Michael Irvin spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. Irvin served as a crucial part of the Cowboys’ 1990s Super Bowl success. However, if it weren’t for former longtime then-Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis’ keen words of advice, Jimmy Johnson would have traded him.
Michael Irvin spent Illustrious NFL career with the Cowboys
After a highly-decorated collegiate career at Miami, Irvin entered the NFL with plenty of hype.
His first few seasons featured nagging injury struggles, but his production took off in his fourth year, posting his first of seven 1,000 receiving yard campaigns. Irvin quickly became a vital part of the Cowboys’ championship success as the top passing-game option for quarterback Troy Aikman.
He earned five Pro Bowl selections, received two Second-Team All-Pro nods, and garnered one First-Team All-Pro nomination. Irvin truly earned “The Playmaker” nickname behind his big playoff performances. He finished his career first in franchise history with 64 touchdown passes, 11,904 receiving yards, and his 47 games with at least 100 receiving yards are the eighth-most in league history in 12 seasons.
Irvin also ranks second in playoff history behind only Jerry Rice in several categories, including six 100-receiving yard performances, 87 catches, and 1,315 receiving yards. However, all that wouldn’t have come to fruition in Dallas if Al Davis hadn’t intervened.
Raiders owner Al Davis talked Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson out of a near-catastrophic mistake: ‘I’d be happy to trade for him, but you need to keep Michael Irvin’
As the Cowboys built their way toward a dynasty in the 1990s, it featured Irvin developing into one of the NFL’s best offensive talents.
His progressive rise to stardom led Dallas to hold internal discussions about possibly moving him to land another Herschel Walker-type trade package haul. The Cowboys were convinced Kelvin Martin could potentially fill the massive gap left by Irvin’s departure.
Martin’s first four seasons featured him earning a steady role in the passing game. It amounted to a breakout 1990 campaign, where he tallied then-career-highs with 64 receptions for 732 receiving yards.
Meanwhile, any trade for Irving would net the team a couple of high draft picks that could have been used to add another promising passing game option. However, former longtime Raiders owner Al Davis dropped his two cents into the conversation to halt that possibility.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” Al Davis asked from the mountaintop, according to Barry Horn of The Dallas Morning News.
“I’d be happy to trade for him, but you need to keep Michael Irvin,” Davis told Jones and Johnson. “He can smell the end zone.”
The Cowboys’ decision to keep Irvin paid significant dividends as he became a massive part of the team’s three Super Bowl wins. His presence served as a critical element toward lifting the franchise toward sustained success and may have changed their fate forever.
Davis didn’t have to advise Jones or Johnson to avoid that move, but it prevented a massive mistake in Dallas.
NFL legacy would have changed entirely
Irvin’s career would have taken a much different path had the Cowboys elected to trade him.
His many off-the-field issues could have pushed him out of the league, but Jerry Jones’ relationship and trust in the star wideout kept him around. Irvin certainly benefitted from playing for Jones’ team as many other organizations would have handled the troubling matters much differently.
He also played during an era where the league punishment and rules weren’t stern as they have become now. Nonetheless, the Cowboys’ decision to stick by Irvin allowed him to cultivate a legendary NFL career.