Tuesday, October 7, 2003
ARON ON COWBOYS: Parcells, Cowboys look to end Philly Funk
IRVING, Texas -- Now that the Dallas Cowboys are feeling
good about themselves, here come the Philadelphia Eagles to try
spoiling their fun.
The last four seasons, the Eagles have beaten the Cowboys six
straight times and seven of eight. While that kind of frequency is
enough to give any team a complex, the intriguing part is that most
of those Philadelphia victories shook things up in Dallas more than
a typical loss would.
There was the end to a 3-0 start in 1999 that also turned out to
be the end of Michael Irvin's career. There was the pickle juice
game that set Dave Campo's tenure off to a bad start and the
Eagles' appearance the day it became obvious Campo would be fired.
Philadelphia also ruined Joey Galloway's debut and proved that
Ryan Leaf was a historically bad idea.
Now Jerry Jones' latest, greatest experiment is off and running.
New coach Bill Parcells has Dallas at 3-1, first in the NFC East
and riding its first three-game winning streak since that fateful
For their next feat, the Cowboys must do more than just beat the
They also must exorcise this Philly Funk before it turns into
the kind of jinx supporters of the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox
have been lamenting for generations.
The drama began Oct. 10, 1999, at Veterans Stadium.
Dallas was coming off a 10-6 season in its first year under
coach Chan Gailey. The Cowboys had rebounded from an embarrassing
home playoff loss to Arizona by starting 3-0 with a superb comeback
victory over Washington in overtime, then two easy wins.
The Triplets who were the backbone of Dallas' dominance in the
1990s were still intact, too. Until facing Philly.
Irvin sustained a career-ending spine injury that game, much to
the delight of the always raucous Vet crowd. The Eagles, who came
in 0-4, won 13-10, starting a downward spiral the Cowboys may only
now be starting to escape.
Dallas won the rematch that season, but at a price.
Three starters were injured, including Greg Ellis shattering the
two major bones in his left leg, ending his rookie season and
slowing him the following year. Emmitt Smith left after gaining 2
yards on one carry; it was his worst performance at Texas Stadium
... until this past Sunday.
The 2000 opener was hailed as the start of a new era. Campo
replaced Gailey, Galloway arrived to replace Irvin and the Cowboys
hoped to make one last big run with Smith and Troy Aikman.
The Eagles opened the game with an onside kick, then kicked
Dallas around. Kept fresh by drinking pickle juice on a sweltering
day on the Texas Stadium turf, Philadelphia won 41-14 and left more
broken bodies in its wake.
Aikman was KO'd early, which proved to be the beginning of the
end of his career. And Galloway, who never should have been playing
in the fourth quarter, tore up his left knee and was lost for the
Randall Cunningham started the next meeting and his return to
Philadelphia made for little more than a good storyline. The
Cowboys lost in overtime for an excruciating second straight week
and the casualty this time was Raghib Ismail, who blew out his
The 2001 season was a waste from the start because the burden of
Aikman's contract left little room under the salary cap to upgrade
the roster. There were many horrible losses, yet the two against
Philadelphia were spectacularly bad.
Put it this way: Giving up 40 unanswered points after leading
6-0 in the first meeting made that the "good" one.
On Nov. 18, 2001, Leaf made the second of three starts as a
Cowboy, and first at home. Thirty seconds before halftime, he threw
a sideline pass that was intercepted and returned 50 yards for a
touchdown. The Eagles won 36-3, making it the most lopsided loss
since 1988 -- when Tom Landry coached Dallas and Bum Bright owned
In the first matchup of 2002, the Eagles were down 10-3, then
scored 31 unanswered points. An optimist would call that progress
compared to the previous season's first meeting.
The rematch came on a Saturday night in December and proved to
be one of the most memorable days in the team's recent history. It
wasn't because of anything that happened on the field.
Hours before kickoff, it became public that Jones had
interviewed Parcells, obviously about replacing Campo. There was
even a pregame news conference about it.
Parcells is here now and things have changed dramatically. So
If he can overcome this budding Philly Funk, the Cowboys might
really be starting something special.