Technically, the trade of Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings went down on October 12, 1989. But 30 years ago today, October 10, is when Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson announced to his staff that he was going to do it, at the end of their daily lunchtime jog. As he recalled to writer Steve Wulf five years ago:
“I told them the only way to fix this thing was to trade our best player. I told them we had to trade Herschel Walker.”
The team was 0-5 at the time, on its way to 1-15. There was some bad luck in there, to be sure, and some players who were still learning on the job (Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin), but the roster wasn’t much better than that record. The Walker trade, largely misunderstood at the time, nominally brought in four players. But they were not nearly as important as the seven draft picks that came along with them, which Johnson used to acquire other picks and move around in the draft, resulting in the Cowboys acquiring Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith, Clayton Holmes, and Alonzo Highsmith. It fully set in motion a rebuild that resulted in Super Bowl wins in 1992, 1993, and 1995.
There are plenty of other examples of Johnson’s greatness as a personnel man (not to mention a coach) but this, probably rightly, the one that is always brought up.