The air would immediately be let out of the Cowboys' balloon in the opening regular season contest which saw the team suffer a humiliating defeat to first year expansion team and new cross state rival, the Houston Texans. Though quarterbackQuincy Carter again opened the season as the starter, he would eventually be benched in favor of newly signed Chad Hutchinson who, until that year, had been a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals after leaving Stanford as a two sport star. Many believed that owner Jerry Jones pressured head coachDave Campo in to starting Hutchinson much too early, due in part to the large signing bonus Jones paid to acquire the quarterback. Regardless, neither quarterback proved effective and the team once again spiraled towards a losing season.
The Cowboys would later make NFL history while playing on October 27 at home against the Seattle Seahawks. Despite a close loss, Emmitt Smith would break the all-time career yardage rushing record previously held by Walter Payton. The game was stopped momentarily in recognition of the moment, allowing an emotional Smith to briefly celebrate with teammates both current and past who attended the game, as well as members of Payton's family. Smith would also later score his 125th rushing touchdown of his career on the same drive. The milestone moment would provide the lone bright spot of the year for the team and Smith, who would fail to reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the season for the first time in his career since his rookie season of 1990. Overshadowed by the NFL rushing landmark, safety Darren Woodson quietly also became the Dallas Cowboys all-time leading tackler.
During a late season loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, reports began to surface that owner Jerry Jones had secretly met with former New York Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jetshead coachBill Parcells in relation to the head coaching position with the Dallas Cowboys on board Jones' private jet. Though this would prove to be an critical move to the Cowboys future success, it was nonetheless embarrassing for current head coachDave Campo who had received no word that any potential moves were pending, and Jerry Jones was roundly criticized for the incident. On field ineptitude and off field controversy would once again lead to a 5–11 season, the team's third consecutive such finish. Dave Campo would be predictably dismissed after the season.