It’s been a while since these two storied and hated rivals have squared off in a game that had major implications, but the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins find themselves battling for the NFC East division title for the first time in several seasons this weekend.
Few likely knew at the time that their Thanksgiving Day match-up, which resulted in Washington’s touchdown win over Dallas, would end up meaning so much this year; now, heading into the final game, each team’s post-season hopes are on the line.
Though it’s been a while since this game mattered much outside of the rivalry itself, there has been no love lost among the two teams in what many football fans consider to best the best rivalry in the NFL. Their story is a unique one, and with the teams matching up this weekend for a chance to make the playoffs, here is a look back at how it all began.
Dating back to the early 1960s, the Redskins will tell you that there is no team they hate more than the Dallas Cowboys, and as any Cowboy fan will tell you, the feeling is mutual.
Between them, they have 27 division titles and 8 Super Bowl wins.
So, what is it about these two teams that cause such anxiety and ill-will?
It all began about 50 years ago, before the two teams ever played each other.
In 1958, wealthy Texas oilman, Clint Murchison, Jr., was looking to bring an NFL franchise to Dallas, Texas. Hearing that Redskins’ owner, George Preston Marshall was looking to sell his team, Murchison contacted Marshall and told him that he was interested in buying them.
It appeared that the two had reached an agreement and that the Washington Redskins, who were already very popular in the South, would be moving to Dallas.
However, at the last minute, Marshall made changes to their agreement, and Murchison told him quite simply that he could, “Go to Hell.”
After the deal fell through, Murchison decided that his best move was to begin a new team, so he approached the NFL’s expansion committee chairman, George Halas.
Halas presented Murchison’s proposal to the NFL team owners, who had to unanimously agree to approve the expansion team.
All of the owners gave their approval, except one.
George Preston Marshall.
Marshall understood how popular the Redskins were in the South, particularly the Southeast, and was afraid that his supporters would abandon them in favor of a Dallas team.
He added that he thought that Murchison was “obnoxious.”
About this same time, Marshall, who was well-known for his extravagant pre-game and half-time performances featuring the Redskin’s fight song, “Hail to the Redskins,” had a falling out with the director of the Redskins’ Band, Barnee Breeskin, over what he called failed negotiations.
Seeking revenge, Breeskin approached Murchison and his lawyer asking if they would like to buy the rights to Marshall’s beloved, “Hail to the Redskins.”
So for $2,500, Murchison, sensing a great opportunity, did just that.
You can imagine Marshall’s anger when he discovered that a man he was growing to despise now had the rights to a song that was the very heart, soul, and pride of the Redskins Nation, the lyrics to which were written by Marshall’s own wife.
When word of what had happened got out, a Washington columnist wrote, that “Taking ‘Hail to the Redskins’ away from George Marshall would be like denying ‘Dixie’ to the South, ‘Anchors Aweigh’ to the Navy, or ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ to Elvis.”
Sensing no other options, Marshall approached Murchison, who told him that he would be glad to sell him the rights to the song, but only if he offered his approval for an expansion team in Dallas.
Marshall begrudgingly agreed.
But Murchison wasn’t finished.
At the time, the League rules stated that expansion teams could pick players from other teams’ rosters, but were not allowed to touch those that they owners deemed “protected.”
So, with his first pick, Murchison selected Washington Redskins’ 3-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Eddie LaBaron, whom Marshall had mistakenly failed to “protect” to lead his new team.
Marshall was furious, claiming that Murchison, and therefore all Texans were, “sneaky and underhanded.” He made sure that every Redskins fan across the nation understood his disdain for the new franchise.
As a result, Murchison, the State of Texas, and the Dallas Cowboys became Public Enemy No. 1.
A rivalry was then born.
In 1960, the Dallas Cowboys played their first ever season. The Redskins’ victory over the Cowboys, who played in separate divisions that year, would be their only win of the season, and Dallas would finish their inaugural season winless.
The following year, the Cowboys would be moved to the NFC East, Washington’s division. From then on, the two teams would meet each other twice a year.
For the next 50 years, the rivalry would thrive, growing stronger every year. There have been several memorable moments throughout the decades. They’ve both had their ups and downs, but through it all, the rivalry remained.
And still, 50 years later, Cowboys and Redskins fans’ harsh feelings for each other have not faded as coaches, players, and even fans prepare for a match-up this Sunday that will send one team to the post-season and the other team home.