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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 on 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 serious concussion which ultimately ended his career. Longtime NFL QB Randall Cunningham substituted 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 gotten. Jerry Jones signed Tony Banks as a QB. Banks had actually been a starter for half of the season the previous year for the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens prior to being benched. Jones also drafted QB Quincy Carter in the second round of that year’s draft, however Banks was released during 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 consecutive season.
Prior to the 2002 season Dallas drafted safety Roy Williams with the 8th overall choice. The season started out low as the Cowboys lost to the growth Houston Texans 19– 10 on Week 1. Without a doubt the emphasize of 2002 was on October 28, when throughout a home game against 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 versus Washington. However, that was their final win of 2002: Dallas lost their next 4 games to finish with another last place 5– 11 record. The losing streak was stressed with a Week 17 20– 14 loss versus Washington. That game was Smith’s last game as a Cowboys player: he was released throughout the offseason. Campo was immediately fired as head coach at the conclusion of the season.
Jones then lured Bill Parcells from retirement to coach the Cowboys. The Cowboys became the surprise team of the 2003 season getting off to a hot 7– 2 season, however went 3– 4 for the remainder of the season. They were able to win the division with a 10– 6 record however lost in the Wild Card round to eventual conference champ Carolina Panthers 29– 10.
In 2004 Dallas was unable 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 experienced Drew Bledsoe as a quarterback.
2006 was an intriguing year for the Cowboys. Prior to the season Dallas signed free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens who was talented yet controversial. The Cowboys began the season 3– 2. During a week 7 matchup versus 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 not able to restore that game and Dallas lost 38– 22. However, 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 took a trip 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 off the 2007 season with a bang. They started the season with a 12– 1 start, consisting of winning their first five games. Their only loss during that time period came against New England, who went undefeated that season. In spite of dropping two of their last 3 regular season games, the Cowboys clinched their first number 1 NFC seed in 12 years, which also approved them a first round bye and home field benefit throughout the playoffs. The Cowboys lost in the divisional round 21– 17 to the ultimate Super Bowl champ New York Giants.
In the troubled 2008 season, the Cowboys started strong, going 3– 0 for the second straight year, en route to a 4– 1 start. Nevertheless, things quickly 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 revealed pledge, as Dallas went 3– 0. However, injuries mounted throughout 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. Entering December, the 8– 4 Cowboys underperformed, finishing 1– 3. They failed to make the playoffs after losing at Philadelphia in the last regular season game which saw the Eagles reach the playoffs rather.
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 major injuries were special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who suffered fractured cervical vertebrae and had surgical treatment to stabilize fractured vertebrae in his neck, and Rich Behm, the team’s 33-year-old hunting assistant, who was permanently paralyzed from the waist down after his spinal column was severed.
The 2009 season started on a positive with a roadway win against Tampa Bay, however fortunes quickly changed as Dallas fell to a 2– 2 start. In week five, with starting pass 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 assist lead Dallas to an overtime win over Kansas City. Following their bye week, Dallas went on a three-game winning streak including wins over Atlanta and NFC East division rival Philadelphia. In spite of entering 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 past December collapses resurfaced, and another collapse in 2009 appeared confirmed. Nevertheless, the Dallas team rose in the final three weeks of the season with a 24– 17 victory at the Superdome, ending New Orleans’ formerly unbeaten season in week 15. For the very 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. In the process, the Cowboys clinched their second NFC East title in 3 years as well as the third seed in the NFC Playoffs. 6 days later on, in the wild-card round of the playoffs, Dallas played the Eagles in a rematch of week 17. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles for the first Cowboys’ post-season win since the 1996 season, ending a streak of 6 successive NFL post-season losses. Dallas ended their playoff pursue a hard divisional playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings.