The NFC plays its conference championship game Sunday afternoon. And for the 20th consecutive season, it won’t involve the Dallas Cowboys.
When the Panthers host the Cardinals this weekend it’ll mark yet another season in which the Cowboys not only didn’t make the Super Bowl, but also failed to advance as far as the NFL’s final four. The last time they played in an NFC Championship Game: A 38-27 victory over the Packers on January 14, 1996.
How long ago has it been? Brett Favre quarterbacked Green Bay that day. Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith dominated the game played at old Texas Stadium. Hillary’s husband, Bill, was our president. We were dancing "The Macarena," watching an innovative movie called Space Jam and paying $1.22 for a gallon of gas.
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Since that victory – and subsequent vanquishing of the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX – the Cowboys’ next 20 seasons have ended in premature disappointment. Meanwhile, almost every other team in the conference has multiple championship-game appearances.
Wanna feel rotten? In the last 20 years the only NFC teams to not play for a Super Bowl berth are the Lions, Redskins and, yep, the Cowboys. Every other team has played in at least two conference championships. The Packers and Eagles have made five appearances. Four by the 49ers and Panthers, for crying out loud. Three by the Giants, Vikings, Seahawks and Falcons. And two each by the Bears, Saints, Buccaneers, Cardinals and Rams.
Sad, because the Cowboys were once synonymous with championship Sunday. So much so that even with their 20-year drought they still have the second-most appearances at 14, behind only San Francisco’s 15.
They played in the first four NFC Championship Games from ’71-’74, seven of the first nine and made three consecutive (failed) trips to the title game in ’81-’83. And during Dallas’ dynasty of the ‘90s, it played in four in a row from ’93-’96.
A year ago the Cowboys were lamenting a 12-4 season that came within a Dez Bryant over-turned completion of pushing them back into the NFC Championship Game. But now, after a drastic step back to 4-12, they're farther away as ever.
And, after 20 years, that’s a long way.
NFC Championship Game Appearances Since The Cowboys' Last Berth In 1996
- Packers 5
- Eagles 5
- 49ers 4
- Panthers 4
- Giants 3
- Vikings 3
- Seahawks 3
- Falcons 3
- Bears 2
- Saints 2
- Buccaneers 2
- Cardinals 2
- Rams 2
- Lions 0
- Redskins 0
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.