Jump to content

D82's Top 50 Cowboys Of All-Time V.2020


Recommended Posts

I debated about doing a Top 100 or a Top 60 (seeing as this will be our 60th year as a franchise)...but 50 is just a nicer number. I figure I'll change up the list a bit so it isn't basically just a copy and paste version of the last time I did this. So, here goes.

Exclusions
- Only players are on the list. No front office or coaching staff members. 

Honorable Mentions
- Roy Williams, S (2002-2008, 1x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowler)
- Miles Austin, WR (2006-2013, 2x Pro Bowler)
- Walt Garrison, RB/FB (1966-1974, 1x Pro Bowler, 1x Super Bowl Champion)
- Russell Maryland, DT (1991-1995, 1x Pro Bowler, 3x Super Bowl Champion)
- Greg Ellis, DE (1998-2008, 1x Pro Bowler)

The Top 50 Cowboys V.2020
50. Bill Bates, S
49. Leon Lett, DE
48. Calvin Hill, RB
47. Sean Lee, LB
46. Billy Joe DuPree, TE

45. Mark Tuinei, T
44. Jethro Pugh, DT
43. Tom Rafferty, G/C
42. Don Meredith, QB
41. Herbert Scott, G

40. Dez Bryant, WR
39. Ralph Neely, T
38. George Andrie, DE
37. Danny White, QB
36. Daryl Johnston, FB

35. Mark Stepnoski, C
34. Cornell Green, CB/S
33. Ezekiel Elliott, RB
32. Dak Prescott, QB
31. Everson Walls, CB

30. Jay Novacek, TE
29. Charles Haley, DE
28. Travis Frederick, C
27. Tony Romo, QB
26. John Niland, G

25. Charlie Waters, S
24. Nate Newton, G
23. Deion Sanders, CB
22. Erik Williams, T
21. Drew Pearson, WR

20. Lee Roy Jordan, LB
19. Darren Woodson, S
18. Bob Hayes, WR
17. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, DE
16. Cliff Harris, S

15. Rayfield Wright, T
14. Jason Witten, TE
13. Chuck Howley, LB
12. Michael Irvin, WR
11. Tyron Smith, T

10. Troy Aikman, QB
9. Zack Martin, G
8. Tony Dorsett, RB
7. DeMarcus Ware, DE/OLB
6. Mel Renfro, CB/S

5. Emmitt Smith, RB
4. Randy White, DT
3. Bob Lilly, DT
2. Roger Staubach, QB
1. Larry Allen, OL

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

50. Bill Bates (1983-1997)

bc1ae8czs3i41.jpg

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 1x Pro Bowl selection (1984) 
- 1x All-Pro selection (1984) 
- 3x Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) 
- First special team player selected to the Pro Bowl 


“If we had 11 players on the field who played as hard as Bill Bates does and did their homework like he does, we’d be almost impossible to beat.” - Tom Landry 

An undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 1983, Bill Bates grew up as a Cowboys fan, and when he received a house-call from the team following the draft, was excited to get into camp. The odds were against him though, as the team had invited one-hundred and eighty-five other undrafted players to camp. Bates managed to beat the odds and earn a spot as a special teams player. 

Bates soon endeared himself not only to fans, but to teammates and fellow NFL players with his hardnosed style of play and intensity on the field, which helped make him one of the best special teams players in the NFL. Opposing teams actually took time during practices to gameplan on how they would attempt to stop him. 

Bates wasn't just a special teams player, however. He made his fair share of plays as a starting safety for three seasons ['86-'88] and as a constant force in Jimmy Johnson's nickel defense, recording 14 interceptions and 18 sacks in his career. He managed to overcome numerous surgeries to carve out a fifteen year career with the Cowboys, and after suffering through the down years of the 80s under Tom Landry, found success in the early 90s as a member of three Super Bowl winning teams with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. Following his playing career following the 1997 season, Bates served as an assistant special teams and defensive backs coach for the Cowboys from '98-2002. 

After beating the odds to make the roster of his favorite team, Bates had quite the career for an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee. There's a spot for special teams players on the Pro Bowl roster these days because of him, and was the first player in NFL history to be named an All-Pro due to his contributions on special teams. He certainly helped put the word "special" into special teams and was an unsung hero of those three Dallas Cowboy championship teams.

Sadly, as of February 2020, Bates's family reports that the special teams ace is suffering from dementia - one of many former players to suffer side effects from their football careers. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

49. Leon Lett (1991-2000)

8424973.jpg

"In my mind, he should be remembered more for causing Thurman Thomas to fumble in the Super Bowl..." - Bill Bates 

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 2x Pro Bowl selection (1994, 1998) 
- 3x Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) 


A 7th round selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, Lett spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury, it wasn't until the following season that Lett was able to show his true potential on the football field. 

During his second season in the league, Lett was used in rotation along the defensive line and was considered the best backup defensive lineman in the league, earning the nickname "Big Cat" from his teammates in reference for his agility. Lett had a troubled playing career, often missing games due to suspension three times for violiting the leagues substance abuse policy. When he was on the field, however, Lett was an unmistakable force on the Cowboys defense often demanding double-teams from opposing lineman and dominating at the point of attack, disrupting the running and passing game. He was a valuable member of the Cowboys three Super Bowl champion teams. 

Sadly, most fans remember him more for his two infamous gaffs. One came in Super Bowl XXVII, when late in the 4th quarter Lett recovered a fumble and was returning it for what would have been a touchdown, but slowed down as he approached the end zone allowing Buffalo player Don Beebe to knock the ball out and result in a touchback. The play cost the Cowboys the record for most points in a Super Bowl. His other notable mistake came in a Thanksgiving Day game the following season, Miami had attempted a field goal to take the lead late in the game. 

The kick was blocked, Lett attempted to recover the ball but slipped on ice and Miami wound up recovering the "muff" on the Dallas one yard line. By touching the ball, Lett enabled the Dolphins to attempt the field goal again and cost the team a victory. It should be noted however, that following the game the Cowboys would not lose another game...the Dolphins though, did not win afterward and finished out of the playoffs.

Lett rejoined the Cowboys in 2011, serving as the assistant defensive line coach under Jason Garrett and has been retained under new coach Mike McCarthy. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/25/2020 at 5:20 PM, D82 said:

50. Bill Bates (1983-1997)

bc1ae8czs3i41.jpg

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 1x Pro Bowl selection (1984) 
- 1x All-Pro selection (1984) 
- 3x Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) 
- First special team player selected to the Pro Bowl 


“If we had 11 players on the field who played as hard as Bill Bates does and did their homework like he does, we’d be almost impossible to beat.” - Tom Landry 

An undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 1983, Bill Bates grew up as a Cowboys fan, and when he received a house-call from the team following the draft, was excited to get into camp. The odds were against him though, as the team had invited one-hundred and eighty-five other undrafted players to camp. Bates managed to beat the odds and earn a spot as a special teams player. 

Bates soon endeared himself not only to fans, but to teammates and fellow NFL players with his hardnosed style of play and intensity on the field, which helped make him one of the best special teams players in the NFL. Opposing teams actually took time during practices to gameplan on how they would attempt to stop him. 

Bates wasn't just a special teams player, however. He made his fair share of plays as a starting safety for three seasons ['86-'88] and as a constant force in Jimmy Johnson's nickel defense, recording 14 interceptions and 18 sacks in his career. He managed to overcome numerous surgeries to carve out a fifteen year career with the Cowboys, and after suffering through the down years of the 80s under Tom Landry, found success in the early 90s as a member of three Super Bowl winning teams with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. Following his playing career following the 1997 season, Bates served as an assistant special teams and defensive backs coach for the Cowboys from '98-2002. 

After beating the odds to make the roster of his favorite team, Bates had quite the career for an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee. There's a spot for special teams players on the Pro Bowl roster these days because of him, and was the first player in NFL history to be named an All-Pro due to his contributions on special teams. He certainly helped put the word "special" into special teams and was an unsung hero of those three Dallas Cowboy championship teams.

Sadly, as of February 2020, Bates's family reports that the special teams ace is suffering from dementia - one of many former players to suffer side effects from their football careers. 

@htfryar would be proud.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

48. Calvin Hill (1969-1974)

f6b9c1b83e9201bcc3cb2eb96384f803.jpg

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 4x Pro Bowl selection (1969, 1972, 1973, 1974) 
- 2x All-Pro selection (1969, 1973) 
- 1x Super Bowl Champion (VI) 
- 1969 NFL Rookie of the Year 


One of the first great tailbacks to wear the silver and blue, Calvin Hill was selected in the first round of the 1969 NFL Draft and made the most immediate impact out of probably any rookie in Cowboy history. 

Prior to Hill, the Cowboys had never had a running back rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. His rookie year, Hill came close to breaking that marker, as he accumulated 942 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns, becoming the first rookie ever in Cowboy history to be selected to the AP All-Pro squad. 

While Hill would split time with Duane Thomas the next two seasons, he would become the full-time starter once again in 1972 and continued to have success as he became the first runningback in club history to surpass 1,000 yards. He was voted to the Pro Bowl for three consecutive seasons between 1972-1974. Hill still ranks fourth all-time on the Cowboys' rushing list with a total of 5,009 yards and is tied with Emmitt Smith for the most rushing touchdowns with four. 

Calvin Hill retired from football in 1981, after a stint in the World Football League and the Redskins and Browns following his tenure with Dallas in 1974. Hill did return to Dallas after his pro career, however, and has served as a consultant for the Cowboys' player development department for over twelve years now.

Link to post
Share on other sites

47. Sean Lee (2010-current)

Dallas-Cowboys-Sean-Lee.jpg


Career Highlights/Awards 
- 2x Pro Bowl selection (2015, 2016) 
- 1x All-Pro selection (2016)

“I think Sean Lee is the best linebacker in the NFL. I see him every day and should know his weaknesses. I still can’t find any.” - Tony Romo

A second round draft pick out of Penn State by the Cowboys in 2010, Sean Lee would not make much of an impact for the team his rookie year until later in the season due to injury - sadly an all too common trend during Lee's tenure with the franchise. In week 14 in a game against future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, Lee would show why the team looked past the injuries and took a chance on the former Nittany Lion when he would record three interceptions, one for a touchdown and the third one coming in overtime to set up the game winning field goal. Lee would go on to win Pepsi's NFL Rookie of the Week award for his performance. 

Earning a starting job at the beginning of the 2011 season, Lee would become a lynchpin and leader of the Cowboys defense while on the field and even off of it when sidelined due to injury, often being spotted with a headset and aiding the defensive coaches and players when he couldn't be in the active lineup. While his role has decreased somewhat over the last few seasons - mainly in an effort to keep him healthy for a full season - Lee still is an important piece to this team, as evidenced by new coach Mike McCarthy and the front office's decision to re-sign him for another season. 

It's hard to imagine Lee's name not being mentioned along with the best linebackers of the past decade had he just been able to stay healthier throughout his career. His talent is certainly something that has never been in doubt when on the gridiron. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

46. Billy Joe DuPree (1973-1983)

billy-joe-dupree-4d827775-2288-46fb-a1a8

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 3x Pro Bowl nomination (1976, 1977, 1978) 
- 1x Super Bowl Champion (XXII) 


A first round slection by the Dallas Cowboys, DuPree didn't take long to make an impact with the Cowboys, starting his rookie season and never missing a game in his eleven-year career which spanned 181 games, including the postseason. Roger Staubach relied on DuPree as his security blanket during his career. 

One of the best tight ends of his era, DuPree was not only known for his prowess as a receiver, but also for his punishing blocking style. He was one of the first "do-it-all" tight ends in the league, comparable to Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez of today. DuPree was also a leader on and off the field, earning co-captain awards multiple times and also was recognized as the teams NFL Man of the Year. 

Over an eleven year span, DuPree compiled 3,565 receing yards and 41 touchdowns, and ranks 10th in Cowboys history in yardage and sixth overall in touchdown catches. In Super Bowl XII, he was the Cowboys leading receiver in their victory over the Denver Broncos. DuPree also scored at least one touchdown in each of his eleven seasons, an amazing feat during that time, and helped start the legacy of great Cowboy tight ends.

Link to post
Share on other sites

45. Mark Tuinei (1983-1997)

71-belongs-to-great-wall-of-dallas-membe

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 2x Pro Bowl selection (1994, 1995) 
- 2x All-Pro selection (1994, 1995) 
- 3x Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) 


"...And to think: We put him on Plan B (free agency). Anyone could have claimed him. To his credit, he worked himself into a two-time Pro Bowler." - Gil Brandt 

In 1983, Mark Tuinei made it into training camp as a little-known defensive end from Hawaii. Scouts raved about his upside and potential, but Tuinei's success wouldn't come from playing defense. Tuinei soon after made the switch to offensive tackle and became a fixture at left tackle for the Cowboys for over fifteen seasons through hard work and dedication to his craft. 

Tuinei consistently went up against the best pass rushers of his day including Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, and Bruce Smith and rarely lost any of those battles. However, because of his perfected technique, seldom did he receive any outside recognition. The relative anonymity never bothered the former Hawaii-native, finding humor in being mistaken for another player. 

His best years, or at least ones where he received more moderate recognition, came in the late stage of his career, as he protected the blindside of future Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman and paved the way for another Hall of Fame running back, Emmitt Smith. He earned All-Pro recognition and was nominated by his peers to two Pro Bowls between the 1994-1995 seasons. 

Due to a combination of age and the wear-and-tear of a fifteen year career in the NFL, Tuinei retired after the 1997 season and had planned on returning to Hawaii to become a high school football coach. However, in May of 1999, Tuinei was found deceased in his vehicle from an apparent accidental overdose of heroin. His passing left many former teammates, coaches and fans saddened. Former roommate and close friend Bill Bates remarked, "I can't remember being sadder about anything in a long, long time." 

The life of an offensive lineman is typically one of obscurity. Rarely do you see fans wearing jerseys of the big, burly player who paves the way for his favorite running back or keeps his favorite quarterback upright. Young kids don't normally aspire to play on the offensive line. However, it's because of players like Mark Tuinei that the "stars" of this league are able to find that success and I believe that when fans down the line look back at the "team of the '90s", they will remember how a player from a troubled past became a man's man in a man's world and contributed to one of the best dynasties in the NFL.

Link to post
Share on other sites

44. Jethro Pugh (1965-1978)

Pugh_JethroNBC.jpg?fit=722,406

Career Highlights/Awards 
-2x Super Bowl Champion (VI, XXII)
-2x Second Team All-Pro selection (1968, 1973)


A twice all-conference selection while at Elizabeth City State University, Pugh wasn't selected by the Cowboys until the 11th round during the 1965 NFL Draft. However, it didn't take long for the team and Tom Landry to appreciate Pugh, as just two seasons later he established himself as a fixture on the Cowboys defense. 

For the majority of his career, Pugh was considered the "other" defensive tackle, lining up alongside Bob Lilly as a member of the original "Doomsday Defense". Pugh did earn two second-team All-Pro nominations during his career, but was never voted to a Pro Bowl - a big factor in that being the fact he was often overshadowed by the likes of Andrie and Martin, and Hall of Famers Bob Lilly and Randy White. However, he is still regarded as one of the best pass rushers in Cowboy history. Over the span of four years (1968-1972), Pugh was the team leader in sacks, recording 15 ½, 13, 13 ½, 13 and then 7 ½. 

Pugh may have been overshadowed during his career, but his contributions helped bring the Cowboys 4 NFC Championship titles and 2 Super Bowls over his career. He currently ranks sixth all-time on the Cowboys sack record chart as well. After his career ended following the 1978 season, Pugh would go on to open and maintain a number of western-themed gift shops at the DFW International Airport. He passed away in 2015, at the age of 70.

Link to post
Share on other sites

43. Tom Rafferty (1976-1989)

d04cc6c0aec95920ab5331e0cbfe400e.jpg

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 1x Super Bowl Champion (XXII) 


Drafted out of Penn State by the Cowboys in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. It didn't take long for Rafferty to contribute to the team, becoming a starting guard his second year in the league. He would lockdown the right guard spot up until he was transitioned to center during the 1981 season. 

Known to his teammates as "Raff", Rafferty established himself as one of the better lineman in Cowboys history with an exemplary work ethic and great attitude. Appearing in over two-hundred and twenty-one games for Dallas, including one-hundred and sixty seven consecutive games, Rafferty assisted in the Cowboys appearing in eighteen postseason games and two Super Bowls. 

His last year in the league, and first under new head coach Jimmy Johnson, Rafferty started just eight games; the fewest amount ever in his career. "Raff" was a key contributor in Mark Stepnoski developing into the player he would later become that 1989 season, teaching him proper technique and how to play smart. Attributes would clearly benefited Stepnoski over his career.

Link to post
Share on other sites

42. Don Meredith (1960-1968)

2265cafee50c52aab073b57667964cce.jpg

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 3x Pro Bowl selection (1966, 1967, 1969) 
- 1x All-Pro Second Team selection (1966) 
- Selected to Ring of Honor in 1976 


"But he was one tough individual. He played with many an ailment and injury, and was very, very competitive. He and Bob Hayes really set the standard for the wide-open offense, the motion guys and big plays." - Lee Roy Jordan 

Originally a third round selection in the 1960 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, the team traded Meredith to the newly-founded Dallas Cowboys franchise for future draft picks, where he served his first two years in the league in a backup role to Eddie LeBaron, eventually splitting time with LeBaron during the 1962 season before taking over as a starter in 1963. 

Three seasons later, Meredith would lead the team to its first postseason appearance and its first winning season in franchise history and earning the NFL's Player of the Year Award as well during that 1966 season. The team would advance to that years NFL Championship Game, only to lose to the Green Bay Packers. Meredith would lead the Cowboys to the NFL Championship Game the following season, once again against the Green Bay Packers. That 1967 game would forever be known as the "Ice Bowl", widely considered one of the greatest games in NFL history due to the hostile conditions it was played in and the dramatic conclusion. 

The team would advance to the postseason just once more under Meredith, before "Dandy Don" unexpectedly announced his retirement following the 1968 season. Meredith never led the team to a Super Bowl, but was always exceptionally popular to fans of the team due to his grit and toughness with which he played the game. Following his football career, Meredith would go on to have a successful broadcasting career on ABC's Monday Night Football, most widely known for singing "Turn out the lights, the party's over" during garbage time. After retiring from ABC, Meredith would go on to spend the rest of his life in seclusion and out of the spotlight, living as a painter in New Mexico until his passing in 2010. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

41. Herbert Scott (1975-1984)

guard-herbert-scott-of-the-dallas-cowboy

Career Highlights/Awards 
- 3x Pro Bowl selection (1979, 1980, 1981) 
- 2x All-Pro selection (1980, 1981) 
- 1x Super Bowl Champion (XXII) 


"When Herb goes after a guy, the next thing you see are feet in the air." - Tony Dorsett 

The 330th player selected in the 1975 NFL Draft by the Cowboys, Herbert Scott was a member of the "Dirty Dozen", the nickname referred to the teams' rookie class that year. They earned the monicer by being credited with helping the team advance to Super Bowl X and were a key foundation for the success of the Cowboys in the late '70s and early '80s. 

Scott didn't take long to make his impact known in the league, replacing Blane Nye in '76 at left guard. He was rarely penalized during his career and together with Pat Donovan, he gave the Cowboys one of the best left-side tandems in the NFL. One of his more memorable moments of his career came during fellow teammate Tony Dorsett's signature run of his career, the 99-yard run against the Minnesota Vikings during the 1983 season, where Scott and Tom Rafferty teamed up on the block that sprang Dorsett free. 

Scott was slowed late in his career by injuries and retired after the 1984 season. He was a mainstay and cornerstone of the Cowboys offensive line during his ten year career. He helped Dallas win Super Bowl XII and three NFC Championships. Many sport pundits regard Scott as one of the greatest lineman to ever play for the Cowboys.

Link to post
Share on other sites

40. Dez Bryant (2010-2017)

Cedric+Griffin+Dez+Bryant+Washington+Red

Career Highlights/Awards
- 3x Pro Bowl selection (2013, 2014, 2016)
- 1x All-Pro selection (2014)
- NFL receiving TDs leader (2014)


"Dez is a competitor at heart. He wants to compete more than anything." - Tony Romo 

During the 2010 NFL Draft, Bryant was widely regarded as the best receiver in the draft. However, due to character concerns, he would go on to slide down the draft board until the Cowboys traded up with the New England Patriots to grab the Oklahoma State star with the 24th overall pick. His rookie year was cut short after a fractured ankle during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts, but he still finished with over 500 receiving yards and six touchdowns, including two punt returns for TDs, his performance garnering him an NFL All-Rookie selection. 

Bryant would go on to have a successful tenure with the Cowboys, with he and quarterback Tony Romo forming an at-times unstoppable duo. He would be selected to the Pro Bowl three times during his eight seasons in Dallas, along with a 2014 All-Pro selection after his stellar 1300+ yard and 16 TD season which came to an end when Dallas fell to the Green Bay Packers in a now infamous Divisional Round game, where a then non-catch (later ruled a catch) took away a drive-saving catch by Bryant. Dez's tenure with the team would only last three more seasons, ending following the 2017 season amid a messy "divorce". 

Always a fierce competitor, Dez was known for being an outspoken individual but always a player who you never doubted was giving it his all while on the field. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, resilient part 2 said:

I will wait to see how this list/players go down, but as of now I think Russ Maryland is being underrated,,

He was just on the cusp of making the Top 50, but fell short this go around.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...