I love the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. I was in attendance at Texas Stadium when the very first member was inducted. Bob Lilly was the first to have his name and number emblazoned forever in Cowboys’ history. Since then only 18 additional names have been added to the list and only 16 players (Tom Landry and Tex Schramm are also members).
I particularly like the fact the team has kept the group exclusive. If you want to see what a watered down version looks like check out the “greats” in the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame.
But 17 players across the 58 years of the team’s history seems fairly limited. Yes, we can all be fairly certain that DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo and Jason Witten will all see their names added to the group at some point. But are there others in the Cowboys’ illustrious past who warrant a place among the honored? I can think of at least five names who, at minimum, deserve consideration for inclusion. Let’s take a look at each one and see how they measure up.
Pro Bowls: 5
First-Team All Pro: 3
Total AV: 124
Years retired: 44
Green is probably not known to many fans born after 1980 and that’s a shame. He’s one of the best Cowboys ever, despite never having played a down of college football. He came to the Cowboys having been a college basketball player and they converted him into a cornerback.
By the end of his rookie season he had taken over the starting cornerback spot. He would start every game from 1963 to 1974, a time when the Cowboys were winning at an astronomical level. Green teamed with Mel Renfro to form one the NFL’s most fearsome cornerback duos in the late 60’s. He would win three Pro Bowl and two All Pro honors as a cornerback.
Green was moved to safety in 1970 where he was twice named to the Pro Bowl and First-Team All Pro once. Green recorded 34 interceptions over his career and played in 15 playoff games. His career AV (Approximate Value) of 124 ranks ninth all-time in team history (above such names as Troy Aikman, Chuck Howley, Larry Allen, DeMarcus Ware, Rayfield Wright and Drew Pearson).
Odds of being inducted: pretty much zero. The vast majority of ROH members were inducted within five years of their retirement. The longest waits belonged to Drew Pearson (28 years) and Bob Hayes (27). It seems unlikely the Jones family would add a relative unknown name from the past. Especially since your average contemporary fan probably wouldn’t be able to tell you a single thing about Green.
Which is too bad. In my mind, of all the names we’re going to review today, Green is the most deserving candidate.
Pro Bowls: 3
1st Team All Pro: 0
Total AV: 80
Years retired: 37
Waters is a name that any reasonably informed Cowboys fan should be familiar with. His was a constant presence on the great 70’s teams that captured the imagination of the entire country, eventually becoming America’s Team.
But Waters’ path to Cowboys legend was bumpy. He spent much of the first half of his career playing cornerback, despite Tom Landry knowing he was better suited for safety. Waters was essentially asked to take one for the team and play out of position for a number of years. He struggled in one-on-one coverage at times and was once infamously beaten for four touchdowns by Los Angeles Rams’ standout Harold Jackson. Despite the handicap of playing out of position Waters was a persistent play-maker.
He racked up 20 interceptions as a corner, but once he moved to strong safety in 1975 he truly blossomed into an elite player. Not only was Waters outstanding in run support, he continued to make big plays in the secondary. He would snag 50 interceptions during his entire career. His nine post-season interceptions is tied for first in the NFL all-time (with Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed).
Five of those post-season picks came in the 1977-78 seasons when the Cowboys went to consecutive Super Bowls, winning one of them. Waters played a huge role in many of those games, especially the 1978 NFC Championship game when his two interception returns and fumble recovery each gave the Cowboys the ball on the Rams side of the field. Paired with current Ring of Honor member Cliff Harris, the duo were the best safety tandem in the league.
Waters was also an outstanding special teams contributor. He held on field goals and returned kicks. But his real specialty was blocking punts, with (at least) eight in his career. He once blocked two punts in the same playoff game, nearly single-handedly turning the tide in an eventual 14-12 loss to the Rams in 1976.
Waters’ career AV of 80 is low compared to many others but this is due in large part to his relatively low numbers during the first part of his career. Had he played safety he likely has an AV number over 100.
Odds of being inducted: 10-20%. Again, hard to see a player who’s been retired for nearly 40 years get inducted now. But Waters’ on-field play, his charismatic personality, connections with the team post-career (including various radio gigs) make him a Cowboys name that should be memorialized. Were it up to me he’d be in.
Pro Bowls: 4
1st Team All Pro: 1
Total AV: 96
Years retired: 35
Martin was a bigger-than-life personality during the late 70’s when the Cowboys reigned supreme in the NFL. His 1977 season was the best season ever for a Cowboys defender and ranks among the best ever in the NFL:
- 23 sacks in only 14 games (unofficially as the NFL did not keep sack records back then)
- Recorded 83 tackles
- Consensus 1st Team All Pro
- Defensive Player of the Year
- Super Bowl Co-MVP (with Randy White)
Over his entire career Martin recorded 114 sacks. From 1976 to 1981 Martin averaged 14.5 sacks per season and racked up double-digit sacks six times in his career. He would go to the Pro Bowl four straight seasons from 1976 to 1979. Throughout that period he was perhaps the most feared pass-rusher in the league. His nine sacks as a rookie still ranks first in Cowboys’ history (tied with George Andrie).
Martin was nicknamed “Too Mean” to go with “Too Tall” Jones at the opposing defensive end position. “The Beautiful Harvey Martin Show” was one of the original sports talk programs in Dallas to feature a single player. He’s also noteworthy for having grown up and played college ball near Dallas; not once in his entire football life did he play a home game outside Texas.
Martin, however, was plagued by personal demons after retirement, suffering from drug addiction, financials woes and domestic violence issues. He died of complications from pancreatic cancer in 2001 at the age of 51
Odds of being inducted: 5%. I’m kind of amazed the idea of Martin in the Ring of Honor isn’t discussed very often. He was one of the primary players and personalities on the late-70’s teams that went to three Super Bowls in four years and won six division titles in seven years. Again, if it were up to me he’d be in.
Too Tall Jones
Pro Bowls: 3
1st Team All Pro: 1
Total AV: 129
Years retired: 29
Jones was the first overall selection of the 1974 draft; a pick the Cowboys possessed thanks to trading Tody Smith and Billy Parks to the Houston Oilers. When Jones retired 15 years later in 1989 he had played 224 games as a Dallas Cowboy, more than anyone before him. That record would stand until 2017 when one Jason Witten finally broke Jones’ team record.
Jones stood 6’ 9” and was one of the tallest players in NFL history. He was not as prolific a sack artist as Harvey Martin but did unofficially record 106 in his career (including 13 in 1985 at the age of 34). He was adept at batting passes down; had such stats been kept back then I’m sure he would have ranked among the league leaders throughout his career.
After five years in the NFL the 27-year old shocked fans and teammates by retiring from the NFL to pursue a boxing career. He would miss the entire 1979 season and return a year later to start at DE for 135 of the team’s next 136 games.
Jones was a markedly better player after returning from boxing, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl honors and one 1st Team All Pro honor. He averaged 15 AV those three seasons. Jones credited the handwork he learned while boxing for his improved play.
Like the others on this list, Jones was a permanent presence on highly successful teams. He played in 16 playoff games and three Super Bowls, once winning the championship.
Odds of being inducted: 5%. Jones was a great Cowboy and a great player but his peak was simply not as high as the others on this list. Many of his numbers are due to his longevity and while longevity is a good thing it can create some inflated numbers. I would not add him to the Ring of Honor.
Pro Bowls: 4
1st Team All Pro: 1
Total AV: 82
Years retired: 29
Walls was an undrafted rookie who had an immediate impact upon his hometown Dallas Cowboys. Walls would snatch an interception in his very first game and was soon made the starter at cornerback. He would start 146 of the Cowboys next 149 games. He led the league in interceptions his rookie year with 11. He would again lead the league in picks in 1982 (seven interceptions in nine games) and 1985 (9), grabbing 61 total in his career (47 with the Cowboys). Other than Walls, only likely Hall of Famer Ed Reed has led the league three different times in interceptions.
Walls was a true underdog fans could root for. He didn’t look like an NFL player as he was slow and skinny. And yet he was one of the best man defenders in team history. While his memory has always been marred somewhat by being the defender against Dwight Clark on “The Catch” play, what’s forgotten is he had two outstanding interceptions earlier in that game.
Walls is the only player on this list who played for a team other than the Cowboys. He spent three seasons with the Giants before ending his career with the Cleveland Browns. Walls was one of many veterans pushed out when Jimmy Johnson took over in 1989. The difference between Walls and most of the others is he could still play. Johnson supposedly got rid of Walls after seeing Walls smiling and laughing with some Cardinals players after a loss to the then-Phoenix Cardinals.
Walls was named to four Pro Bowls and one 1st-Team All Pro squad. He generated 82 AV in 8+ years playing for the Cowboys and finished his career with 105 AV. He most recently reached the final voting round of the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame but failed to win enough votes for election.
Odds of being inducted: 35%. Walls making the finals of the Hall of Fame has raised his profile. He’s also the most recent retiree among these five candidates. I still don’t think he’s more likely to get in than not get in, but all five candidates I think he’s the most likely. I would vote for him.
Here’s the stats on each potential nominee:
So, what do you think? Which, if any, Cowboys great would you add to the Cowboys Ring of Honor?
Which Cowboys great deserves to be in the Ring of Honor?
This poll is closed
Too Tall Jones
None of the above