The Cowboys-Redskins rivalry was so intense in the 1970s that following a Dallas win that clinched the NFC East title, defensive end Harvey Martin heaved a wreath into Washington's locker room during the Redskins' postgame team prayer.
The rivalry has lost its relevancy in recent decades. Neither team has played in a Super Bowl the past 17 years.
But some of the luster has returned this season. Similar to the old days, the winner Sunday night at FedEx Field will claim the division title and a trip to the playoffs.
“This will be a great game with RGIII (Robert Griffin) and the Cowboys finding their stride,” said former Oklahoma safety Roy Williams, who played eight seasons for the Cowboys. “Tony Romo is playing great for Dallas. It has a chance to be a classic Cowboys-Redskins game.”
Most of the classic games in the series were played in the 1970s when George Allen coached the Redskins against legendary Dallas coach Tom Landry.
Former OU safety Randy Hughes played six seasons for the Cowboys in the rivalry's heyday. Hughes played when Landry feared Allen placed spies in nearby hotels with binoculars to scout Cowboys practices.
“George Allen definitely had Coach Landry spooked,” Hughes said. “Coach Landry would have security officials walk along hotel balconies to make sure. George Allen and Tom didn't like each other. They tried to play with each other's mind.
“Plus it was a challenge every time we played in D.C. Their field was like playing in a pasture. The footing was really slippery. It was really hard to win there.”
Playing at RFK Stadium was unique.
“It was an intimate setting,” said former OU defensive tackle Tony Casillas, who played for Dallas. “The fans were right on you. They hated the Cowboys. They hated the whole ‘America's Team' brand. Plus it was the history of the game, the fans. They had the Hogs. We just hated each other.”
Players with Oklahoma ties said Cowboys-Redskins games always had added significance regardless of the standings, but the most memorable games were when playoff implications were involved.
“If both teams are competing for last place and a high draft pick, the rivalry doesn't mean much,” said former Tulsa receiver Drew Pearson, who played for Dallas. “But if it's for a division title that's big.”
Pearson was involved in one of the classics. Pearson was on the receiving end of a last-minute 50-yard touchdown pass in 1974 that beat the Redskins 24-23 on Thanksgiving Day. The pass was thrown by unheralded quarterback Clint Longley, who was forced to start because Roger Staubach was injured.
“That's absolutely my favorite Cowboys-Redskins memory,” Pearson said. “It was my second year in the league. It was a big win for us against our big rival.”
‘Hail to the Cowboys?'
The Redskins and Cowboys were a rivalry before they played their first game in 1960.
Texas oilman Clint Murchison tried to buy two NFL franchises, including the Redskins. Rebuffed, Murchison applied for an NFL expansion team in Dallas.
Washington owner George Preston Marshall was the only NFL owner not to support Murchison's bid until Marshall discovered Murchison purchased the rights to the “Hail to the Redskins” fight song.
Murchison sold the rights to the song for $2,500 to get Marshall's vote.
Early days of the rivalry
The Washington-Dallas rivalry heated up when George Allen coached the Redskins in the 1970s. But the rivalry actually began to build some traction in the mid-1960s when Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith staged some entertaining shootouts.
Still, the most heated decade of the rivalry was the 1970s when Allen made it a priority to beat the Cowboys. The rivalry became so intense with high stakes showdowns that Cowboys coach Tom Landry feared Allen placed spies to watch Dallas practices.