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Cowboys Anniversary Countdown: Top 60 (Plus) Moments

The Dallas Cowboys Are Celebrating Their 60th NFL Anniversary And We Celebrate With Them: Our Countdown Of The Top 60 (Plus) Moments in Franchise History

FRISCO - Five Super Bowls. 10 conference championships. 23 division titles. 18 Hall of Famers. A lifetime of goosebumps. America’s Team.

Despite the existence of an entire generation of DFW 20-somethings that have yet to witness it with their own eyes, the Dallas Cowboys were once a successful, superior organization.

They’re still proud. Still relevant. Just, let’s be honest, no longer very good.

Our Heroes Have Always Been ... Er, Were Once Cowboys.

Last Super Bowl appearance 24 years ago. No road playoff wins in almost 10,000 days. Only teams with a longer drought from an NFC Championship Game: Redskins and Lions.

God used to watch his favorite team through the hole in the roof. But these days, like the rest of us, he’s merely scouring YouTube for clips of the glory (bygone) days.

As the Cowboys celebrate their 60th birthday, let’s reboot the warm-’n-fuzzies with thoughts from me, Richie Whitt, on their (look to the future!) 61 best all-time moments. ...

61. A NEW FLOOD OF HALL OF FAMERS - 2020: Cliff Harris, Jimmy Johnson. And now Drew Pearson. All in a flood. All ... finally.

60. STARS ARE BORN – Aug. 5, 1972: Sidelines and television screens are changed forever as master marketer Tex Schramm unveils his latest sideshow innovation – the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

After almost 50 years, the white short-shorts and go-go boots are as iconic as the football team’s star on the helmet.

59. RED FLAG – Nov. 24, 1994: Forced into the game via injuries to quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete, Cowboys ginger third-stringer Jason Garrett orchestrates one of the most amazing halves of football in franchise history in a 42-31 Thanksgiving Day win over the Packers. Garrett throws five touchdowns in a 19-minute span and helps Dallas erase a 17-6 deficit.

58. HEAD OVER HEART – May 8, 2014: From the Dept. of Sometimes the Best Moves Are the Ones You Don’t Make, Jerry Jones sidesteps his gut instinct to take Johnny Manziel and instead drafts perennial Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin. For the icing on the conservative-but-correct cake, the Cowboys take elite pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round.

57. DYNAMIC DUO – Sept. 8, 1986: Powering Dallas’ “Dream Team Backfield” with Tony Dorsett, heralded newcomer Herschel Walker hurdles his way to the winning 10-yard touchdown with 1:16 remaining as the Cowboys beat the Giants 31-28 in one of the most hyped openers in franchise history.

56. SMASHING DEBUT – Aug. 21, 2009: The first game is played at the new $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Though they defeat the Titans, 30-10, in the exhibition, the viral buzz surrounds Titans punter A.J. Trapasso sending a punt into the world’s largest video screen hanging directly over the field.

55. TURKEY TRIUMPH – Nov. 24, 1966: In the first Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, a record crowd of 80,259 fans pack the Cotton Bowl to watch the Cowboys defeat the Browns 26-14. Dan Reeves catches a touchdown pass from Don Meredith and Don Perkins runs for a score as Dallas improves to 8-2-1.

54. CAPTAIN COMEBACK TO CANTON – Aug. 3, 1985: Already in his team’s Ring of Honor, Roger Staubach becomes the second Cowboy inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Staubach enters the Hall with more come-from-behind victories in the final two minutes than any player in NFL history.

53. RALLY CAPS – Sept. 21, 2014: Behind Tony Romo’s passing and a game-clinching Pick Six by Bruce Carter, the Cowboys stage the biggest comeback in franchise history against the Rams in St. Louis. Dallas wins 34-31 after trailing 21-0. Dez Bryant’s 68-yard touchdown from Romo ignites the rally, which is capped by Carter’s 25-yard return with six minutes remaining.

52. PRIME TIME IN PRIME TIME – Sept. 21, 1998: Deion Sanders dominates the Monday Night Football spotlight. Sanders highlights the Cowboys’ 31-7 victory over the Giants in New York by returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a 71-yard interception runback and, for good measure, catching a 42-yard pass.

51. CURTAINS FOR COTTON – Oct. 11, 1971: The first Monday Night Football game in Cowboys history is also the last NFL game in the Cotton Bowl. Quarterback Roger Staubach throws two touchdowns as the Cowboys close the curtain on the fabled old stadium with a 20-13 victory over the Giants.

50. ROYALTY INTO THE RING – Nov. 23, 1975: Bob Lilly, known as “Mr. Cowboy,” becomes the first person inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor during “Bob Lilly Day” at Texas Stadium. A dominating defensive tackle, Lilly earns 11 Pro Bowls and is named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team. Five years later he becomes the first Cowboy inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

49. HELMETLESS HORSEMAN – Nov. 4, 2017: Jason Witten has played through a broken jaw, sprained ankle, lacerated spleen and the embarrassment of a failed gig as analyst on Monday Night Football. But his signature moment is a 30-yard run – sans helmet – after taking what today would’ve been a flagged, head-to-head hit by Eagles’ safety Quentin Mikell.

48. NO-BRAINER – April 23, 1989: Reaping the rewards of a 3-13 season under Tom Landry, the Cowboys’ new brain trust of Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones select Troy Aikman with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. After a rocky start, Aikman goes on to win three Super Bowls in Dallas.

47. GOD’S COACH – Nov. 7, 1993: After years of an icy relationship in the wake of his firing by new owner Jerry Jones, a thawing leads to legendary coach Tom Landry accepting enshrinement into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium.

In a unifying day amongst Cowboys fans, Landry’s spot in the Ring is adorned by his trademark fedora.

46. SUPER SMACK – Jan. 23, 1994: In a bold, unprecedented stroke of bravado, Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson goes on a local radio show the Friday before the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers and proclaims, “We will win this ball game. Put it in three-inch headlines!”

Two days later the Cowboys beat the Niners, 38-21, and advance to Super Bowl XXVIII.

45. TEX & TONY – May 2, 1977: In another shrewd move by general manager Tex Schramm, the Cowboys trade their first-round pick (No. 22 overall) plus three second-round picks to the Seahawks for the rights to Seattle’s first round pick (No. 2 overall). After Tampa Bay selects running back Ricky Bell with the first overall pick, the Cowboys select Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett, who becomes the only Hall of Fame player in the draft.

44. WORLD’S FASTEST MAN – Dec. 20, 1970: Already with two Olympic gold medals, Bob Hayes turns into one of the NFL’s most productive receivers as he catches four touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ 52-10 romp over the Oilers. On his 28th birthday, Hayes grabs six passes for 187 yards to also become the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.

43. MERRY SMITHMAS – Dec. 25, 1995: Emmitt Smith gives Cowboys fans a shiny Christmas present by setting the NFL record for single-season touchdowns with his 25th in a win over the Cardinals. In the 37-13 victory, Smith also seals his fourth NFL rushing title and sets a new team record for rushing yards in a single season with 1,773.

42. MAD BOMBER – Nov. 28, 1974: In one of the most memorable Thanksgiving Day games in franchise history, anonymous rookie quarterback Clint Longley from Abilene Christian replaces a dazed Roger Staubach and leads the Cowboys to a 24-23 victory over the Redskins by throwing two late touchdowns. After Longley’s 50-yard touchdown to Drew Pearson with 35 seconds remaining, veteran offensive lineman Blaine Nye jokingly describes the unlikely performance as “a triumph of the uncluttered mind.”

41. DRAMATIC DAK – Jan. 5, 2019: The Cowboys trail entering the fourth quarter of their Wild Card game against the Seahawks at AT&T Stadium, but rally for a 24-22 victory behind late touchdown runs by Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott. It’s their first playoff win in four years.

40. HUMBLE BEGINNINGS – Sept. 17, 1961: After managing only a tie and 11 losses in their first season, the Cowboys win their first NFL regular season game, 27-24, defeating the Steelers at the Cotton Bowl. Only 23,500 spectators see kicker Allen Green’s 27-yard game-winning field goal on the game’s final play.

39. CEMENTED OIL MAN – Aug. 5, 2017: In a bittersweet moment for some fans, Jerry Jones – the man who fired Tom Landry, ran off Jimmy Johnson and has overseen the longest Super Bowl drought in franchise history – is enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

38. CINDERELLA TO THE BALL – Jan. 4, 1976: A week after their improbable Hail Mary victory in Minnesota and highlighted by running back Preston Pearson’s diving touchdown catch, the underdog Cowboys annihilate the Rams 37-7 in the NFC Championship before a stunned 84,483 in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Roger Staubach throws four touchdowns to lead the Wild Card Cowboys into Super Bowl X.

37. COLOSSAL CONSOLATION – April 22, 1990: After failing to make several trades to move high into the early rounds of the 1990 draft in search of defensive help, the Cowboys opt to deal up four places and “settle” for Florida running back Emmitt Smith.

In consecutive drafts, the Cowboys’ top pick was receiver Michael Irvin, quarterback Troy Aikman and Smith, who went on to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

36. FLUSHING FARVE – Jan. 14, 1996: Emmitt Smith rushes for 150 yards and three touchdowns and Michael Irvin catches two scores as the Cowboys advance to Super Bowl XXX with a 38-27 victory over Brett Favre’s Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Texas Stadium. Green Bay leads entering the fourth quarter, but a Smith touchdown run was followed by a Larry Brown interception that set up another Smith score.

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35. MR. COWBOY – Dec. 27, 1960: TCU All-American defensive lineman Bob Lilly becomes the first draft pick in the history of the expansion Cowboys. Taken in the first round and 13th overall, “Mr. Cowboy” will go on to a spot in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

34. MILES TO GO – Oct. 11, 2009: Filling in for injured starter Roy Williams, undrafted free agent Miles Austin produces a franchise-record 250 receiving yards and the 60-yard touchdown in overtime to stun the Chiefs in Kansas City.

33. DOMINANT DOOMSDAY – Jan. 2, 1972: In the first playoff game at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys defense smothers the 49ers in a 14-3 victory that earns them a spot in Super Bowl VI. The Cowboys allow only 61 rushing yards, nine first downs and produce three interceptions. Defensive end George Andrie’s pick sets up Dallas’ first score, a 1-yard run by Calvin Hill.

32. DIRTY DOZEN – Jan. 28-29, 1975: The Cowboys produce one of the most successful drafts in NFL history, selecting 12 rookies that make the roster on a team that plays in Super Bowl X. Dallas’ “Dirty Dozen” includes Randy White, Thomas Henderson, Burton Lawless, Bob Breunig, Pat Donovan, Randy Hughes, Kyle Davis, Rolly Woolsey, Mike Hegman, Mitch Hoopes, Herb Scott and Scott Laidlaw.

31. NORTH TEXAS’ SUPER BOWL – May 22, 2007: Aided by Jerry Jones’ soon-to-open $1.2-billion stadium and an impassioned sales pitch by Roger Staubach, NFL owners in Nashville vote to play Super Bowl XLV in Arlington in 2011. The Metroplex’s biggest joint venture since the building of DFW Airport in the 1970s, the Super Bowl belongs to “North Texas.”

30. THRICE AS NICE – Sept. 19, 2005: Fittingly, the Cowboys “Triplets” – Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin – are inducted together into Texas Stadium’s Ring of Honor. Redskins’ receiver Santana Moss spoils the party with two late touchdown catches in a 14-13 Dallas loss on Monday Night Football.

29. PEAK PERFORMANCE – Dec. 9, 2007: Jason Witten catches a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo with 18 seconds remaining as Dallas improves to 12-1 with a 28-27 rally against the Lions in Detroit. Behind Terrell Owens and the highest scoring team in franchise history, the Cowboys win the NFC East and capture the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

28. ROUGH REBIRTH – Feb. 25, 1989: The Cowboys are stunningly sold to Arkansas oil man Jerry Jones, who fires Tom Landry, hires college coach Jimmy Johnson and sets into motion the most tumultuous, winningest and losingest eras in franchise history.

27. SOLIDLY SUPER – Jan. 3, 1971: Despite quarterback Craig Morton completing only seven of 22 passes, the Cowboys beat the 49ers, 17-10, to win their first NFC Championship and a date against the Colts in Super Bowl V. Lee Roy Jordan and Mel Renfro set up touchdowns with interceptions and Duane Thomas rushes for 143 yards in the last game played at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium.

26. TURKEY TROTS – Aug. 23, 1966: Acting on a recommendation by Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, the NFL awards the Cowboys a Thanksgiving Day afternoon game, giving Dallas the advantage of a home game on a short week and the league with a holiday doubleheader tradition led by the Lions. Holiday plans in DFW are forever changed.

25. MONKEY EXTRACTION – Jan. 9, 2010: Ending a drought of 13 years and six games, the Cowboys finally win another playoff game, this one 34-14 at Cowboys Stadium against the rival Eagles. Tony Romo throws two touchdowns and Felix Jones scores on a 73-yard run to at least temporarily make Dallas again relevant. In the victorious locker room, owner Jerry Jones mimics yanking a monkey off his beleaguered back.

24. RUNNIN’ OF THE RAMS – Oct. 23, 2011: DeMarco Murray shreds the Rams for a 91-yard touchdown and a franchise-record 253 rushing yards in a 34-7 win. An unprecedented doubleheader is punctuated by the Texas Rangers beating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the World Series just across the street in Arlington.

23. SPRINT TO GLORY – Dec. 12, 1967: Bob Hayes catches an 86-yard touchdown pass and sets up two other scores with 60-plus-yard punt returns as the Cowboys (Capitol Division champs) defeat the Browns (Century Division champs), 52-14, in the NFL Eastern Championship Game before a crowd of 70,786 at the Cotton Bowl. With the win, the Cowboys advanced to the NFL Championship Game for the first time.

22. CELEBRATED CENTURIONS – Oct. 14, 1962: For the first time in NFL history, two 100-yard runs are produced by the same team in the same quarter, much less the same game. Cowboys kick returner Amos Marsh scores on a 101-yard kickoff return before teammate Mike Gaechter bookends the feat with a 100-yard interception return.

21. MONUMENTAL MONIKER – Feb 12, 1978: NFL Films, searching for a title for the Cowboys’ season highlights film in wake of their Super Bowl victory, gets a suggestion from team public relations director Doug Todd. Playing off the Cowboys’ unparalleled success and popularity, Todd offers: “Call it America’s Team.”

Talk about a nickname that has stuck.

20. BIRTHPLACE OF HISTORY – Jan. 28, 1960: In response to the threat posed by Lamar Hunt and the newly formed AFL, the NFL awards Clint Murchison a Dallas expansion franchise. Game on.

19. ROCKETMAN – Sept. 12, 1999: In an exhilarating season opener at Washington, the Cowboys overcome a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter and beat the Redskins 41-35 in overtime on Troy Aikman’s 76-yard bomb to Rocket Ismail. The comeback ruins the debut of smarmy, new Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder.

18. STEALING THE HOLE SHOW – Oct. 24, 1971: Enigmatic running back Duane Thomas christens new $35-million Texas Stadium with its first touchdown, a 56-yard run that paves the way for the Cowboys’ 44-21 victory over the Patriots. Dallas’ Doomsday defense records six sacks, one by Bob Lilly while wearing only one shoe.

17. SACRED STAR – Sept. 24, 2000: Cowboys’ journeyman safety George Teague instantly becomes an eternal hero when he slams 49ers’ receiver Terrell Owens off Texas Stadium’s midfield star. Owens twice caught touchdowns in San Francisco’s 41-24 victory, and infamously went to celebrate on the most sacred star in sports.

16. UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS – Nov. 28, 1985: With a 35-17 romp over the Cardinals, the Cowboys improve to 9-4 and clinch their NFL record 20th consecutive winning season under head coach Tom Landry. The Cowboys, who finish 10-6, produce the third-longest streak in sports history behind only the New York Yankees (39 years) and Montreal Canadiens (32 years).

15. THE ’BOYS ARE BACK – Dec. 29, 1991: Just two years removed from a 1-15 disaster, the Cowboys waltz into frigid Soldier Field and beat the Bears 17-13 in the NFC Wild Card Game. It’s their first playoff win in nine years and the inaugural post-season victory of the Jones era. Backup quarterback Steve Beuerlein shines, and veteran Bill Bates picks off Jim Harbaugh to seal the deal.

14. RECORD RUN – Oct. 27, 2002: Emmitt Smith darts left, then up the middle for a diving, 11-yard gain that breaks Walter Payton’s NFL all-time rushing mark of 16,726 yards. Though the Cowboys lose to the Seahawks 17-14, Smith enjoys an awkward post-game coronation and eventually finishes his career with a still-standing 18,355 yards.

13. AMERICA’S (TEAM) GOT TALENT – Dec. 2, 1963: In one of the most impressive days in the history of the NFL Draft, the Cowboys and savvy general manager Tex Schramm select three future Hall of Famers in cornerback Mel Renfro (Round 2), receiver Bob Hayes (Round 7) and quarterback Roger Staubach (Round 10).

12. THOU SHALT COACH – Dec. 28, 1959: Tex Schramm formally introduces Tom Landry to the DFW media as an “employee” of the Dallas Rangers. That’s right, the Rangers. With only a temporary name but in search of a permanent head coach, team owners Clint Murchison and Bedford Wynne sign the New York Giants’ defensive assistant to a personal services contract. Landry officially becomes the head coach when the pair of businessmen is awarded an NFL expansion franchise a month later.

11. NINETY-NINE AND A HALF – Jan. 3, 1983: Despite having only 10 men on the field, the Cowboys produce the longest play in NFL history ...

Tony Dorsett darts through the line and down the right sideline for a 99-yard touchdown run against the Vikings in the Metrodome.

10. THE HERSCHEL HEIST – Oct. 12, 1989: In one of the biggest, best trades in Metroplex sports history, the Cowboys deal running back Herschel Walker to the Vikings for a package that helps them win three Super Bowls in four years in the 1990s. In return for Walker, Dallas receives five players, five conditional draft picks and three high draft picks it turns into players such as Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland and Alvin Harper.

9. CELEBRATORY WREATH – Dec. 16, 1979: In arguably the most exciting football game ever played at Texas Stadium, Roger Staubach rallies the Cowboys from a 13-point deficit in the final two minutes for a 35-34 victory over the Redskins. Tony Hill catches an eight-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds remaining as Dallas clinches another NFC East title over its hated rival, punctuated by Harvey Martin tossing a funeral wreath into Washington’s locker room.

8. EMMITT IS ENOUGH – Jan. 30, 1994: Trailing the Bills, 13-6, at halftime of Super Bowl XXVIII, the Cowboys turn to Emmitt Smith and he responds with 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 30-13 romp at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. In a season that begins 0-2 with Smith in a contract holdout, the running back capped another championship by being named Most Valuable Player.

7. ORANGE, CRUSHED – Jan. 15, 1978: Led by a dominating defense that forces eight turnovers and holds the Broncos to only eight pass completions, the Cowboys smash Orange Crush, 27-10, in Super Bowl XII, the first to be played in prime time. Robert Newhouse throws a halfback pass touchdown to Golden Richards, but its defensive linemen Randy White and Harvey Martin who share Most Valuable Player honors.

6. SHOULDERING THE LOAD – Jan. 2, 1994: Emmitt Smith produces one of the grittiest performances in Cowboys’ history, willing his team to a crucial victory over the Giants in New York despite essentially playing with one arm. Despite separating his shoulder in the second quarter on a 46-yard run, Smith touches the ball 10 times on an 11-play drive in overtime that climaxes with Eddie Murray’s game-winning field goal that gives Dallas the NFC East title, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a clear path to Super Bowl XXVIII.

5. PERFECT PUNCTUATION – Jan. 31, 1993: Led by Most Valuable Player Troy Aikman’s four touchdown passes, the Cowboys win their third Super Bowl – first since 1977 – with a 52-17 romp over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. They force nine Bills’ turnovers and Aikman throws touchdowns to Michael Irvin, Jay Novacek and Alvin Harper in a game that featured O.J. Simpson for the coin toss and Michael Jackson at halftime.

4. HOW ’BOUT THEM COWBOYS?! – Jan. 17, 1993: Finally – albeit only partially – avenging 1981’s “The Catch”, the Cowboys upset the 49ers, 30-20, at a muddy NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park. Leading by only four late in the game, Troy Aikman hits Alvin Harper with a game-clinching 70-yard pass that sends Dallas into Super Bowl XXVII and prompts coach Jimmy Johnson to famously exclaim “How ’Bout Them Cowboys?!” Dynasty ignited.

3. TOMORROW’S CHAMPIONS, TODAY – Jan. 16, 1972: Roger Staubach is named Most Valuable Player, but it’s the Cowboys’ Doomsday Defense that dominates in a 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins to win Super Bowl VI, the first in franchise history. Led by Bob Lilly’s iconic 29-yard sack of Bob Griese, the Cowboys are one of only two teams to hold their Super Bowl opponent without a touchdown.

2. HAIL MARY! – Dec. 28, 1975: In one of the most dramatic finishes in NFL history, quarterback Roger Staubach throws a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 24 seconds remaining as the Cowboys shock the Vikings, 17-14, in a playoff game at frigid Metropolitan Stadium.

Staubach claims he closed his eyes, said a couple “Hail Mary’s” and threw the pass that found Pearson for a surprising touchdown that launched its own NFL genre.

1. SWEET REVENGE – Jan. 28, 1996: 12th-round draft choice-turned-Super Bowl MVP Larry Brown intercepts two passes as the Cowboys beat the Steelers, 27-17, to win Super Bowl XXX in Tempe, Ariz. The victory avenges two gut-wrenching title-game losses to Pittsburgh in the ’70s and punctuates Dallas’ ’90s dynasty with a third Super Bowl in four years.