The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s were not your father’s dynasty. They were known as much for their antics off the field as they were for their winning ways on it.
The coach, gregarious former University of Miami (Fla.) leader Jimmy Johnson, was nothing like the stoic legend who wore a suit and tie on the sidelines during the franchise’s previous glory days. Nobody would have dared to muss up the hair remaining under Tom Landry’s fedora like they did Johnson’s.
Receivers such as Olympic gold medal winner Bob Hayes, Drew Pearson and Tony Hill were humble All-American boys compared to a future Hall of Fame wideout who nicknamed himself the Playmaker, five-time Pro Bowler Michael Irvin — whose 47 games of 100 yards or more receiving are the third most in NFL history.
Even the owner, Jerry Jones, was like nothing the league had seen before, challenging the NFL’s conservative, status-quo bigwigs on a regular basis and making the Cowboys’ previous front office leaders look like shrinking violets.
But the cocky version of “America’s Team” was able to back up most everything it promised, becoming the first franchise in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in four years, with wins over perennial bridesmaid Buffalo after the 1992 (52-17) and 1993 (30-13) seasons and Pittsburgh (27-17) two years later.
Quarterback Troy Aikman possessed a persona that hearkened back to the Landry days, but he was truly something to brag about when it came winning time. The Hall of Famer was at his efficient best in the big games, setting a Super Bowl record for completion percentage (70.0 percent, 56-for-80 combined in the three games) that still stands. He had his best day against the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Of course, it helped that Aikman had the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, to hand the ball off to. This was a team that never found itself in many third-and-long situations because the durable 5-9, 210-pound dynamo was usually able to gain significant yardage on first and second downs. Indeed, the hard-to-tackle Smith was so special that he became the only running back to win a Super Bowl, league MVP, rushing crown and Super Bowl MVP in the same season (1993).
Johnson was coach during the Cowboys’ first two championships of the 1990s, but he had a falling out with Jones and left after the second Super Bowl win. Another longtime college coach, Barry Switzer, took over for him and guided Dallas to its third title of the decade.