Tex Schramm had the right idea back in 1966. His expansion franchise had yet to post a winning record, but the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys saw an opportunity to promote the team by hopping aboard an existing tradition. More than 80,000 fans showed up at the Cotton Bowl, and the Cowboys have played a Thanksgiving game almost every year since
Thanksgiving is a big day for Dallas Cowboys fans
As has become the tradition in the NFL, Thanksgiving means that fans are treated to football. When the league announced its schedule, the Nov. 26, 2020, lineup looked like this:
- Houston Texans at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
- Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m., Fox.
- Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m., NBC.
The Ravens (6-4) vs. Steelers (10-0) would have been the only game featuring at least one team with a winning record, but the NFL announced on Nov. 25 that it was being pushed back to Sunday because of the pandemic.
If it’s any consolation to fans – and it probably isn’t — the game between Dallas and Washington has real playoff implications. Dallas, Washington, and the New York Giants are all 3-7, a fraction of a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1) in the NFC East. One of the four has to qualify for the playoffs, so the Dallas-Washington winner moves to the front of the pack for 72 hours or longer, an observation sure to stir conversation at family dinners across the country.
The Thanksgiving history for Dallas began with a thud
Although they’re the best-known team in town to have played on Thanksgiving, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been the only pro franchise to do so. However, the first instance was one of the most embarrassing episodes for the NFL.
The owners of the New York Yanks football team sold their franchise back to the league after the 1951 season. Brothers Giles and Connell Miller bought the team before the 1952 season, giving Texas its first major-league franchise. The endeavor proved to be a disaster.
The Dallas Texans attracted only 17,499 fans to the 75,000-seat Cotton Bowl for their first game, and attendance tailed off from there as the team struggled on the field. After an early-November game attracted only 10,000 fans, the Texans could not meet their payroll, and the Millers returned the team to the league.
Though the franchise kept its name, business operations were moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the Texans became a full-time road team for the rest of the year. The Thanksgiving home game previously scheduled for Dallas was instead played in Akron, Ohio, where the Texans beat the Chicago Bears, 27-23, in front of just 3,000 fans. It was the Texans’ only win.
The second local pro team to play on Thanksgiving was another Dallas Texans franchise, this time from the AFL. Those Texans lost to the New York Titans, 41-35, in 1960. After three seasons in town, those Texans relocated to Kansas City and became the Chiefs.
Thanksgiving football finally became a nearly annual tradition in Dallas in 1966 when the Cowboys scored a 26-14 win over the Cleveland Browns before 80,259 fans jammed into the Cotton Bowl.
What is the Dallas Cowboys’ record on Thanksgiving?
The Dallas Cowboys have hosted Thanksgiving games every year since 1966 with the exception of 1975 and ’77, when the St. Louis Cardinals hosted games against the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, respectively.
The Cowboys are 31-20-1 on Thanksgiving, including a six-year winning streak that began in 1980 but was followed immediately by a four-game losing streak. The 2020 matchup with the Washington Football Team will be the 10th Turkey Bowl between the franchises, and Dallas has won eight of the first nine.
Although Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman would be the popular guesses, the underappreciated Danny White is Dallas’ most successful quarterback in Thanksgiving games. White was 6-1, tying him in victories with Tony Romo (6-3).
Also noteworthy about Dallas’ 2020 appearance: Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy holds a 3-2 record on Thanksgiving, with the five games all as part of the Green Bay Packers against the Detroit Lions.