The Top 10 Greatest Dallas Cowboys

As America's Team celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, we are beginning to see numerous versions of the "all-time Dallas Cowboy's team" spring up from every corner.


Most folks will find it difficult to come up with an all-time team for an organization that has won five Super Bowls, eight NFC championships, 20 division titles and appeared in a league record 56 play-off games. I, on the other hand, am choosing an even harder task — naming the ten greatest players to ever wear the Silver-and-Blue. Period.


If you doubt just tough an exercise this is, consider the following — I left several members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame off this list. Greatness is not always reflected in a player's statistics.


1. Emmit Smith — Dallas drafted Smith with the 17th pick of the 1990 NFL draft. 18, 355 yards later, I wonder how those sixteen GM's feel about their decision to pass on the NFL's all-time leader rusher.


There are ample reasons to place Smith at the top of this list. Eleven straight seasons of gaining 1,000 yards or more, an MVP award, eight Pro Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl rings, two Super Bowl MVP's and 174 career TD's, second only to Jerry Rice.


However, the truth of the matter is that I would have put no. 22 at the top of my list regardless of those gaudy numbers, based solely on his performance in the final game of the 1993 season.


With the NFC East title on the line, Smith gained over 160 yards to lead the Cowboys to an overtime victory over the New York Giants.


And he played the entire game with a separated shoulder.


Just a thought, but some of the overpaid prima donnas who currently populate the Dallas roster might want to consider adopting Smith's warrior spirit.


2. Bob Lilly — Lilly is beginning to become a regular on my Top 10 lists. Several days ago, I named him as one of the ten greatest Texas athletes of all-time.

Lilly is the "original Cowboy" - the first draft pick in franchise history. Beyond that, he is the best defensive football player in Texas football history, edging out Houston native and Baylor graduate Mike Singletary. He was the prototypical defensive lineman -strong, fast, agile and smart.

He was a first team all-pro selection every year between 1964-1969, and then again in 1971. He also played in 11 Pro Bowls.

He is the first Cowboy to be elected to Hall-of-Fame, and he was named to the first team of the NFL's 1960's all-decade team, 1970's all-decade team and the 75th anniversary team.

3. Roger Staubach — Conventional wisdom says that all young boys want to be the President of the United States when they grow up. Not me — I wanted to be Roger Staubach. He was far more heroic than anyone who resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when I was coming of age.

Although no one keeps records of such things, it is probably safe to assume that no player had more nicknames than Staubach. He has been referred to as "The Jolly Roger", "Roger the Dodger" and "Captain America". But the one which fits his best is "Captain Comeback". Staubach engineered 23 come from behind victories in his ten year career, 17 of those coming in the last two minutes. This feat is even more amazing when you consider the fact the Boys rarely trailed in his era.

He retired with a QB rating of 83.4, the highest career average in NFL history at the time. He played in six Pro Bowls, was the MVP of Super Bowl VI, and was named as first team QB of the NFL's 1970's all-decade team.

4. Tony Dorsett Taken with top pick of the 1977 NFL Draft, Dorsett may well be the most explosive RB in franchise history.

In his rookie year, he rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns, and was named as the NFL Rookie of the Year, despite the fact he did not become the starter until the tenth game.  He was the first player to win the college football championship one year, and the Super Bowl the next, when the Cowboys beat the Denver Broncos 27-10 to win Super Bowl XII.

Dorsett recorded 12,733 yards and 77 touchdowns in his 12-year career. Dorsett also had 13 receiving scores and even a fumble recovery for a touchdown. His most memorable touchdown came on a Monday night in January at the end of the 1983 season. With only 10 Dallas players on the field, Dorsett broke a 99-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings, which is still the longest run from scrimmage in NFL history.

5. Troy Aikman — Let's be honest about. At the end of Aikman's rookie season in 1989, we all feared the Cowboys might have blown the top pick in that year's draft. The UCLA product went 0-11 as a starter and threw twice as many interceptions (18) as touchdown passes (9).

The uncertainty still lingered the following two seasons. Granted, the Cowboys just missed the post-season in 1990 and made the play-offs in 1991, Aikman was sidelined with injuries and missed a number of starts in both campaigns. We began to suspect that all those hard shots he took in '89 had taken their toll.

Were we ever wrong.

Aikman removed all doubt in 1992, leading the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship in 13 years. He added two more rings to his collection in 1993 and 1995.

His career ended in 2000 after he suffered his 10th concussion. He is the Cowboy's all-time leading passer with over 32,000 yards.

6. Drew Pearson — As far as I can tell, there are three unanswerable questions in the Universe; (1) Which came first, the chicken or the egg? (2) What do women reallywant? (3) Why is Drew Pearson not in the Cowboy's "Ring of Honor"?

With all due respect to Michael Irvin, there has never been a more clutch receiver to wear the silver-and-blue. This is the man who caught the "Hail Mary" - probably the most famous reception in NFL history. He was an all-pro three different times and is a member of the 1970's all-decade team.

It is undeniable that Irvin had better stats, and more Super Bowl rings. Bob Hayes had more talent and a greater impact on the game. Many will argue that I should have put one of them in Pearson's place. That is a fair argument, but I have an equally good reply.

In the waning moments of the game, with the result hanging in the balance, which of those three do you want running routes for you?

To those of us who followed the Cowboys in the 1970's, the answer is simple — the original no.88.

7. Lee Roy Jordan — Almost as perplexing as Pearson's absence from the Ring of Honor is the fact there is not a bust of Lee Roy Jordan in Canton, Ohio.

To be blunt about it, his omission demeans the credibility of the Hall-of-Fame. This is a five time all-pro middle linebacker with 32 career interceptions and 16 career fumble recoveries. Twenty-five years after his retirement, he is still the all-time leading tackler in Dallas history with 743.

Jordan was extremely small for an MLB, standing only 6'-1'' and weighing a mere 215 lbs. However, no one in the history of the franchise has had a bigger heart or a more indomitable spirit.

8. Mel Renfro — Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris, Roy Williams, Darren Woodson, and Deion Sanders all have two things in common.

First, they were all great players who played in the Cowboy's secondary. Second, as great as they were, they still could not overtake Mel Renfro as the greatest defensive back in Cowboy history.

Renfro was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first ten seasons in the NFL and was named was an all-pro five different times. He was a threat on special teams, leading the league in punt and kickoff return yardage in 1964.

In fourteen seasons, Renfro intercepted 52 passes, returning them for 626 yards and 3 touchdowns. He helped the Cowboys win two Super Bowls before retiring after Dallas' victory in Super Bowl XII.

9. Rayfield Wright — Dallas has been blessed with a plethora of great offensive lineman throughout the last half century. Wright, 6'-6", 255 lb. right tackle, is the best of this group.

 But don't take it from me. Listen to what a pair of his former teammates say.

"Rayfield could do it all," said former Cowboys running back Calvin Hill. "He could pull. He could run in the open field. He could finesse-block and power-block in the run game. And there was no one better in pass-blocking. He was dominant."

"He was absolutely the best," said Staubach. "Rayfield was a big, strong guy that was able to transfer his size and strength from tight end to tackle. He also had such quick feet that he was able to deal with some of the faster defensive ends and even the linebacker blitzes. If he got beat, I don't remember it."

His six Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl rings and his election to the Hall-of- Fame further attest to his greatness.

10. Don Meredith — Meredith never won a Super Bowl and has never been voted into the Hall-of-Fame. There are players who I left off this list that claim both. While his three Pro Bowl appearances, and two selections to the NFL all-pro team are evidence of a great career, there are other Cowboys, also not listed here, who can surpass that.

Those who have not followed Dallas since its inception are probably wondering why I have him ranked this high. On the other hand, those of us who know our Cowboy history have no doubt about his place among the all-time great. In fact, I was tempted to place him in the top spot.

Simply put, Don Meredith is the cornerstone of the Dallas Cowboy franchise.

The Cowboys are owners of one of professional sports most impressive streaks — twenty winning seasons in a row from 1965-85. During this stretch, they made the play-offs eighteen times, appeared in five Super Bowls, won two titles and became the premier franchise in all of sports.

And all of that began under the tough and gritty leadership of Dandy Don. He sacrificed his body behind a feeble line in the early years of the team, one reason his career was a relatively short nine years. Together with Lilly, he laid the foundation for all the success that would follow.