The Dallas Cowboys have always been known as America’s Team. They have also been known for playing football on Thanksgiving Day. For years, the Cowboys have played the second game on the holiday, following the Detroit Lions game. Since the Cowboys began playing on Thanksgiving in 1966, there have been a couple of instances when they weren’t a part of the holiday festivities.
Why did the Dallas Cowboys begin playing on Thanksgiving?
The Dallas Cowboys came into the NFL as an expansion team in 1960. During their first six years in the league, the Cowboys were struggling. They compiled a record of 25-53-4. Team president and general manager Tex Schramm was looking for a way to turn things around and find a way to market the team.
Schramm jumped at the chance when the opportunity for the Cowboys to play on Thanksgiving arose. The Detroit Lions were already playing on the holiday and it was a risk for the Cowboys to jump in, not knowing if two games on a Thursday would be appealing to fans.
According to SB Nation, the NFL wasn’t convinced two Thursday games would work. The league guaranteed the Cowboys a minimum gate revenue in case nobody showed up for the game. It turned out to be a huge success as 80,000 fans attended the game.
The Cowboys have done well on the holiday
Since the Dallas Cowboys have been playing football on Thanksgiving, they have compiled a record of 31-20-1. Beginning in 1966, they won their first six Thanksgiving Day games. In 1972, they suffered their first holiday loss, falling to the San Francisco 49ers 31-10.
That stretch of six straight wins is the longest Thanksgiving-Day win streak the Cowboys have had. They’ve had two six-game win streaks with the other coming between 1980-1985. The longest holiday losing skid the Cowboys have had is four when they lost every Thanksgiving Day game between 1986 and 1989.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys had a stretch where they went 9-1 on Thanksgiving. That stretch began in 1974. The lone loss in that 10-year stretch came in 1979 when the Cowboys dropped a 30-24 decision to the Houston Oilers in 1979.
Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed Thanksgiving twice
There have been two seasons when the Dallas Cowboys haven’t played football on Thanksgiving Day since they began in 1966. That came during the 1975 and 1977 seasons. In 1975, then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle thought it would be a good idea for the St. Louis Cardinals to take over for the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, according to azcentral.com.
The Cardinals, known as the ‘Cardiac Cards’ because of their wild, late-game heroics, were popular and Rozelle wanted to get them into the spotlight. In 1975, the Cardinals hosted O.J. Simpson and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills cruised to a 32-14 win. In 1976, the Cowboys played again but were at the Cardinals. In 1977, the Cardinals hosted the Miami Dolphins, who crushed the Cards, 55-14, as Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese threw six touchdown passes.
The Cardinals’ experiment was short-lived. “It was a dud in St. Louis,” former Cowboys president and general manager Tex Schramm told the Chicago Tribune in 1998. “Pete asked if we’d take it back. I said only if we get it permanently. It’s something you have to build as a tradition. He said, ‘It’s yours forever.’”