Andre Gurode Went from Bust to Among the Best in Dallas
It was not a shock—but it was at least a surprise—that the Cowboys released Andre Gurode today. That means that Dallas will have three new linemen starting in 2011, and the Cowboys lose a five-time Pro Bowler.
Gurode played both center and guard while playing at Colorado, and some expected him to replace Kelvin Garmon at right guard. However, Mark Stepnoski’s second stint with the team ended after the 2001 season. Whether he played guard or center, though, most thought he was a solid pick. One scouting report from 2002:
Gurode has spent most of his career at Colorado playing center but has spent some significant time at guard as well. He will probably be used as a center in NFL. He is a physical and athletic player who has the size and strength needed to be a dominant pro. He has very long arms that he uses to his fullest in pass protection. Gurode is very strong, especially in his upper body. He is both a road-grader in the running game and a very effective shield in pass protection. He also has a mean streak to him, and is always going for the knockout punch on his defender. He has had knee problems in the past but appears to have moved past those disabilities. Gurode tends to rely too much on his strength and may get sloppy at times, but he will likely make some team very happy as their anchor in the middle.
Gurode played at both right guard and center during his rookie season and played right guard in 2003 and 2004 while Matt Lehr and Al Johnson manned the center position. Gurode only started two games in 2005 after the team brought in Marco Rivera. It looked as if Gurode may have been yet another bust, until…
Gurode took over the starting center duties from Johnson in 2006 (the first year without Larry Allen), and Gurode started 78 of the next 80 games. Of course, many remember Gurode for being Albert Haynesworth’s victim during a Dallas win at Tennessee in 2006, but during the same season, Gurode was selected to the first of five consecutive Pro Bowls.
Gurode had his weaknesses, such as snapping in shotgun, but he was a consistent anchor of the line for the past five years.
His five Pro Bowl selections equal the total of Stepnoski, though two of Stepnoski’s selections came while he played for the Oilers. No other center in team history came close in terms of accolades. Ray Donaldson made two Pro Bowls in Dallas at the end of his long career, while Dave Manders only made one during his ten-year career. Neither Tom Rafferty nor John Fitzgerald ever made a Pro Bowl.
My pick: Stepnoski. By most accounts, Fitzgerald and Manders were good centers on good football teams, but neither really stood out, especially compared with others on the line. Rafferty’s best years may have come when he played guard; he never managed to stand out as a great center. That leaves Stepnoski and Gurode, and Stepnoski has to have the edge. Stepnoski was a major part of the team’s Super Bowl teams in 1992 and 1993, and he was sorely missed when he jumped ship after 1994. Gurode was a solid anchor on what I think was an overhyped line in the late 2000s. I think Gurode belongs in this conversation, but overall, neither he nor the line he anchored accomplished what Stepnoski and his line accomplished.