Ranking the Dallas Cowboys' past 10 seasons from worst to first

The Dallas Cowboys have had quite the ride over the past decade, but which season was their best?
Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant
Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant / Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

During the 1990s, the Dallas Cowboys were the most dominant team in the NFL. Since then, they've had quite a bit of success in the regular season but have fallen short of the ultimate goal — a sixth Super Bowl trophy.

Not only have they been unable to win the title, but they haven't even made it back to the NFC Championship Game since winning their last Lombardi Trophy following the 1995 season.

It can be difficult to look back over the years, but it's still worth a trip down memory lane.

With that in mind, here's a ranking of the past ten seasons, which proves not everything has been awful in Big D.

10. 2015: 4-12, Missed Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys, Darren McFadden
Dallas Cowboys, Darren McFadden / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After falling short in 2014, the Cowboys went into the 2015 campaign ready to turn the page. They made a massive change at running back, letting DeMarco Murray leave in free agency and turning to Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. Randle was released after six games due to off-field issues, but McFadden proved a free-agency steal with 1,089 yards on the year.

Unfortunately, his performance was among the few bright spots during a dark season. Tony Romo missed 12 games, and the team was 1-11 without him. Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore all struggled to replace him, as the offense was 31st in the league in scoring.

As if that wasn't bad enough, this was the same year they brought in Greg Hardy after Carolina moved on following some heinous accusations. Not only was this the Cowboys' worst over the past decade, but it was also clouded by some terrible decisions.

9. 2020: 6-10, Missed Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys, Andy Dalton
Dallas Cowboys, Andy Dalton / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

For a decade, Dallas fans were clamoring for Jerry Jones to give up on Jason Garrett, and they finally got their wish ahead of the 2020 season. Jones didn't cast a wide net, however, which frustrated fans over hiring Mike McCarthy. The former Super Bowl-winning coach has had his share of success but hasn't been an elite coach in years.

Still, he was better than Garrett so hopes were high — or at least higher than they were in 2019.

Those hopes were quickly dashed when Mike Nolan proved to be in over his head as the defensive coordinator. Dallas gave up 20 points in a Week 1 loss to the Rams and then surrendered 39 to Atlanta, 38 to Seattle, 49 to Cleveland, 34 to the Giants, and 38 to Arizona.

Their offense had to do a lot of heavy lifting, but they were still just 2-3 entering Week 6 and had to turn to Andy Dalton after Dak Prescott suffered a broken ankle in the win over New York. Dalton played admirably, but the defense was never going to win without an MVP-caliber performance from their signal-caller, which led to a 6-10 disappointment.

8. 2017: 9-7, Missed Playoffs

Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee
Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After going 13-3 in 2016, hopes were high for the Cowboys in 2017. Sadly, they couldn't live up to the hype.

Off-field accusations put a dark cloud over Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended for six games. He appealed the suspension, which allowed the issue to drag on throughout the year. With Zeke out for six games, Dak Prescott struggled and had 13 picks — after putting up four as a rookie.

There was also the infamous loss to Atlanta, where he was sacked six times by Adrian Clayborn.

Dallas had a winning record but missed the playoffs in a forgettable season.

7. 2019: 8-8, Missed Playoffs

 Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett / Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

As is the case with Mike McCarthy in 2024, Jason Garrett entered the 2019 season without a contract beyond that year. He was coming off a 10-6 campaign but again lost in the second round of the playoffs.

Instead of moving on and finding someone who could push them over the hump, the Jones family tried pushing Garrett by essentially threatening his job.

That backfired, as the head coach seemed on edge all season, and the team that typically fought hard for him didn't have their normal fire. They started 3-0 out of the gate but then dropped three games between Weeks 4 through 6.

A three-game losing streak covering Weeks 12 through 14 doomed their season.

In the end, the only good thing from the 2019 campaign is that it finally signaled the end of Garrett's tenure, which covered a very long 10 seasons.

6. 2023: 12-5, Lost in Wild Card Round

Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There were many positives in 2023, including Dak Prescott finishing second in the NFL in MVP voting. They also saw CeeDee Lamb set a franchise record with 1,749 yards through the air while leading the NFL in receptions with 135.

The most exciting factor in 2023, however, was their 8-0 record at home. One of the most dominant home teams, the Cowboys' defense made life miserable for everyone who walked into AT&T Stadium—until it really mattered.

Dallas earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC and hosted the No. 7 seed Green Bay Packers. They should have been able to move into the second round of the playoffs but were blown out at home, 48-32. Sadly, that score makes it seem closer than it was.

Their inability to stop the run and the two interceptions from Prescott left us all with a bad taste in our mouths from what should have been a memorable campaign.

5. 2018: 10-6, Lost in Divisional Round

Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper
Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 season started out incredibly frustratingly. The Cowboys had just released Dez Bryant and entered the season with a receiving corps consisting of Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, and Cole Beasley. As expected, this was hard to watch.

Thankfully, they traded for Amari Cooper, who ultimately turned the offense around. Dallas started 3-5, but once Cooper was comfortable, they began to roll. They won five games in a row from Week 10 through Week 14 and then reeled off two more to close the season at 10-6.

They then hosted the Seattle Seahawks and knocked them off in a 24-22 contest. Their season ended at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round but they were happy to get that far following the frustrating start.

4. 2021: 12-5, Lost in Wild Card Round

Dallas Cowboys, Micah Parsons
Dallas Cowboys, Micah Parsons / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys turned the page on a frustrating 2020 campaign with another strong performance in 2021. This time, they shook off a poor start to the season, which saw them lose by two points to the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After that, Dallas ripped off six wins in a row, including a thriller over the Minnesota Vikings that saw Cooper Rush hit Amari Cooper for a game-winning touchdown.

Dallas won 12 games while Dak Prescott dropped 37 touchdown passes, and CeeDee Lamb hauled in 1,102 yards receiving. They also had Micah Parsons win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after racking up 13 sacks.

A loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round put a damper on an otherwise fun season, which is sadly a theme in Big D.

3. 2022: 12-5, Lost in Divisional Round

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, the Cowboys started the season with a loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs. This time, they were blown out 19-3, and they had injury added to insult with Dak Prescott getting hurt in the loss. Dallas had to turn to Cooper Rush for the next five games, and while he led them to a win in his only start in 2021, things felt bleak.

That feeling didn't last long, as Rush led them to four straight wins, including victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams, who had both been in the Super Bowl the previous year. His final start was a loss to the Eagles, but that 4-1 stretch kept hope alive.

There were ups and downs throughout the season, including Prescott leading the league with 15 picks, but they still went 12-4. They also pulled off one of the more exciting playoff wins in recent memory when they knocked off Tom Brady and the Bucs 31-14 in what proved to be Brady's final game.

Another loss to the 49ers followed that, making this season feel hollow as well.

2. 2014: 12-4, Lost in Divisional Round

Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant
Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This season ended in absolute heartache, but that's only because the team was so promising. The 2014 Cowboys roster was loaded with talent, and they went 6-1 down the stretch to steal the NFC East away from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tony Romo had one of his best seasons with 34 touchdowns and just nine picks while completing 69.9 percent of his attempts. Dez Bryant was also on a roll, with 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. Defensively, there weren't many star players, but their talent collection did enough to keep them in games.

As good as their roster was, it was DeMarco Murray who led the way. Murray rushed for 1,845 yards, which led the NFL, and scored 13 touchdowns. He added another 416 yards on 57 receptions, proving to be a dominant force. However, he had a late fumble in the Divisional Round that gave the Green Bay Packers life in a game Dallas had been in control of.

They should have taken the lead back when Bryant caught a pass on fourth down, took two steps, switched the ball to his dominant left hand, and dove for the end zone. Somehow, the refs decided he never made a football move and claimed the catch was no good since the ball bounced out of his hands when Dez hit the turf.

This was their best chance at winning a Super Bowl since the 1990s, and the ref's inexcusable call led to a disheartening loss. Even with that, it was a fantastic season for America's Team.

1. 2016: 13-3, Lost in Divisional Round

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and running back Ezekiel Elliott
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and running back Ezekiel Elliott / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

2016 remains arguably Dallas' best season over the past decade. Not only did they have their best record, 13-3, but they far exceeded expectations.

On the heels of a 4-12 campaign, Dallas selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick. They also took Dak Prescott at No. 135, hoping to groom him behind Tony Romo. Considered a raw prospect, Prescott had no time to develop since Romo and his backup, Kellen Moore were injured in the preseason.

Prescott took the lead and never looked like a rookie. He completed 67.8 percent of his attempts for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award for his efforts and called his teammate, Elliott, to the stage with him. Zeke had 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, and Prescott admitted his performance made life easy for the signal-caller.

Dallas could not advance in the playoffs, losing 34-31 to the Packers, but even that loss was exciting. Down 21-3 at one point, Dallas tied it up at 31 with 35 seconds to play. A miraculous pass from Aaron Rodgers and a 51-yard field goal from Mason Crosby ended their hopes, but it was evident they had their future stars on offense.

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Randy Gurzi


Arizona State grad