Dallas Cowboys All-Franchise Team

Jason Witten

There may not be a more storied franchise in football history than the Dallas Cowboys. From legendary head coach Tom Landry to countless star players, America’s Team has seen numerous legends suit up and call themselves Cowboys. But what would an All-Franchise team of Cowboys look like? Here are the best of the best, the greatest players to ever call themselves Cowboys.

America’s Best: Dallas Cowboys All-Franchise Team

Quarterback: Roger Staubach

With all due respect to Troy Aikman, the original Captain Comeback is the greatest passer in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. Initially drafted in the 10th round of the 1964 NFL Draft, the early years of Staubach’s career were spent in the Navy.

Staubach’s Navy commitment delayed his entry into the NFL, but eventually joined the NFL in 1969 as a 27-year old rookie. While Staubach initially started his Cowboys tenure as Craig Morton’s backup, he took over as the starter midway through the 1971 season. From there on out, he remained the Cowboys top arm whenever he was healthy.

Staubach finished his career with 22,700 passing yards and 153 touchdowns, impressive numbers considering both the era in which he played along with the years lost to the Navy. Staubach brought the Cowboys to the Super Bowl four times, winning two. In Super Bowl VI, Staubach threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns en route to being named game MVP. Staubach was one of the best quarterbacks of his time and remains the best quarterback in Cowboys history.

Running Back: Emmitt Smith

The NFL’s All-Time leading rusher is also the greatest running back in franchise history. In the early to mid-1990’s, Emmitt Smith combined with quarterback Troy Aikman, wide receiver Michael Irvin, and a dominant offensive lines to form one of the strongest units ever assembled. This core of players led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span.

While Aikman and Irvin are Hall of Famers in their own rights, Smith was the engine which powered the offense. During the peak of his career, Smith was an unstoppable force, too big to bring down with arm tackles and too fast to be caught by linebackers. From 1991-1195, Smith recorded 8,019 yards and 85 touchdowns. During that five-year stretch, Smith was named All-Pro four times, led the league in rushing four times, and led the league in touchdowns three times. His best season likely came in 1995, when Smith recorded 1,773 yards and 25 touchdowns on a league-leading 377 carries.

While Smith never reached those levels of production after the dynasty days, he still remained one of the best running backs in the league. Smith finished his career with an NFL-record 18,335 rushing yards and 164 rushing touchdowns. There aren’t many in history who can match his production and longevity.

Wide Receiver: Michael Irvin

Another part of the three-headed monster of the 1990’s Cowboys, Irvin was one of the most dominant receivers of his time. Drafted with the 11th overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft, Irvin made history as the first Cowboys rookie receiver to start a season opener in over 20 years.

While Irvin was a solid player the first three years of his career, he emerged as a true game-changing talent in 1991. Irvin set the world on fire, hauling in 93 receptions for a league-leading 1,523 yards to go along with eight touchdowns. His monster season earned him First-Team All-Pro nods, while also getting the first of five straight Pro Bowl nominations.

While Irvin would never match the productivity from the Super Bowl years, he remained a valuable weapon until injury forced his retirement. In 12 seasons with the Cowboys, Irvin recorded 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 87 touchdowns. His professional accomplishments were immortalized in 2007 when the longtime Cowboy was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Wide Receiver: Drew Pearson

Irvin was a key part of three Super Bowl championships, but the number two receiver on this list played a large role in three Super Bowl appearances. Drew Pearson started off with a humble beginning, arriving in the league as an undrafted free agent. However, despite his lack of draft pedigree, Pearson became an impact starter in just his second season in the league.

In fact, Pearson earned a spot on the First-Team All-Pro team in 1974, after recording 62 receptions for 1,087 yards and two touchdowns. Pearson earned two more First-Team All-Pro nods in his career, to go along with three Pro Bowl selections. Pearson spent his entire 11-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, recording 489 receptions for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. At his time of retirement, Pearson owned the team record for receptions.

But it wasn’t just the raw numbers that made Pearson great. Pearson had a knack for making his biggest plays in the biggest moments and was Staubach’s go-to man whenever he needed a big play. Pearson famously hauled in the original Hail Mary against the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 playoffs. Additionally, Pearson hauled in a deep pass in the waning seconds of the 1981 NFC Championship Game. Were it not for a one-handed tackle by San Francisco 49ers Eric Wright, Pearson would have scored a touchdown and rendered “The Catch” irrelevant.

Wide Receiver: Dez Bryant

The three best receivers in Cowboys history all come from different eras. While Dez Bryant isn’t the player he used to be, he was borderline unstoppable at his peak. Bryant entered the league as a first-round selection in 2010, and immediately formed a solid connection with quarterback Tony Romo.

While Dez was a strong weapon his first two seasons in the league, he established himself as one of the best in the game from 2012–2014. During that three-year stretch, Bryant recorded 273 receptions for 3,935 yards and 41 touchdowns. He was one of the best red zone threats in the league, as he led the league with 16 touchdowns in 2014.

Unfortunately, 2014 would prove to be his career year. Tony Romo couldn’t consistently stay healthy following 2014, and Dez had a difficult time adjusting to a new quarterback. 2015’s quarterback carousel was awful, and while Dak Prescott is a solid starter, he and Bryant couldn’t establish a consistent connection.

Bryant was released this off-season, finishing his Cowboy’s career with 531 receptions for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns. In Cowboys history, Bryant currently ranks third in receptions, fifth in receiving yards, and first in touchdown receptions.

Tight End: Jason Witten

There’s a genuine case to be made for Jason Witten being one of the top five tight ends of all time. Arriving in Dallas as a third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, Witten immediately outplayed his draft status. Witten played in 15 games his rookie year, recording 35 receptions for 347 yards and a touchdown.

His career would only improve from there. Starting in 2004, Witten was selected to seven straight Pro Bowls, including two First-Team All-Pro nominations. While he was never fast, he somehow continued to find ways to get open. He was one of the toughest guys in the league, renowned for his ferocious blocking as well as his willingness to take hits to come down with receptions.

After 15 years in the league, Witten decided to hang up the cleats for good after the 2017 season. In all, Witten owns the team record for receptions (1,152), receiving yards (12,448), and is third in touchdown receptions (68). He’s sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee when he becomes eligible.

Left Tackle – Tyron Smith

Trying to pick the five greatest offensive linemen in Cowboys history is no easy feat. Dallas had one of the best offensive lines in history during the 1990’s, and currently has arguably the best offensive line in the whole league. However, even with so much talent at the position, current left tackle Tyron Smith has been the best of the best.

Smith was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. After spending his rookie year at right tackle, Smith switched over to the left side and immediately became one of the best in the league.

Smith first put himself on the national radar following his amazing 2013 season. Playing in all 16 games, Smith allowed just one sack all season and was called for just one holding penalty. His impressive season earned him his first Pro Bowl nomination, as well as an eight-year contract extension.

Dallas would not come to regret that decision. In the first year of his new contract, Smith earned his first ever First-Team All-Pro nomination. Smith has been selected to every Pro Bowl since 2013 and has earned two First-Team All-Pro nominations. He’s established himself as arguably the league’s best left tackle, and is largely responsible for the massive success of the Cowboys run game.

Guard – Larry Allen

Of all the great offensive lineman in Cowboys history, Larry Allen may be the best of the bunch. Allen was a physical freak, reportedly able to bench press 705 pounds and squat 905 pounds. He fell to the Cowboys in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, and Dallas didn’t hesitate to select the massive guard.

Allen appeared in all 16 games of the Cowboys 1994 campaign but didn’t garner national attention until 1995. Allen started every game of that Super Bowl season, earning his first of seven consecutive Pro Bowl nominations. Allen’s great blocking played a large role in Emmitt Smith having the best season of his career.

The offensive lineman remained consistently dominant throughout his career, despite flipping between left guard, right guard, and occasionally left tackle. Allen finished his 14-year NFL career with 11 Pro Bowl selections and six consecutive First-Team All-Pro nominations from 1996-2001. Allen was selected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013.

Center – Travis Frederick

The Dallas Cowboys have knocked it out of the park with their recent offensive line selections, and Travis Frederick is no exception. Frederick was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and immediately made his mark upon the league.

Several draft analysts viewed Fredrick’s selection as a reach, but the longtime center has proven that, if anything, he was a steal at the end of the first round. Frederick started all 16 games his rookie year, and immediately showed some promise. The rookie center was named to the All-Rookie team and was the first rookie center to ever start every game of his rookie season.

Frederick built on his rookie success and is among the best in the league at his position. He’s been selected to four Pro Bowls in his five-year career while being named First-Team All-Pro in 2016. He’s one of the best run blocking centers in football and has been clearing the way for DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott ever since entering the league. His career is still young, and he should continue his high level of play for at least the next five years.

Guard – Zack Martin

The recently paid Zack Martin earned his way onto this list. Starting on arguably the best line in football, Martin may be the best all-around player on that offensive line. General manager Jerry Jones reportedly wanted to select Johnny Manziel with this pick, but fortunately for Cowboy fans, the team went with Martin.

Martin needed no time to adjust to life in the NFL. Martin started all 16 games his rookie season, dominating every step along the way. He was one of just four rookies named to the Pro Bowl, and the only first-year player to earn First-Team All-Pro honors. Additionally, Martin’s inclusion on the First-Team All-Pro roster was the first time a rookie offensive lineman earned the honor since Dick Huffman in 1947.

Martin showed that his rookie season was no fluke in the following seasons. He’s earned Pro Bowl selections in each of his four years in the league and has been named First-Team All-Pro twice. The Cowboys extended Martin to a six-year, $84 million contract this off-season. This contract makes him the highest-paid guard in the league, and he’s worth every penny.

Tackle – Rayfield Wright

One of the star players on the early Super Bowl Cowboys, Rayfield Wright was one of the best players on the first two Super Bowl championship squads. Entering the league in 1967, three years before the NFL merger, Wright initially served as a rotational tackle and occasional tight end.

However, Wright earned the right tackle starting spot in 1970 and never looked back. After a solid season as a first-year starter, Wright elevated his play from the next seven seasons. Starting in 1971, Wright was named First-Team All-Pro in three consecutive seasons and earned seven straight Pro Bowl berths.

Additionally, Wright was team captain for seven years with the squad. The longtime right tackle has been inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Defensive End – Harvey Martin

The 1970’s Cowboys had one of the most ferocious defensive lines in league history, boasting several dominant studs along the defensive front. Perhaps none were better than 11-year NFL veteran Harvey Martin. Initially drafted in the third round in 1973, it took Martin a few seasons before he transformed into his peak dominant form. However, something clicked in 1975, as Martin transformed into one of the best defensive ends in the league.

Martin started 13 of a possible 14 games in 1975 but truly brought his game to another level in 1976. During that campaign, Martin started all 14 games, dominating his way to his first Pro Bowl nomination. Sacks were not an official statistic until 1982, but Martin was unofficially credited with 15.5 sacks in the seasons 14 games.

His 1977 season was even better, and one of the best seasons any player ever had. Once again starting in all 14 games, Martin recorded an unbelievable 23 sacks. To fully understand how dominant that season was, former New York Giant Michael Strahan owns the official record for sacks in a season with 22.5. Martin recorded an extra half-sack, and he did it in two fewer games. However, since sacks were not an official statistic at this point, technically he does not hold the record.

In Super Bowl XII, Martin led a dominant defensive effort against the Denver Broncos and former Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton. The Dallas defense forced eight fumbles and held Denver to just 10 points. Martin was named co-MVP along with Randy White.

Martin earned four Pro Bowl nominations, three Second-Team All-Pro nods, one First-Team All-Pro selection, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1977. He was selected to the NFL All-1970’s Team and finished his career with an unofficial 114 sacks.

Defensive Tackle – Bob Lilly

The first draft pick in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, Bob Lilly was one of the most instrumental pieces to the Cowboys run of success in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Selected with the 13th overall selection in 1961, Lilly spent the first two seasons of his career as a defensive end. However, in 1963, head coach Tom Landy moved Lilly to defensive tackle, jumpstarting his dominant career.

Lilly was probably the most important piece of the Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense”, and went on a stretch of dominance that rivals any defensive tackle in league history. Beginning in 1964, Lilly was selected to ten straight Pro Bowl/All-Star games, winning First-Team All-NFL honors seven times.

Teams double- and triple-teamed him, but it just wasn’t enough to stop him. Lilly penetrated every offensive line he faced and was clearly the best in the league at what he did. His most iconic play came in Super Bowl VI when he sacked Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese for a 29-yard loss.

Lilly is generally viewed as one of the greatest defensive tackles to ever play the game, if not the greatest. He was selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 in his first year of eligibility, becoming the first lifelong Cowboy to earn the honor. Lilly was also named to the 1960’s and 1970’s All-Decade Team, along with the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Defensive Tackle – Randy White

While not quite as dominant as Lilly, Randy White was still one of the great defensive tackles in league history. Like Lilly, White didn’t start his career at defensive tackle. For the two years of his career, White primarily served as a backup middle linebacker. However, he finally earned his chance to start in 1977, when he took over the right defensive tackle position.

White first season as a starter at defensive tackle was one to remember. He started all 16 games, establishing himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the league. White finished 1977 with a Pro Bowl berth, First-Team All-Pro selection, and winning co-MVP of Super Bowl XII.

White carried that success throughout the remainder of his career. Starting in 1977, White was selected to nine straight Pro Bowls, winning First-Team All-Pro honor seven different times. White started playing before sacks became an official statistic, but he’s unofficially credited with 111 career sacks, including a career-high 16 in 1978.

White retired following the 1988 season, as a lingering shoulder injury drastically limited his physical abilities. Nonetheless, White’s fantastic career accomplishments earned him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with a spot on the NFL’s All-1980’s Team.

Defensive End – Ed “Too Tall” Jones

For the first time in franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys owned the first overall selection in the 1974 NFL Draft. They made the pick count, selecting defensive end Ed Too Tall Jones out of Tennessee State. While his career was one of the stranger ones in Cowboys history, there’s no denying how dominant he was on the field.

Jones played in all 14 games as a rookie before becoming a starter in 1975. While he never earned any Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections early in his career, he was still a key piece of the doomsday defense which won Super Bowl XII. However, despite his early success, Jones decided his professional interests lies elsewhere.

Following the 1978 season, Jones temporarily retired from football to focus on a career in boxing. “Too Tall” was still 28 years old at the time, and spent two years as a successful boxer. However, after a match on January 26, 1980, Jones announced he would return to the world of professional football.

Jones said that his boxing career made him a better football player, and the results show it. Jones was a solid player early in his career, but he established himself as a star in his second stint with Dallas. He earned three straight Pro Bowls from 1981-1983, including a First-Team All-Pro selection.

Jones finished his career with an unofficial 106 career sacks over his 15-year NFL career, including a career-high 13 in 1985. Jones 6’-9” frame famously earned him the “too tall” nickname, as he famously mastered the art of swatting down passes. It’s in large part to him that the NFL now tracks batted passes as an official statistic.

Outside Linebacker – DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware was one of the best pass rushers of his time, consistently dominating offensive lines and single-handedly blowing up plays on a consistent basis. Ware was selected 11th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft and found immediate success in the Cowboys scheme.

Ware started all 16 games his rookie season and finished tied for the team lead with eight sacks. By all measures, this was a successful rookie year. No rookie had led the Cowboys in sacks since Jimmie Jones. However, this was just the beginning of what would become a dominant stretch of play.

Ware took his game to the next level in 2006 and went on one of the greatest stretches a pass rusher ever had. Ware recorded 103 sacks from 2006 to 2012, including a league-leading 20 in 2007. During that seven-year stretch, Ware won First-Team All-Pro honors four times, and Second-Team All-Pro honors an additional three times.

Injuries limited his effectiveness in 2013, as he played in just 13 games and recorded just six sacks. (Incorrectly) fearing Ware’s career was near its end, the Cowboys cut bait with the talented pass rusher following the 2013 season. Ware finished his time with the Cowboys with 117 sacks and 574 tackles while playing in 140 of a possible 143 games. He’s truly one of the greatest pass rushers to call himself a Cowboy.

Linebacker – Lee Roy Jordan

It truly is amazing how much talent was on those 1970’s Dallas defenses. One of the earliest players to ever dawn a Cowboys jersey, Lee Roy Jordan was selected by the Cowboys with the sixth overall pick in the 1963 NFL Draft. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jordan was an immediate starter, becoming the first rookie linebacker in franchise history to start a season opener. While Jordan spent his early years at weakside linebacker, his career truly blossomed when he moved to middle linebacker.

A tackling machine, Jordan excelled at blowing up running plays and never letting backs get yards after contact. Jordan set a team record in 1971 when he recorded a staggering 21 tackles against the Philadelphia Eagles. While he was a great tackler, he was also one of the better coverage linebackers of his generation. Jordan finished his career with 36 interceptions, most notably recording three interceptions in one quarter against Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson.

Jones finished his career with five Pro Bowl nominations, one First-Team All-Pro nod, and another Second-Team All-Pro nod. He won defensive player of the year in 1973 and was a part of the Super Bowl champion 1971 Dallas Cowboys. Despite retiring over 40 years ago, Jones is still second in solo tackles (743), assisted tackles (493), and combined tackles (1,236) in franchise history. He was truly the greatest middle linebacker in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.

Linebacker – Sean Lee

Injuries have certainly played their part, but when healthy, there aren’t many linebackers better than Sean Lee. Lee initially joined the Cowboys as a second-round draft pick in 2010, Lee has turned into one of the best run-stuffing linebackers in football.

After serving as a backup his rookie year, Lee thrived as a starter in 2011. Starting in 15 games, Lee led the Cowboys with 103 tackles and was tied for the team lead with four interceptions. Despite missing most of 2012 with injuries, the Cowboys rewarded Lee for his play with a six-year extension prior to the 2013 season.

Outside of a 2014 ACL injury which forced him to miss the season, Lee has stayed mostly healthy since signing that extension. He’s played a minimum of 11 games in every season, and has recorded at least 100 tackles in all but one (he had 99 in 2013). Throughout his career, Lee has been selected to two Pro Bowl teams, and earned First-Team All Pro honors in 2016.

Cornerback – Everson Walls

While the 1980’s Cowboys couldn’t touch the success of the 1970’s or 1990’s Cowboys, they did have one thing those other teams didn’t: Everson Walls. Walls went undrafted in the 1981 NFL Draft and signed with the Cowboys.

It’s hard enough for a rookie to become a star in the National Football League, nevermind an undrafted one. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Walls did. Despite starting the season as a backup, Walls forced his way into the starting lineup his rookie year. Walls thrived with the extra playing time, recording a league-leading 11 interceptions while earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Walls came back in 1982 and showed that he was no one-year wonder. In the strike-shortened season of 1982, Walls managed to record seven interceptions in just nine games. For the second time in as many seasons, Walls led the league in interceptions and earned yet another trip to the Pro Bowl.

While his interception total dropped in 1983, Walls rounded out his game to become a more complete coverage corner. For the third straight year, Walls earned a Pro Bowl nod and earned the only First-Team All-Pro nod of his career.

Walls retired after 14 years in the NFL, finishing his career with 57 interceptions. Of those 57, 44 came during his nine-year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. In total, Walls earned four career Pro Bowl nods and won First-Team All-Pro in 1983. He led the league in interceptions three times (1981, 1982, 1985), and was one of the best ball hawks of his time.

Safety/Cornerback – Mel Renfro

It’s hard to determine exactly where to put Mel Renfro on this list. During his 14-year career in Dallas, Renfro spent time as a star safety, star cornerback, and even played a little bit of running back. However, no matter where you put him, there’s no denying he belongs on this list.

Renfro joined the Cowboys in 1964 as a second-round pick. Despite being an incredibly gifted athlete with the ball in his hand, then-coach Tom Landry made then then-questionable decision to start Renfro at safety. The gutsy call worked, as Renfro led the Cowboys with seven interceptions as a rookie en route to being named to the NFL All-Star game.

Despite being named to the NFL All-Star game in each of his first five seasons in the league, Landry moved Renfro to cornerback to start the 1969 season. Once again, Landy’s bold move paid dividends. Renfro became one of the best cornerbacks in the league, leading the entire NFL with ten interceptions while earning First-Team All-Pro honors. He remained at cornerback for the rest of his career before retiring following the 1977 season.

Renfro finished his career with 52 interceptions, returning said pickoffs for 626 yards and three touchdowns. He was one of the better ballhawks of his time, both at the cornerback and safety position. Additionally, he was a solid punt returner too, but we’ll cover that later.

Safety – Cliff Harris

Another one of Landry’s boys, Cliff Harris started his NFL career in a humble manner. After going undrafted in the 1970 NFL Draft, Landry brought Harris in to compete for a depth role. However, Harris immediately impressed Landry and won the starting free safety position over Charlie Waters, whom the Cowboys had actually drafted.

While military service forced him to miss a large part of the 1970 season, he remained the team’s starter whenever he was not on active duty. While he was a solid starter his first four years in the league, Harris took his play to another level in the 1974 season.

1974 was the first of six consecutive seasons in which the hard-hitting Harris earned a Pro Bowl selection. In many ways, Harris revolutionized the free safety position, as teams leaguewide tried to model their play around a hard-hitting safety with great pass recognition skills. His play earned him three straight First-Team All-Pro nods from 1976 to 1978 and was one of the key pieces to the Cowboys Super Bowl XII Championship.

Harris retired after ten years with the Cowboys. Harris had 29 interceptions in his career and was selected to the NFL All-1970’s Team. While Harris has not been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, he was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2004.

Cornerback – Deion Sanders

Yes, Deion Sanders only played five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. However, it’s impossible to overstate just how dominant “Prime Time” was during his tenure with the Cowboys. Signing in the 1995 season, Sanders started nine games, completely locking down his side of the field and living up to his legendary reputation. His play was a big reason the Cowboys were able to capture their third Super Bowl in four seasons.

Sanders continued his solid play for the duration of his Cowboys tenure. Ironically, the Super Bowl-winning 1995 campaign was the only season in which Sanders wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl. Sanders made the Pro Bowl each year from 1996-1999, winning First-Team All-Pro three times in that span.

Sanders is arguably the greatest cornerback in the history of football, and his five-year run with the Cowboys rivals any from his career. While he doesn’t have the longevity that some other players have, there are few players in Dallas history who could match his production.

Kicker – Dan Bailey

This was a fairly easy choice, as there just haven’t been many kickers in league history as good as current kicker Dan Bailey. Originally arriving as an undrafted rookie in 2011, Bailey has emerged as one of the most reliable and strongest legs in football.

In his career, Bailey has hit on a staggering 88.2% of his field goal attempts. To show how dominant that is, only Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has a higher field goal percentage (90.2%). 2017 was something of a rough season for Bailey, but don’t let that detract from how great he’s been over the course of his career. He’s the best kicker in franchise history, and it’s not even that close.

Punter – Mat McBriar

The Cowboys haven’t had any elite punters in their history, so there isn’t much separating any one particular punter from the pack. However, if forced to choose one, Mat McBriar probably had the best career.

McBriar first joined the Cowboys in 2003 on the practice squad before getting elevated to the main roster in 2004. McBriar made the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2010 while serving as the Cowboys punter, earning Second-Team All-Pro nods in both seasons. McBriar’s most famous play likely came in 2006, when he launched a 75-yard punt, the second longest in Cowboys history.

McBriar left the team after the 2011 season to join the Philadelphia Eagles. As of today, McBrair is the franchise leader in yards/punt with 45.3.

Returner – Mel Renfro

Renfro makes his second appearance on this list, this time for his work in the return game. While he was undoubtedly known for his work on defense, he was also incredibly dangerous as both a kick and punt returner.

Renfro’s first career Pro Bowl berth actually came for his work in the return game. In his rookie year, he led the league in both punt return yardage (418) and kick return yardage (1,017). He continued to serve as the teams primary returner for the next few seasons, but that role slowly diminished as his role with the defense increased.

While he never replicated his rookie year success, Renfro still finished his career as the best returner in Cowboys history. In all, Renfro finished his career with 109 punt returns for 842 yards and a touchdown to go along with 85 kick returns for 2,246 yards and two touchdowns.

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  1. Rayfield Wright is in the Hall of Fame. He was part of the 2006 class that included Troy Aikman and he gave an awesome speech. You should watch it if it’s still available online somewhere (probably is).

    Most of your list is right and I like the write ups but Bob Hayes and Chuck Howley are the most glaring omissions. Hayes, a Hall of Famer and the fastest man in NFL history, is the correct #2 WR. His impact on the team and the league were enormous. He revolutionized the NFL by causing desperate defenses to start developing zone schemes and he was the spark that vaulted the Cowboys to their first ever winning seasons. He averaged more TDs/game over his first 2 years than Randy Moss did when he was “tearing up the NFL”. Hayes tore it up more.

    I like Dez but he’s in a toss up with Tony Hill for the #4 WR spot, and at this point I’d give a slight edge to Hill because he was a smoother and more consistent downfield threat who led the team in receiving yards 8 consecutive years, though Dez was a red zone TD catching machine so it would be reasonable to insert him at #4 too. It’s not reasonable to put him in the top 3. This is why I don’t include active players on lists like these. Their legacies are still in flux.

    It’s easy to lose historical perspective and overrate recent players a bit. That’s what happened with Sean Lee on your list, whom I’m also a big fan of but who hasn’t come anywhere close to earning the spot you gave him. Do some research on Chuck Howley. Howley is the greatest overall 4-3 LB in Cowboys history. Period. He should have been in the HoF many years ago. Howley was first team All Pro FIVE(!) times and had 6 Pro Bowls spread out with the All Pros in 7 different accolade seasons. Howley was the first defender to be SB MVP. He had collegiate track speed, sharp football intelligence, and immense toughness that let him continue to excel in a long career. He was famous for flying around the field making big, impactful plays and he’s in the exclusive 20/20 sack/interception club. Howley’s combined 43 career takeaways rank 2nd among OLBs in NFL history. While he was royally robbed of 60s All Decade status, his career peak did straddle decades and respected football historian John Turney recently named Chuck Howley first team OLB on his 1965-1975 “Mid Decade” team, alongside legends Dick Butkus and Bobby Bell, and ahead of HoFers like Dave Robinson, Dave Wilcox, and Chris Hanburger. In the Super Bowl VI broadcast Pat Summerall says that in the days before the game he asked the Miami players whom on the Cowboys they respect the most, and that Howley’s name came up more than anyone else’s. I’d also play DeMarcus Ware at DE rather than LB in a 4-3, and indeed Ware made a Pro Bowl as a DE at Denver.

    Your secondary of Walls/Sanders/Renfro/Harris is certainly formidable. The only change I’d make there is moving Renfro to CB opposite Sanders since Walls, though an interception machine, wasn’t a shut down CB like those other two both were. Darren Woodson is my starting strong side safety. He and Cliff Harris would make a ferocious tandem.

    It’s interesting to do a full 53 man All Time roster as I have (I even did the 10 man practice squad) because it really showcases how superior the Cowboys’ depth is compared to other franchises over time.

  2. What about Long Snapper?

    It would be a sure fire shoot out between Dale Hellestrae and L.P., don’tcha think?

  3. krI97a is right: Chuck Howley belongs on this list ahead of Sean Lee. As great as Lee is and as great as Lee Roy Jordan was and as talented as Thomas Henderson was, no. 54 was the best LB in Cowboys history, and it’s offensive that the HOF selection committee has ignored him this long.

    Rayfield Wright was a great RT, so much so the legendary DE Deacon Jones had the utmost respect for Wright. He deserves be the RT on this team, but make no mistake about it, if Erik Williams didn’t hit a retaining wall in the middle of the ’94 season, he would be the best tackle in Dallas Cowboys history and he’d have a bust in Canton and a gold jacket. He dominated Reggie White, and no one ever did that.

    I’d also take Tony Hill over Dez Bryant. Hill may have been the best route runner in team history (Lance Alworth only had a very brief stint in Dallas), caught just about everything thrown his way, and had nearly 4.4 speed.

    I’m not sure any team in NFL history has a better DT tandem than the Cowboys in Lilly-White. Perhaps the Rams with Merlin Olsen and Aaron Donald are close or the Vikings with Alan Page and John Randle, but no one tops the Cowboys in that department.

    My personal favorite TE was Billy Joe Dupree – that cat could block, run/catch, and was great on the screen pass, which Staubach ran better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Witten deserves top billing but Dupree was fun to watch.

    I’m not sure any NFL team in history can boast a better lineage of offensive linemen than Dallas and few can roll out a an all-time team with better defensive linemen.


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