Williams.
Already with the team when Johnson took over was wide receiver Michael Irvin, guard Nate Newton, linebacker Ken Norton Jr., and offensive lineman Mark Tuinei.
This group of talent would go on to defeat the Buffalo Bills at the end of both the 1992 and 1993 seasons to handily win Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII.
After a sudden falling out, Jones fired Johnson and replaced him with former University of Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer.
In his first year, Switzer would lose to another historic Cowboys rival, the San Francisco 49’ers, in the NFC Championship game
The next year, 1995, with newly acquired cornerback Deion Sanders, the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX to become the second team (after the 49’ers) to win five Super Bowls.
Johnson and Switzer became the first and second coaches to win both a Collegiate National Championship and a Super Bowl. Another interesting note, the first three coaches in Cowboys history all won Super Bowls.
As of 2008, the Cowboys have yet to return to the Super Bowl. In fact, the Cowboys have not won a playoff game since 1996.
For the rest of the 1990’s the Cowboys slowly deteriorated as their “Triplett’s” (Aikman, Smith and Irvin) aged. Still, the Cowboys entered the new century as the winningest team of the decade of the 90’s.
In the 21st century, the Cowboys have been on the verge of breaking through with both Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips as their head coach.
Part of the team’s resurgence was due to a stingy defense, quarterback Tony Romo, and wide receiver Terrell Owens (who left Dallas for the Buffalo Bills at the end of the 2008 season).
Despite fielding some good teams, this period in Cowboy history has been marked by heartbreak. In 2006, with seconds remaining in a playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, Romo bobbled the snap while holding for a short field goal attempt. Romo’s miscue cost the Cowboys a playoff victory and Parcells retired shortly thereafter.
In 2007, head coach Phillips lead the Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the NFC East title (the team’s 16th). The Cowboys were immediately bounced out of the playoffs by eventual Super Bowl winners, the New York Giants.
The Cowboys play in the NFC East with the Redskins, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. All three teams are main rivals of the Cowboys. Other teams having heated rivalries with the Cowboys include the Steelers, the 49’ers and the Packers.
The Cowboys first began playing in the Cotton Bowl. They moved into Texas Stadium in 1971.
The iconic venue, located in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas, was noted for having a dramatically crowned field and a cut-out in its roof the size of a football field. The saying went that the hole in the roof was so God could watch his Cowboys play.
On September 20th, 2013 the franchise played its first game at the new state-of-the-art AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Cowboys Stadium). This venue is located in Arlington, Texas about 20 miles west of downtown Dallas.
The jewel of the NFL and perhaps the greatest sports venue ever built, the stadium can seat up to 100,000 fans. The cost of the building is estimated at $1.15 billion.
The venue is scheduled to host a plethora of events including the 2013 Super Bowl, the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
While AT&T Stadium will be used for sporting events and concerts, it will ultimately be known as the home of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys.