American Football Database

1986 Dallas Cowboys season
Head Coach Tom Landry
Home Field Texas Stadium
Record 7–9
Place 3rd NFC East
Playoff Finish did not qualify
Previous season Next season
1985 1987

The Dallas Cowboys concluded the 1986 season with a record of 7 wins and 9 losses, finishing without a winning record for the first time since 1965.

The Cowboys, re-invigorated by the off-season acquisitions of running back Herschel Walker and passing coordinator Paul Hackett, got off to a strong 6–2 start, including a season opening win on Monday night over the New York Giants, which saw Walker score the winning touchdown late in the game, and a 30–6 blowout win over the Washington Redskins, which ended the Redskins 5–0 start. Quarterbacks Danny White and Steve Pelluer played well early in the season under Hackett's tutelage, who was brought over from the San Francisco 49ers to breathe new life into the passing game. However, White broke his wrist during a crucial loss to the New York Giants, and was ruled out for the season. Pelluer took over as the starting quarterback, and struggled mightily, throwing 17 interceptions over the course of the season, as well as seeing constant pressure from opposing pass rushers, including being sacked a team record 12 times in a game against San Diego. The Cowboys lost 7 out of their final 8 games, and suffered a five game losing streak to close out the season, including embarrassing losses to the Redskins (41–14) and the Seahawks on the annual Thanksgiving Day game (31–14). It was the Cowboys' first loss on Thanksgiving since 1979. During the third quarter of a late-season loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Tom Landry was forced to leave the field due to a threat against his life. Landry returned to the field later in the game wearing a bulletproof vest.

The Cowboys undoing certainly wasn't because of an inability to move the football, as the team ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense. Running back Herschel Walker rushed for 737 yards, caught 76 passes for 837 yards, and scored 14 touchdowns. Late in the season against the Eagles, Walker had a combined 292 yards rushing and receiving, breaking the team single game record. Running back Tony Dorsett added 748 yards rushing, and even though he was still the team's starting running back, he was clearly unhappy with his reduced role. This was the first non-strike season he hadn't rushed for 1000 yards. The passing game flourished under Danny White early in the year, but following White's injury, turnovers and an inability to protect the quarterback neutralized the passing attack. Wide receiver Tony Hill and tight end Doug Cosbie both began to show their age, and Mike Renfro was limited because of injury. Rookie wide receiver Mike Sherrard provided a deep threat, gaining 744 yards on just 41 receptions. Defensively, the team struggled to stop the run, finishing 23rd against the run, and the secondary, an opportunistic bunch in past seasons, only intercepted 17 passes during the season. The pass rush was still strong, despite defensive tackle Randy White finally beginning to slow down due to age and injury, as third year defensive end Jim Jeffcoat stepped up with 14 sacks. Overall, it was mistakes that would plague the team throughout the 1986 season. The offensive line gave up 60 sacks, the offense turned the ball over 41 times, and the team committed 112 penalties.

No Cowboys were selected for the Pro Bowl in 1986.

1986 NFL Draft

Round Pick Name Position School
1 18 Mike Sherrard Wide Receiver UCLA
2 33 Darryl Clack Running Back Arizona State
3 74 Mark Walen Defensive Tackle UCLA
4 100 Max Zendejas Placekicker Arizona
6 140 Thornton Chandler Tight End Alabama
6 150 Stan Gelbaugh Quarterback Maryland
6 158 Lloyd Yancey Offensive Guard Temple
7 185 Johnny Holloway Wide Receiver Kansas
8 212 Topper Clemons Running Back Wake Forest
9 242 John Ionata Offensive Guard Florida State
10 269 Bryan Chester Offensive Guard Texas
11 296 Garth Jax Linebacker Florida State
12 307 Chris Duliban Linebacker Texas
12 322 Tony Flack Defensive Back Georgia


Dallas Cowboys 1986 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Currently vacant

Rookies in italics
45 Active, 0 Inactive

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Game site NFL Recap Attendance
1 September 8, 1986 New York Giants W 31–28 Texas Stadium [1]
2 September 14, 1986 at Detroit Lions W 31–7 Pontiac Silverdome [2]
3 September 21, 1986 Atlanta Falcons L 35–37 Texas Stadium [3]
4 September 29, 1986 at St. Louis Cardinals W 31–7 Busch Memorial Stadium [4]
5 October 5, 1986 at Denver Broncos L 14–29 Mile High Stadium [5]
6 October 12, 1986 Washington Redskins W 30–6 Texas Stadium [6]
7 October 19, 1986 at Philadelphia Eagles W 17–14 Veterans Stadium [7]
8 October 26, 1986 St. Louis Cardinals W 37–6 Texas Stadium [8]
9 November 2, 1986 at New York Giants L 14–17 Giants Stadium [9]
10 November 9, 1986 Los Angeles Raiders L 13–17 Texas Stadium [10]
11 November 16, 1986 at San Diego Chargers W 24–21 Jack Murphy Stadium [11]
12 November 23, 1986 at Washington Redskins L 14–41 RFK Stadium [12]
13 November 27, 1986 Seattle Seahawks L 14–31 Texas Stadium [13]
14 December 7, 1986 at Los Angeles Rams L 10–29 Anaheim Stadium [14]
15 December 14, 1986 Philadelphia Eagles L 21–23 Texas Stadium [15]
16 December 21, 1986 Chicago Bears L 10–24 Texas Stadium [16]


NFC East
New York Giants 14 2 0 .875 371 236 W-9
Washington Redskins 12 4 0 .750 368 296 W-1
Dallas Cowboys 7 9 0 .438 346 337 L-5
Philadelphia Eagles 5 10 1 .344 256 312 L-1
St. Louis Cardinals 4 11 1 .281 218 351 W-1


For the first time in team history, the Cowboys had no players chosen to play in the pro bowl. They also had no players mentioned on the associated press' All-NFL team.


1. The Football Encyclopedia ISBN 0-312-11435-4
2. Total Football ISBN 0-06-270170-3

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1986 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XXI