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Defensive coordinator Dave Campo was promoted to head coach for the 2000 season. Prior to the season starting cornerback Deion Sanders was released after 5 seasons with the team. He later signed with division competitor Washington. In Week 1, they were blown out 41– 14 by Philadelphia. That game was very expensive when veteran quarterback Troy Aikman suffered a severe concussion which eventually ended his career. Long time NFL QB Randall Cunningham filled in for Aikman for the rest of the season at QB. The Cowboys finished the season in 4th place with a 5– 11 record. The only highlights of 2000 were Emmitt Smith having his 10th successive 1,000 yard rushing season and a season sweep over the Redskins.
2001 was another hard year in Dallas. Prior to the season starting Aikman was released from the team and he retired due to the concussions he had received. Jerry Jones signed Tony Banks as a QB. Banks had been a starter for half of the season the previous year for the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens before being benched. Jones also drafted QB Quincy Carter in the second round of that year’s draft, however Banks was released throughout the preseason. Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright, and Clint Stoerner all competed for the quarterback position that season. Dallas again finished at 5– 11, last place in the NFC East. They did sweep the Redskins for the 4th successive season.
Prior to the 2002 season Dallas drafted safety Roy Williams with the 8th overall pick. The season began low as the Cowboys lost to the growth Houston Texans 19– 10 on Week 1. By far the highlight of 2002 was on October 28, when during a home game versus the Seattle Seahawks, Emmitt Smith broke the all-time NFL rushing record previously held by Walter Payton. Their Thanksgiving Day win over the Redskins was their 10th successive win against Washington. However, that was their last win of 2002: Dallas lost their next 4 games to finish with another last place 5– 11 record. The losing streak was punctuated with a Week 17 20– 14 loss against Washington. That game was Smith’s last game as a Cowboys player: he was released during the offseason. Campo was immediately fired as head coach at the conclusion of the season.
Jones then tempted Bill Parcells out of retirement to coach the Cowboys. The Cowboys became the surprise team of the 2003 season leaving to a hot 7– 2 season, but went 3– 4 for the rest of the season. They had the ability to win the division with a 10– 6 record but lost in the Wild Card round to eventual conference champ Carolina Panthers 29– 10.
In 2004 Dallas was not able to replicate their 2003 success, and ended 6– 10. Quincy Carter was released during the preseason and was replaced at QB by Vinny Testaverde.
Dallas left to a hot 7– 3 start for the 2005 season however ended the season in 3rd place with a 9– 7 record. Prior to the season starting the Cowboys signed veteran Drew Bledsoe as a quarterback.
2006 was a fascinating year for the Cowboys. Prior to the season Dallas signed free agent pass receiver Terrell Owens who was talented yet questionable. The Cowboys began the season 3– 2. Throughout a week 7 matchup against the Giants Bledsoe, who had actually been struggling since the start of the season, was pulled from the game and was replaced by backup Tony Romo. Romo was unable to restore that game and Dallas lost 38– 22. Nevertheless, Romo was named the starter for team and went 5– 1 in his first 6 games. Dallas ended the season with a 9– 7 2nd-place finish. They had the ability to clinch the number 5 playoff seed. They traveled to play Seattle where the Seahawks won 21– 20. After the season Parcells retired and was replaced as head coach by Wade Phillips.
Dallas started the 2007 season with a bang. They began the season with a 12– 1 start, including winning their first five games. Their only loss throughout that time period came against New England, who went undefeated that season. Despite dropping 2 of their last three regular season games, the Cowboys clinched their first number 1 NFC seed in 12 years, which also granted them a first round bye and home field benefit throughout the playoffs. The Cowboys lost in the divisional round 21– 17 to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
In the troubled 2008 season, the Cowboys began strong, going 3– 0 for the second straight year, en route to a 4– 1 start. Nevertheless, things soon went downhill from there, after quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken pinkie in an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals. With Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger playing as backups, Dallas went 1– 2 during a three-game stretch. Romo’s return showed guarantee, as Dallas went 3– 0. However, injuries installed during the season with the team losing a number of starters for the year, such as Kyle Kosier, Felix Jones, safety Roy Williams and punter Mat McBriar, and a number of other starters having fun with injuries. Getting in December, the 8– 4 Cowboys underperformed, ending up 1– 3. They cannot make the playoffs after losing at Philadelphia in the final regular season game which saw the Eagles reach the playoffs instead.
On May 2, 2009, the Dallas Cowboys’ practice center collapsed during a wind storm. The collapse left twelve Cowboys players and coaches injured. The most severe injuries were special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who suffered fractured cervical vertebrae and had surgical treatment to support fractured vertebrae in his neck, and Rich Behm, the team’s 33-year-old scouting assistant, who was permanently incapacitated from the waist down after his spine was severed.
The 2009 season started on a favorable with a road win versus Tampa Bay, but fortunes rapidly changed as Dallas was up to a 2– 2 start. In week five, with starting wide receiver Roy Williams sidelined by injury, receiver Miles Austin got his first start of the season and had a record setting day (250 yards receiving and 2 TDs) to help lead Dallas to an overtime win over Kansas City. Following their bye week, Dallas went on a three-game winning streak consisting of wins over Atlanta and NFC East division rival Philadelphia. Regardless of getting in December with a record of 8– 3, Dallas lost its slim grip on 1st place in the division with losses to the New York Giants and San Diego. Talks of previous December collapses resurfaced, and another collapse in 2009 appeared confirmed. Nevertheless, the Dallas team surged in the final three weeks of the season with a 24– 17 victory at the Superdome, ending New Orleans’ previously unbeaten season in week 15. For the first time in franchise history, Dallas posted back-to-back shutouts when they beat division rivals Washington (17– 0) and Philadelphia (24– 0) to end the season. While doing so, the Cowboys clinched their second NFC East title in 3 years in addition to the third seed in the NFC Playoffs. Six days later on, in the wild-card round of the playoffs, Dallas played the Eagles in a rematch of week 17. The Cowboys beat the Eagles for the first Cowboys’ post-season win since the 1996 season, ending a streak of six successive NFL post-season losses. Dallas ended their playoff run after a hard divisional playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings.