Before capping the 1996 season by leading the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory, Brett Favre was 4-3 in playoff games. Not bad for a 26-year-old who at the time probably didn’t know he’d play another 15 NFL seasons.
The four wins came against the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers and twice against the division rival Detroit Lions. The losses? Well, they all came at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. And all were played at Texas Stadium.
The Cowboys, who were favored by at least nine in each of those games, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, won 27-17 in 1994, 35-9 in 1995 and 38-27 in 1996.
“I remember what the biggest issue was, we couldn’t get past Dallas,” Favre said Friday before a SMU Athletic Forum luncheon at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. “Now, they were good. They were good. Each year we felt like we were gaining. But I always felt like, if we don’t get them at our place, we’re always going to be second fiddle.”
Favre completed 56 percent of his passes in those games, averaging 283 passing yards per contest and totaling five touchdowns and five interceptions.
The following season when Favre and the Packers went on to defeat the New England Patriots, 35-21, in Super Bowl XXXI, the Cowboys lost to the Carolina Panthers, 26-17, in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Although some of his teammates wanted their Super Bowl run to go through Dallas, Favre admitted that he was rooting for the Panthers to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs.
“I was thinking, ‘Please, please, beat them.’ I just had enough,” Favre said. “Other guys were saying, ‘I want them again.’ I’d had them enough. That was the biggest issue, we just couldn’t get past Dallas.
“It’s just hard to stay on top. It’s hard to get to the top. What they did was really amazing.”
Following his 10 minutes with the media and some time to eat lunch, Favre sat down with the voice of the Cowboys, Brad Sham, to entertain the guests with stories of his career. While sitting center stage, Favre said although growing up in Kiln, Mississippi made him want to see the New Orleans Saints do well, their lack of success turned him into a Cowboys supporter.
“I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan. I loved Roger Staubach,” he said. “That was back when teams kept the same players on the roster for a long time. Drew Pearson, Randy White, Charlie Waters, Danny White, Robert Newhouse, Tony Dorsett, Billy Joe DuPree, I could go just on and on. I always dreamed of playing for the Cowboys, playing in the Super Bowl.”
Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, no doubt about it. But it’s unlikely that the Cowboys would’ve had more success in the 1990s with Favre than they did with Troy Aikman.
Now, how Favre could’ve helped the Cowboys from 2001 and beyond is a different story.
Even though Phil Dawson has become the face of the Browns as their longest-tenured player during the expansion era, he will always have a special place in his heart for his first love — the Dallas Cowboys.
Dawson, the Browns’ reliable kicker, grew up a die-hard football fan in Dallas. In the mid-to-late 1980s, Dawson’s father received Cowboys season tickets for a few years in exchange for his services as an accountant. The father-son duo attended virtually every home game when Dawson was in middle school. They were at legendary coach Tom Landry’s final game in 1988 at the old Texas Stadium.
“I can remember taking history books and having to do my homework and claiming I was doing it because I took my book with me,” Dawson said Wednesday after practice. “I have some very good memories. I learned the game of football from my dad and a lot of that was sitting there watching Cowboy games. He taught me a few things and helped me look at things and explain things. Those were some good memories.”
Dawson, 37, is eager for his homecoming Sunday, when the Browns (2-7) visit the Cowboys (4-5). It will be the Browns’ first appearance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which opened in 2009, and Dawson hopes the retractable roof is closed so he can play in favorable kicking conditions. Since the Browns’ rebirth in 1999, the only time they have played the Cowboys on the road was in 2004.
“It’s fun to share it with family and friends and go back to my hometown,” said Dawson, whose wife, Shannon; sons, Dru and Beau; and daughter, Sophiann, live in Austin, Texas. “I know they’ll all enjoy it, which makes it special for me. But I’m going down on a work trip. I have plenty of time in the offseason to enjoy friends and family and the environment and the cuisine and the whole deal. But when I get off the airplane, it’s all business, and I’ve got a job to do.”
Dawson’s job this week has included playing the role of a ticket agent. He expects more than 30 friends and relatives to attend the game.
“[The list is] growing each and every day,” he said. “I’m about to close down the ticket office. I can’t afford many more.”
Dawson’s family has strong allegiances to the Cowboys. His son, Dru, is not an exception.
“My son, Dru, has a Cowboys room,” Dawson said. “His bedroom is blue, all the Fathead stuff all over the walls. He’s got the star [logo], the NFL emblem. He’s got the stadium. I don’t know if he has any of the players. He has the mural-type stuff all over the place. And then there’s obviously Browns helmets.”
The setting isn’t unlike that of the bedroom Dawson had as a youngster.
“I had a Doomsday Defense poster on my wall,” Dawson said. “I’m kind of dating myself. Obviously, my high school years were the dynasty with the three Super Bowls. I was pretty spoiled as a football fan.”
Dawson was a huge fan of special-teams standout and safety Bill Bates, who played for the Cowboys from 1983-96.
“I loved Bill Bates,” Dawson said. “I didn’t know I’d wind up being a special-teams guy, but I always kind of pulled for the underdog and he was an undrafted guy that was supposed to be too small and too slow but played forever down there, was just a special-teams ace and even when he got in on defense, he did a tremendous job. I’ve always pulled for guys like that.”
When Dawson was an offensive tackle and kicker for Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, he even tried to adopt the style of his favorite player.
“I can remember playing in high school and everyone wanting to look like Bill Bates — the neck roll and the gloves and the wrist bands and the towel, all that stuff,” Dawson said. “… Football is king down there. Unless you grow up in Houston, the rest of the state is Cowboys, and that’s all you did was follow the Cowboys.”
Dawson, of course, won’t be cheering for the Cowboys this weekend. He has made 23 consecutive field goals dating to last season and hopes to keep the streak alive at the expense of his hometown team.
“We’re off to a good start,” Dawson said of his streak. “I certainly don’t want to diminish that, but there’s still seven games to go. So I could screw this whole thing up pretty quick. I like where I am right now, but I’m only as good as my next kick, and the last thing I want to do is to go home to my hometown and poop the bed, so to speak.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently broke Johnny Unitas’ streak of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, a record that had stood since 1960. It was considered the league’s most untouchable record.
Ten years ago today, Emmitt Smith broke Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards. He retired after the 2004 season with 18,355. No active running back is close since LaDainian Tomlinson retired after last season, with 13,684 yards. Rams running back Steven Jackson is the NFL’s leader among active players with 9,473 yards.
“Records ultimately always seem to get broken,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Some of those ones that are untouchable and last a long time at some point seem to be eclipsed, but because the way the league is, it doesn’t seem like we have these bell cow rushers who get the ball 25-30 times a game like they did years ago.
“Of all of Emmitt’s greatest traits, and he had thousands as a player –- as instinctive a player as I’ve been around, great balance, great power, explosiveness, feel, vision all that stuff -– I think at the end of the day, his most redeeming quality was his durability. Because he was a marked man ever since he was probably 13, 14 years, and everybody knew who Emmitt Smith was going into every game. Every defense wanted to stop him. And week in and week out, year after year after year, he showed up and was so productive. It’s hard to find that in this era of football. …I don’t think anybody might be able to eclipse what he accomplished.”
Smith’s marketing team released a statement from Smith about the 10-year anniversary of his record.
“It was certainly a milestone for me and was difficult to accomplish,” Smith said. “Football is the ultimate team sport; one that’s not really about breaking records. My accomplishments throughout my career were due not only to my abilities, but also certainly to the efforts and sacrifices of others. I can’t take all the credit. We did this as a team and that is something I’ll always cherish.”
VIDEO: Emmitt Smith’s historic run, career highlights, and Jerry Jones’ induction speech to the NFL Hall of Fame crowd in Canton, Ohio.
There’s an old adage or a simple formula that has been created as to what a good football team should be during the regular season.
Win your home games, split on the road and you’re in good shape. Obviously in the NFL, that’d be a 12-4 record and in this league of constant parity, that’d be much better than “good shape.”
But it sounds simple enough. Just protect your home turf and then be average when you’re going into other team’s hostile territory.
So far, I guess you could say the Dallas Cowboys are on that path. They’ve split their first two road games, with two home games to play – stating Sunday against Tampa Bay, followed by a Monday night game against Chicago on Oct. 1.
But while the road games are a different animal all together, the home games have been anything but cakewalks for this Cowboys team, especially since they moved into Cowboys Stadium in 2009.
In 24 games played in what is widely considered the top sporting venue in all of sports, the Cowboys hold just a pedestrian 13-11 record, and it’s just 7-9 in the past two seasons. That inaugural year of the stadium, the Cowboys went 6-2 at home and even won their first playoff game in 16 years as well.
But lately, it’s been anything but a picnic. There are different reasons for that. It’s still considered a palace for opposing teams who likely bring incredible energy that is tough for a team that practices often in the same stadium to match.
You can say the Cowboys’ fans just aren’t as loud as other places, and that’s pretty much been the case dating back to Texas Stadium.
Or you can factor in the fact the Cowboys as an entire team, just haven’t been that great. So if it’s at home, road or even a neutral site, the results have been about the same.
All of those factors seem to be somewhat accurate.
But the fact remains, the Cowboys need to start protecting their home turf. There are road games looming in Baltimore, Carolina, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Washington. Three of those teams made the playoffs last year. The other three have Cam Newton, Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III to deal with and could be eyeing a playoff spot this year.
So staying on this .500 level on the road would be quite a feat.
But taking care of business at home is where the focus needs to be. And it starts Sunday against a Tampa Bay team that has beaten the Cowboys in Dallas just once, and not since 2001.
Back there at the turn of the century, the Valley Ranch think tank was in agreement on Troy Aikman. Sadly, his career was kaput. Troy didn’t agree, but the great ones rarely know when to say when.
In something akin to a career eulogy, the Aikman praise flowed and so did the tears as the Cowboys said good-bye. Later, when Aikman finally agreed to call it quits, The Iceman himself even cracked. Troy cried at his farewell media conference.
Watching that so-long scene that day at Texas Stadium, front office football staffer Larry Lacewell wandered over to a reporter, who happened to be me, and in a wistful tone said:
"Well, we are now officially one of those teams wandering through the quarterback wasteland of the NFL. With Troy, we didn’t have to think about it or worry about it.
"But we are now going to run into clubs out there who have been wandering for 10 years, and still haven’t found a quarterback. It’s a vast wasteland."
And so it was.
Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, Drew Bledsoe …
Six seasons later, Tony Romo emerged.
Like him or not, Tony led the Cowboys out of the vast wasteland. And whatever your beef with Romo, you are a football idiot if you disagree he’s a top 10 QB in a league where there’s 32 of them.
But speaking of that dreaded wasteland …
Did we have another team make an emergence this week? Did a long, long trek through the wasteland come to an end?
Better yet, would it suddenly be wise to start taking the Washington Redskins much more seriously in the NFC East?
A nice young man from Copperas Cove, Texas, turned the NFL upside down over the weekend. If you were watching ESPN on Sunday night, SportsCenter was on fire with RG3 testimonials.
One game. One NFL start, and this one a mere few months removed from the Baylor campus, yet Robert Griffin stole the Week One show in the league.
Griffin even out-Peytoned Peyton Manning in the national headlines.
As good as Manning was in his Denver debut, as good as the 49ers’ defense was against Green Bay, as good as Romo was against the Giants, the rookie quarterback for the Redskins knocked ’em all off the shelf.
Having had an up close and personal look at RG3 in his Baylor days, and particularly last season, we all could lie and say we weren’t surprised. But nobody saw this coming. Not as a rookie starting and starring in the tough road environment of New Orleans against a Saints crowd and team jacked to the roof.
But when a quarterback pops like RG3 popped, perception and perspective goes radically nuts. Along the Potomac this week, it’s nuts. RG3 fever has consumed Redskins Nation.
A friend who lives in Washington and is a devout ’Skins’ backer, was telling me a story this week about the most-hated contingent of fandom in his universe: that would be the CowSheep.
All along the Eastern seaboard, the Cowboys have a massive fan base, from the New York area, down through Philly and certainly around D.C.
“I remember,” said my friend, “watching a Sunday night game in Carolina a few years ago , and Romo, who had come out of nowhere, was great. I’m thinking, “Oh …spit. They’ve finally found a quarterback.”
“Well, on Monday, I’m talking to Cowboys’ fans, and all I heard from them was, ‘Oh …spit. The Redskins have finally found a quarterback.’ I was hoping I’d live long enough to hear a Cowboys’ fan have to say that.”
It’s been awhile, for sure.
The Redskins do have two playoff wins since 1996, compared to one for the Cowboys.
But they never had an Aikman, and going back to the Aikman era, the wasteland of D.C. quarterbacks is so bleak it makes the Cowboys of the early 2000s appear almost stable.
Cary Conklin, Heath Shuler, Gus Frerotte, Trent Green, Brad Johnson (who was OK in Washington, but washed up here), Tony Banks, Jeff George, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Todd Collins, Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb and, lately, Rex Grossman.
The good names in that bunch were on their final QB legs by the time they got to the Redskins.
In one game, however, RG3 made us all rethink everything we thought about the Redskins in the NFC East for this season. It’s a good defense, and a team that always plays close games with the Cowboys, but Romo has been better than whomever Washington was running out there at quarterback.
The doubters can claim there’s been a vast overreaction to a rookie quarterback’s first game. But nobody (that saw the game) can claim they weren’t extremely impressed with the kid from Copperas Cove.
At the moment anyway, RG3 has taken the Redskins out of that vast wasteland of the quarterback wilderness, but the Cowboys don’t see RG3 until Thanksgiving Day.
By then we will know much more. Until then, he’s definitely worth watching.
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