We explore why the Dallas Cowboys are in the NFC East ahead of their clash against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on NFL Wild Card weekend.

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most valuable sports team in the world and an organisation with a rich history in the NFL.

America’s Team, as they are more commonly known, have five Super Bowl wins as an organization, putting them tied for third all-time with the 49ers.

The NFL Wild-Card Round concludes Monday night with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. 

Bucs QB Tom Brady has a perfect 7-0 career record against the Cowboys, but Dallas comes in as favorites despite missing out on the NFC East title in NFL Week 18. They were upset by the Washington Commanders while the Eagles took care of the Giants.

Why are the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East?

Ahead of the game fans want to know why the Cowboys are in the NFC East. Geographically it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; the Cowboys are in a completely different location to NFC East rivals the New York Giants, Washington Commanders and Philadelphia Eagles.

However, the reason dates back to 1969, before the NFL-AFL merger when the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL agreed to join the AFL and form the 13-team American Football Conference.

In the following season, the 1970 season, the two leagues would be divided into two 13-team conferences but still operated under the NFL shield and commissioner, Pete Rozelle.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Random lottery draw decided NFC East breakdown

However, in the new NFC there were plenty of east coast teams but not enough in western time zones. Rumor has it that in order to allocate the remaining teams in divisions, a crapshoot was proposed.

Several proposals were devised, and in five of them the Giants, Eagles and Redskins were placed in the NFC East.

The proposals were put in a vase, and as luck would have it, Rozelle’s secretary would reach in and randomly chose the NFC East breakdown. Ultimately that selection included the Dallas Cowboys which is why they’re in the NFC East to this day.

Rivalries could have played a role

Others have speculated that it’s because of the East’s strong rivalries and the NFL’s ability to cash in on them.

The Cowboys already had great rivalries with the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins, and so breaking that up would have been bad for the league. Grouping them was good for business as the NFL could monetize the rivalries and play them up for commercial reasons.

Thankfully things went the way they did as it’s hard to image the Cowboys anywhere else but the NFC East.