The Bounty Bowl was the name given to two NFL games held in 1989 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The first, a 1989 Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, was noted for allegations that the Eagles put a $200 bounty on Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas, who had been cut by Philadelphia earlier that season. The second was a rematch held two weeks later in Philadelphia. The Eagles, who were heavy favorites to win both games, swept the series.

Bounty Bowl I: The 1989 Thanksgiving Classic

Bounty Bowl I
Texas Stadium, the site of the game.
1234 Total
PHI 010143 27
DAL 0000 0
DateNovember 23, 1989
StadiumTexas Stadium, Irving, Texas
FavoritePhiladelphia -6
RefereeGene Barth
TV in the United States
AnnouncersPat Summerall and John Madden

The Cowboys/Eagles rivalry had been increasingly heated since the 1986 season, with Buddy Ryan arriving as the Eagles' head coach; the next year, during the NFL players' strike, the Cowboys (who were playing with a number of players that crossed picket lines) routed an Eagles squad filled with replacement players;[1] Ryan, believing that the Cowboys had run up the score in poor form, responded in kind in the second game when the strike was over.[2] After the 1988 season, the Cowboys were sold to Jerry Jones, who proceeded to gut the team and fire longtime head coach Tom Landry in preparation for rebuilding.

See also: NFL on Thanksgiving Day

On November 23, 1989, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Dallas Cowboys 27–0. Following the game, which was broadcast on CBS, Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson alleged that Ryan had taken out a bounty on two of the former's players, kicker Luis Zendejas and quarterback Troy Aikman:[3]

I have absolutely no respect for the way they played the game, I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn't stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room.

Ryan denied the bounty accusation, saying that film of the game "show that Small had no intention of hurting Zendejas."[4] The Philadelphia coach asserted it would have been in the Eagles' best interests to keep Zendejas in the game because he was in a slump.[4] Ryan also joked about Johnson's accusations:[4]

I resent that. I've been on a diet, I lost a couple of pounds, and I thought I was looking good.

When the Cowboys and Eagles met on Thanksgiving 25 years later, on November 27, 2014, Johnson joked that Ryan put up the bounty offer to keep his players interested since the Cowboys, who ultimately went 1-15, performed so poorly that year.[5]

Zendejas spoke of having seen ''Buddy call guys out and give them $100'' for what the kicker called a weekly Big Hit award but what Ryan called a Big Play award.[6] This set of events set the stage for the scheduled rematch two weeks later in Philadelphia, dubbed "Bounty Bowl II." As for the Eagles, they would not play another Thanksgiving game until the 2008 NFL season when the Eagles faced the Arizona Cardinals in a preview of that season's NFC Championship Game.

Bounty Bowl II

Bounty Bowl II
Veterans Stadium, the site of the game
1234 Total
DAL 0370 10
PHI 01730 20
DateDecember 10, 1989
StadiumVeterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
FavoritePhiladelphia -12
RefereeJerry Seeman
TV in the United States
AnnouncersVerne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw

The second game in the series took place on December 10, 1989, with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in attendance. The game was anticipated as a media event. CBS Sports did a pre-game opening touting the contest as "Bounty Bowl II", complete with wanted posters, the involved players' pictures, and bounty amounts.

During the game, Eagles' fans threw snowballs, ice, and beer onto the field. Several game participants were targeted, including back judge Al Jury and Cowboys punter Mike Saxon (both struck by snowballs), as well as Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who was hit with objects as he was escorted off the field by the Philadelphia Police Department. Television announcers Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw were also pelted with snowballs – Lundquist would claim on-air that a recent dental surgery had been less unpleasant than broadcasting a game in Philadelphia[7] – and Eagles defensive lineman Jerome Brown was struck while standing on the sideline asking fans to cease throwing things.

Eagles fan Edward Rendell later admitted that he was involved in the incident. The then-former Philadelphia district attorney, future mayor of Philadelphia and future governor of Pennsylvania bet another fan $20 that the latter couldn't reach the field with a snowball; Rendell lost.[8]

The Eagles won the game 20–10. As a result of the incident, the Eagles added security and banned beer sales for their last home game of the year against the Phoenix Cardinals and the subsequent NFC wild-card playoff game versus the Los Angeles Rams.


Porkchop Bowl

Main article: 1990 Dallas Cowboys season § Porkchop Bowl

A third game in the heated rivalry took place the next season, known as the "Porkchop Bowl". The game got its name because, in the week leading up to the game, Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan choked on a pork chop while out to dinner with offensive coordinator Ted Plumb. Plumb intervened and saved Ryan's life. Philadelphia won this game as well, 21–20.[9]

Further coverage

In 2008 and on April 11, 2010, the game was included on a list of the ten most memorable moments in the history of Texas Stadium by ESPN.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Pro Football: Ryan Gets Revenge in the End". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 1987. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  2. ^ "He's sure no Buddy to the Cowboys". Eugene Register-Guard. October 27, 1987. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  3. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Jimmy Johnson on Bounty Bowl". YouTube.
  4. ^ a b c Kawakami, Tim (November 25, 1989). "Despite Investigation, Buddy's Humor Bountiful". Philadelphia Daily News.
  5. ^ Jimmy Johnson mentioned in the first segment of Fox NFL Sunday on November 27, 2014. Johnson was an analyst on the show at the time.
  6. ^ Dave Anderson (1989-11-26). "Sports of The Times; The Backfire From Buddy Ryan's 'Bounties'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
  7. ^ 1989 Bounty Bowl II. YouTube.
  8. ^ "Meet Ed Rendell: New Governor Led Philly Comeback". Philadelphia: WTAE Pittsburgh, ThePittsburghChannel. November 5, 2002. Archived from the original on November 7, 2002.
  9. ^ "Today in Philly Sports History: Porkchop Bowl, 1990". RSN. 28 December 2008. Retrieved 2023-03-23.
  10. ^ Luksa, Frank (September 15, 2008). "Legends, underdogs, goats shared Texas Stadium spotlight". Archived from the original on November 4, 2008.