1996 Dallas Cowboys season

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1996 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coachBarry Switzer
OwnerJerry Jones
Home fieldTexas Stadium
Division place1st NFC East
Playoff finishWon NFC Wild Card Playoff (Vikings) 40–15
Lost NFC Divisional Playoff (at Panthers) 17-26

The 1996 Dallas Cowboys season was the franchise's 37th season in the National Football League and was the third year under head coach Barry Switzer. Following their victory in Super Bowl XXX, the Cowboys endured a rough year failing to improve their 12-4 record from 1995 but still reached the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Star receiver Michael Irvin was suspended by the league for the first five games and before the playoffs were accused with lineman Erik Williams of sexual assault. Controversy also took place when writer Skip Bayless published a scathing account of the Cowboys' 1995 season. Longtime trainer Mike Woicik also left the team after the season following a sideline dispute with coach Barry Switzer although Woicik returned in 2011.

This season would be the last season the Cowboys won a playoff game until 2009, and since their Super Bowl win the previous season, the Cowboys never made it past the divisional round as of 2018.


NFL draft[edit]

1996 Dallas Cowboys draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
2 37 Kavika Pittman  Defensive end McNeese State
2 49 Randall Godfrey  Linebacker Georgia
3 67 Clay Shiver  Center Florida State
3 94 Stepfret Williams  Wide Receiver Louisiana–Monroe
3 95 Mike Ulufale  Defensive end BYU
5 157 Kenneth McDaniel  Defensive back Norfolk State
5 167 Alan Campos  Linebacker Louisville
6 207 Wendell Davis  Cornerback Oklahoma
7 243 Ryan Wood  Running back Arizona State
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career

Regular season[edit]

Against the Chicago Bears in week one, running back Emmitt Smith would leave the game late with an injury that left him temporarily paralyzed. Though not career-threatening, Smith's injury would hamper his effectiveness for the duration of the season. Adding to their difficulties, star wide receiver Michael Irvin would be suspended for the first five games due his highly publicized off-season incidents. Star cornerback Deion Sanders would be the first player in the modern era of the NFL to start several games on both offense and defense. Charles Haley, a major defensive force for the Cowboys during the prior four seasons, missed most of the 1996 season with injury. Tight End Jay Novacek, a key offensive threat in recent seasons, missed the entire season due to an injury.

After losing three of their first four games, the team would return to form, winning three straight before defeating former head coach Jimmy Johnson, then head coach of the Miami Dolphins on the way to their fifth consecutive NFC East title. Although Dallas still moved the ball well on offense, they had serious late-season trouble scoring touchdowns (ultimately finishing just 25th in the league in points scored). They won games with Green Bay (21-6) and New England (12-6) (the season's eventual Super Bowl participants) without scoring a touchdown (seven field goals against Green Bay and four against New England); Dallas' defense finished third in the league in fewest points allowed.

The season would also see the return of former Cowboy Herschel Walker who added versatility as both a running back and kick off returner. Walker had ten carries for 83 yards and a touchdown and 27 kick returns for 779 yards.

The game of the year came on November 10 at San Francisco. The Cowboys stood at 5–4 with the Niners at 7–2; the Niners had won three straight meetings with the Cowboys since Barry Switzer was hired as head coach. Sacks by Broderick Thomas and Jim Schwantz knocked Niners quarterback Steve Young out of the game and Elvis Grbac, who'd shredded the Cowboys defense the previous year, came on, and after the Niners blew a 10–0 lead they took a 17–10 lead with 11:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys drove to the Niners redzone but Aikman was picked off in the endzone by Marquez Pope with 6:30 to go. Grbac, however, was intercepted at his six-yard line on the ensuing play by Fred Strickland, and three plays later Aikman connected with Eric Bjornson for the tying touchdown. In the overtime a big Emmitt Smith run set up Chris Boniol's winning field goal. With the win combined with a Redskins loss to Arizona, the Cowboys surged to win the NFC East.

After defeating the Minnesota Vikings 40-15 in the first round of the playoffs at Texas Stadium (which was, until 2009, their last playoff win), the Cowboys would travel to Charlotte, North Carolina and lose to the second year Carolina Panthers, who'd won the NFC West at 12–4 in their second ever season. Star receiver Michael Irvin was injured in the opening moments of the Carolina playoff game. Deion Sanders was also injured and had to leave as well.

Notable additions to the team included linebacker Randall Godfrey and safety George Teague.

The Cowboys' win over the 49ers ended a curious decade-long losing streak in Week 10 games (this included an 0–3 record in week 10 games during World Championship seasons). Also, with the win against the Miami Dolphins at Joe Robbie Stadium, this was the first time the Cowboys franchise won a football game in South Florida. During this period of futility, the Cowboys lost three Super Bowls in the Orange Bowl by a total of 11 points and lost twice to the Miami Dolphins in 1978 (23 to 16, also in a week 10 game) and in 1984 (28 to 21).


Opponent Result TV Time (CT) TV Announcers Notes Attendance
at Chicago Bears 6 22 L ABC 8:00PM Al Michaels, Frank Gifford & Dan Dierdorf Emmitt Smith injured
New York Giants 27 0 W FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Giants held to 105 total yards
Indianapolis Colts 24 25 L NBC 3:00PM Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire & Phil Simms Last second 57-yard FGA by Chris Boniol bounced off the crossbar
at Buffalo Bills 7 10 L FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Troy Aikman sacked by Bruce Smith and suffered ankle injury
at Philadelphia Eagles 23 19 W ABC 8:00PM Al Michaels, Frank Gifford & Dan Dierdorf Cowboys intercepted two Eagles passes
Bye week
Arizona Cardinals 17 3 W FOX 12:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Michael Irvin returned from suspension
Atlanta Falcons 32 28 W FOX 12:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Irvin had seven catches for 119 yards
at Miami Dolphins 29 10 W FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden First meeting between Cowboys and former coach Jimmy Johnson
Philadelphia Eagles 21 31 L FOX 12:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Eagles won despite 12 penalties
at San Francisco 49ers 20 17 W FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden First win over 49ers since 1993 playoffs
Green Bay Packers 21 6 W ABC 8:00PM Al Michaels, Frank Gifford & Dan Dierdorf Chris Boniol tied a then NFL Record with 7 field goals in one game.
at New York Giants 6 20 L FOX 3:00PM Dick Stockton & Matt Millen Troy Aikman intercepted twice
Washington Redskins 21 10 W FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Emmitt Smith's 155 yards accounted for over half of Dallas' 247 total yards
at Arizona Cardinals 10 6 W FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Michael Irvin posted his highest receiving yardage of the season (198 with a touchdown)
New England Patriots 12 6 W NBC 12:00PM Marv Albert, Randy Cross & Sam Wyche Win clinched NFC East
at Washington Redskins 10 37 L FOX 3:00PM Pat Summerall & John Madden Final game at RFK Stadium; Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith did not play


NFC East
(3) Dallas Cowboys 10 6 0 .625 286 250 L1
(5) Philadelphia Eagles 10 6 0 .625 363 341 W2
Washington Redskins 9 7 0 .563 364 312 W1
Arizona Cardinals 7 9 0 .438 300 397 L1
New York Giants 6 10 0 .375 242 297 L2


Dallas Cowboys 1996 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
52 Active, 6 Inactive


The Football Encyclopedia ISBN 0-312-11435-4
Total Football ISBN 0-06-270170-3
Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes ISBN 0-446-51950-2


External links[edit]