So it has come to this. The 2-5 Redskins are going to Dallas to play the 6-1 Cowboys Monday night. They are 10-point underdogs and should be. Colt McCoy, who started the season as their third-string quarterback, will likely start. And if he does start, it will be the fourth time in the last 22 seasons that the Redskins will have started three different quarterbacks during a season. The previous ones ended at 4-12 (1993), 3-13 (1994) and 7-9 (2002). Not a good sign.
On the Sports Fix on ESPN 980 on Wednesday, Kevin Sheehan asked the question, “Is Dallas week dead?”
Given what we’re looking at for Monday night, THIS Dallas week certainly is. Will it ever be revived? It’s a good question, one that deserves an historical look.
The term “Dallas Week” was coined when George Allen arrived as coach of the Redskins in 1971. At that time, the Cowboys had only been in the league for a decade, but had sprinted ahead of the Skins. After a couple of losses to the Packers in the NFL Championship game in the late 60’s, Dallas had already been to a Super Bowl and looked like the team to beat in the NFC in ’71.
Allen knew it and made it clear to his team that beating Dallas was a key to becoming a winner. They would have to play the Cowboys at least twice a year and those games could very well decide the NFC East winner. Sure enough, in just his third game as coach of the Redskins, he won in Dallas and it was game on. That season and the following five seasons, the two teams split. Although the Redskins won the big one when they beat Dallas at RFK Stadium in the 1972 NFC Championship game, 26-3.
In 1977, Dallas swept the series and not coincidently, the Redskins missed the playoffs and Allen’s run in D.C. was over. In 1979, the Redskins lost that brutal season finale in Dallas where they blew a 13-point lead in the final minutes and lost 35-34. They never recovered and Dallas swept the series in 1980, which ended with Coach Jack Pardee fired.
New coach Joe Gibbs took his lumps in 1981, getting swept by the Cowboys, but he got his revenge a year later. The strike-shortened season meant only game against Dallas, which the Redskins lost. But in the NFC Championship game, the Skins knocked out Cowboys quarterback Danny White and rode John Riggins to a 31-17 win and a trip to the Super Bowl. The victory over Miami in Pasadena a week later is considered by many to be the greatest moment in modern Redskins history.
The Redskin sweep in 1984 was the first-ever in the series. However, in 1985, Dallas bounced back with a sweep of their own, including a 44-14 win in the opener. Again, not coincidently, the Redskins missed the playoffs.
In 1988, the great Tom Landry era in Dallas came to a sad ending with a 3-13 season, but wouldn’t you know it, the man with the hat got the last laugh. That third win, and the last of his Hall of Fame career, was a 24-17 win over the Redskins.
Even worse for the Redskins, the following year, the Cowboys won only one game all year. And that was a win over the Redskins at RFK. And of course, that win kept the 10-6 Redskins out of the playoffs.
In the 90’s, the Redskins won a Super Bowl and the Cowboys won three. Yet in three of those four seasons, they split. And get this – when the Cowboys won their last Super Bowl in 1995 – the Redskins swept for two of their six wins all year.
The last 20 years have seen a few big Redskin wins, including Mark Brunell’s midnight miracle at Cowboys Stadium in 2005, when he threw a pair of touchdown bombs to Santana Moss in the final six minutes for a 14-13 victory. But the series has been dominated by Dallas, which brings us back to the original question – is Dallas week dead?
There are a couple of other factors in the deadening of the series. One – Norv Turner was hired as head coach here in 1994 after a great run in Dallas as the Cowboys offensive coordinator on two Super Bowl championship teams. Darrell Green told me that Norv didn’t endear himself to his new team when he brought in several ex-Cowboys as free agents– none of whom were any good.
And two – free agency as a whole. When it entered the league in 1993, it was game-changer for all rivalries. Bringing in ex-Cowboys was no longer a big deal.
That’s a far cry from the way it used to be. I leave you with yet another Jean Fugett story. The tight end split his eight-year career between Dallas and Washington, finishing here in 1979.
Allen, who had instilled that Cowboy hatred in his players, surprised many of them by signing Fugett away from Dallas in 1976, a year that the NFL experimented with free agency. Tackle Diron Talbert, who Allen had sort of appointed as the chief Cowboy hater, made it clear he didn’t appreciate Fugett’s Cowboy background.
One game Talbert hurt his knee. As he was moaning in pain while being examined, Talbert whined, “Why couldn’t this have happened to Fugett?”
That’s when Dallas week was alive and well.