HISTORY: The Cowboys–Redskins rivalry

The Cowboys–Redskins rivalry is a sports rivalry between two professional American football teams in the National Football League (NFL), the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Sports Illustrated has called it the top NFL rivalry of all time and “one of the greatest in sports.” During the tenure of this rivalry, the two franchises have won 27 combined division titles and eight combined Super Bowls. They are the two wealthiest franchises in the NFL. The rivalry started in 1960 when the Cowboys joined the league as an expansion team. During that year they were in separate conferences, but played once during the season. In 1961, Dallas was placed in the same division as the Redskins, and from that point on, they have played each other twice during every regular season.

Beginning

Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison, Jr. was having a hard time bringing an NFL team to Dallas, Texas. He tried buying two teams, but the negotiations fell through. In 1958, Murchison heard that George Preston Marshall, owner of the Washington Redskins, was eager to sell the team. Just as the sale was about to be finalized, Marshall called for a change in terms. Murchison was outraged and canceled the whole deal.

Around this time, Marshall had a falling out with the Redskin band director, Barnee Breeskin. Breeskin had written the music to the Redskins fight song, now a staple at the stadium; additionally, Marshall’s wife penned the lyrics to the song. Breeskin wanted revenge after the failed negotiations with Marshall. He approached Tom Webb, Murchison’s lawyer, and sold the rights for $2,500.

Murchison then decided to create his own team, with the support of NFL expansion committee chairman, George Halas. Halas decided to put the proposition of a Dallas franchise before the NFL owners, which needed to have unanimous approval in order to pass. The only owner against the proposal was George Preston Marshall. However, Marshall found out that Murchison owned the rights to Washington’s fight song, so a deal was finally struck. If Marshall showed his approval of the Dallas franchise, Murchison would return the song. The Cowboys were then founded and began playing in 1960.

To build the roster of an expansion team, Dallas was allowed to pick certain players from certain teams per League rules. Murchison selected the Redskins’ Pro Bowl quarterback, Eddie LeBaron, who would become the Cowboys’ first starting quarterback. Somehow, Marshall had forgotten to move LeBaron to the team’s “protected” list.

First Few Games

Though both teams would become juggernauts in the NFL, the beginning of the rivalry was not all that exciting. The first game took place in Griffith Stadium on October 9, 1960 and was won by the Redskins. It was the only game they would win that year. The Cowboys would go winless that season. The Redskins would win two of the first four and tied the two others.

Cowboy Chicken Club

In December 1961, an unknown number of Cowboys fans sneaked into D. C. Stadium, armed with bags of chicken feed. When Alaskan snow dogs were to drag Santa Claus onto the field during the halftime show, the pranksters would unleash dozens of hungry chickens onto the field – 75 white, one black. The significance of the black chicken was to symbolize how Marshall was the only owner in the league who would not recruit an African-American football player; Marshall stating, “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.”

The chickens fit into two large crates, which were smuggled into the stadium the morning of the game. The chickens and the smugglers went unspotted until halftime, when a stadium usher noticed a man guarding the crates and heard the chickens. Though the guard tried to bribe the official with $100 dollars, he was quickly reported and arrested, and the chickens confiscated. As it turned out, the “official” was actually Redskins general manager Dick McCann.

The following year and the night before the third Redskins-Cowboys match-up in less than a year, pranksters sneaked into Marshall’s hotel suite and dropped off a large turkey in the bathroom. When Marshall went into the bathroom, the turkey puffed up and gobbled at him, causing Marshall to flee his room. “Chickens are nice”, Marshall said, “but a man shouldn’t fool with a mad turkey.”

Just minutes before kickoff, while “Hail to the Redskins” blared throughout the stadiums, four banners reading “CHICKENS” – one at each 50-yard line and one in each end zone center – were unfurled in the stadium’s upper decks. Two acrobats, hired by Cowboys fans and Chicken Club founders Bob Thompson and Irv Davidson (along with the University of Maryland students with the banners) rushed onto the field dressed in chicken costumes and began to throw colored eggs. One was apprehended by a guard, but the other proved to be too elusive. By this time, the band was playing the National Anthem, therefore unable to move. The lone chicken-acrobat reached into this bag and released a chicken, then returned to his egg-throwing. Running to a sideline, he then attempted to leave the stadium by jumping over a bench, but slipped.

A group of security guards then apprehended him, but he was able to break free. He made it back to the 50-yard line, turned a cartwheel, then ran and flopped onto the 30-yard line. By this time, only aware that the National Anthem was over, the two teams rushed onto the field in the middle of the chaos. In the midst of the ruckus, the man made it off the field and into the stands. Although the real chicken was caught, the acrobat-chicken was never apprehended.

The next day, while reporting the 38-10 Cowboys victory, the Dallas News scoring summary ended with, Attendance-49,888 (and one chicken).

Rivalry off the Field

  • On December 19, 2005, Dallas Mavericks guard Darrell Armstrong was fined $1,000 for grabbing a microphone before a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the American Airlines Center and yelling “How ’bout those Redskins!” Only a few hours prior, the Cowboys had been routed by the Redskins 35-7, in the most lopsided loss of Bill Parcells coaching career. Armstrong was raised in North Carolina as a Redskins fan.
  • Dallas coach Tom Landry starred in a 1980s American Express TV commercial in which he made the statement, “You never know when you’ll be surrounded by Redskins”. Several large men dressed in Washington uniforms encircled Landry, who addressed them with, “Howdy!” After the credit card sales pitch was read, the ad returned to that scene, and Landry quickly elbowed his way out of the circle.
  • After Tom Landry was fired as Cowboys coach by new owner Jerry Jones in 1989, Landry starred in another TV commercial for Quality Hotels, in which he states that he feels so great being out of football that he might take up a new career. Landry then pulls out a guitar and sings the Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson classic, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be,” and after a pause, sings, “Redskins!” At the end of the commercial, Landry says, “You didn’t think I would say ‘Cowboys’, did ya?”
  • On August 2, 2008 when Art Monk and Darrell Green were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, during a live broadcast of Hall of Fame coverage, when Redskins fans were asked to sing the fight song, they began to chant “Dallas Sucks”. The cast laughed about and Michael Irvin simply wrote 281 on a piece of paper symbolizing Art Monk and Darrell Green’s numbers, 28 and 81. The fans were then forced to leave the broadcasting area and not allowed to return until after the induction ceremony.

Rivalry statistics

Cowboys wins Ties Redskins wins Cowboys points Redskins points
Regular season 60 2 38 2,280 1,881
Postseason 0 2 20 57
Totals 60 2 40 2,300 1,938

Monday Night Football

The Cowboys and Redskins have met 14 times on Monday Night Football, the most of any two teams. The teams met last in 2005. The series has been played eight times at Washington’s home field (five times at RFK Stadium and three times at FedEx Field) and six times at Dallas’ home field (all at Texas Stadium). The series is as evenly matched as any in MNF history; each team has won seven games in the series (no ties), with each team also going .500 at each field (4-4 in games played at the Redskins’ home field and 3-3 in games played at the Cowboys’ home field).

Year Winner Result Location
1973 Washington Redskins 14-7 Washington, D.C.
1978 Washington Redskins 9-5 Washington, D.C.
1980 Dallas Cowboys 17-3 Washington, D.C.
1983 Dallas Cowboys 31-30 Washington, D.C.
1985 Dallas Cowboys 44-14 Irving, Texas
1987 Washington Redskins 13-7 Irving, Texas
1991 Washington Redskins 33-31 Irving, Texas
1992 Dallas Cowboys 23-10 Irving, Texas
1993 Washington Redskins 35-16 Washington, D.C.
1997 Washington Redskins 21-16 Landover, Maryland
2000 Dallas Cowboys 27-21 Landover, Maryland
2001 Dallas Cowboys 9-7 Irving, Texas
2004 Dallas Cowboys 21-18 Landover, Maryland
2005 Washington Redskins 14-13 Irving, Texas

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