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Spurrier backs off promise of beating hated Cowboys
IRVING, Texas -- When he was hired, Steve Spurrier promised to give owner Daniel Snyder a game ball after leading the Redskins to a victory over the Cowboys.
The first-year coach just never specified when that victory would come.
"I don't know if it's going to be this year or not. I've never guaranteed any win in my life," Spurrier said after being reminded repeatedly of the comments he made when hired in January. "He will not get a game ball from me until someday we beat the Cowboys. It may be this week. It may not be."
If it comes today, when the Redskins (5-6) play at the Cowboys (4-7), a couple of streaks will end.
Dallas has won nine straight games in the series, matching Miami's dominance over Cincinnati as the longest active run in the NFL. The Redskins, whose last win over Dallas was Oct. 13, 1997, have never beaten the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Dallas players are well aware of Spurrier's vow 10 months ago.
"The first thing I remember hearing the coach say is that he is going to give a game ball when they play the Cowboys," said tight end Tony McGee, who signed with Dallas in April. "That stuck out in my mind, not even being with the organization. There are 11 other games before then, and that's the most important thing."
Snyder is a lifelong Redskins fan who bought the team in 1999 and since had to endure six straight defeats to Dallas.
In the two seasons before the current one, a mediocre Dallas team managed to win a total of just 10 games -- and four of those victories came against the Redskins.
Last season, under coach Marty Schottenheimer, Washington turned its season around with a five-game winning streak. The losses that bookended that streak? Games against Dallas, of course.
Washington is the opponent for Dallas' traditional holiday game for the sixth time, more than any other team. The last was in 1996, the only other time the rivals had to wait this late in the season before playing.
Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey looks at Spurrier's promise to Snyder as motivation.
"If he believes we're going to beat them, then I feel like we're going to beat them, too," Bailey said. "That's how you're supposed to feel. If you don't feel that way, then you don't need to be around here."
Spurrier says his team's recent history of problems against the Cowboys shouldn't have any impact on Thursday's game.
"I'm a firm believer that every game stands on its own merit, that what happened in the past really doesn't affect the game coming up, unless you allow it to," Spurrier said.
While the Cowboys and Redskins have combined for eight Super Bowl championships, 31 NFC East titles and 39 playoff appearances, they now are in the bottom half of the standings in a division they share with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
Washington lost two games in a row before last week's 20-17 win over St. Louis, which was at the Redskins 6 with 17 seconds left before Lavar Arrington sacked Kurt Warner and forced a fumble.
Dallas had a four-game losing streak before beating Jacksonville 21-19 last weekend. In that game, 25-year-old rookie quarterback Chad Hutchinson threw for 301 yards and got his first win in four starts since replacing Quincy Carter.
The Cowboys are playing on Thanksgiving Day for the 35th time. They started the tradition in 1966, and the only years they didn't have a game on the holiday were 1975 and 1977.