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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. 25, 2021, lineup looked like this:

  • Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox
  • Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m., CBS
  • Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m., NBC

While the Bears/Lions game has no playoff implications, the other two certainly do, as the Cowboys, Bills, and Saints would all be in the postseason if it started today. The 5-5 Raiders aren’t out of it yet, but they definitely have work to do as they’re currently in the 11th spot in the AFC at 5-5.

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?

Dallas Cowboys logo
Dallas Cowboys logo | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When Did the NFL Add a Third Game to the Thanksgiving Day Menu?

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 31-21-1 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 was the 10th Turkey Bowl between the franchises, and Dallas won eight of the first nine. But Washington decimated the Cowboys a season ago, winning 41-16.

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).

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy holds a 3-3 record on Thanksgiving. He was 3-2 against the Lions as head coach of the Packers and is 0-1 as the leader of the Cowboys.