American Football Database
1989 Dallas Cowboys season
Head Coach Jimmy Johnson
Home Field Texas Stadium
Record 1–15
Place 5th NFC East
Playoff Finish did not qualify
Previous season Next season
1988 1990

The 1989 Dallas Cowboys season was the first year of the franchise under the ownership of Jerry Jones as well as under the helm of head coach Jimmy Johnson, who had compiled a 44–4 record in his last 4 years as coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes.

Besides the entry of Johnson and Jones, the Cowboys made pre-season headlines by drafting UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman with the first pick in the NFL Draft. Curiously, they also drafted quarterback Steve Walsh later in the NFL's supplemental draft (in doing so, they gave up a number one pick in the 1990 draft). Walsh had played quarterback for Jimmy Johnson at the University of Miami and led the Canes to a 23–1 record as a starter and one national title.

Walsh and Aikman battled for the starting quarterback job in the pre-season, with Aikman winning the nod when the regular season began. Expectations were raised when the Cowboys finished with a strong 3–1 preseason record (and this season is often used as an example of the "lack of correlation" between pre-season and regular season performance).

On opening day, the Cowboys were beaten by the New Orleans Saints, 28–0, and went on to finish 1–15 for the season. Aikman broke his wrist in week four and Steve Walsh started the next 4 games (including the team's only win) before Aikman returned to finish the season.

Two of the few bright spots of the season were Linebacker Eugene "The hitting machine" Lockhart, who led the league in tackles, and James Dixon, who was one of the NFL's leaders in kickoff return average.

1989 was the first season in the history of Monday Night Football that did not feature at least one Cowboys game.

The only win by the Cowboys during the season was against the rival Redskins in Washington. Though the season seemed a complete failure, it would prove to be the prelude to many great years ahead. Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, future centerpieces of the Cowboys' dynasty, headlined this team. During the season, star running back Herschel Walker would be traded to the Minnesota Vikings for multiple players and draft picks. By finishing 1–15 they received the top spot in the 1990 NFL Draft. Later, they would trade down and draft a running back out of Florida named Emmitt Smith. Other notable additions to the team that year include center Mark Stepnoski and fullback Daryl Johnston.

The two matchups between the Cowboys and Eagles (including one on Thanksgiving) were particularly hostile and became known as the Bounty Bowls.

The 1989 season was the final NFL season for the legendary Ed "Too Tall" Jones and longtime offensive lineman Tom Rafferty.


NFL Draft

Round Pick # Player Position College
1 1 Troy Aikman Quarterback UCLA
2 29 Steve Wisniewski Offensive Guard Penn State

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 10, 1989 at New Orleans Saints L 28–0
2 September 17, 1989 at Atlanta Falcons L 27–21
3 September 24, 1989 Washington Redskins L 30–7
4 October 1, 1989 New York Giants L 30–13
5 October 8, 1989 at Green Bay Packers L 31–13
6 October 15, 1989 San Francisco 49ers L 31–14
7 October 22, 1989 at Kansas City Chiefs L 36–28
8 October 29, 1989 Phoenix Cardinals L 19–10
9 November 5, 1989 at Washington Redskins W 13–3
10 November 12, 1989 at Phoenix Cardinals L 24–20
11 November 19, 1989 Miami Dolphins L 17–14
12 November 23, 1989 Philadelphia Eagles L 27–0
13 December 3, 1989 Los Angeles Rams L 35–31
14 December 10, 1989 at Philadelphia Eagles L 20–10
15 December 16, 1989 at New York Giants L 15–0
16 December 24, 1989 Green Bay Packers L 20–10


NFC East
New York Giants 12 4 0 .750 348 252
Philadelphia Eagles 11 5 0 .688 342 274
Washington Redskins 10 6 0 .625 386 308
Phoenix Cardinals 5 11 0 .313 258 377
Dallas Cowboys 1 15 0 .063 204 393


Herschel Walker

In 1989, at the height of his NFL career, the Cowboys traded him to the Minnesota Vikings for a total of five players (LB Jesse Solomon, DB Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson, LB David Howard, DE Alex Stewart) and six draft picks (which led to Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Darren Woodson). This was judged to be one of the turning points in the rise of the Cowboys to the top echelon of the NFL. Walker's trade was widely perceived as an exceptionally poor move considering what the Vikings had to give up in order to get him, and remains one of the most frequently vilified roster moves of the team's history. The Vikings coaches reluctantly accepted Walker after the trade and never totally used the tool they had been given. says, "but Walker was never used properly by the coaching brain trust (a total oxymoron in this case)".[2]


Dallas Cowboys 1989 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Currently vacant

Rookies in italics
47 Active, 0 Inactive

Awards and honors


  1. NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 292
  2. By Viking Update Staff (2001-06-20). "History: Walker Trade". Retrieved 2008-01-29.
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