American Football Database

2003 Dallas Cowboys season
Head Coach Bill Parcells
Home Field Texas Stadium
Record 10–6
Place 2nd NFC East
Playoff Finish Lost Wild Card Playoffs (Panthers) 29–10
Previous season Next season
2002 2004

2003 marked the 44th season for the Dallas Cowboys organization as the team, coming off three consecutive 5–11 seasons, hired former New York Giants and New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells.

Despite the release of team legend Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys' fortunes began to change with the introduction of Parcells as head coach. Parcells began to reshape the team, particularly on offense, with an overhaul of the coaching staff, including former New York Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton. Parcells retained much of the defensive staff, including defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and maintained the team's basic 4-3 defense instead of immediately installing the 3-4 defense which was a trademark of all Parcells's prior teams. This proved a wise decision, as the Cowboys finished the season with the top-ranked overall defense. As in his previous stops, Parcells started to rebuild his team through the draft. In his first year in Dallas, Parcells picked future Pro Bowl players cornerback Terence Newman, tight end Jason Witten and future Cowboys defensive captain linebacker Bradie James. One of the biggest rookie acquisitions came via free agency when the team signed undrafted rookie and future franchise quarterback Tony Romo (although that move got little attention for a few years). Also typical of his prior teams, Parcells brought in veteran players who had played for him at his previous coaching stops, signing fullback Richie Anderson and speedy wide receiver Terry Glenn with whom Parcells had a checkered history.

Though the Cowboys opened the season with a loss, a dramatic come-from-behind victory the next week against the Giants at New York spurred the team's confidence, particularly in third-year quarterback Quincy Carter. This would be followed by a reunion with Emmitt Smith (now with the Arizona Cardinals) in Dallas. Smith would injure his shoulder early in the game and not return. After starting with a 6–2 record, the Cowboys went 4–4 in the second half of the season including a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro. The game received a lot of hype due to Bill Parcells and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seemingly[according to whom?] strained relationship due to the events following their final season coaching together with the New York Jets. Though the Cowboys finished 10–6 and earned a playoff berth, they lost in the first round to the eventual NFC champions, the Carolina Panthers.

The Cowboys ranked first in total defense (253.5 yards per game), third in rushing defense, and second in scoring (16.3 points per game), which helped the team qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the decade.

This turned out to be the final season for long-time (and oftentimes Pro Bowl) Cowboys safety Darren Woodson. Woodson represented the last player link to the Jimmy Johnson Cowboys (and to all three Super Bowl teams of the 1990s). Woodson was on the roster the following season (2004) but never saw action due to injury.


Week Date Opponent Result Kickoff Time Attendance
1 September 7, 2003 Atlanta Falcons L 27–13 FOX 4:00pm
2 September 15, 2003 at New York Giants W 35–32 ABC 9:00pm
3 Bye
4 September 28, 2003 at New York Jets W 17–6 FOX 4:00pm
5 October 5, 2003 Arizona Cardinals W 24–7 FOX 1:00pm
6 October 12, 2003 Philadelphia Eagles W 23–21 FOX 1:00pm
7 October 19, 2003 at Detroit Lions W 38–7 FOX 1:00pm
8 October 26, 2003 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 16–0 FOX 1:00pm
9 November 2, 2003 Washington Redskins W 21–14 FOX 4:00pm
10 November 9, 2003 Buffalo Bills W 10–6 CBS 4:00pm
11 November 16, 2003 at New England Patriots L 12–0 ESPN 8:30pm
12 November 23, 2003 Carolina Panthers W 24–21 FOX 1:00pm
13 November 27, 2003 Miami Dolphins L 40–21 CBS 4:00pm
14 December 7, 2003 at Philadelphia Eagles L 36–10 FOX 1:00pm
15 December 14, 2003 at Washington Redskins W 27–0 FOX 4:00pm
16 December 21, 2003 New York Giants W 19–3 FOX 1:00pm
17 December 28, 2003 at New Orleans Saints L 13–7 FOX 1:00pm


NFC East
view · talk · edit W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
Philadelphia Eagles 12 4 0 .750 5–1 9–3 374 287 W1
Dallas Cowboys 10 6 0 .625 5–1 8–4 289 260 L1
Washington Redskins 5 11 0 .313 1–5 3–9 287 372 L3
New York Giants 4 12 0 .250 1–5 3–9 243 387 L8


Dallas Cowboys 2003 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Rookies in italics
53 Active, 4 Inactive

AFC East North South West East North South West NFC
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
Miami Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City NY Giants Detroit Carolina St. Louis
New England Cleveland Jacksonville Oakland Philadelphia Green Bay New Orleans San Francisco
NY Jets Pittsburgh Tennessee San Diego Washington Minnesota Tampa Bay Seattle
2003 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XXXVIII