1986 Dallas Cowboys season

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1986 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coachTom Landry
Home fieldTexas Stadium
Division place3rd NFC East
Playoff finishdid not qualify
Previous seasonNext season
< 19851987 >
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1986 Dallas Cowboys season
Head coachTom Landry
Home fieldTexas Stadium
Division place3rd NFC East
Playoff finishdid not qualify
Previous seasonNext season
< 19851987 >

The 1986 season Dallas Cowboys season was the team's 27th in the National Football League. The Cowboys concluded the year with a record of 7 wins and 9 losses, finishing without a winning record for the first time since 1965.

The Cowboys, re-invigorated by the off-season acquisitions of running back Herschel Walker and passing coordinator Paul Hackett, got off to a strong 6–2 start, including a season opening win on Monday night over the New York Giants, which saw Walker score the winning touchdown late in the game, and a 30–6 blowout win over the Washington Redskins, which ended the Redskins 5–0 start. Quarterbacks Danny White and Steve Pelluer played well early in the season under Hackett's tutelage, who was brought over from the San Francisco 49ers to breathe new life into the passing game. However, White broke his wrist during a crucial loss to the New York Giants, and was ruled out for the season. Pelluer took over as the starting quarterback, and struggled mightily, throwing 17 interceptions over the course of the season, as well as seeing constant pressure from opposing pass rushers, including being sacked a team record 12 times in a game against San Diego. The Cowboys lost 7 out of their final 8 games, and suffered a five game losing streak to close out the season, including embarrassing losses to the Redskins (41–14) and the Seahawks in the annual Thanksgiving Day game (31–14). It was the Cowboys' first loss on Thanksgiving since 1979. During the third quarter of a late-season loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Tom Landry was forced to leave the field due to a threat against his life. Landry returned to the field later in the game wearing a bulletproof vest.

The Cowboys undoing certainly wasn't because of an inability to move the football, as the team ranked fourth in the NFL in total offense. Running back Herschel Walker rushed for 737 yards, caught 76 passes for 837 yards, and scored 14 touchdowns. Late in the season against the Eagles, Walker had a combined 292 yards rushing and receiving, breaking the team single game record. Running back Tony Dorsett added 748 yards rushing, and even though he was still the team's starting running back, he was clearly unhappy with his reduced role. This was the first non-strike season he hadn't rushed for 1000 yards. The passing game flourished under Danny White early in the year, but following White's injury, turnovers and an inability to protect the quarterback neutralized the passing attack. Wide receiver Tony Hill and tight end Doug Cosbie both began to show their age, and Mike Renfro was limited because of injury. Rookie wide receiver Mike Sherrard provided a deep threat, gaining 744 yards on just 41 receptions. Defensively, the team struggled to stop the run, finishing 23rd against the run, and the secondary, an opportunistic bunch in past seasons, only intercepted 17 passes during the season. The pass rush was still strong, despite defensive tackle Randy White finally beginning to slow down due to age and injury, as third year defensive end Jim Jeffcoat stepped up with 14 sacks. Overall, it was mistakes that would plague the team throughout the 1986 season. The offensive line gave up 60 sacks, the offense turned the ball over 41 times, and the team committed 112 penalties.

No Cowboys were selected for the Pro Bowl in 1986.

1986 NFL Draft[edit]

118Mike SherrardWide ReceiverUCLA
233Darryl ClackRunning BackArizona State
374Mark WalenDefensive TackleUCLA
4100Max ZendejasPlacekickerArizona
6140Thornton ChandlerTight EndAlabama
6150Stan GelbaughQuarterbackMaryland
6158Lloyd YanceyOffensive GuardTemple
7185Johnny HollowayWide ReceiverKansas
8212Topper ClemonsRunning BackWake Forest
9242John IonataOffensive GuardFlorida State
10269Bryan ChesterOffensive GuardTexas
11296Garth JaxLinebackerFlorida State
12307Chris DulibanLinebackerTexas
12322Tony FlackDefensive BackGeorgia


Dallas Cowboys 1986 roster

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive Linemen


Defensive Backs

Special Teams

Reserve Lists

Currently vacant

Rookies in italics
45 Active, 0 Inactive

Regular season[edit]


WeekDateOpponentResultGame siteNFL RecapAttendance
1September 8, 1986New York GiantsW 31–28Texas Stadium[1]
2September 14, 1986at Detroit LionsW 31–7Pontiac Silverdome[2]
3September 21, 1986Atlanta FalconsL 35–37Texas Stadium[3]
4September 29, 1986at St. Louis CardinalsW 31–7Busch Memorial Stadium[4]
5October 5, 1986at Denver BroncosL 14–29Mile High Stadium[5]
6October 12, 1986Washington RedskinsW 30–6Texas Stadium[6]
7October 19, 1986at Philadelphia EaglesW 17–14Veterans Stadium[7]
8October 26, 1986St. Louis CardinalsW 37–6Texas Stadium[8]
9November 2, 1986at New York GiantsL 14–17Giants Stadium[9]
10November 9, 1986Los Angeles RaidersL 13–17Texas Stadium[10]
11November 16, 1986at San Diego ChargersW 24–21Jack Murphy Stadium[11]
12November 23, 1986at Washington RedskinsL 14–41RFK Stadium[12]
13November 27, 1986Seattle SeahawksL 14–31Texas Stadium[13]
14December 7, 1986at Los Angeles RamsL 10–29Anaheim Stadium[14]
15December 14, 1986Philadelphia EaglesL 21–23Texas Stadium[15]
16December 21, 1986Chicago BearsL 10–24Texas Stadium[16]


NFC East
New York Giants(1)1420.8757–111–1371236
Washington Redskins(4)1240.7505–39–3368296
Dallas Cowboys790.4385–36–6346337
Philadelphia Eagles5101.3441–6–13–8–1256312
St. Louis Cardinals4111.2811–6–13–10–1218351

Game summaries[edit]

Week 1: vs. New York Giants[edit]


at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas

Game information
Second Quarter
Third Quarter
  • NYG – Joe Morris 2 yard run (Bob Thomas kick) – Giants 21–17
Fourth Quarter
  • DAL – Thornton Chandler 1 yard pass from Danny White (Rafael Septien kick) – Cowboys 24–21
  • NYG – Bobby Johnson 44 yard pass from Phil Simms (Bob Thomas kick) – Giants 28–24
  • DAL – Herschel Walker 10 yard run (Rafael Septien kick) – Cowboys 31–28
  • Phil Simms
    22/45, 300 Yds, 3 TD, INT
  • Joe Morris
    20 Rush, 87 Yds, TD
  • Bobby Johnson
    7 Rec, 105 Yds, 2 TD
  • Danny White
    23/39, 279 Yds, 2 TD
  • Herschel Walker
    10 Rush, 64 Yds, 2 TD
  • Tony Hill
    5 Rec, 107 Yds

Week 9: at New York Giants[edit]


at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

  • Date: November 2
  • Game time: 12 noon CST
  • Game weather: 59°F, wind 14 mph
  • Game attendance: 74,871
  • Referee: Dick Hantak
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall (play-by-play), John Madden (color commentary)


For the first time in team history, the Cowboys had no players chosen to play in the pro bowl. They also had no players mentioned on the associated press' All-NFL team.