Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Dallas Cowboys.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
Well, this will be a little weird. But you probably already know too much about the Dallas Cowboys as it is. I mean, we all have friends who are Cowboys fans, and they flood our Facebook timelines every time the team wins. Next to politics, I would surmise that being a Cowboys fan is probably the biggest reason why you've hidden somebody from your FB feed. You can go ahead and admit it.
Don't ever talk about ...
Here's a good place to start: If you want to trigger a Cowboys fan, tell them Dez didn't catch the football. Probably the NFL's most derided play since the Tuck Rule. You can actually tell a person's age (and NFL leanings) by asking them what the most egregious call in NFL history was. Your parents will say "Holy Roller," your older siblings will say "Tuck Rule" -- but all of the millennials have a take on whether Dez caught the ball or not.
I don't know if I'm allowed to say what I think about this on the pages of NFL.com, but my opinion is ... it was a catch. I know: You'd think I would be in favor of anything going against the Cowboys, but hear me out. What Dez did was much more of a catch than what Bert Emanuel did on his infamous non-catch in the 1999 NFC title game. But then again, I kind of prefer playground rules: If it looks like a catch in real time, I'd just rather call it a catch.
The last person who was booed that much in Philly was Roman Reigns right after he won the Royal Rumble.
Why does everybody hate the Cowboys?
The easy answer is jealousy. The Cowboys had 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966 through 1985, so that is bound to leave a bunch of hurt feelings around the league. I mean, you hate the good teams; nobody hates the bad teams. Like, everybody hates the Lakers; everybody is indifferent about the Clippers.
And then in the 1990s, Dallas was straight-up destroying everybody. Think about it. The 49ers had to go out and build a mega-team of superstars (including Deion Sanders) to even have a chance against the Cowboys. Now, even though they haven't won a Super Bowl in more than 20 years, those feelings are kind of passed down through the generations.
Plus, there is the whole "America's Team" moniker that was bestowed upon them by NFL Films. But can you blame them? There are Cowboys fans everywhere.
From socks to jocks
When Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, he moved swiftly and fired Tom Landry. I can still remember watching Cowboys games as a little kid in the '80s and the announcers would always say stuff like, "Tom Landry is the only coach the Cowboys have ever had." And it's remarkable to think that a guy could last more than 25 years on the job. But Jones had to make the tough call and get rid of a coach with two Super Bowl titles to his name.
Then Jones' Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s, and everybody was just kind of cool with it. I guess that's human nature. Like, you get all outraged when your favorite TV show gets taken off the air, but then you find something new on Netflix that's just as good (if not better), and you're like, "Oh yeah -- I remember when 'The Grinder' was a thing." And you move on. And listen, when you start by winning three Super Bowls in four years, it sets the bar pretty high.
What went wrong in 1994?
Jones and Jimmy Johnson parted ways. Which happens when people start to get successful, especially in sports. Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan couldn't make it work. Neither could Shaq and Kobe. Dave Chappelle and Comedy Central? Same deal. Stuff happens. It's easy to look back now and wonder how things would've gone differently. Hey, let's do that!
How many Super Bowls would they have won had Jimmy stayed?
Six. In total. Not in addition to the three they actually won in the 1990s. Six total -- with four in the '90s.
But imagine those loaded Cowboys teams with some of the draft gems Johnson found for the Dolphins beyond Round 1 during his time in Miami. You'd have the Cowboys reloading with Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, Jason Taylor, Patrick Surtain and John Dutton. All right, I think I was the only one who believed in the former Nevada QB. But damn, I might change my answer to even more Lombardis in the '90s. Dallas could've had Patriots-level success under Jimmy and Jerry.
The Cowboys fell off in the 1990s because the depth started to thin out. Losing guys like Jay Novacek and Charles Haley was as devastating as losing the Triplets. And when you look at all of the draft picks the Cowboys burned in the 1990s on tight ends and defensive ends (looking at you, David LaFleur and Shante Carver), it really drives home that point.
This has been the cause of much angst because LeBron is an avowed Yankees fan, as well. And I can get why people would be upset, what with King James being from Akron and all. The Yanks fandom is especially galling because the Indians were good when he was a little kid. But the Browns didn't exist for part of his childhood. And have you seen some of Cleveland's quarterbacks? I'm going to allow this.
I'm going with Bob Lilly. The Cowboys' first ever draft pick, first Hall of Famer and first dude to toss his helmet after a loss in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys have had an embarrassment of riches in that they have two HOF quarterbacks, two HOF running backs and three awesome receivers who wore No. 88. And I guess you could say the Cowboys have had two HOF defensive tackles. But I'm confident (enough) with my pick of Mr. Cowboy.
Bill Parcells, the Cowboys years. It was always jarring to see the man who had led the Giants to their first two Super Bowl wins (well, other than Bill Belichick) on the Cowboys' sideline. It just didn't seem right. It's like when the "Can you hear me now?" guy switched phone networks. I didn't care for it. Parcells was mildly successful for the 'Boys, as he brought them back from the abyss. And he did manage to bring in Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten. But ultimately, this move was a letdown. And if you're going to sell out, you should make sure it goes all the way.
Not given enough credit
There is a certain Cowboys quarterback who never seems to get enough love -- and quite frankly, it surprises me. Tony Romo? Heavens no. I'm talking about Troy Aikman. You know, the guy who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys. There were three big NFC quarterbacks in the 1990s: Aikman, Steve Young and Brett Favre. Aikman was the best of the three. There is a reason the Cowboys won three Lombardis -- while the 49ers and Packers each claimed one -- during that time. And it was Aikman. Watch those games. Young and Favre, as great as they were, always made critical mistakes. Not Aikman. Dude was legendary during that run with a playoff passer rating well above 100 from 1992 through '95.
Shoot, in 1992 he threw for 795 yards and eight touchdowns (against zero picks) in three games. His lone bad game came in the 1994 NFC title bout (and credit Eric Davis for making a great play), but he still nearly rallied the Cowboys for a win. (Expletive), had the Cowboys just run the clock at the end of the first half, I think we could have been talking about a Cowboys three-peat. Shoot, if you hire just about any other coach besides Barry Switzer (who is a nice man), we'd have a Cowboys three-peat. He was the best NFC quarterback of the 1990s, people.
But what about Tony Romo?
Look, he was a good NFL quarterback. I think he was much-maligned because of the team he played for. He really was a great story. Undrafted quarterback from Eastern Illinois who goes on to be a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Cowboys? That's pretty outstanding. The kid from Wisconsin became one of the better quarterbacks of his era. But he's going to be judged against guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. The biggest sticking point against him will be his lack of Super Bowl (or playoff) wins. It's not a fair measuring stick. But it comes with the territory if you're the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Good luck to you, Dak Prescott.
Not given enough credit II
Jay Novacek. Think about it. Any time there was a Cowboys pass catcher in the '90s who made a critical third-and-9 reception, who was it? It was always Novacek. I love Jason Witten. But Novacek was the best tight end in franchise history. I don't care who knows it. (And we're also best friends. Not really. But sort of.)
I would like to rock the light blue Tony Dorsett No. 33 jersey. Dorsett is another player who kind of flies under the radar for the Cowboys -- which, again, is kind of a hard thing to have happen to a Cowboys player. But he was one of the best of his era. And, oh yeah: Darrell Green had the angle! I once had the chance to ask Dorsett about this as we chatted in Canton, Ohio, and he swore this was the case.
And why do the Cowboys wear white at home?
Tex Schramm started the tradition so home fans could see a variety of different jerseys. Which is a pretty cool reason.
Wait, you're not even going to mention Emmitt Smith?
Hey, there is a lot going on. But yes, the Cowboys claim the NFL's all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith. The only bummer is that he set the record against Seattle when the Seahawks were wearing some of the most horrific uniforms in NFL history. Sorry, Tex -- this is one time your strategy backfired.
You are going to catch a bunch a flak, no doubt, for being a bandwagon Cowboys fan, but that comes with the territory. I feel bad for some of the Cowboys fans I know who are actually from Dallas, because they are just rooting for their hometown team. (So, if you know somebody who supports the Cowboys along with the Mavericks or Rangers, give them a break.) But the great thing about being a Cowboys fan is, you'll never be alone. (Tons of 'Boys fans everywhere, to say the least.) They are on TV a lot. They have a couple of great young studs in Dak and Zeke, and you can't get mad at anybody who wants to get into that business. Also, the owner wants to win just as badly as you do. (Probably more, seeing that, you know, he's put his money into this.) But if you choose the Cowboys, I won't hate on you. I might make fun of you, but I won't hate it.