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What would an expanded Ring of Honor look like?

And is that something you want to see?

NFL: NOV 01 Seahawks at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

Last week we looked at some of the past Cowboys legends as potential inductees into the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. Looking at the poll results and comments it’s safe to say that most BTBers agree they’d like to see the ROH expanded at least a little bit for such players.

So today we’ll look at what an expanded Ring of Honor would look like if we added all five of the past nominees and added the three more recent players who are almost certain to be added at some point. Here’s who we’re talking about:

Past players:

  • Cornell Green
  • Charlie Waters
  • Harvey Martin
  • Too Tall Jones
  • Everson Walls

Recent players:

  • Demarcus Ware
  • Tony Romo
  • Jason Witten

The following visual captures the the state of the current Ring of Honor. Years are listed acros and each blue band below represents that player’s career, from rookie season to retirement:

That’s probably a little hard to read so go here for a full-sized version.

There’s a lot of interesting information here (at least to me). On the top row the year when an eventual Ring of Honor member joined the team are outlined in blue.

  1. From the team’s early years through the mid-70’s the team consistently added legendary talent. Both 1960 and 1961 saw the team add three eventual ROH of members each year. Thus six of the 21 current members became Cowboys in either 1960 or 1961.
  2. In total, between 1960 and 1977, 15 Ring of Honor members joined the team. That’s an average of 0.833 ROH members added per season.
  3. If you want to understand how the Dallas Cowboys were perennial winners for 20 seasons and became America’s Team, that list of names right there is a good place to start.
  4. By comparison, between 1978 and 2003, only six Ring of Honor members were added (0.231 per season).

The red line on the following chart counts franchise seasons, it increases by one each year. The white line counts when Ring of Honor members joined the team. Tex Schramm and Tom Landry are excluded so it’s only counting players.

You can see how the two lines track very closely in the early part of the franchise then level off. No player who joined after 1994 has yet to be inducted.

You can also break Ring of Honor members into two groups:

  1. No doubt members that were enshrined within ten years of retirement.
  2. Not-so-certain members who had to wait as many as 28 years before being honored.

Here’s the above chart with each player’s wait for induction noted:

And here’s the full-size version.

Note how few inductees there were prior to Jerry Jones taking over the team. Only six names were on the Texas Stadium facade in 1989, meaning Jerry Jones has added 15 since then. This includes both Tom Landry and Tex Schramm as well as Lee Roy Jordan, Rayfield Wright, Bob Hayes, Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson. Some of the comments on the prior article implied or flat-out accused Jones of ignoring the team’s past legends when in fact the exact opposite is true.

We’ve already discussed why (or why not) past players such as Harvey Martin and Everson Walls should be a part of this great fraternity. Today let’s quickly recap why it’s very likely the Ring will be expanded by three names in the relatively near future:

Demarcus Ware:

Ware is without question the best Cowboys defensive player since the 90’s. During his nine-year Cowboys career he was the focal point of the defense. He recorded 117 sacks during that time, which means he averaged 13 sacks per year over nine full seasons. Twice he recorded 19+ sacks and three times 15+ sacks.

He was named to the Pro Bowl seven of his nine Cowboys season and First-Team All Pro four times. He is a certain Hall of Famer and, in my mind, also a certain Ring of Honor inductee.

Tony Romo:

Many Ring of Honor members were first-round draft picks. Only Cliff Harris was an undrafted player. Tony Romo is likely to join him as the second undrafted player to be so recognized.

Romo holds every major team passing record (completions, yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt). He was named to 4 Pro Bowl teams and in 2014 finished second in MVP voting. He was the face of the organization for 10 years.

Unfortunately, his career was plagued by inept and dysfunctional “leadership”. Romo’s career is summed up in a series of failures by those around him:

  • Patrick Crayton first dropping a 75-yard touchdown pass then quitting on a likely last-second, game-winning touchdown pass in the 2007 divisional playoffs against the New York Giants.
  • Throwing for 506 yards and five touchdowns and somehow losing to the Denver Broncos in 2013.
  • Going 15-for-19 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Green Bay Packers and again somehow losing in the 2014 divisional round.

Add the fact that perhaps no player ever has had a closer relationship with Jerry Jones and I think it’s inevitable that Tony Romo has his name added to the team’s legends.

Jason Witten:

This is the easiest and indisputable:

  • 11-time Pro Bowler
  • Two-time All Pro
  • Fourth all-time NFL in receptions
  • Dallas Cowboys all-time leader in starts
  • Sure-fire Hall of Famer

Bob Lilly is rightly honored not only as an NFL Hall of Famer and a Cowboys Ring of Honor member but also as “Mr. Cowboy” for his legendary career. But if any player since has come close to matching his long-term impact on the performance and culture of the team it’s Jason Witten.

He has been an unwavering presence since his arrival (along with Tony Romo) in 2004. An entire generation of Cowboys fans have grown up with Jason Witten as the team’s starting tight end. He has exemplified what it is to be a Dallas Cowboy both on and off the field for 15 years.

All of which is to say that at some point in the near future the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor will be adding three new names. What would a Ring of Honor the included both groups of players look like? Well’s lets update our chart from above:

Again, you can click here for a full-size version.

What we see, mostly, is yet more names added to those 1965-1982 glory years, as well as three players added over only two years in the early aughts.

None of that really seems out of whack. And when you look at the history of the Ring, and how players have been added, it seems possible. There’s been a clear trend in adding players to the RIng: originally players were added after only a few years in the league. But over time most players have had to wait longer and longer before being added.

Which makes me think that while I believe Ware, Romo and WItten will all join the Ring, it might be the mid-2020’s before all three are added. These additions would also add some balance to the Ring. Currently it is a bit heavy with offensive players, and adding names such as Walls, Martin, Waters and Green would bring some balance:

Currently the Ring is represented by:

  • Front office/coaching: 2
  • Offense: 11
  • Defense: 8

Were the Ring expanded with both the veterans and the three newcomers, these numbers would look more balanced:

  • Front office/coaching: 2
  • Offense: 13
  • Defense: 14

I’m not saying this is what should happen. Adding eight players to a group that has only 21 people in a 59-year old franchise would be radical. And there’s a lot to be said for limiting membership in such an elite group. I’m just showing what a different, more expansive Ring of Honor would look like.

What do you think?


What should the Ring of Honor look like in five years?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Keep it limited - maybe add a couple names
    (111 votes)
  • 23%
    Honor the new guys - add Ware, Romo and Witten
    (111 votes)
  • 53%
    Open the doors - bring in the both the vets and the three newcomers
    (260 votes)
482 votes total Vote Now

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