Once upon a time, the Cowboys were hands-down the worst team in the NFL. They were old, slow and didn’t have much at the quarterback position. No, I’m not talking about the Dave Campo years that began the new millennium. I’m referring to the late 1980s, an ancient era not even known by at least half of the Dallas fan base today.
No matter how long you’ve followed the Cowboys, the name Herschel Walker is pretty well-known, but not for his brief tenure as one of the best running backs in the NFL or his temporary status as Dallas’ only true weapon on either side of the ball.
Walker is more well-known for the landmark trade that sent him to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a bounty of premium draft picks that almost instantly transformed the Cowboys into the best team in the NFL, this at a time when there was no free agency or salary cap.
Among the most popular responses I remember hearing following that trade, one executed at the time by new ownership and an unproven head coach named Jimmy Johnson, was that Walker was the best player Dallas had. How would the Cowboys contend in a division that, at the time, contained numerous Super Bowl contenders and champions?
Well, the answer eventually came, although that took a little in the way of patience on the part of a frustrated fan base that had accepted its team as a joke.
Things aren’t much different today, although America’s Team is certainly better now than the 1988 or 1989 rosters that combined for just four wins in those two seasons.
It’s true that trading Bryant would never garner the same number of draft picks that Walker did—that will never happen again.
The point here is that Jones, over the last decade-plus, has adopted a building strategy much more like the one Minnesota utilized in grabbing Walker. The Vikings dramatically over-estimated the overall talent they had and torpedoed their future for just one guy.
How bad was this trade for Minnesota?