by Rob Wren
After witnessing the playoff implosions this past weekend of 2 of the NFL’s storied franchises (Minnesota and Cincinnati) in terms of post-season disappointment, I am reminded how fortunate our Dallas Cowboys have been in its 55 year history to have avoided a similar fate. Certainly there were periods where the Boys couldn’t get over the hump for a long time. The 1960’s were such a time as they fell short of 2 consecutive Super Bowl appearances in heartbreaking losses to the Lombardi coached Green Bay Packers. The first of those games is an oft-revisited chapter of the NFL book known as the Ice Bowl. Remembered less, but equally painful to the fans was the following season at the Cotton Bowl when Dandy Don Meredith threw an interception against these same Packers to seal our fate once again. The “Bridesmaids of the NFL” moniker bestowed upon our team increased the burden which led to yet another tough loss this time in a Super Bowl versus the Baltimore Colts, thanks to a storm of turnovers and mistakes. Eventually, a fate such as the Vikings fans are acquainted with would not plague the Cowboys thanks to a resounding 24-3 triumph over the upstart Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. It was a 3rd year former Heisman winner and naval officer, Roger Staubach that made the difference.
During an ensuing 20 year stretch of winning seasons under Coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys would experience ups and downs, but their “downs” were always laced with the lofty expectation that they would scale the mountaintop once again. During the 70’s they approached the summit three times and claimed the prize against the Denver Broncos (SB XII), but fell just a hair short in Super Bowls X and XIII versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the 1990’s, after a long Super Bowl drought, they returned in glorious fashion by winning 3 in 4 years.
Now they are experiencing a super bowl absence of 20 years, by far the longest stretch in franchise history and Dallas Cowboys fans are often characterized as “band waggoners”, but it’s not difficult to understand why. They were immensely spoiled for the first 29 years of the Cowboys existence under Tom Landry who averaged 10 wins a season, and more so during the Jimmy Johnson-Barry Switzer era. In fact, so much so that fans wouldn’t stand for consecutive playoff seasons under Coach Chan Gailey who succeeded Barry Switzer and then was promptly fired for not winning a playoff game in those same 2 seasons. (Oh what would we would do for consecutive playoff appearances?)
But hey, at least we’re not the Vikings! The franchise from Minnesota, situated in one of the Twin Cities, is often viewed as the portrait of playoff misfortune. Even so, the Vikings and Cowboys historical timeline are closely paralleled. Both emerged as contenders in the 60’s and went to multiple Super Bowls, and had the misfortune of losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70’s. Both had scrambling Hall of Fame Quarterbacks who replaced pocket passers, great defenses with catchy nicknames (Purple People Eaters for the Vikes, and Doomsday for the Pokes), and effective running games. Yet, one franchise would fall shy of being the team of the 70’s while the other is never mentioned in those terms.
A Pivot Point
It seems the fortunes of both teams turned in one particular game. A divisional playoff matchup in 1975. Like this past weekend, the game was in Minnesota outdoors. Though the temperatures weren’t as low as they were last Sunday, the 1975 conditions were cold and nasty. Similar to the Vikings vs. Seattle (the 2016 opponent), the Vikings-Cowboys was a low scoring slugfest and devoid of offense all game long until a quarterback made a play to shift the momentum. This past weekend, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who reminds me of Roger Staubach more than any other current player, pulled off a semi-miracle as he chased down an errant shotgun snap that sailed over his head, kept his wits about him, licked his palms, picked up the ball, moved to his right, and hit Tyler Lockett in the middle of the field for 39 yards which led to a TD.
41 years earlier, with 50 seconds left, Staubach took a shotgun snap, pump-faked to his left, and underthrew Drew Pearson for the first ever “Hail Mary” TD which signature stamped his legend and led his rookie laden team to Super Bowl X (after destroying the Los Angeles Rams the following week). There were also a couple eerie reminders of the Vikings curse which happened on and off the field during the Hail Mary game. Near the end of the game, a drunken fan threw a glass beer bottle onto the field and struck a referee in the head, and after the game it was learned that the father of Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton died of a heart attack. After that game, the Vikings would only make one more Super Bowl appearance (the following season which they lost) and have known only disappointment since.
They got close again in the late 90’s but missed the Super Bowl by a few seconds after kicker Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the season from 38 yards out. It was only the 2nd loss all season for them and still one of the highest scoring teams in NFL history. Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks because of a missed 27 yard chip shot field goal by a kicker who had hit on multiple 40+ yard kicks in spite of sub-freezing temperatures, lace out holds, and a near miss block might be the worst of them yet. (I’ll leave that one to the Vikings fan to argue about for the next 100 years)
Despite the Cowboys recent failures, the overall success is astounding: 8 Super Bowl appearances and 5 championships, a slew of hall of fame players, hall of fame coach, hall of fame GM ( not Jerry), and one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. Even when examining their biggest disappointments throughout their history, one could derive that they were somewhat to be expected. To the point, in the 60’s they lost to the team of the 60’s, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. In the 70’s they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers led by hall of famer Chuck Noll and thought by many to be the greatest teams ever. In the 80’s they lost 3 NFC championship games to arguably better teams including the San Francisco 49’ers whose dynasty was just beginning. Meanwhile, the Vikings past 50 years consist of super bowl losses, goat kickers, and overall devastation. Oh, and I didn’t mention Herschel Walker, did I?Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Silver and BlueBlood