The Dallas Cowboys
“How ’bout them Cowboys?” Once an exultation, it could now be a lament. But the current Jerry Jones era of big money and small, sad football doesn’t change a thing: the NFL franchise that oilman Clint Murchison Jr., general manager Tex Schramm, and head coach Tom Landry started at the Cotton Bowl in 1960 is right up there with brisket and the Alamo as something that nearly all Texans agree on (just ask Facebook). The very existence of Cowboys-haters, as well as Houston’s little-brother NFL frustration, merely confirms the Cowboys’ status as a state religion.
Gary Cartwright covered the Cowboys for Texas Monthly from Issue 1, starting with a profile of Duane Thomas. That same February 1973 magazine also featured Sherry Kafka’s story on Don Meredith, broadcaster and would-be actor. Attending a Cowboys reunion in 1997, Cartwright recalled how unappreciated Dandy Don was . . . but also how Tom Landry’s cool reaction to Meredith’s decision to retire at the age of 31 ultimately cleared the way for 27 year-old rookie Roger Staubach and the team’s first Super Bowl win in 1972.
“Conventional wisdom holds that all successful teams take on the character of their head coach . . . but the Cowboys have traditionally inherited the character traits of their owners,” Cartwright wrote in March 1996, referring to both the Murchison and Jones eras (nevermind Bum Bright). Murchison largedly deferred to Landry and Schramm (who not only drafted Staubach, but played a role in the creation of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, post-season wild cards, and the AFC-NFC merger). Jones defers to no one. As Cartwright noted in 1996, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy once said that if Jerry didn’t exist, Dan Jenkins would have invented him.
Really, everything you need to know about the team can be distilled into three sets of numbers:
1960-1988: 1 head coach, 5 Super Bowl appearances, 2 Super Bowl wins, 18 playoff berths
1989-1997: 2 head coaches, 3 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl wins, 6 playoff berths
1998-2013: 5 head coaches, 0 Super Bowl appearances, 0 Super Bowl wins, 6 playoff berths
The middle period, of course, was the brief but spectacular era of head coach Jimmy Johnson and the extraordinary core of quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Michael Irvin, defensive end Charles Haley and so many more, as well as Barry Switzer’s 1995 Super Bowl win in Johnson’s after-glow. In 1994, Cartwright gave Jones the benefit of the doubt for firing Johnson; by 2007 he was part of what remains an annual tradition in the Cowboys media: calling for Jones to fire himself as general manager. Cartwright also expressed his dismay about the Jones era in 1997, 2001, and 2003. But he had the highest hopes for Tony Romo.
With the 2010 opening of Arlington’s $1 billion-plus Cowboys Stadium–it needs no corporate sponsor, because “Dallas Cowboys” is a brand unto itself–the franchise will probably never shake its rep for prioritizing spectacle and revenue over winning (even when it finally wins again). But then, Cartwright and former Baltimore Sun columnist John Eisenberg (author of the book Cotton Bowl Days) thought the same about the team’s 1971 move to Texas Stadium in Irving. “The concept of pro football as a social event didn’t arrive in Dallas” until then, wrote Cartwright. As Eisenberg put it: “Teams no longer wanted fans: They wanted clients.”
So yes, the Cowboys are the New York Yankees, Elvis Presley, and Darth Vader (Cowboys Stadium is either known as “JerryWorld” or “The Death Star”) rolled into one football franchise, and that’s all right with Jerry Jones. “Pro football is the number-one-rated program in all of television, and the Cowboys are the number-one-rated brand in the NFL,” he told Evan Smith in a 2009 Texas Monthly Talks interview. But fans who hate Jones still know that he wants the team to win as much as they do, even when he’s also a big reason it’s not happening. In one essential way, he understands.
“I know what it means to own something, but I don’t, for one minute, think I own the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones told Smith. “You can’t own the Cowboys. You can’t own the University of Texas. The fans, the people who are passionate from generation to generation, are the real owners.”
Pro Football’s Biggest Star
Former Dallas Cowboys equipment manager Jack Eskridge, who died earlier this month at 89, didn’t just create a logo. He defined the city and the sport.
The Texas Rangers Are More Popular Than the Dallas Cowboys. Barely. In One Poll.
A new survey suggests that Dallas-Fort Worth is 62 percent Texas Rangers fans while only 61 percent call themselves Dallas Cowboys fans.
Why the Cowboys Should Let Josh Brent Stay on the Sideline
Update: Brent, who is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge in the death of his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr., will no longer be allowed on the sidelines at Cowboys games.
Why the Cowboys Should Go Socialist
Hey Jerry, want to win another Super Bowl? Sell the team to its own fans a la Green Bay Packers, says Dallas Cowboys author Joe Nick Patoski.
How ’Bout Them Cowboys?!
The ones at Cowboys.com, that is. A URL the Dallas Cowboys failed to buy is now a “an online dating community for men who enjoy the same country living lifestyle.”
Your 2011 Dallas Cowboys: The Five Stages of Grief
Jerry Jones still hasn’t gotten past “denial,” but everybody else who lives and dies with America’s Team is trying to move on.
Tuning in Dandy Don
Don Meredith brings football and TV into focus.
Paint by Numbers
How Jerry Jones made Cowboys Stadium into one of the state’s best art galleries. Seriously!
The Family That Played Together
Ty and Koy Detmer were South Texas high school football heroes. Now they’re NFL quarterbacks. They owe it all to their father, a coaching whiz everybody calls Sonny.
Tony Romo Is the Greatest Cowboys Quarterback Since…
Die-hard fans of America’s Team are debating that very question as we speak—and also wondering if the kid from Wisconsin with the buxom distraction can take them to the Super Bowl any faster than, say, Gary Hogeboom did.
Playing for Keeps
The truth—what we can discern, anyway—about Tom Landry’s leukemia.
How Lamar Hunt and Clint Murchison Jr. cooked up the first Super Bowl.
Styles and Styles of Texas
The thirty Texans with the most iconic, unforgettable, eye-popping looks, from Davy Crockett to Beyoncé.
“I don’t like confrontation, although it’s alleged that I do. But I learned playing football that confrontation is necessary. You’d better get another sport if you don’t acknowledge and accept and willfully go after confrontation.”
How They Do It
How Jim Wright schoozes, George Foreman bruises, ZZ Top trims, and Janet Evans swims, plus the straight skinny on everything else from nearly fifty other Texas celebrities.
The Real Troy Aikman
His dreams. His fears. The truth about his love life. A candid chat with Texas’ most misunderstood sports hero.
Tackling the Cowboys
Joe Nick Patoski takes on America’s most storied football franchise in his new book, The Dallas Cowboys.
Two decades ago, a barbarian from Arkansas named Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and rebooted the franchise from the ground up. Inside the wild first days of the most hostile takeover the NFL has ever known.
Cowboys 52, Texans 10
After ten seasons as a major NFL franchise, the Houston Texans are picking up some fans, but the blood of Texas still pumps Cowboy blue.
Peter Gent, 1942-2011
The author and former Cowboys wide receiver died in his hometown of Bangor, Michigan, on Friday at the age of 69. Our coverage of North Dallas Forty (both the novel and the movie) through the years.
A wise man once said, “Beware of football Bum Steers.” Baseball is fine, and so is basketball, since both of those seasons will have wrapped up by the time the January issue goes to press. But football is a different story. Just when you think a player or a coach or a team has thoroughly, […]
Go Fire Yourself!
It’s the best thing Jerry Jones could do for the Cowboys.
The letter-sweater-wearing, pom-pom-shaking, pep-rally-leading girl next door has been a beloved Texas icon for generations. So why do so many people today— lawmakers and lawyers, preachers and feminists—think cheerleading is the root, root, root of all evil?
Why isn’t the new Dallas Cowboys stadium going to be in, er, Dallas? Blame the collision of an irresistible force (Jerry Jones) with an immovable object (Laura Miller).
God Bless America’s Team
Pray for Bill Parcells, whose job is to take the Dallas Cowboys back to the Super Bowl. Pray for an arm like Troy’s and legs like Emmitt’s. And if all else fails, pray for a miracle.
Staubach and Aikman, together at last. A Bum Phillips belly laugh. Jerry Levias, first and always. These and other heroes of Texas football, past and present, pose for a pigskin portfolio.
The Original Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders
“Brad Pitt is going to see me! All of Hollywood is going to see me!” That’s what 47-year-old Carrie O’Brien thought when she first spied the July 2-July 9 double issue of Sports Illustrated, the one featuring her and four of the other original Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders on the cover. Dixie Smith Luque, also 47, […]
Drew Carries On
Sixteen years after a car crash ended his football career, former Cowboys star Drew Pearson is a team player againin the XFL.
If the Washington Redskins Are Worth $800 Million
What are the Dallas Stars and the San Antonio Spurs worth—not to mention less successful Texas teams.
Cat & Mouse With Tom & Jerry
How much do Tom Hicks and Jerry Jones pay themselves for the privilege of owning the Dallas Stars, the Texas Rangers, and the Dallas Cowboys? That and more in a revealing joint interview.
All-American Troy THANK YOU, SKIP HOLLANDSWORTH, for showing who Troy Aikman really is: a fierce competitor, a team player, and most of all, a human being [“The Real Troy Aikman,” December 1998]. What he has done on and off the field has made him the best quarterback in the NFL and is one of the […]
Advice for the new coaches of the Dallas Cowboys and the UT Longhorns.
Hut, Hut, Yikes!
If the Dallas Cowboys thought last season was unpleasant, wait until they open training camp in Wichita Falls.
Where Are They Now?
Whatever happened to the 1971 Super Bowl–champion Cowboys?
Turn Out the Lights
The Dallas Cowboys old-timers reunion is over, but for one evening it was possible to remember when pro football was fun, players were loyal, and even a sportswriter could fall in love with his team.
The Dallas Cowboys began the season struggling on the scoreboard, but they’ve continued to score big on the balance sheet. In a coup reminiscent of his deals with Pepsi and Nike, owner Jerry Jones has made an as-yet unannounced deal to designate Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation as the team’s official medical provider. This means that Columbia […]
Cowboy Family Values
Serious athlete. Devoted father and husband. Savvy businessman. On game day he may be Prime Time, but out of the spotlight, Deion Sanders is the squarest player on the Dallas Cowboys.
Media Circus • Michael Irvin
Down and Out
My firsthand experience with the hard times that himbled my hero, former Dallas Cowboys star Golden Richards
Barry Switzer Gets the Last Laugh
The rookie Cowboys coach has turned out to be exactly what all the critics said he wasn’t: a winner.
Jerry Jones may have the biggest ego in football, but don’t bet against him. Even without Jimmy Johnson, he still has the best team.
The Hungriest Coach
Three years after he replaced Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson is giving Dallas Cowboys fans something to cheer about—and his critics are eating their words.
The Ultimate Game
Not all the action was on the field at Super Bowl X.
Tom Landry: Melting the Plastic Man
Behind the mask is a man of God, a man devoted to the all-American goal of winning the all-American game as few have done before him.