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STEVE DESHAZO: Once again, ‘Dallas Week’ means something to Redskins



TO FULLY APPRECIATE the rivalry between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys—which will welcome a new chapter Sunday night—a history refresher course is useful.

Back in 1958, two years before the Cowboys were born, Texas oil mogul Clint Murchison nearly bought the Redskins from George Preston Marshall. But Marshall reneged on the deal at the last minute, initiating a cold war that made the U.S. vs. the Soviets look like a junior varsity match.

Two years later, Murchison attempted to buy an NFL expansion franchise. At that time, Marshall owned the only NFL franchise south of the Mason–Dixon Line and didn’t care for company, so he was prepared to block Murchison’s bid.

But Marshall had made another enemy in Barney Breeskin, who wrote his team’s anthem, “Hail to the Redskins.” (Another interesting note: The original, politically incorrect lyrics read: “Fight for Old Dixie,” which was later changed to “D.C.”)

For $5,000, Breeskin agreed to sell the lyrics to his song to Murchison, who used the asset to extort Marshall into voting for the Cowboys’ NFL entry.

With that venomous preamble, the Redskins and Cowboys were destined to become one of sports’ fiercest rivalries—for a while, at least.

When George Allen took over as Redskins coach in 1971, he fanned the flames to five-alarm status with a dislike of Dallas that bordered on obsession. Whether it was Allen vs. Tom Landry or Joe Gibbs vs. Jimmy Johnson, Roger Staubach vs. Diron Talbert or Joe Theismann vs. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, every meeting seemed to be a classic.

It’s been nearly 30 years since a meeting between the teams carried as much importance as this Sunday night’s game at FedEx Field. The winner claims the NFC East title, and unless the Vikings and Bears both lose earlier in the day, the loser is shut out of the postseason.

The record books are filled with memorable moments from both sides. The Cowboys own a decisive 62–41–2 overall advantage, but Washington has earned a few notches:

  • Victories in the NFC championship games following the 1972 and 1982 seasons—the only two playoff meetings in the rivalry.
  • Ken Houston’s hogtie tackle of Walt Garrison just inches short of the goal line in 1973, preserving a 14–7 Monday night victory.
  • Mark Brunell’s two fourth-quarter touchdown bombs to Santana Moss on a Monday night in 2005, stunning a Texas Stadium crowd.
  • And Dallas native Robert Griffin’s Thanksgiving tour de force performance last month.

    The Cowboys can counter with a few morsels of their own:

  • Clint Longley’s out-of-nowhere 1974 24–23 Thanksgiving Day upset in relief of an injured Staubach.
  • A dramatic 35–34 victory in the final game of the 1979 season, earning the NFC East title and knocking the Redskins out of the playoffs. After that game, Dallas defensive end Harvey Martin famously took a funeral wreath that had been delivered earlier in the week and flung it into the Redskins’ somber locker room.
  • And in 1989, the Cowboys went 1–15. But that one was a satisfying 13–3 triumph at RFK—orchestrated not by future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman but by fellow rookie Steve Walsh.

    Those were the glory days. They seem like ancient history now, because it’s been a rare year when both were good.

    The teams are now owned by Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder, two like-minded businessmen whose appearance together in a recent TV pizza ad surely made Marshall, Murchison and Allen turn over in their graves.

    Jones and Snyder have turned their respective teams into two of the most valuable franchises in the world. But each also erroneously fancied himself a football savant, and the teams suffered for it.

    Washington hasn’t won the NFC East since 1999. Dallas has two division titles in that span, but just one playoff victory since 1996. Even Gibbs and Bill Parcells couldn’t completely clean up the messes.

    Three years ago, after nearly a decade of embarrassing moves, Snyder ceded control of football decisions to Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen (George’s son). Finally, the Redskins seem headed upward again.

    Jones still calls the personnel shots in Dallas. His gamble on talented but troubled receiver Dez Bryant has paid off royally (for now, at least).

    A new chapter in a long-dormant rivalry is sure to be written Sunday night.

    It’s about time.


      Jan. 22, 1983:


      Just like in the first playoff meeting, this one was all Redskins. It was Dexter Manley’s day—he knocked Cowboys quarter Danny White out of the game with a second-quarter sack, and his tipped pass in the fourth quarter was intercepted by Darryl Grant and returned for a touchdown. The Redskins beat the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII the next week.

      Dec. 31, 1972


      Charley Taylor’s second touchdown catch from Billy Kilmer and three Curt Knight field goals—all in the fourth quarter—turned the first-ever playoff meeting between the Cowboys and Redskins into a rout. Washington won its first NFC championship and went on to lose to unbeaten Miami in Super Bowl VII.

      Dec. 19, 1979


      It was a matchup similar to this Sunday’s end-of-season showdown: Winner takes the NFC East and goes on to the playoffs. The Redskins led 17–0 in the first half and 34–21 with eight minutes to play, but Roger Staubach led two touchdown drives and Washington’s playoff hopes were crushed.

      Nov. 5, 1989


      It was one of the worst Cowboys teams ever. but Dallas managed its only win of the season against the Redskins, who were 10–6 that year and missed the playoffs by one victory.

    Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

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