It was a feeling that manifested itself sometime during the 1970’s. We can put it on the late George Allen, former coach of the Washington Redskins, who was first to verbalize a total disdain for the Dallas Cowboys. It raised the level of rancor between the Redskins and Cowboys that elevated their rivalry to national televised status. T
hey had a behind the scenes rivalry that was based upon the Cowboys becoming the NFL’s most southern most team when they came into the league in 1960. Before that, the Redskins of George Preston Marshall were. It was during the 1970’s when their rivalry was felt between the fans and the players on the field.
However the disdain Allen felt during the early 1970’s was felt by many teams and fans. The feeling was the late Tom Landry and his Dallas Cowboys were given too much publicity by the networks and the print media. CBS was constantly covering the Cowboys and the level of success they had in the 1970’s, with 5 Super Bowl visits, seeded hatred in their rivals. Especially within their division. Yet none of them were good enough to challenge them in the NFC East.
By the time NFL Films made the 1978 Dallas Cowboys yearbook and labeled it “America’s Team” hatred was at an all time high. Even jealousy if you will. It was the arrogance and air of supremacy the Cowboys organization painted during those CBS days that fueled two schools of fans.
You had those who thought of themselves as beautiful and carried themselves with a sense of arrogance and identified with the team. Then you had the regular meat and potatoes folks who loved when the Pittsburgh Steelers punched them square in the mouth during Super Bowls X and XIII. They were also fans of all other teams. Yet when your team is no longer in it, they cheered for whoever was facing Dallas in the playoffs or Super Bowl.
Ironically, this is where the Steelers gained their nationwide fans. It had nothing to do with the fact they won 4 Super Bowls in the 1970’s, it was the fact they beat the Cowboys in two of those Super Bowls that made them remain as fans.
As the 1980’s beckoned, many of the teams that Dallas had sat on for the previous decade began to grow anew. A fresh generation of coaches and players started to internalize the disdain for the bully on the block and began their ascent. It was known that you had to take out Landry’s Cowboys if you really want to be recognized as champions. Although the Redskins were the one with the more acknowledged rivalry, it was the Philadelphia Eagles under Dick Vermeil that got the first crack at the boys from the Lone Star State.
Much of the animosity started at the beginning of the week, when the Eagles were cast as underdogs against Landry’s Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Although they were hosting, the Eagles were made underdogs by Vegas. Right on cue, the Eagles were being treated as bit role players even though they split their games with Dallas that year.
An upset Dick Vermeil made a declaration that ratcheted feelings up when he vowed “Never allow anyone to take you for granted! I get the feeling the Dallas Cowboys are taking us for granted right now. We’re here because we earned the right to be here. If the Dallas Cowboys are going to take us for granted, we’ll whip their ass!”
To further irk Tom Landry, Vermeil opted to play in their white uniforms forcing the Cowboys to play in the blue jerseys, which they felt were jinxed. Dallas complained to the league office yet for once the powers that be didn’t allow Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm to get their way. The crowd at Veteran’s Stadium was unforgiving as the two teams emerged from the tunnel. It was 4* and -17* windchill when on the Eagles second play from scrimmage:
The roar of the crowd during Wilbert Montgomery’s touchdown was the loudest ever at Veteran’s Stadium. Cowboy haters everywhere delighted as the Eagles held the early upper hand on the Cowboys 7-0. As the game wore on and Landry’s charges behind 17-7 late in the fourth quarter, they were able to punt and pin the Eagles to their own 5 yard line. From their own 5 yard line the Eagles ended fading hopes for Dallas when in 3 runs Philadelphia moved the football to the Dallas 25. Montgomery was putting the finishing touches on a signature day when he struck with this 54 yard masterpiece.
The Eagles vanquished the Cowboys 20-7 on their way to Super Bowl XV. Wilbert Montgomery etched his name into Philadelphia lore with a 194 yard performance. They had destroyed the Flex Defence, rushing for 263 yards on 40 carries averaging 6.575 yards a pop!! Cowboy haters everywhere rejoiced in hearing Landry, Danny White and Cowboy apologists have to answer the questions as the defeated football team. In fact many Cowboy haters pulled for the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl two weeks later. People weren’t cheering for the Eagles as much as they were for Dallas to lose.
The following year the Cowboys had revamped their secondary & national press covered the exploits of rookies Everson Walls (who should be a Hall of Famer), Michael Downs, and Ron Fellows. Although the publicity was on this group in Big D, they were overshadowing an even greater group in San Francisco. Where Bill Walsh had drafted and started rookie CB Ronnie Lott, CB Eric Wright, and S Carlton Williamson to go along with scrappy veteran S Dwight Hicks. Yet through most of the 1981 season, you didn’t hear about the 49ers. Even after a 45-14 devastation of the Cowboys in week 5 with Ronnie Lott scoring the decisive touchdown.
Did you know the 49ers didn’t make the Monday Night Football highlight package?? Don’t tell our CEO there was no media bias. Nor can you say the coverage of Dallas’ rookie trio of defensive backs didn’t motivate the group by the bay. Was it borne from the Cowboys propaganda and success of the 1970s?? Or was it borne from Tom Landry’s ties to the New York media since his pro coaching career started there??
Did you know the late Pat Summerall who broadcast many of the Cowboys games in that era, was a teammate and friend of Landry back in New York?? So when they didn’t make the ABC Monday Night package it fed into the hating Dallas mantra that much more by the 1981 NFC Championship Game.
There had been a history between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas. In fact you could say the 49ers were who Dallas had built their reputation on with wins over them in the 1970 and 1971 NFC Championship Games. At that point the Cowboys were called “Next Year’s Champions” for four straight playoff defeats to Vince Lombardi’s Packers and the Cleveland Browns. As a new decade beckoned it was the Niners and the Cowboys who stepped to the fore.
Once Dallas emerged and won Super Bowl VI, their prestige soared where the vanquished 49ers went into a tailspin the rest of the decade. Yet before that happened, there was the 1972 NFC Divisional playoff where a measure of revenge was going to be exacted against Landry’s troops when Roger Staubach led a furious 4th quarter rally. Staubach led Dallas to a 30-28 win after they were behind 28-13 with 5:00 to go in the game. This is when he earned the nickname Captain Comeback.
Fast forward to the 1981 NFC Championship where the resurrected 49er franchise, now under Eddie DeBartolo, were preparing for the game. Still smarting from the lack of respect afforded his group after the 45-14 win and no media coverage, set the tone of a franchise when talking to a reporter. “They ate it once and they can eat it (defeat) again.” Reminiscent of Dick Vermeil the year before, Cowboy haters were all pulling for the 49ers in this game when they took the field.
The final stint came when the Washington Redskins had their turn to climb over Dallas to make it to the summit of pro football. After a strike shortened season where the 8-1 Redskins entered a playoff tournament to make it to Super Bowl XVII, most pundits picked the media darling Cowboys to win the NFC Champoinship citing the Redskins only loss was courtesy of the Cowboys. Our CEO can remember being fired up for the NFC Championship between Washington and Dallas and knew it was going to be a thing of beauty.
It actually started when the Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21-7 win over the Vikings to set up the NFC Conference final when the chant “We want Dallas!! We want Dallas!!” resonated from the jam packed crowd at RFK. Just moments before, John Riggins who had rushed for 185 yard was in the midst of a curtain call, turned and gave a bow to the crowd sending them into a frenzy. Those sights and sounds reverberated throughout the stadium and CBS chose instead of showing the final plays of that game, panoramic views of the raucous fans.
As for the rest of the Cowboy haters who gathered to watch this team go down again. Look no further than another bulletin board comment that jump started the festivities. It started with Dexter Manley professing in the paper that he “hated Dallas” that Monday that got the ball rolling. Then back and forth in the newspaper ensued from Danny White of the Cowboys, to Redskin owner Jack Kent Cooke, EVERYONE was stoking the fire. How bad did it get? There was even a heated argument about the game within the House of Representatives the Friday before the game and the late Thomas “Tip” O’Neill adjourned session an hour early. It was on!!!!
Over a football game? Yes over a football game. The hating of Dallas really grew wings in the George Allen era. He preached it, lived it, and over all the treatment America’s Team received as a media darling kept breeding that hatred within rival teams. Real Redskin fans will talk with high regard of the fact that they beat Dallas in the ’72 NFC Championship when the Cowboys were defending champions. So here we were some 10 years later and all that animosity was a thing of the past right? After all new owner, new coach, new quarterback and cast of characters comprised the Redskins roster. Right?
With that we were at an end of an era where other NFL teams were able to get their due as the 1980’s moved on. Media coverage transferred from Dallas to new teams coming from Chicago, the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, of course the 49ers and the Redskins who were dominant the rest of the decade. From this era came the nationwide fan base of the San Francisco 49ers much like the Steelers. The backlash of the “America’s Team” name and over favorable coverage brewed hatred from the majority of NFL fans and players.
Notice in these videos, the look in their eye and the description of elation for vanquishing the Dallas Cowboys of that era. In all three cases before the NFC Championship, where decorum was to be quiet, and not give the Cowboys bulletin board material. Coaches and owners in these instances were doing it let alone players. It set the table for things to come and put their organizations on high alert of what was expected of them.
The hatred for everything Dallas began to dissipate at this time. There was some animosity left when the ’85 Bears bloodied them 44-0 in Texas Stadium after 9 straight losses to them. Yet by the time of Tom Landry’s departure, people felt bad about what happened to the Cowboys and watched the dismantling of a franchise with mixed emotions.
You were almost mad that they were 1-15 in 1989, because the villain from Texas was gone. The Jimmy Johnson Cowboys of the 1990’s were an envied team, not a hated one. To be hated you had to be more than a good football team, and in retrospect that was what made hating the Dallas Cowboys worthwhile.
The way they were marketed, branded, and packaged. The way their coach was treated like a God and their quarterback in Roger Staubach was the idol which gave way to Danny White. Their cheerleaders were even made famous. All of this tapped into the inferiority complex of many players and fans of other teams. When it came time to beat them for a championship or a game of importance, it was the Holy Grail.
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