Greatest Players by Number

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This series reviews every player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, organized by their jersey numbers.

 

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #9

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #9

Four players have worn jersey number 9, including two quarterbacks, a punter, and a kicker.

Mitch Hoopes, P, Arizona, 1975

Statistics: Hoopes averaged 39.4 yards per kick in 1975.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Hoopes lasted only one season, thanks to Danny White joining the club in 1976.

Intangibles: Hoopes might be best remembered as the Dallas punter during Super Bowl X. With Dallas leading 10-7 in the 4th quarter, Pittsburgh’s Reggie Harrison blocked Hoopes’ punt out of the back of the end zone for a safety, and the Steelers took the lead for good shortly thereafter. Hoopes had one more kick as a member of the Cowboys (also in the 4th quarter of that game).

Rodney Peete, QB, Southern California, 1994

Statistics: Peete threw for 470 yards with 4 TDs and only 1 interception during the 1994 season. He started one game and played in seven.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Peete resurrected his career with Dallas but lasted only one season.

Intangibles: Peete was a good backup in 1994. It was his injury, though, that caused Dallas to start third-stringer Jason Garrett against Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day in 1994 in one of the most famous games in franchise history.

Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois, 2003-present

Statistics: In about one and a half seasons as a starter, Romo has completed 64.8 percent of his passes and has thrown for 7,114 yards with 55 touchdowns. His 96.5 passer rating (thus far) is the best of any starting quarterback in team history.

Accolades: Two-time Pro Bowler.

Longevity: Romo sat as a backup for three seasons before getting his shot to start in 2006. He signed a six-year contract extension in 2007.

Intangibles: Although Romo has been subject to some criticism due to the team’s struggles in the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, Romo has proven that he has the skills to be a franchise quarterback in the years to come.

Roger Ruzek, K, Weber State, 1987-89

Statistics: Ruzek had a very good season in 1987, making 22 of 25 field goals. However, in 23 games in 1988 and 1989, he made only 17 of 33 kicks, leading to his release during the 1989 season.

Accolades: Ruzek was named All-Pro in 1987.

Longevity: Ruzek lasted less than three full seasons before moving on to become the kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he remained until the 1993 season.

Intangibles: Ruzek missed a number of crucial kicks in 1988, a season during which Dallas lost several close games en route to a 3-13 finish. Then again, had he made some of those kicks, Dallas may not have finished with the worst record in the NFL, which allowed the Cowboys to pick Troy Aikman in the 1989 draft. So, um, thanks Roger.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #9

  • Tony Romo (98%, 189 Votes)
  • Rodney Peete (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Mitch Hoopes (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Roger Ruzek (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 193

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My Vote: Romo

Tony RomoA poll for the second best player to wear #9 might be interesting, but this one isn’t very close. Romo is the quarterback that Dallas needed for so many years, even before Troy Aikman retired. He should have plenty of opportunities to succeed in the playoffs in the years to come, and at the very least he’ll be as successful as Danny White and Don Meredith. If we are fortunate, though, we’ll compare him with Aikman and Staubach when it’s all said and done.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #8

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #8

Only two players in team history have worn number 8, including perhaps the greatest quarterback in team history and a punter who was a replacement player during the 1987 players’ strike.

Buzz Sawyer, P, Baylor, 1987

Statistics: Sawyer averaged 39.9 yards per punt on 16 punts during three games in 1987.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: None. He replaced Mike Saxon during the 1987 strike.

Intangibles: None. He was a replacement player who gets to be compared with Troy Aikman (and who shares a name with former World Class Wrestling Association Texas Heavyweight Champion “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer)

Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA, 1989-2000

Statistics: 32,942 yards, 165 TDs, career completion percentage of 61.5, three Super Bowl titles.

Accolades: Six Pro Bowls, three-time All Pro, Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Pro Football Hall of Fame

Longevity: Aikman had the longest tenure as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback in team history. Only Danny White played more overall seasons with the Cowboys, though during four of those seasons White was primarily the punter and backup quarterback.

Intangibles: Aikman was the perfect quarterback in a system that relied on his accuracy along with the playmaking ability of those around him. He does not quite have the statistics of some of his contemporaries (Favre and Young, especially), but that was mostly because it was not necessary for Aikman to throw for 300 yards a game for Dallas to be successful.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #8

  • Troy Aikman (93%, 154 Votes)
  • Buzz Sawyer (7%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 166

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My Vote: Aikman

Troy AikmanKind of hard to believe that Aikman retired seven years ago. We can save the Aikman vs. Staubach debate for some other time. Many want to put Favre on his own pedestal above all others during the 1990s, but I would not have traded Aikman for Favre in a million years.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #7

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #7

Six players have worn number 7, including five quarterbacks and a kicker.

Randall Cunningham, QB, UNLV, 2000

Statistics: In six total games in 2000, including three starts, Cunningham completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 6 TDs and 4 Ints. Dallas went 1-2 during his three starts.

Accolades: None with the Cowboys.

Longevity: Although quite a few fans wanted Cunningham to start over Troy Aikman, Cunningham showed no durability. He did not play in the final six weeks of the season despite the fact that Aikman was also out for most of those games.

Intangibles: Having Cunningham was somewhat strange. The Cowboys had essentially closed the door on Cunningham’s Philadelphia career when he appeared to be unprepared to fill in for an injured Rodney Peete for a 1995 divisional round game between the Cowboys and Eagles. He had a resurgence in 1998 with the Vikings, but by the time Dallas signed him, he had little left in the tank. He showed a few flashes, but not many.

Steve Beuerlein, QB, Notre Dame, 1991-92

Statistics: Beuerlein threw for 1061 yards and 5 TDs with 3 picks. Much more importantly, though, Beuerlein won all four of his starts in 1991. He also led Dallas to wins over the previously unbeaten Redskins during the regular season and the heavily favored Chicago Bears in the playoffs.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Beuerlein tried to catch on as a starter for other teams but essentially became a journeyman. He only lasted two years with Dallas.

Intangibles: Since Roger Staubach retired in 1979, only three quarterbacks have won playoff games as starters: Danny White, Steve Beuerlein, and Troy Aikman. Unlike Aikman, who relied heavily on Jay Novacek, Beuerlein’s first option was Michael Irvin. He led the team to a roll at the end of the 1991 season that Cowboys had not seen since the mid-1980s.

Chad Hutchinson, QB, Stanford, 2002-03

Statistics: Hutchinson threw for 1555 yards with 7 TDs and 8 Ints. in nine starts with Dallas in 2002. Dallas went 2-7 during that stretch.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Hutchinson became the quarterback the first time that Dallas gave up on Quincy Carter. He started nine games, but lost the starting job to Carter in 2003. He played in only one game during that season before joining the Bears in 2004.

Intangibles: Hutchinson was the first version of Former-College-Quarterback-Turned-Minor-League-Baseball-Player-Who-Later-Decided-To-Give-Pro-Football-a-Shot. You will discover in two lines that the Cowboys did learn their lesson with the Hutchinson experiment.

Drew Henson, QB, Michigan, 2004-05

Statistics: Henson threw for a total of 78 yards in two appearances in 2004.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Henson led Dallas on one drive in one game, then started and played the first half of the second game. After that, he never saw action.

Intangibles: The Cowboys finally learned, apparently, that former college quarterbacks who play pro baseball generally have trouble returning to football to play quarterback in the pros. To make matters worse, Henson never showed the type of arm strength that Hutchinson had, and so there was very little reason to be optimistic about Henson’s chances in the NFL.

Hugh Millen, QB, Washington, 1993

Statistics: Millen never played a down with Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Dallas signed Millen as a backup in 1993 after Millen had started several games with Atlanta and New England in the previous four seasons. However, he was released when Dallas signed Bernie Kosar during week 11 of the 1993 campaign.

Intangibles: Few probably remember that Millen was on the Cowboys’ roster because more will remember that Dallas had Kosar and Garrett.

Martin Gramatica, K, Kansas State, 2006

Statistics: In five games in 2006, Gramatica went 6 of 8 in field goal attempts.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: Gramatica lasted about half of the 2006 season. He was released during training camp in 2007.

Intangibles: He will be best remembered as the team’s kicker when Tony Romo bobbled the snap against Seattle in the 2006 playoffs. He also made a huge field goal to beat the Giants at the Meadowlands during week 13 that year. And he also wasn’t Mike Vanderjagt, which was a good thing at that point.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #7

  • Steve Beuerlein (70%, 146 Votes)
  • Randall Cunningham (20%, 43 Votes)
  • Martin Gramatica (5%, 11 Votes)
  • Chad Hutchinson (2%, 5 Votes)
  • Drew Henson (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Hugh Millen (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 210

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My Vote: Beuerlein

Steve BeuerleinIf you don’t remember the 1991 season, you may not understand why some of us remember Beuerlein so fondly. Let’s try this: assume that Dallas limps along a little bit next season, starting out 6-5 and having trouble with consistency. Then Tony Romo is injured and will miss the rest of the regular season. In comes Brad Johnson, who had done very little up to that point. However, Johnson leads Dallas to five straight wins to get the team into the playoffs and then leads the team to a win in the playoffs, marking the first Dallas playoff win in 12 years. Would you hold Johnson in high regard?

Well, that was Beuerlein in 1991. Dallas had not won a playoff game in nine years when Beuerlein led the Cowboys to a 17-13 win over Chicago in the wildcard round of the playoffs. He didn’t make big mistakes, and he let his playmakers make big plays. You have to believe that Aikman learned more than a little bit about how to win by watching Beuerlein led Dallas that year.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #6

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #6

Three kickers in the history of the Cowboys have worn number 6. Please trust me: this series will soon get better (or we will at least have some position players to consider…)

Luis Zendejas, K, Arizona State, 1987-89

Statistics: In 11 games during a three-year span, Zendejas made nine of 16 field goal attempts (56.3%).

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Zendejas played for both Philadelphia and Dallas in both the 1988 and 1989 seasons. No Cowboy will last long with that on his record.

Intangibles: He is best known as the target of the Eagles in the Bounty Bowl in 1989. Other than that, there’s not much to remember.

Tim Seder, K, Ashland, 2000-01

Statistics: In two seasons, Seder made 36 of 50 field goal attempts. He also has the distinction of having two career rushing attempts and two career touchdown runs.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Seder was inconsistent and did not have a strong leg. He was replaced in 2002 by Billy Cundiff.

Intangibles: Seder’s touchdown runs are about all that distinguish him. He was otherwise a subpar kicker during two bad seasons for the franchise.

Nick Folk, K, Arizona, 2007-present

Statistics: In his rookie season, Folk made 26 of 31 field goal attempt.

Accolades: Folk was named an all-pro and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2007.

Longevity: We can only hope that we have Folk for a long time.

Intangibles: The Cowboys made a curious decision when they drafted Folk last year, and many believed that it was because of his kickoff abilities that the team did so. He won the job and very quickly won over the fans. His 53-yarder that beat Buffalo in week 5 was one of the great moments of the 2007 season.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #6

  • Nick Folk (90%, 122 Votes)
  • Luis Zendejas (7%, 10 Votes)
  • Tim Seder (2%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 135

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My Vote: Folk

Nick FolkWe simply do not have much of a choice for this, but at least Folk is off to a great start. Zendejas and Seder were kickers on some of the worst teams in franchise history, and that fact that they were both below average (at best) does not help their cause.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #5

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #5

Only two Cowboys have worn the number 5, including a punter and a quarterback.

2012 Update: The list now also includes quarterback Brooks Bollinger.

John Warren, P, Tennessee, 1983-84

Statistics: Warren had 60 punts in two seasons with Dallas and averaged 39.2 punts per game.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Although Danny White remained the team’s primary punter in 1983 and 1984, the Cowboys also had Warren and Jim Miller. White relinquished his punting duties for good in 1985 when the team signed Mike Saxon.

Intangibles: I doubt that many people remember Warren. After White was injured in the 1982 NFC Championship Game and had nobody to replace him (other than Rafael Septien), I recall discussion that it was too dangerous for him to be the team’s only punter. However, I only vaguely remember Warren.

Clint Stoerner, QB, Arkansas, 2000-02

Statistics: Stoerner appeared in six games and had two starts in three seasons with Dallas. He completed 29 of 54 passes for 367 yards with 4 TDs and 5 Ints.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Stoerner was a backup for most of his three seasons in Dallas. He later played in the Arena Football League.

Intangibles: For a few years, Stoerner was an underdog and fan favorite, similar to Kevin Sweeney and Tony Romo (and with results much more like Sweeney’s). He led the Cowboys to a 17-3 win over Arizona in 2001 and led the Cowboys to a 24-7 halftime advantage over the Giants during the following week. However, four Stoerner interceptions helped New York tie the game, and the Giants won in overtime. Stoerner never started another game for Dallas or any other NFL team.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #5

  • Clint Stoerner (80%, 75 Votes)
  • John Warren (20%, 19 Votes)

Total Voters: 94

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My Vote: Stoerner

Clint StoernerNot much of a choice here, given the competition between a backup punter and a backup quarterback. At the very least, Stoerner led Dallas to a win as a starting quarterback, which is just enough for the great prestige of this award.

 

 

2012 Update

Brooks Bollinger, QB, Wisconsin, 2008

Bollinger played in two games for the Cowboys during a disappointing 2008 season.

Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State, 2011-present

Bailey won the job as the team’s placekicker for the 2011 season, and he had a solid season by making 32 of 37 attempts.

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Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #4

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #4

Six players have worn jersey #4, including three punters, two kickers, and a quarterback.

Brett Visintainer, K, Fresno State, 2005

Statistics: None. Visintainer was on the Cowboys’ roster in 2005, but he never played.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Visintainer only lasted one season. He never caught on with another team.

Intangibles: Visintainer was expected to compete with Billy Cundiff for the kicking job in 2005. However, a poor showing in training camp did not allow him to do so. Dallas had so many kickers in 2005 that it is tough to recall all of them. Okay, I’ll give it a shot: Billy Cundiff, Brett Visintainer, Seth Marler (acquired from Jacksonville in August 2005 but did nothing), Jose Cortez, and Shaun Suisham.

Shaun Suisham, K, Bowling Green, 2005-06

Statistics: Suisham hit four of six field goals as a fill-in kicker for the Cowboys in 2005 and 2006.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Suisham was originally signed in 2005 to the practice squad. He appeared briefly before being cut so that Dallas could sign Billy Cundiff. When Cundiff flopped late in the season, the team brought Suisham back to kick in the finale. He also kicked in the season opener vs. Jacksonville in 2006 before being released for good.

Intangibles: Suisham kicked for the Washington Redskins. He did not get enough opportunities in Dallas to show what he could offer.

2012 Update: Suisham returned to the Cowboys late in the 2009 season when Dallas released Nick Folk. Suisham then became the kicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Saxon, P, San Diego State, 1985-92

Statistics: In eight years with Dallas, Saxon had a career average of 41.5 yards per punt. His best season was 1990, when he averaged 43.2 per kick.

Accolades: None. He never made the Pro Bowl.

Longevity: Only Danny White punted for the Cowboys as many years as Saxon. He remained with the team through the dark years of 1986 through 1990 and was the team’s punter in the Super Bowl season of 1992.

Intangibles: Saxon was a solid punter, though he never did much to stand out.

Toby Gowin, P, North Texas, 1997-99, 2003

Statistics: In four total seasons with Dallas, Gowin averaged 41.7 per punt.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Gowin replaced John Jett in 1997, and the Cowboys did not miss a beat. However, the team would not pay him enough to resign him, and he jumped ship after the 1999 season to sign with New Orleans. He came back for one season in 2003, but it was nearly a disaster, and he was gone after one season.

Intangibles: Gowin averaged more than 43 yards per kick in 1998 and 1999, which led the Saints to sign him. He only managed a 39.0 per kick average in 2003, though. He was one of a number of casualties to the Cowboys’ philosophy that kickers and punters were too easily replaceable for the team to have to pay to keep them.

Micah Knorr, P, Utah State, 2000-02

Statistics: In three seasons with Dallas, Knorr averaged 41.2 per kick.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Knorr was the Cowboys’ kicker during the three 5-11 seasons of 2000 through 2002. His ineffectiveness led Dallas to release him seven games into the 2002 season.

Intangibles: Other than being a left-footed punter, he did not stand out.

Richard Bartel, QB, Tarleton St., 2007-present

Statistics: None. He has not played a down in the NFL.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: The Cowboys released Bartel along with Matt Moore at the end of the Cowboys’ training camp in 2007. He was brought back after Moore signed with the Panthers. Bartel was

Intangibles: We haven’t seen much of Bartel, who saw limited action during the preseason in 2007.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #4

  • Mike Saxon (76%, 90 Votes)
  • Toby Gowin (14%, 17 Votes)
  • Shaun Suisham (5%, 6 Votes)
  • Richard Bartel (3%, 4 Votes)
  • Micah Knorr (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Brett Visintainer (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 118

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My Vote: Saxon

Mike SaxonThis group features a bunch of blah players, to be honest. Saxon gets my vote based on longevity. He never really stood out, but he also was never a liability. He only negative: his first punt in Super Bowl XXVII was blocked, which led to a Buffalo touchdown.

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Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #3

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #3

Five players have worn jersey #3, including three kickers, a punter, and a quarterback.

2012 Update: This list now includes QB Jon Kitna.

1. Jim Miller, Punter, Mississippi, 1983-84

Statistics: Miller had a total of 10 punts in three games with Dallas over a two-season span. He averaged 35.1 yards per punt.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Miller only played three games for Dallas. The Cowboys had three punters during those two seasons, including Miller, Danny White, and John Warren.

Intangibles: None. Very few, if anyone, remember him.

2. Steve Walsh, QB, Miami (Fla.), 1989-1990

Statistics: Walsh completed 114 of 228 passes for 1411 in just over a season of work for Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Dallas gave up a draft pick to obtain Walsh, and that pick would have been the top overall pick in the 1990 draft. However, the Cowboys obtained three draft picks when they traded him to New Orleans.

Intangibles: Walsh led Dallas to the team’s only win in 1989, a 13-3 victory over Washington.

3. Eddie Murray, K, Tulane, 1993, 1999

Statistics: In two seasons (separated by six years), Murray hit 35 of 42 field goal attempts and did not miss an extra point (48/48).

Accolades: None, though he was a five-time Pro Bowler with the Lions and made the Pro Bowl again in 1994 with the Eagles.

Longevity: Murray was signed twice by Dallas, once to replace Lin Elliott and again to replace Richie Cunningham.

Intangibles: Murray made the game winner against the Giants in overtime in the final week of the 1993 season. The field goal gave Dallas the NFC East title and home field advantage in the playoffs.

4. Richie Cunningham, K, SW Louisiana, 1997-99

Statistics: Cunningham made 34 of 37 field goals in his rookie season in 1997, but started to decline after that. In less than three full seasons with Dallas, Cunningham made 79.8% of his field goals.

Accolades: Cunningham was named an all-pro in 1997.

Longevity: He was cut by the Cowboys during the 1999 season because he missed several key kicks. He only made 60% of his field goals in 12 games before his release that year.

Intangibles: His name was certainly recognizable, and the Cowboys looked as if they had found yet another quality kicker when he came on the scene. However, he was no longer dependable by the time he was released.

5. Billy Cundiff, K, Drake, 2002-05

Statistics: Cundiff made 60 of 82 field goals in fewer than four full seasons with Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Cundiff was a strong-legged kicker who had promise but who lacked consistency. He never made more than 80% of his field goal attempts. After a poor performance against the Panthers in 2005, Dallas cut him for good.

Intangibles: Other than looking like a 12-year-old, Cundiff did not stand out. The one big exception: he made seven field goals against the Giants in the Cowboys’ 35-32 overtime win over the Giants in 2003, the first win by Dallas under Bill Parcells.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #3

  • Billy Cundiff (30%, 39 Votes)
  • Eddie Murray (26%, 33 Votes)
  • Steve Walsh (22%, 29 Votes)
  • Richie Cunningham (21%, 27 Votes)
  • Jim Miller (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 129

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My Vote: Walsh

Steve WalshThree players on this list are known primarily for one game during their Dallas careers– Walsh vs. Washington in 1989, Murray vs. Giants in 1993, and Cundiff vs. Giants in 2003. Several fans probably thought that Cunningham had red hair and worn a sweater vest (which he did not), but he did have one good season. Nevertheless, I’m going to take Walsh, because he led Dallas to its only win in a dreadful season, and the Cowboys were at least able to salvage some picks for him when he was traded to the Saints.

Side story about Cunningham: When I was putting myself through school in the late 1990s, I worked at a restaurant near Valley Ranch. Late one afternoon, Cunningham and his significant other (wife, fiancee, girlfriend) came in when we were otherwise empty. I knew he was someone I should know, but I thought he was a hockey player, since hockey players really aren’t all that big and neither was he. Just as I took his order, it occurred to me who he was, so I blurted out, “Oh, you’re the Cowboys’ kicker! I was trying to figure out which hockey player you were.” The significant other laughed. He didn’t.

So of the small handful of Dallas Cowboys that I have ever seen in person, I spoke with only one of them. And it was a kicker that I confused for a hockey player. Yes, I’m just that dumb.

2012 Update:

Jon Kitna, QB, Central Washington, 2009-2011

Kitna served as Tony Romo’s backup for three seasons and started nine games in 2010 when Romo injured his shoulder. Kitna had a QB rating of 88.9 that year.

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Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #2

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #2

Only three players in team history have worn jersey #2: former kicker Lin Elliott, former backup quarterback Anthony Wright, and former kicker Jose Cortez. Not a great contest, but here we go anyway.

2012 Update: This list now includes punter Sam Paulescu, who punted for the Cowboys in 2008.

1. Lin Elliott, K, Texas Tech, 1992-1993

Statistics: Elliott was the kicker on the Cowboys’ 1992 Super Bowl team. He hit 24 of 35 field goals that year, and then made two of four in the first two games of 1993.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Jimmy Johnson infamously cut Elliott after the second game of the 1993 season. Elliott told Johnson that the kicker had lost his confidence, and the coach immediately cut him. Elliott returned to kick for Kansas City in 1994 and 1995.

Intangibles: Elliott did not hit any notable game-winners for Dallas in 1992, and he basically lost the game for the Cowboys against the Bills in week 2 of the 1993 season. He certainly had a kicker’s name, though: Lindley Franklin Elliott Jr.

2. Anthony Wright, QB, South Carolina, 2000-02

Statistics: In five starts over two seasons with the Cowboys, Wright completed 70 of 151 passes for 766 yards, 5 TD, and 8 Int.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Wright was inexperienced when he played for Dallas but was not a bad backup. He led Dallas to one victory: a 9-7 win over Washington in 2001. He is better known for his play at Baltimore in 2003 and 2005, and he is still in the league.

Intangibles: Wright showed a little bit of promise during some bad times for the Cowboys. However, he was not with the team long enough to make a significant impact.

3. Jose Cortez, K, Oregon State, 2005

Statistics: Cortez made 12 of 16 field goals for Dallas in 2005. He was one of three Dallas kickers that season, along with Billy Cundiff and Shaun Suisham.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Dallas signed Cortez after Cundiff was injured in training camp in 2005.

Intangibles: Cortez was better known as a kickoff specialist and was not expected to make the team that season. He made the game-winning kick against the Giants in overtime that season (and because I was actually at that game, I can’t believe I forgot about him!).

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #2

  • Lin Elliott (66%, 65 Votes)
  • Anthony Wright (29%, 28 Votes)
  • Jose Cortez (5%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 98

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My Vote: Elliott

Lin Elliott The choice really comes down to a somewhat obscure backup on two 5-11 football teams vs. the kicker for a Super Bowl champion. I thought that Elliott was an improvement over Ken Willis (the Dallas kicker in 1990 and 1991), and the only noteworthy kick that Elliott failed to make that season was an extra point against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (following the Kelvin Martin touchdown that followed Alvin Harper’s epic 70-yard catch-and-run).

I should note for the sake of fairness that Elliott is unofficially a member of the Chiefs Hall of Shame.

Update (5/2012):

Punter Sam Paulescu wore #2 when he filled in for an injured Mat McBriar in 2008.

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Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #1

One of my favorite blogs, due in large part to its originality, is Best Athletes by the Numbers. The author of that site has created a list of the best athletes to wear each jersey number, from one to 99. He is currently working on a list of the greatest NFL players by numbers.

Here are the Cowboys on his list:

#8 Troy Aikman

#22 Emmitt Smith

#33 Tony Dorsett (ahead of Kareem Abdul Jabbar!)

#48 Daryl Johnston

#54 Randy White

#70 Rayfield Wright

#74 Bob Lilly

#94 Charles Haley

Over the next several weeks, I am going to post a list of all of the players in Dallas history who have worn each jersey number. Given that nearly 900 players have played for the Cowboys, this should be some list. The posts will allow site visitors to vote for the best player wearing each number. Some criteria are appropriate:

(1) Statistics: Obviously, these only show so much, but stats give us an objective measure of the quality of each player.

(2) Accolades: Obviously awards that each player received should be taken into account. This may include Pro Bowl appearances, number of times that the player was named all-pro, all-decade teams, Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor, etc.

(3) Longevity: I think that the length of service is important. For instance, Herb Adderley may be the best NFL player to wear #26, but is this enough to give him the nod over Kevin Smith?

(4) Intangibles: Some players (Bill Bates, for example) simply gave more to the Cowboys than others.

With that introduction, let’s turn our attention to jersey #1:

Jersey #1

Five players in team history have worn #1, including the team’s current Pro Bowl punter. This one may be close. Here are our candidates, listed in chronological order:

1. Efren Herrera, K, UCLA, 1974, 1976-1977

Statistics: In three seasons with Dallas, Herrera made 44 of 65 field goals (67.7%).

Accolades: He was a two-time All-Pro with Dallas and made the Pro Bowl once (1977).

Longevity: Dallas traded Herrera after the Super Bowl year in 1977 due to a contract dispute. He played for Seattle for several years before finishing up his NFL career in Buffalo. He also played a season in the USFL.

Intangibles: Herrera was a quality kicker but not usually as highly regarded as his replacement.

2. Rafael Septien, K, Southwest Louisiana, 1978-1986

Statistics: In nine seasons with Dallas, Septien made 74.3% of his field goals. He was nearly automatic from inside the 40.

Accolades: He was named all-pro and to the Pro Bowl one time (1981).

Longevity: Septien had the longest tenure of any Dallas kicker.

Intangibles: As a player, Septien was a very valuable member of some good Dallas teams. As a person, he was charged with indecency with a child and sentenced to 10 years deferred probation. Tough not to hold this against him (especially for those of us with children), but his record as a football player is still strong.

3. Kerry Brady, K, Hawaii, 1987 (replacement player)

Statistics: As a replacement player in 1987, Brady made an extra point.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: One game. He played briefly for Indianapolis and Buffalo in 1988 and 1989.

Intangibles: Replacement player. Enough said.

4. Ken Willis, K, Kentucky, 1990-91

Statistics: In two seasons as the Cowboys kicker, Willis made 45 of 64 field goal attempts (70.3%).

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He lasted two seasons in Dallas before being moving on to Tampa Bay.

Intangibles: Willis was a serviceable kicker on the Cowboys’ playoff team in 1991. He really did not stand out other than that, however.

5. Mat McBriar, P, Hawaii, 2004-2011 (Updated 5/2012)

Statistics: In eight seasons with Dallas, McBriar averaged 45.3 yards per punt. By comparison, Danny White averaged 40.2.

Accolades: McBriar was named to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2010.

Longevity: Dallas signed McBriar as an undrafted free agent in 2004, and he may be the greatest punter in team history already. In February 2007, he signed a five-year contract extension. Two of his seasons ended due to injury, and the team released him after the 2011 season.

Intangibles: McBriar is known not only for his booming kicks, but also for his ability to place the ball inside an opponent’s 10-yard line.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #1

  • Mat McBriar (59%, 136 Votes)
  • Rafael Septien (31%, 72 Votes)
  • Efren Herrera (7%, 16 Votes)
  • Kerry Brady (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Ken Willis (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 232

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If you still want to vote, please make a comment below.

My Vote: McBriar

Mat McBriarI am one who is more likely to pick a classic player than a current player. However, I think that McBriar already deserves the honor over Septien. Both have the same number of awards, and I have no doubt that once McBriar has played as long as Septien, he will be held in higher regard (assuming he stays out of trouble).

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