Their combined record of 5-13 only tells the half of it. Neither team has looked anything like the teams that were expected to meet in the NFC Championship game this year.
Instead, they look like two teams marred by a media circus. Dallas may have cured their problems, but Minnesota appears to still be going down the wrong path.
But when you think of these two teams historically, one name forever links these two teams: Herschel Walker
For those that don't know, Herschel Walker is the reason the Vikings haven't won a Super Bowl and the reason Dallas has 6 (ok, I may be exaggerating, but he has a lot to do with it).
Allow us to go back 21 years ago.
Facing an 0-5 start, Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones decided they needed to completely change the team. They decided to deal their star RB, who, up to that point in the season, had just 246 yards and 2 TDs.
After receiving offers from the Giants and Falcons, the Browns expressed serious enough interest that the Cowboys nearly pulled the trigger. However, again, Johnson and Jones concocted a plan: let's call teams and create a bidding war.
Cleveland was offering an unnamed player, a couple of future number one draft picks and three number two draft picks. Jones called then Vikings only Mike Lynn and gave him a 6:30 PM deadline to express interest in Walker or they would send him to Cleveland.
As we all know, Mike Lynn made Brad Childress look like a genius and sent Jones a fax, informing him of his interest in Walker. The following original trade ensued
RB Herschel Walker
Dallas's 3rd round pick - 1990
San Diego's 5th round pick - 1990
Dallas's 10th round pick - 1990
Dallas's 3rd round pick - 1991
LB Jesse Solomon
LB David Howard
CB Issiac Holt
RB Darrin Nelson
DE Alex Stewart
Minnesota's 1st round pick in 1990
Minnesota's 2nd round pick in 1990
Minnesota's 6th round pick in 1990
Minnesota's 1st round pick in 1991
Minnesota's 2nd round pick in 1991
Minnesota's 2nd round pick in 1992
Minnesota's 3rd round pick in 1992
Minnesota's 1st round pick in 1993
A total of 5 players and 12 draft picks swapped hands. Now, let me stop here. Think about today's game and how valuable draft picks seemed. Imagine if anything remotely close happened to this in the current state of the NFL. Sportscenter would most definitely implode.
Now, back to the story.
Dallas wasn't even close to finished, however. And to be honest, there isn't a good way for me to explain what Dallas did following this trade. Beginning with a trade on October 17th, 1989 and ending with a trade on April 26, 1992, the picks eventually involved 15 teams and 55 players as they were combined with other choices and traded around the NFL.
And that's just the half of it. The Cowboys grouped picks, traded picks, traded players, released players, resigned players all within a 3-year period to build a dynasty. In the end, the Cowboys ended up with these players (* indicating they were in or apart of the original trade):
That's 19 players the Cowboys ended up with in return for essentially Herschel Walker. The only significant player the Vikings got out of the draft picks was Jake Reed, a WR who had a couple 1,000-yard seasons, but not much else.
The Cowboys? They got cornerstones of their dynasty in Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson (both drafted directly from draft picks the Vikings gave them), Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, and Clayton Holmes.
*Smith went on to be arguably the best RB ever.
*Woodson became a starter for the championship teams at SS
*Maryland was picked to the Pro Bowl in 1993 and started at DT for the championship teams
*Smith was an All-Pro in '96 and anchored the Cowboys secondary with Holmes for the first two titles, who won two titles, but was forced out of the league by injuries
They finished the 1989 season 7-4, made the playoffs, but was blown out by the 49ers. Walker finished the season in Minny with 669 yards and 5 TDs. The 1990 season, the Vikings finished 6-10 and Walker had just 776 yards and 5 TDs. The '91 season saw the Vikings go 8-8 and Walker finished with 825 yards and 10 TDs.
It's hard to say why Walker failed in Minnesota. Some say he wasn't utilized as much in Minnesota, but he averaged 13 carries a game in Minnesota compared to 10 a game in Dallas.
Was he just simply a bust?
Was it Minnesota's fault?
We're not here to argue this, but it's a question to ponder.
What we are here to discuss is what if this trade didn't happen. What if Dallas pulled the trigger on the Cleveland deal? What if they dealt Michael Irvin to Oakland like Jones initially wanted to do?
Let's say Minnesota's GM balked and Dallas completed the deal with the Browns. As I said, Cleveland was offering an unnamed player, a couple of future number one draft picks and three number two draft picks. There's obviously no way to know who that player was, so let's just base it on the draft picks.
Cleveland would get Walker added to a team that was 3-2 prior to the date of the Walker deal. The receivers were definitely there for this team and Walker could have put them over the top. I think we can agree they would have done better than their 9-6-1 record. Walker also wouldn't have the pressure of being the piece of putting a team into Super Bowl contention. We'll generously say they finished 11-5.
That would have moved them up to the 1 seed due to their win over Denver earlier that year (prior to Walker trade). I think Walker would have been enough for that team, along with memories of "The Drive" fresh on their minds, for the Browns to beat the Broncos and make the Super Bowl.
However, it would certainly not be enough to take down the 49ers. They would have won regardless.
As for the Cowboys? It's hard to say what they would have done with fewer draft picks and no players. They probably wouldn't have bombed the season like they did, if not worse. They would have an earlier pick like they did. But would they have been as eager to deal picks as they were? With fewer players/picks in their hands, would they have settled with simply drafting players? It's something we can't tell or predict. No one knows what Jones or Johnson would have thought.
Lastly, the Vikings. Without Walker, they finished a mediocre 8-8. That would put them around the middle of the draft. The Cowboys wouldn't have had the draft picks they had after the original trade and I don't think they could have moved up much. The Vikings, looking for a running back to "put them over the top" go after none other than Emmitt Smith.
Behind the hard running of Smith, the Vikings have a much better 1990 campaign than their 6-10 one. I would think they honestly could have went 9-7, which would put them in the 6th seed in the NFC.
The Cowboys certainly wouldn't have become the dynasty they did become. It's hard to say who would have ended up on those Cowboy teams. There wasn't another RB anywhere close to Smith's level in the 1990 draft. Would the Cowboys have went elsewhere? Would Aikman and Irvin be in the Hall of Fame?
That also means the Bills would likely have gotten at least one Super Bowl, if not more. And who knows who else would have flourished in the 1990s without arguably one of the best dynasties in NFL history.
The Vikings? Who knows. Would Emmitt have been as dominant without that great Cowboys line? It's one of the more commonly debated subjects here. His work ethic and playing style would say yes, but your RB can only do so much without blocking. I don't think they would have been in a Super Bowl, but what about once they acquired Cris Carter? A combo of Cris Carter and Emmitt Smith would certainly rival that of Irvin-Smith. At that point, I guarantee the Vikings would have made the Super Bowl.
But that would lead to Moss not landing on the Vikings. But that does mean that, because the Cowboys wouldn't have had their off-the-field issues with the Bad Boy Cowboys, they would have taken Moss. Aikman was riding the tail end of his career, but a combo of Irvin and Moss would have been scary.
But none of this happened. Mike Lynn lives in Minnesota infamy and Jerry Jones is still riding his "genius" of the deal into current day. But the Cowboys now owe the Vikings back, right?