In this series, we’re going to rate the greatest, or most memorable, Cowboys of all time at each number available. That’s right, from one to 99, there has been multiple Cowboys occupying those jersey numbers. We’re not interested in what these players did in their careers, just how they performed while they were a part of “America’s Team”. In doing research for this, you find that it’s fun because of how much of a mixed bag it truly is. In turn, some numbers have a strong lineage of great football careers that make it hard to choose and others make you question whether that number needs a winner. Either way, it’s great for offseason fodder before we gear up for OTA’s and training camps.
Number 1: Matt McBriar, P, 2004-2011
Analysis: Only one other player, Rafael Septién, was given consideration but his off-field incident precludes us from honoring him. McBriar was a two-time All-Pro selection, two-time Pro Bowler, and also won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his week 11 performance in 2006. He spent six seasons in the Top-10 for longest punt (75 yards) and five seasons in the Top-10 for yards per punt. Kicker Efren Herrera was next in line for player wearing #1.
Number 2: Sam Paulescu, P, 2008
Analysis: Grasping at straws here to find anyone that did anything with that number. We could have gone with kicker Lin Elliott, or quarterback Anthony Wright, and Mike Nugent had the best NFL career but this is about the Dallas “Football” Cowboys. But we picked Paulescu for one reason even though he only played 10 games for the Cowboys - he was the first “Puntisher” long before Chris Jones was around. Paulescu had the hit known around the world in 2008.
Number 3: Jon Kitna, QB, 2009-2013
Analysis: Kitna is one of our fondest memories from a lost season in 2010. The wily veteran stepped in for Tony Romo and then interim coach, Jason Garrett, leading them to 5-3 down the stretch and securing Garrett the gig for the future. Kitna was a great locker room leader and though his best years were behind him, he started nine games in 2010. Kitna completed 65.7% of his passes 2,365 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Though Kitna was never going to wow you like Tony Romo could, he had earned the respect of his teammates. Kitna was a battle-tested warrior who grabbed unlikely victories over the Giants, Lions, Colts, and Redskins. One of my greatest memories as a New Yorker was watching Kitna beat the Giants 33-20 in their first head-to-head at MetLife Stadium. Outside of Kitna, it was mainly kickers like Richie Cunningham or Billy Cundiff.
Number 4: Dak Prescott, QB, 2016-Present
Analysis: Prescott is the king of his own universe because Shaun Suisham is the only other player of note. Prescott continued in the path of high school and college by coming in for the injured Romo but he never flinched. In fact, Prescott had perhaps the very best rookie season a quarterback had ever had with 13 wins, 3,667 passing yards, a 67.8 completion percentage, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions, and a Pro Bowl nod. Though 2017 saw some struggles, Prescott still had numbers that were respectable with 3,324 yards, a 62.9 completion percentage, 23 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. His total QBR was fourth highest in the league behind Carson Wentz, Case Keenum, and Tom Brady. Punter Mike Saxon was our runner-up.
Number 5: Dan Bailey, K, 2011-Present
Analysis: Bailey’s 2017 wasn’t what he hoped it to be but that could be said for the entire team in more ways than one. Still, Bailey came to the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State in 2011 but is now the second most accurate kicker in the history of the league. His 88.2% is just behind Justin Tucker, the placekicker for the Ravens, but Bailey has plenty of time to get back to first. Bailey has had countless game-winners in regulation and overtime over the years. He’s made a Pro Bowl and was voted to the All-Pro team in 2015.
Number 6: Chris Jones, P, 2011-Present
Analysis: The Puntisher, with Dan Bailey, and L.P. Ladouceur make for one of the best tripods in the NFL. Jones is one of the more underrated players on the Cowboys and has been one of the best punters in the NFL over the past few seasons. His athleticism has helped the Cowboys quite a few times when they needed it. He’s also been an invaluable asset in field position for the Cowboys in recent years. In the last two years, Jones has had two infamous plays that have only added to his growing legend status. Nick Folk was our runner-up in this category.
The Fake (2017)
The Hit Stick (2018)
Number 7: Steve Beuerlein, QB, 1991-1992
Analysis: Beuerlein only spent two seasons as a backup for the Cowboys but did start and win four games in 1991 at the beginning stages of the 90’s dynasty. In that season, Buerlein passed for 909 yards with five touchdowns. He had a lengthy career outside of the Cowboys but was rather limited in his time in Dallas. Current backup QB Cooper Rush wears that number now, we’ll see what the future holds for him.
Number 8: Troy Aikman, QB, 1989-2000
Analysis: What more can you say about the three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback that shattered all Cowboys records before him? Aikman was one of the most accurate passers of his era, he fit the quarterback mold to the “nth” degree. Everything you wanted in the perfect package walked out on Sundays sporting that famous “8”. His many accomplishments, including being named the Walter Payton Man of the Year, landed him in the NFL Hall of Fame and nobody will ever be deserving of that number again. Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, and Dan Marino were all greats but Troy Aikman owned the 1990’s.
Number 9: Tony Romo, QB, 2003-2016
Analysis: For those like myself that may have been a little young to experience the greatness of the 90’s, Tony Romo is our legend. Romo is the owner of all the Cowboys passing records and he brought a franchise in despair back to the conversation. Romo’s grit and masterful manipulation techniques were an incredible sight to see. He has more comebacks than “Captain Comeback” and could still be called one of the most underrated quarterbacks of his era. Though Romo ultimately fell short of a championship, he still captivated our attention with his brilliance. He will always hold a special spot in the heart of Cowboys Nation.
Number 10: Ron Widby, P, 1968-1971
Analysis: The three-time All-Pro punter spent four seasons with the Cowboys and made a Pro Bowl as part of the Cowboys 1971 Super Bowl-winning team. He still owns the Cowboys record for the longest punt in franchise history at 84 yards in 1968. Widby also spent six NFL seasons in the Top-10 for net average. Now that Tavon Austin is here wearing #10, maybe he’ll take over this spot after a few years. We can always hope!