As we conclude the 100th anniversary of the National Football League, it’s stunning to realize that almost a quarter of a century has passed since the Dallas Cowboys have been to the Super Bowl, the NFL’s biggest and brightest stage. Almost inconceivable for a franchise once proudly known as “America’s Team.”
Call them that now, and it will draw either laughter or scorn.
It’s easy to forget that with the last Super Bowl championship, the Dallas Cowboys made history by beating their longtime nemesis Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX to become the first team to win three Lombardi trophies in a four-year span.
In stunned, numbing dismay, it suddenly hits us that the Cowboys have had just four playoff wins and have not made the NFC title game since they won Super Bowl XXX in 1996 at Sun Devil Stadium for their fifth championship in franchise history. Coming off yet another failed season without a postseason appearance, it’s shocking how far the once proud franchise has fallen.
For those of you too young to have experienced it and those too old to still remember, the Cowboys once reeled off a remarkable run that ranks with the one put together by the seemingly incomparable New England Patriots.
That’s right, football fans. From 1966-82, the Dallas Cowboys appeared in 12 of 17 NFC titles games. Dallas has made the most postseason appearances (33), played in more playoff games (63) than any other NFL franchise, won the third most playoff games (35), stand tied for second in the most Super Bowl appearances (8) and remain tied for the second most Super Bowl victories (5).
And all this from a team that hasn’t played in the big game in 24 years.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to relive the glory days.
1971 Super Bowl V: Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
A 32-yard field goal by rookie kicker Jim O’Brien brought the Baltimore Colts a victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the final five seconds of Super Bowl V.
The game between the champions of the AFC and NFC was played on artificial turf for the first time. Dallas led 13-6 at the half but interceptions by Rick Volk and Mike Curtis set up a Baltimore touchdown and O’Brien’s decisive kick in the fourth period.
Dallas’ Chuck Howley, who picked off two passes, became the first defensive player and the first player from a losing team to be named MVP.
1972 Super Bowl VI: Dallas 24, Miami 3
The Cowboys rushed for a record 252 yards and their defense limited the Dolphins to a low of 185 yards while not permitting a touchdown for the first time in Super Bowl history. Running back Duane Thomas danced his way to 95 yards while fullback Walt Garrison plowed his way to 74.
Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, voted the game’s most valuable player, completed 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
1976 Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17
The Steelers won the Super Bowl for the second year in a row on Terry Bradshaw’s 64-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann and an aggressive defense that snuffed out a late rally by the Cowboys with an end-zone interception on the final play of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh ran on fourth down and gave up the ball on the Cowboys’ 39 with 1:22 to play. Roger Staubach ran and passed for two first downs but his last desperation pass was picked off by Glen Edwards.
Dallas’s scoring was the result of two touchdown passes by Staubach, one to Drew Pearson for 29 yards and the other to Percy Howard for 34 yards. Toni Fritsch had a 36-yard field goal.
1978 Super Bowl XII: Dallas 27, Denver 10
The Cowboys evened their Super Bowl record at 2-2 by defeating Denver before a sellout crowd of 75,583, plus 102,010,000 television viewers, the largest audience ever to watch a sporting event.
Dallas converted two interceptions into 10 points and Efren Herrera added a 35-yard field goal for a 13-0 halftime advantage. Harvey Martin and Randy White, who were named co-most valuable players, led the Cowboys’ defense, which recovered four fumbles and intercepted four passes.
1979 Super Bowl XIII : Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31
Terry Bradshaw passed for a record four touchdowns to lead the Steelers to victory. The Steelers became the first team to win three Super Bowls.
The Steelers broke open the contest with two touchdowns in a span of 19 seconds midway through the final period.
The Cowboys refused to let the Steelers run away with the contest. Staubach connected with Billy Joe DuPree on a seven-yard scoring pass with 2:23 left. Then, the Cowboys recovered an onside kick and Staubach took them in for another score, passing four yards to Butch Johnson with 22 seconds remaining.
1993 Super Bowl XXVII: Dallas 52, Buffalo 17
As the famed triplets came of age, Troy Aikman passed for four touchdowns, Michael Irvin caught six passes for 114 yards and two scores, while Emmitt Smith rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown, and the Cowboys converted nine turnovers into 35 points while coasting to the victory.
Dallas’s win was its third in its record sixth Super Bowl appearance. On the other hand, the Bills became the first team to drop three in succession.
1994 Super Bowl XXVIII: Dallas 30, Buffalo 13
Emmitt Smith rushed for 132 yards and two second-half touchdowns to power the Cowboys to their second consecutive NFL title.
1996 Super Bowl XXX: Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17
Cornerback Larry Brown’s two interceptions led to 14 second-half points and helped lift the Cowboys to their third Super Bowl victory in the last four seasons and their record-tying fifth title overall.
Ancient history. An entire generation has never seen the Dallas Cowboys advance to the NFC Championship game with even a chance of making the Super Bowl.
Mercifully, we all witnessed the end of the Jason Garrett era this season. Instead of restoring the Dallas Cowboys to the glory days, Garrett ushered in the age of mediocrity, posting only four winning records in the last 10 seasons, finishing with an indistinguishable 8-8 mark four times, making a measly three postseason appearances and winning a paltry two playoff games.
It’s still hard to swallow how the talented 2019 edition of the Dallas Cowboys could have possibly failed to make the NFL playoffs, let alone stumble their way to a .500 record once again.
Now, the Cowboy’s 77-year old owner Jerry Jones tearfully hangs all of his hope for at least one more Super Bowl ring on former Green Bay Packer head coach Mike McCarthy, hoping that he has the pedigree to join coaching legends Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson into the NFL Hall of Fame by collecting a second Lombardi Trophy.
Hope reigns eternal in Jerry’s World. I’m not holding my breath.