Bubba Tyer, a Redskin to the core and self-confirmed Dallas Cowboy antagonist, was sitting at home in South Texas this offseason when he heard that the Cowboys planned to honor three of their all-time greats during their first 2005 meeting with Washington. Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, crowed about the timing of the move, with the emotional festivities inducting Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin into the club's Ring of Honor timed to drive the Texas Stadium crowd into a halftime frenzy at their home opener and give the long-suffering Redskins another obstacle.
Monday night will mark the culmination of those events, and Tyer, a member of Washington's medical staff for 34 years, has been fanning the flames of this great rivalry this week. If the Redskins need any extra motivation to end a nine-season losing streak in Dallas, they need only turn to the bulletin board in the training room for material. Tyer keeps the board throughout the season, but things always get a little more caustic during Dallas week. Tyer brought several copies of the stories trumpeting the decision to honor Dallas's star players before this game back with him from Texas, and those clippings are featured prominently this week.
"I think Jerry Jones did it on purpose," Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, said. "I think he said that. I've got the press clippings from the Beaumont Enterprise, and I'll make an issue of it. I brought copies back with me here from two different papers in South Texas. It'll be fun. I love Dallas week. I love Dallas week. All the games we've lost in a row there, just win one, and it'll make everything easier."
Try as they might, the Redskins simply have not found a way to win in Dallas since 1995 and are 1-14 against the Cowboys dating from 1997. Washington's last road game was actually at Texas Stadium -- Dec. 26, 2004, and it only deepened their hex in Big D. The Redskins were the better team that day, but again were prone to untimely mistakes, failed to run out the clock and gain critical first downs when leading late, and lost, 13-10, when quarterback Vinny Testaverde (no longer in the NFL) burned rookie safety Sean Taylor down the right sideline on third down with a 39-yard touchdown pass to then unknown wide receiver Patrick Crayton with 37 seconds to play.
"We had them beat last year, and we let it get away in the end," tackle Chris Samuels said. "It's never over until it's over, especially against them, and we've got to remember that and play as hard as we can and go out there and win this one. That was a tough loss, man. It took awhile to get over that."
"I still can't believe it happened," guard Randy Thomas said. "But it did."
"That was a miracle play," Dallas Coach Bill Parcells said.
That loss effectively extinguished Washington's marginal playoff hopes, ensured the worst record of Joe Gibbs's Hall of Fame coaching career (they finished 6-10) and caused owner Dan Snyder great consternation. The finish was shocking, but the result was merely part of a larger trend.
The Redskins have not scored more than 20 points at Dallas since their 24-17 win in 1995, averaging 13 points per game in those defeats (including an ugly 9-7 loss on Monday night in 2001). Washington is 3-15 against the Cowboys overall since 1995, has not swept Dallas since 1995, carries a 3-15 record against the NFC East over the last three seasons and is 7-23 against the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles since 2000. Hence the lack of a postseason appearance since 1999.
"In order to have a great rivalry," said Gibbs, whose joking comments poking fun at Cowboys fans during his training camp address to the public garnered much attention, "you've got to have two teams that are beating each other, and it's been one-sided. So I don't know. I can't speak for the rivalry part of it, but certainly we haven't been doing our part is the best way of putting it. And I think they're a much improved football team over last year from what I've seen on film. I think they've got a new system there on defense, and they're obviously very, very well-coached, and I have great respect there for Coach Parcells."
Gibbs has a unique personal rivalry with Parcells, dating from when their teams were challenging annually for the Super Bowl. But Parcells is 8-0 against Gibbs since 1987. The Redskins also made a quarterback change this week -- new starter Mark Brunell had very little work with the starters in the preseason -- and could be forced to use a kicker with no NFL experience -- Nick Novak -- in this most pressure-packed setting.
The Cowboys are coming off an impressive win at San Diego in Week 1, have a new passer as well (Drew Bledsoe) and significantly revamped their defense in the offseason and through the draft. Parcells said they are "light years" better in the secondary and have more depth overall. Neither side expects a blowout, but the historical edge rests decidedly with Dallas.
"Both of those games [with Washington] could have gone either way last year," Parcells said, "and I'm expecting the same this year."