Best of the Best
now browsing by category
This is part of the series on the All-Time Team of Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys have had decent luck at the guard position, with several of guards in team history trips to the Pro Bowl.
The most obvious candidate for best guard in team history is also a candidate for best guard in NFL history. That guy is Larry Allen, who earned 11 trips to the Pro Bowl along with six selections as All-Pro. In the ESPN poll, 97.7% of respondents included Allen on the greatest team.
The other choice at guard was Nate Newton, who made six Pro Bowls.
Here is the final tally for the guards in the ESPN poll:
1. Larry Allen (97.7%)
2. Nate Newton (85.8%)
3. John Niland (13.2%)
4. Herb Scott (2%)
5. Blaine Nye (1.3%)
This list also covers the candidates for most underappreciated guard. Before we get to that, here is the approximate value rankings for all the guards in team history:
|21||Joe Bob Isbell||1962||1964||31||G||8|
Niland accomplished as much as Newton did on paper, including six Pro Bowl trips and two selections as All-Pro. He was a starter on four Super Bowl teams between 1970 and 1975.
Scott made three Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro twice. He was the “Scott” in “Four Irishmen and a Scott.”
Nye made two Pro Bowls, including a selection after his final year in 1976.
Current starters Leonard Davis and Kyle Kosier deserve to be mentioned here. Davis has made three trips to the Pro Bowl as a Dallas guard, which exceeded expectations most had when Dallas signed him in 2007. Kosier has not made a Pro Bowl, but he has been a solid member of the line since 2006.
Kevin Gogan was also a starter at guard (he actually started at guard when Newton was the starting tackle), but he make a Pro Bowl until after he left Dallas.
Here are the poll results:
Burton Lawless, 3%
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.
Jon Kitna took over for Tony Romo during the first half of the Cowboys’ week 7 loss to the Giants. Kitna then started nine games, going 4-5 in the process.
The question for the day: Where does Kitna’ performance rank among other backup quarterbacks in team history?
Only two other true backups in team history have had to start as many games as Kitna did in 2010, so it is difficult to rank all of them. One of those QBs was Craig Morton, who lost the starting job in 1971 but then started all 14 games in 1972 because of an injury to Roger Staubach. The other QB was Steve Pelluer in 1986, who struggled to replace an injured Danny White. Pelluer started a total of nine games in 1986 but only went 1-6 after White was injured for good against the Giants that season.
As for other quarterbacks, a few have started at least three games as replacements for injured starters. Others have started a few games during seasons in which the team lacked a clear-cut starter. Such was the case during the early 2000s, when Dallas went through the likes of Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, and so forth.
The list below includes those quarterbacks who started at least three games as injury replacements for firmly established starters. Kitna’s overall performance falls somewhere in the middle of this list.
Here’s a brief review of these players:
Steve Beuerlein, 1991
Beuerlein took over the starting position when Troy Aikman was hurt against the Redskins in week 11. The Cowboys improved from 6-5 to 11-5 thanks to Beuerlein’s play during that time.
Craig Morton, 1972
One year after the Cowboys won Super Bowl VI, Roger Staubach suffered a shoulder injured that kept him from playing most of the season. Morton returned to the starting role and led Dallas to another playoff appearance.
Craig Morton, 1967
The Cowboys were trying in 1967 to accomplished what they couldn’t in 1966: An NFL Championship. The 1967 season was tough, though, as Dallas struggled to a 9-5 record. Starting QB Don Meredith suffered some injures, but the Cowboys were able to turn to Morton, who went 2-1 as a replacement.
Jason Garrett, 1998
Many remember Garrett’s Thanksgiving performance in 1993, but he also started five games in 1998 when Aikman broke his collarbone. Garrett’s play was inconsistent, but he managed to post a 3-2 record that season.
Jon Kitna, 2010
Kitna didn’t bring everything that Romo could, but Kitna appeared to be a more vocal leader after Romo’s injury. Kitna’s 4-5 record could have been better had Dallas pulled out wins against the Saints, Eagles, and Cardinals (though he was injured during the Arizona game).
Steve Pelluer, 1986
Pelleur didn’t look terrible in 1986 when Danny White was temporarily injured. However, when White was lost for the season with a broken wrist, Pelluer looked awful. Thanks to the team’s 1-6 record in the final seven games, Dallas finished with a losing record for the first time since 1964.
Randall Cunningham, 2000
Aikman suffered through injures and boos during his final season in 2000. Cunningham showed flashes of his great play from 1998 as a replacement with the Cowboys, but Cunningham could only manage a 1-2 record as a starter.
Brad Johnson, 2008
Johnson had won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002, but by 2008, he had a dead arm. He posted a 1-2 mark as a starter, but one loss was to the woeful Rams and one of the wins was thanks mostly to a defensive effort against Tampa Bay.
Steve Walsh, 1989
Walsh didn’t set the world on fire in 1989, but he led the team to its only win of 1989 by defeating the Redskins.
John Roach, 1964
Roach had played with the Cardinals and Packers before joining the Cowboys in ’64. He made fans miss Eddie LeBaron by going 0-4 as an injury replacement for Don Meredith that season. Point of interest: he was the only player besides Roger Staubach to wear #12 for the Cowboys.
Poll: Rate the Performances
In 1974, the Cowboys were in a state of transition. Many of the legendary players had retired or were about to retire, and team needed to restock. This was one year before the Dirty Dozen draft, and the team struggled to an 8-6 finish.
It was during that disappointing season that an undersized receiver from the University of Tulsa developed into one of the best receivers in the game. It was thanks to Pearson that we have memories such as the following:
Pearson played during a time when few receivers surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. Between 1968 and 1979, no NFL receiver surpassed 1,200 yard in a single season (though to be sure, some AFL receivers in late 1960s had more yardage), and it was hardly surprising that Pearson led the league in receiving yards in 1977 with only 870 yards. Those stats reflect the era, not the quality of the receivers.
Imagine the images from the 1970s if we removed Swann’s performances in Super Bowls X, XIII, and XIV. Swann caught a total of 16 passes in those Super Bowls, and it was those receptions that put him in the Hall of Fame.
Pearson doesn’t have a realistic shot at the Hall of Fame, bu this omission from the Ring of Honor is ridiculous. Take away Pearson and you take away the Hail Mary play. More importantly, take away Pearson, and there’s a pretty good chance the Cowboys don’t appear in three Super Bowls in a four-year period from 1975 to 1978. The Cowboys struggled for years to replace Pearson after his premature retirement following an auto accident in 1984.
Earlier this week, Roger Staubach strongly endorsed Pearson’s bid for a Ring of Honor induction. Our Friend Jerry then almost predictably blurted out,
“We have yet to address that,” said Jones. “There is no decision there at all. Obviously, it’s always been a question of your Hall of Fame players that deserve a lot of consideration there.
“But there has been no plan, and right now there is no plan to have an inductee into the Ring of Honor this next season. There’s no plan.”
Pearson deserved a place in the Ring of Honor by the end of the 1980s. He should be first in line in 2011 to receive that honor.
Anyway, here are his stats:
One of the underappreciated greats of the Dallas Cowboys is former cornerback and safety Cornell Green, who earned five trips to the Pro Bowl and three awards for All Pro. He helped to lead the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl title in 1971 before retiring after the 1974 season.
Green was one of Gil Brandt’s great finds, as Green did not play college football. He instead played basketball at Utah State University before signing with Dallas as a free agent. In his second season in 1963, he led the Cowboys with seven interceptions. He played cornerback until the 1970 season, when he moved to safety after Dallas acquired Herb Adderley from the Packers.
Green started scouting for the Cowboys in 1970, even before his playing career was finished. He has been a scout with the Broncos for the past 25 years.
On Monday, the Fritz Pollard Alliance announced that Green has been named AFC Scout of the Year. He will be honored in Indianapolis on February 25.
This is from the story linked above:
“Cornell is a vital part of our scouting department, and I’m thrilled that the Fritz Pollard Alliance is honoring him with this prestigious award,” Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said. “He is a winner who brings vast experience and wisdom to our scouting process. Cornell’s track record of success as both a player and talent evaluator in the NFL is a unique combination, and we’re fortunate to have him with the Denver Broncos.”
Below are Green’s career statistics, which are impressive:
Height: 6-3 Weight: 208 lbs.
Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 97 (167th overall since 1950)
5-time Pro Bowler & 3-time First-Team All-Pro
Mat McBriar earned his second Pro Bowl berth in 2010, marking only the fifth time in team history that a Dallas punter has made a Pro Bowl roster.
Thanks to the long and distinguished careers of Bob Lilly and Randy White, the Cowboys have had more Pro Bowl selections at defensive tackle than any other position. Jay Ratliff earned his third Pro Bowl selection in 2010.
Below is the list:
|Games||Sacks & Tackles|
DeMarcus Ware earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection in 2010 after recording 15.5 sacks. His selections represent nearly a third of the total number of outside linebacker selections for the Cowboys, though it is difficult to compare players because Dallas ran a 4-3 for most of its history.
Ware’s accomplishments are more comparable to those of Dallas defensive ends, who earned a total of 16 Pro Bowl berths.
Below are lists for both the outside linebacker and defensive end positions.
|Games||Sacks & Tackles||Misc|
|Games||Sacks & Tackles||Misc|
|11||Too Tall Jones||1981||30||DAL||16||1||1||0||14|
|12||Too Tall Jones||1982||31||DAL||9||6.0||1||1||1||18|
|13||Too Tall Jones||1983||32||DAL||16||7.0||1||1||0||12|
The Cowboys have had a center in the Pro Bowl 11 times. Andre Gurode accounts for nearly half of these selections.
Interestingly, Gurode has earned only 22% of the votes in the voting for the greatest team in franchise history, trailing Mark Stepnoski by several miles. However, at least on paper, Gurode has accomplished nearly as much (save for the postseason success).
(And no, I didn’t vote for Gurode either).
Here are the Pro Bowl selections at center. The note for AV stands for Approximate Value, which is an interesting tool developed at Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Miles Austin made this year’s Pro Bowl team as a replacement for DeSean Jackson. Whether Austin deserved it is a matter of debate, given that Austin started off as an All-World candidate but then all but disappeared later in the season. Nevertheless, this year represents the 18th time that a Dallas receiver has made the Pro Bowl.