The Dallas Cowboys have provided its fans with some of the greatest memories the NFL has to offer. From 99 yard runs to The Triplets the Cowboys have been good to its fans. However, not every day in Cowboy history has been all fun and games. A few days for sure have been nothing short of excruciating.
January 10, 1982
Dwight Clark, The Catch
Merely referring to this horrible day in time gives me the same feeling I had during any of the three root canals I have had the pleasure of receiving. On their own merit, building up the 49ers, increasing the mystique of Joe Montana, making Dwight Clark a household name, being denied a Super Bowl appearance, and enduring the Danny White chokes in big games manure are really difficult to tolerate. When you combine all of these elements together you get the single most painful day in Cowboys history.
Any time a team is on the wrong end of a play and that play has its own nickname, you are in line for a very painful sports memory. “The Catch” will forever be the #1 most influential play in the Cowboys’ and 49ers’ history but there is more salt for that wound. The Cowboys had one last chance to score after that and Drew Pearson came within a fingers grasp of returning the favor to the 49ers for all of Candlestick Park to enjoy. I don’t know if that play would have its own nickname in place of the catch but I personally would have named it after a gesture.
January 6, 2007
Romo fumbled snap
The Dallas Cowboys fans were at their peak of excitement. They were witnesses to a Cinderella story of their own in 2006. The growth of Tony Romo into the starting role was the buzz in Dallas and there was plenty of excitement and expectation that the Cowboys behind Romo could walk into Qwest Filed in Seattle and get a playoff win. Romo managed a great game and made more than enough plays for his team to get a win. When the Cowboys lined up to kick the field to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, I was one of probably millions of Cowboys fans already making plans for a very winnable game in Chicago.
I watched the game from the ESPN Zone in NYC and the moment the botched snap occurred, my immediate horror turned to hope again as Romo picked up the ball and ran towards the end zone. The noise around me was deafening from the screams of Cowboy fans and Cowboy haters and we were all packed in as witnesses to this awful cowboy scene. As Romo was tackled short of the goal line, the pit in my stomach morphed into a brick but my misery was not quite done just yet.
What many forget is that the Cowboys had over a minute left and three time outs to get a stop and Seattle was backed up to their 2 yard line. Get a stop and the Seahawks are punting from their end zone with a minute left and Terence Newman standing on the 50 yard line. That dream which I actually expected to occur came crashing down as Shaun Alexander ran for 20 yards on the first play of the drive all but nailing in the coffin on the cowboys season. Pain for the Cowboy fan had just been redefined.
March 29, 1994
Jerry and Jimmy part ways
To this day I’m not sure if Cowboy fans have accepted this ridiculous and baffling day in Dallas Cowboy history. There had been some background noise of issues between Jimmy and Jerry while the team was in the throes of winning Super Bowls but it was inconceivable that those issues would tear down such a successful franchise. Cowboy success was everywhere in sales, viewership, ratings, and relevance. Aikman, Irvin and Smith had become the Triplets and the Cowboys seemed as if they could put a string of 4 or more Super Bowl trophies in the Cowboy trophy case.
The pain of the breakup and that circus of a press conference was not the agony of the catch or fumbled snap. It instead was the feeling of just being stunned and kicked in the gut. Fans and media could not believe that in the end these two men with such a train of success running down the tracks would find a way to keep it moving. Ultimately, Jerry bears the responsibility of this breakup but the day Jimmy and Jerry parted ways was the birth of the Dallas Cowboys as a circus. The History of America’s Team was colorful and even glitzy but it was always respected and credible. It’s difficult to forgive Jones for this and as if it wasn’t enough, he crammed Barry Switzer down the throats of cowboy nation further elevating the franchise from foolish to inept.
April 24, 2004
Bypassing Steven Jackson
This draft day started out with tremendous intrigue and grew more and more interesting and ultimately frustrating as the day progressed. The whole Eli Manning and Philip Rivers fiasco drew the lion’s share of attention but there was also great debate whether the Redskins would take Sean Taylor or Kellen Winslow II. I remember Winslow vowing to make the Skins pay f they did not take him at pick 5 and they didn’t. For Cowboy fans, the RB position was square in their sights and there was no argument that Stephen Jackson was the best back coming into the draft but he would be far off the board by the time the Cowboys made their pick.
When the Cowboys pick finally arrived at #22, not one back had come off the board. They had their pick of the litter between Steven Jackson and even Kevin Jones who was a terrific back out of Virginia Tech. I was calling friends and hollering at the top of my lungs knowing that Jacksonwould be a Cowboy. As the buzz began around the Cowboys making a trade with Buffalo (for JP Losman?), so did the churning in my stomach of the food I had earlier in the day but I will spare you the details on that one.
I can’t even fathom what the Cowboys would be today and what road they would have taken to get here but I have to assume the road would have been a better one with Jackson in the backfield. The Cowboys converted that trade into Julius Jones, Sean Ryan and Marcus Spears. It would be laughable and even hilarious if it weren’t such a shame. The day for me ended with my voice lost and a fury burning in my head.
February 26th, 1989
Jerry Jones fires Tom Landry
What an awful day this was for cowboy fans and it would #1 on the list if it weren’t already anticipated at the time. The legendary coach Tom Landry was the face and soul of the Dallas Cowboys organization and the only coach they had ever had. When Jerry Jones took over the team in 1989, he fired Tom Landry with no ceremony, no negotiations, and gathered no input from the legendary coach on how he wanted this to transpire publicly.
Many Cowboy fans were already calling for the coach to step down or for the organization to go in another direction. The team was being led at QB by Steve Pelleur with Kevin Sweeney as his backup and they sported an abysmal 3-13 record in the 1988 season. Despite the futility of the 88 cowboys, news of the firing of Landry was heartbreaking and the nature of the firing was stunning. Though the organization has moved on and added 3 more championships to the trophy case, some Cowboys fans have never forgiven Jerry Jones.
October 10, 1999
Michael Irvin lies on the turf
Despicable. Shameful. Classless. All of these things have been used to describe the fans in Philadelphia as they cheered the sight of Michael Irvin motionless on the Veterans Stadium turf. Not only was this day humiliating and infuriating, it was also quite terrifying to see this emotional and seemingly indestructible leader of the Cowboys motionless. Though he avoided a life endangering moment and situation, the injury did prove to be career ending. How do you go into battle one day with your fearless leader who provides all the bravado, energy and competitiveness that fuels an entire team and then end that day with him finished as a Cowboy? This is exactly what Cowboy fans had to face and it proved to be the bitterest of pills.
What started out as an exciting 3-0 start to the season ended at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. In an effort to find a receiver to now play opposite Rocket Ismail, the cowboys traded two 1st rounders to acquire Joey Galloway. To put that move in context I can say that had this list extended to eleven bad dates, the Galloway trade would probably make the cut.
April 9th, 2001
Troy Aikman retirement
Troy Aikman was the great equalizer for the Cowboys. When times were tough, there was always Troy. You knew he was prepared and would always deliver. He was a luxury for cowboy fans similar to the luxury Peyton Manning afforded Colts fans so when Aikman was knocked out of the game by Lavar Arrington in the final game for the Cowboys in 2000, fans could not fathom that Troy played his last game as a Cowboy. As painful as it was, with a history of concussions and a huge financial decision to make with his contract, Jones in 2001 made the move to release Troy Aikman.
Horrible enough for Cowboys fans but they also had to endure the rumors of other possible teams having an interest in Aikman. Ultimately closing the last door on playing for the Cowboys he retired in April 2001 leaving a feeling for Cowboys fans of glory cut short. He was one of the greatest Cowboys and a symbol of what makes this team America’s Team.
December 31, 1967
I won’t bore with images, sights and sounds of this game. First of all I was 5 months old and was not in attendance as far as I know. Secondly, it was so frigid that players had to thaw out just to be frostbitten. Most painful on this day however is just how close the Cowboys came to getting to the Championship and it literally was a matter of inches. The Cowboys took heavy blows from the champion Packers at Lambeau Field but still was able to hold a late lead. However, adding insult to hematoma, the Cowboys had to withstand a last 4+ minute drive culminating in several attempts by Green Bay to punch it in from inside the 5 yard line. Vince Lombardi had the opportunity to kick a field goal or throw a pass with 16 seconds left to insure they would not run out of time but instead, he ran it down the Cowboys throats for the victory. The loss tastes bad but the circumstances make it retched for Cowboy fans.
March 18, 2006
Popcorn is ready, T.O. signed
Somewhere along the way the mystique behind America’s Team went from everybody loves or hates them to many folks think they are a joke. Some might say the drafting of Quincy Carter was one of the culprits. Others may say the Switzer move. Even starting roles for Chad Hutchinson and Ryan Leaf must be considered. Regardless of which of these acts of buffoonery started and propagated it, the acquisition of Terrell Owens gave the notion its weight.
It was the ultimate in contradiction to acquire Bill Parcells to straighten out the Campo/Jones mess and to quickly follow that up by cramming T.O. down Parcell’s throat. It felt like slow motion watching this disease spread throughout the locker room attaching itself to Patrick Crayton and whittling away at the team chemistry. This was a day in hindsight that can propel a fan to vomit.
October 14, 2008
Roy Williams trade
This date is one that sits in the pit of Cowboy fans’ stomachs and rightfully so. The Cowboys traded multiple picks that included a first rounder for Roy Williams. Who can forget the many excuses of how Williams was getting acclimated to Romo as the reason for his inactivity and ineffectiveness? We must have heard that excuse for over a year. Always confident but rarely productive, Williams was a failed attempt at some T.O. insurance and instead found his place in a long line of Cowboy personnel gaffes.
In a league where the big receiver was dominant including the 2007 campaign of Randy Moss and his 23 TDs, the Cowboys swung and missed in 2008 at Roy Williams and his entire 5 TDs of production from 2007. Hysterically, little known and undrafted Miles Austin from Monmouth College came in for an injured Roy Williams in the 2009 season and helped to save what turned out to be a playoff season for the Cowboys with a 10 catch 250 yard game that included the game winner in OT. The day of this trade is pure indigestion.
There promises to be more days like these but here’s hoping in this offseason that 2012 and 2013 provide 19 gorgeous days.