The 1989 Dallas Cowboys season was the franchise’s 30th season in the National Football League and was the first year under the ownership of Jerry Jones as well as under the helm of head coach Jimmy Johnson, who had compiled a 44–4 record in his last 4 years as coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes. They failed to improve on their 3–13 record from 1988, finishing at 1–15 and missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
|1989 Dallas Cowboys season|
|Head coach||Jimmy Johnson|
|Home field||Texas Stadium|
|Division place||5th NFC East|
|Playoff finish||did not qualify|
|1989 Dallas Cowboys draft|
|1||1||Troy Aikman * †||QB||UCLA|
|2||29||Steve Wisniewski *||OG||Penn State||He was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Raiders|
|2||39||Daryl Johnston *||FB||Syracuse|
|3||57||Mark Stepnoski *||C||Pittsburgh|
|4||85||Tony Tolbert *||DE||UTEP|
|5||119||Willis Crockett||LB||Georgia Tech|
|10||252||Rod Carter||LB||Miami (FL)|
|11||280||Randy Shannon||LB||Miami (FL)|
|Pro Football Hall of Fame Made at least one Pro Bowl during careerMade roster|
Besides the entry of Johnson and Jones, the Cowboys made pre-season headlines by drafting UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman with the first pick in the NFL Draft. Curiously, they also drafted quarterback Steve Walsh later in the NFL’s supplemental draft (in doing so, they gave up a number one pick in the 1990 draft). Walsh had played quarterback for Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami and led the ‘Canes to a 23–1 record as a starter and one national title.
Walsh and Aikman battled for the starting quarterback job in the pre-season, with Aikman winning the nod when the regular season began. Expectations were raised when the Cowboys finished with a strong 3–1 preseason record.
On opening day, the Cowboys were beaten by the New Orleans Saints, 28–0, and went on to finish 1–15 for the season. Aikman broke the index finger on his non-throwing hand in week four and Steve Walsh started the next five games, including the team’s only win, before Aikman returned to finish the season.
1989 was the first season in the history of Monday Night Football that did not feature at least one Cowboys game.
The only win by the Cowboys during the season was against the rival Redskins in Washington. Though the season seemed a complete failure, it would prove to be the prelude to many great years ahead. Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, future centerpieces of the Cowboys’ 1992 to 1995 dynasty, headlined this team. During the season, star running back Herschel Walker would be traded to the Minnesota Vikings for multiple players and draft picks. By finishing 1–15 they would have received the top spot in the 1990 NFL Draft; however, the pick was forfeited because the Cowboys drafted Walsh in the Supplemental Draft. Later, they would trade and draft a running back out of Florida named Emmitt Smith, with one of the many draft choices obtained from the Vikings in the Hershel Walker trade. Other notable additions to the team that year include center Mark Stepnoski, fullback Daryl Johnston, and defensive end Tony Tolbert.
The Cowboys’ futility matched that of the 1980 New Orleans Saints as they became the second NFL team to end a season at 1–15.
|Dallas Cowboys 1989 roster|
Rookies in italics
In 1989, at the height of his NFL career, the Cowboys traded him to the Minnesota Vikings for a total of five players (LB Jesse Solomon, DB Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson, LB David Howard, DE Alex Stewart) and six draft picks (which led to Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodson). This was judged to be one of the turning points in the rise of the Cowboys to the top echelon of the NFL. Walker’s trade was widely perceived as an exceptionally poor move considering what the Vikings had to give up in order to get him, and remains one of the most frequently vilified roster moves of the team’s history. The Vikings coaches reluctantly accepted Walker after the trade and never totally used the tool they had been given. Scout.com says "Walker was never used properly by the coaching brain trust (a total oxymoron in this case)".
|1||September 10, 1989||at New Orleans Saints||L 28–0||0–1|
|2||September 17, 1989||at Atlanta Falcons||L 27–21||0–2|
|3||September 24, 1989||Washington Redskins||L 30–7||0–3|
|4||October 1, 1989||New York Giants||L 30–13||0–4|
|5||October 8, 1989||at Green Bay Packers||L 31–13||0–5|
|6||October 15, 1989||San Francisco 49ers||L 31–14||0–6|
|7||October 22, 1989||at Kansas City Chiefs||L 36–28||0–7|
|8||October 29, 1989||Phoenix Cardinals||L 19–10||0–8|
|9||November 5, 1989||at Washington Redskins||W 13–3||1–8|
|10||November 12, 1989||at Phoenix Cardinals||L 24–20||1–9|
|11||November 19, 1989||Miami Dolphins||L 17–14||1–10|
|12||November 23, 1989||Philadelphia Eagles||L 27–0||1–11|
|13||December 3, 1989||Los Angeles Rams||L 35–31||1–12|
|14||December 10, 1989||at Philadelphia Eagles||L 20–10||1–13|
|15||December 16, 1989||at New York Giants||L 15–0||1–14|
|16||December 24, 1989||Green Bay Packers||L 20–10||1–15|
|New York Giants(2)||12||4||0||.750||6–2||8–4||348||252||W3|
|Division championships (23)|
|Conference championships (10)|
|League Championships (5)|
|Current league affiliations|
Championship seasons in bold