Cowboys Franchise Five: Big Cowboys that rank at the top of legends that have traveled the corridors of Dallas

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Let me set the stage. You are Tom Cruise, and the only way to save the world is to abseil a ventilation shaft in a room with heat and pressure sensors to acquire data from one of the most secure servers of the planet. His mission was then as impossible as mine right now, but like the legendary character Ethan Hunt, I choose to accept mine as well, and I plan to accomplish it. That said, it’s time to delve into the history of the Dallas Cowboys to determine (swallow) the five most important figures to have ever walked the halls of the organization.

The CBSSports.com Franchise Five series delves into the five most memorable people in the history of each NFL team. Our rules here allow us to choose a head coach, a quarterback and three non-quarterback players. Let’s take a look at some of the men who made this franchise one of the most special in the NFL.

Of course, this is not an easy task, given the large number of Hall of Fame members produced by the team and the countless talents they have employed over the course of 60 years of history.

For perspective, only a handful of teams have a legacy, even from a distance equivalent to the Cowboys.

There are those who multiplied in the new guard at the beginning of the century, but have accomplished nothing before, which makes it a little easier to sort the people who will appear on their respective lists. When it comes to measuring Dallas’ vast and cavernous history, let’s just say it’s not exactly a walk in the park. More specifically, it’s like trying to spray paint air, because there is a list of additional players who could easily have made my final cut, and each one means something to a fan somewhere – many being even quite d elite to transcend generational bias – so there is really no wrong answer here.

It’s just a matter of having an incredibly fun chat, so let’s go. Oh, and as a sidebar, I think I had a heart event when I realized that I couldn’t figure out how to get Randy White listed here, above the ones I named, but consider this as a nod for the “Manster” – and some essential heart medication for me too.

Now are we going to dance?

(Qualification: the individual must be a Professional Football Hall of Fame.)

Coach Tom Landry

Mandate: 1960-88

CV (as a coach in Dallas):

  • Double Super Bowl Champion
  • Head Coach of the Year twice
  • Inducted into the Ring of Honor
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame
  • Franchise record for career wins (250)

Jimmy Johnson finally gets his only desserts by being named to the Hall of Fame in 2020, but when it comes to naming the most legendary coach in the history of the organization, make room for The Fedora. Landry was the team’s very first head coach, responsible for making the team immediately viable after watching the front office go to war with the Washington Redskins for clearance to operate as an expansion franchise. In the era of sports without social media, Landry was able to avoid the incessant shots while working feverishly as a third of the Triumvirate – the other two being the legendary scout Gil Brandt and the former general manager / president of the Tex Schramm team (both Hall of Famers as well) – in building the Mud Cowboys.

As a sidebar, he also played four different positions before joining the coaching ranks, being named a member of the first All-Pro team in 1954.

The Cowboys went from an inaugural 0-11-1 to 10-3 start in less than half a decade with Landry at the helm, who was ultra-fast by non-Twitter standards. He felt more than his fair share of grief in the playoffs, but he and his players never faltered, constantly pushing forward and constantly appearing in the playoffs until they finally broke through to clinch the very first the team’s Super Bowl victory in 1971, and providing the league with a list of legendary games that have spawned some of the most passionate rivalries in the sport. The oldest and most successful coach in Cowboy history (second in NFL history behind only Bill Belichick and the great Don Shula), Landry and his fedora are the legend.

His statue outside the AT&T stadium reminds you that if you are not the first, you are the last.

QB Roger Staubach

Duration: 1969-79

CV:

  • Double Super Bowl Champion
  • Super Bowl VI MVP
  • Bowler Pro six times
  • NFL Man of the Year (1978)
  • NFL leader in touchdown passes (1973)
  • Four-time NFL leader in qualifying passers-by
  • Bert Bell Prize recipient (1971)
  • Team throughout the decade of the 70s
  • Inducted into the Ring of Honor
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame
  • 22,700 yards passing career
  • 153 career touchdowns

The game’s original quarterback for the Cowboys, Staubach was Troy Aikman, Tony Romo and Dak Prescott decades before anyone said his name. His ability to escape bags and make exceptionally difficult throws both in motion and stopped earned Staubach the right to be a living legend. With Landry’s management, Staubach helped the Cowboys win their first two Super Bowl victories and make six Pro Bowls in the process. As much as he has been forgotten in the history of football, he is also responsible for the formulation of the phrase “Hail Mary” – after a deep prayer from a pitch to the receiver of the Hall of Fame Drew Pearson in the 1975 divisional match that gave Dallas the last-second victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Affectionately called “Captain America,” it is poetic in the way he did as much for The Shield as it did for the Cowboys. And anyone, anywhere, who calls a pass “Hail Mary” has just greeted Staubach, whether he realizes it or not.

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RB Emmitt Smith

Term: 1990-2002

CV:

  • Triple Super Bowl Champion
  • Super Bowl XXVIII MVP
  • Pro Bowler eight times
  • Quadruple first All-Pro team
  • Second All-Pro team
  • NFL player of choice (1993)
  • Bert Bell Award recipient (1993)
  • NFL Rookie of the Year (1990)
  • Four-time NFL leader in rushing yards
  • Four-time NFL leader in rushed touchdowns
  • Team throughout the decade of the 90s
  • Inducted into the Ring of Honor
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame
  • 18,355 yards rushing in career (NFL record)
  • 164 career touchdowns (franchise record)

“Switch to Sweetness and make room for Emmitt. “- Brad Sham

The current NFL career leader in rushing yards, touchdowns and over 100 yards, Smith was the engine that pushed the Cowboys to cosmic heights in the 1990s. Four times running champion on the ground with eight Pro Bowl caps, three SB wins, one NFL MVP and one SB MVP, Smith is setting the royalty for the Cowboys. His impact on the field was so great that he could not and still cannot be quantified, as his firm hand also prevented Hall of Fame head coach Jimmy Johnson from leaving town prematurely.

Smith’s path was laid out by Tony Dorsett before him, as he did for Ezekiel Elliott himself, and all of the elite Cowboys who run until the end of time will be weighed against Smith, no matter how how right or wrong it could be. Because when you set the bar as high as Smith did, everyone just has to do whatever they can to reach it.

DL Bob Lilly

Duration: 1961-74

CV:

  • Super Bowl VI Champion
  • Pro Bowler 11 times
  • Seven times first All-Pro team
  • Double All-Pro team twice
  • Team throughout the decade of the 70s
  • Team throughout the decade of the 60s
  • Inducted into the Ring of Honor
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame

Before Jason Witten, there was Bob Lilly, aka “Mr. Cowboy”. The first is a definitive doppleganger of the second, which is a first-rate compliment. Lilly, the Cowboys’ first draft pick in the NFL, is more than a legend to have that designation. What he did on the field was impressive, his play and durability set the bar high for everyone who wore the star after his retirement. His professionalism and imposing stature were also taken off the field, so it stands to reason that he would have awards bearing his name.

Lilly was a dynamo on the field, which is why he was not the Cowboys’ first choice, but also an AFL second-round pick the same year by the Dallas Texans – now known as Chiefs from Kansas City. The linchpin of the famous “Doomsday Defense”, Lilly missed only one game in his entire NFL career and when he laid eyes on a quarterback, they wrote their obituaries before taking the Photo.

OL Larry Allen

Mandate: 1994-2005

CV:

  • Super Bowl XXX Champion
  • Pro Bowler 11 times
  • Seven times first All-Pro team
  • Team throughout the decade of the 90s
  • Team throughout the decade of the 2000s
  • Inducted into the Ring of Honor
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame
  • 197 starts in 203 games played

The unbridled animal of the “Great Wall of Dallas”, Allen was a monster among men. Treating professional footballers regularly as if they were the dumbbells he threw during his now famous bench press sessions, there was no way around Allen and you certainly did not cross him. When the ball was broken, the defensive liners had an interest in starting to pray. Unfortunately for Allen, he came in as the second-round team pick in the back of the Jimmy Johnson era, otherwise he would have more than one Super Bowl ring to his credit.

One of the best players in NFL history and possibly the best offensive lineman of all time, Allen is the platinum standard for what OL should be – assuming they were hit too by the hand of God.

Honorable mention: WR Michael Irvin

Term of office: 1988-99

CV:

  • Triple Super Bowl Champion
  • Five times pro Bowler
  • First All-Pro team
  • Double All-Pro team twice
  • Team throughout the decade of the 90s
  • Inducted into the Ring of Honor
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame
  • 11,904 yards in career (second highest in franchise history)
  • 65 quarries receiving touchdowns

They didn’t call it “The Playmaker” for nothing. If Aikman was the brain and Smith the lungs, Irving was undoubtedly the heart of what became a Cowboy dynasty in the mid-1990s. Time and time again, he imposed his will on opposing defensive backs and his fire unbridled kept the locker room passionate and pushed to mutilate anyone against whom they walked on the ground. No one believed No. 88 would be worn again by a player worthy of following Drew Pearson, but they could not have been more wrong, and Irvin could have done nothing more to honor his predecessor.

Beginner CeeDee Lamb Receiver wants to “keep the tradition” to follow in the footsteps of Pearson, Irvin and Dez Bryant, and what a tradition it is.



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