The 1988 season of Dallas Cowboys was their 29th season playing in the National Football League. They finished 3-13 and missed the playoffs for the third straight year. Head coach Tom Landry was fired after the season, and the team was unable to get back to the playoffs in the following two years. This was the last season of Landry’s leadership, and he will be remembered as the last Dallas season.
Tom Landry’s final season
Tom Landry’s final season with the Cowboys was the most successful in the team’s history. Landry was a player in the 1950s, and was an all-pro rookie. His performance was so impressive, that the team won the Super Bowl in 1954. It was his final season with Cowboys. After his playing career, Landry served as a goodwill ambassador for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which he joined in 1960.
As the Cowboys’ head coach from 1960 to 1988, Landry took the team to five Super Bowl appearances and two championships. In three consecutive seasons, the team reached the NFC Championship Game. In the 1982 Super Bowl, they lost in the first round against the Washington Redskins. After his final season, Landry never made it to the Super Bowl again and was replaced by his son Steve.
After his firing, Landry received public support. Jerry Jones publicly stated that Landry was not going to be retained after helping the Dallas Cowboys win the Super Bowl. He bought the team to hire Johnson as his head coach. It also turned out that Landry was not informed of the decision until after he announced it. It is not clear if Jerry Jones spoke with Landry before his announcement or if they had a last-minute conversation.
Landry was responsible for inventing the 4-3 defense. The 4-3 formation, which featured four down linemen and three linebackers, was created with Landry and Gil Brandt, two former Giants defensive coordinators. This defense included the middle linebacker, who stood over center and moved back two yards. Landry’s middle linebacker was the legendary Sam Huff.
Landry was a member of Pro Football Hall of Fame in his final years of coaching and was inducted into The Ring of Honor in 1993. Landry’s widow Mary Ann cheered on the Cowboys NFC East rivals and helped them win two Super Bowls. She also believed that Landry never recovered from his firing from the Cowboys and was not able to move on with his life.
Steve Pelluer’s start-Quarterback-Job
Pelluer was selected to be the starting quarterback by Danny White in late 1987. He was then assigned to training camp for 1988. White briefly played relief roles but was injured early in the season. Pelluer then dominated the starting quarterback competition and won three games, but the Cowboys traded Pelluer to Arizona after White’s season ended. Pelluer was eventually drafted second overall by Troy Aikman.
Pelluer was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round, 1984 NFL Draft. He had previously played in the USFL with the Oakland Invaders. He remained a backup quarterback for his first two seasons before being named the team’s starting quarterback in 1985. Pelluer won his career debut against the New York Giants in a game against the Giants, leading a 72-yard drive that included a third-and-15 conversion.
Steve Pelluer’s start-Quarterback-Job in the Dallas Cowgirls 1988 was a big breakthrough for him. Pelluer was Danny White’s backup quarterback in 1987. Pelluer was given the starting job after Gary Hoegeboom had been traded. Pelluer played in 14/16 games, passing for 3,139 yards with 17 touchdowns.
Kevin Sweeney’s backup-Quarterback-Job
Despite his lack of NFL experience, Sweeney was able to impress the Cowboys during his brief stint with them. The team was in dire need of a quarterback in 1988 and a backup was needed. Mcdonald was signed by the team as a free agent to serve as their backup quarterback. Sweeney was originally intended to be Danny White’s backup quarterback. He was later made a third-string QB.
After a solid year as a sophomore, Sweeney was given the backup-Quarterback job in 1988. He played in 14 games and was 7-5. His passing stats were solid though. He completed 16 of 305 passes for 2,138 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. On the other hand, his rushing numbers were less impressive, with 103 carries for 124 yards and a score. He did however set a school record with five touchdown passes against the University of Oregon.
Staubach was not the only player needed by the Cowboys. Don Meredith retired from the NFL after the 1979 season. Don White replaced him, leading the Cowboys three straight NFC championship games. Although the Cowboys lost all three, White is one of the underrated quarterbacks in Cowboys history.
Loss to Philadelphia
The 1988 NFC Divisional Playoffs saw the Dallas Cowboys lose to Philadelphia. It was the Cowboys’ first loss in the Super Bowl era. The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-21 after a late touchdown. This loss also ended an eight-game losing streak. It is important to mention that the Cowboys were able beat the defending Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins on week 15.
The 1988 Eagles season was difficult. The team started the season with a three-game losing streak and ended with a loss to the Cowboys. The following week, they were unable to bounce back, losing to the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, and Houston. The Dallas Cowboys won their four remaining games, including this one. The Dallas Cowboys were at that point 4-5 and had to play twice against the Philadelphia Eagles in order to reach the playoffs.
The Eagles recovered from their early deficit in the second period. The Eagles led 10-7 at halftime after intercepting three Pelluer passes. Herschel Walker scored a touchdown in the first quarter, while Steve Pelluer was intercepted three times. The Eagles dominated Dallas’ offense in the second half with a sloppy defense. Cunningham scrambled for 18 yards and 25 yards to set up a touchdown pass to Quick. Cunningham threw two touchdown passes, and Luis Zendejas added a field goal in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys ended the 1988 season with a record of 3-13. They finished the regular season with an average of -116 points differential. They could easily have qualified for the playoffs with a three-year lead. Although a season with 4.8 wins was expected and a record of five wins, a loss to Philadelphia could still prove devastating for the Dallas Cowboys. What can we learn from 1988 Dallas Cowboys’ season
Although many people have criticized the season’s performance, the Super Bowl is a prime example how to view this period in NFL history. The Philadelphia Eagles failed to win Super Bowl and they also failed in the NFC East. The team’s defense was there in the playoffs. They went 2-0 with the help of several veteran players crossing the picket line.