The All-Time Team of Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys
Several weeks ago, ESPN ran an poll identifying the Dallas Cowboys Greatest Team. The results were an acceptable mix of old school and newer players. However, fans who participated did not vote for a few players who should have had more support.
Pro-Football-Reference.com has a feature where it attempts to reduce each player’s seasonal and career performance to a single number. This Approximate Value ranking is interesting in that it provides a single measure for all players, including lineman. Although the results may be subject to debate, the rationale for and methodology behind the ranking is solid. Incidentally, Bob Lilly ranks first on the all-time list, followed by Emmitt Smith, Randy White, Mel Renfro, and Too Tall Jones.
Assuming the ESPN generally reflects the sentiments of most fans, and assuming the AV rankings from PFR fairly reflect each player’s value, the two lists provide an opportunity to identify the All-Time Team of Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys.
(Unfortunately, the list does not include special teams players, so we’ll have to deal with those differently).
For the first entry, we’ll take a look at the centers. Mark Stepnoski was the fan choice on the ESPN poll, receiving more than half the votes. Here’s the total:
1. Mark Stepnoski (57.8%)
2. Andre Gurode (21.9%)
3. Tom Rafferty (14.6%)
4. John Fitzgerald (4.9%)
5. Dave Manders (.8%)
As for the AV rankings, Stepnoski only ranks third and in a tie with Gurode. Two others rated higher than both. Here’s a look:
Neither Rafferty nor Fitzgerald ever made the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team in their careers. However, both played significant roles in team history. Rafferty was a starter at guard until 1981. By then, Fitzgerald had retired, and Robert Shaw suffered a career-ending injury. Through the rest of the 1980s, Rafferty was the starter at center.
Fitzgerald was originally a tackle before converting to center before the 1972 season. He and Dave Manders split time at center in 1973 and 1974 before Fitzgerald became the full-time starter.
Unlike Fitzgerald and Rafferty, Manders made one Pro Bowl team during his 10-year career.
Another center on the list worth noting is Ray Donaldson, who was voted to two Pro Bowls in his two seasons with Dallas.
Vote: Select between Rafferty, Fitzgerald, and Manders as the most underappreciated center in team history.