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, multiple Cowboys have occupied 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 11: Danny White, QB, 1976-1988
Analysis: Danny White spent his first four seasons as the Cowboys starting punter and heir apparent to Captain America. White would go on to start 92 regular season games, he went 62-30 as a starter, had 21,959 passing yards and 155 touchdown passes as the successor to the throne. White was on some of the best Cowboys teams in terms of talent but was 5-5 in the playoffs and never was able to win a championship in the 1980’s. In 1982, White was selected to the Pro Bowl while also being a two-time second-team All-Pro quarterback and was even voted a second-team All-Pro punter in 1979. Much like Tony Romo of this era, White was certainly an underrated talent of his own time. The only other number 11 to consider would be Cole Beasley but he still has a ways to go to overtake Danny.
Number 12: Roger Staubach, QB, 1969-1979
Analysis: There will never be another like him as Roger Staubach is certainly one of the first players that comes to mind when you think Dallas Cowboys. In his 11-year career as the starter, Staubach was a five-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler. He won two Super Bowls with the club and helped Tom Landry reach immortality. Staubach started 114 regular season games, going 85-29, he also had 22,700 passing yards, and 153 touchdowns. In 17 playoff games, Roger “The Dodger” went 11-6, passing for 2,817 yards, and 24 touchdowns. He was a Heisman Trophy winner, Super Bowl MVP, Walter Payton Man of The Year, Ring of Honor inductee, and Pro Football Hall of Famer. Staubach was known by many as Captain Comeback for having engineered 21 game-winning drives over his career. When Staubach was in the game, you always had a chance.
Number 13: Lucky Whitehead, WR, 2015-2016
Analysis: We’ve come to our first big shoulder shrug as the number 13 hasn’t been synonymous with success for the Cowboys. Whitehead played two seasons with the Cowboys before he was released, but was a decent kick returner in his time. In two seasons, he returned 44 punts for 305 yards and 33 kickoffs for 845 yards. He was used on offense quite a few times in certain packages but could never earn the full-time trust with four fumbles. Hopefully, newly drafted Michael Gallup can bring some true honor to the number 13.
Number 14: Craig Morton, QB, 1965-1974
Analysis: Morton was a part of Tom Landry’s idea to rotate quarterbacks between he and Staubach. The world knows who came out on top in that one, but Morton spent 10 seasons as a quarterback for the Cowboys, appearing in 101 games. Morton went 32-14-1 as a starter in Dallas, passing for over 10,200 yards, and 80 touchdowns. After leaving Dallas, Morton went on to have a decent career in Denver but was smashed by Staubach’s Cowboys in the Super Bowl in 1977.
Honorable mention: Eddie LeBaron- America’s Team’s first quarterback was LeBaron and though he deserved some consideration, he was on some pretty bad Cowboys’ teams.
Number 15: Toni Fritsch, K, 1971-1975
Analysis: He only spent four seasons with the Cowboys but Fritsch has the best lineage of history with the number. Though he was surprisingly inaccurate in the regular season for the Cowboys making 66 field goals on 107 attempts, Fritsch was lights out in the playoffs. He made all of his extra points plus 12 of 14 field goal attempts and won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys in the 1971 season. The only other consideration for this spot is Babe Laufenberg, and that’s really for his broadcasting career after his time with the Cowboys.
Number 16: Vinny Testaverde, QB, 2004
Analysis: Some consideration could have been made for Steve Pelluer (backup QB 1984-1988) but Testaverde was the better passer even if their win-loss records were similar. Testaverde was a “Bill Parcells’ guy” brought out of retirement to mentor Quincy Carter in a backup capacity. Carter failed another drug test and was cut during camp, leaving Testaverde as the incumbent starter with a young Tony Romo behind him. In one forgettable season, Testerverde completed 60% of his passes, was 11th in the NFL with 3,532 passing yards, and 17 touchdowns. The problem was that he threw 20 interceptions which tied for the most in 2004 and the Cowboys limped to 6-10 on the season. Though he only stuck around for one season, he was thanked by both Romo and Parcells for helping groom number nine.
Number 17: “Dandy” Don Meredith, QB, 1960-1968
Analysis: Outside of maybe Jason Witten and Tony Romo, there isn’t anyone else that deserved a ring with the Cowboys more than Dandy Don. He was the first true leader of men for the Cowboys locker room. Meredith was drafted in the third round of 1960 but really took the reins in the 1962 season. From 1966-1968, the Cowboys were on the cusp of something special with thanks to Don Meredith, who was selected as a Pro Bowler in all three seasons. Unfortunately, Meredith went 1-3 in the playoffs, having two crushing losses in the NFL Championship game against the Packers. Meredith went 47-32-4 as a starter, passing for 17,199 yards, and 135 touchdowns. Don was the epitome of true grit, he helped claw the Cowboys out of the NFL’s depth of despair to becoming America’s Team in the 1970’s.
Honorable mention: Jason Garrett is the only other Cowboy to consider as he had some memorable moments backing up Troy Aikman and parleyed that into becoming the head coach over the last eight years. Nobody can touch Don Meredith though.
Number 18: Chris Boniol, K, 1994-1996
Analysis: In three seasons with the Cowboys, he made 81 of 93 field goal attempts for 87.1%. He also was part of the Cowboys last Super Bowl team in 1996 going four for four on extra points and making all seven field goal attempts in the playoffs that year. Later on, Boniol would spend four seasons as the Cowboys’ assistant special teams coach.
Honorable mention: Glenn Carano was a backup quarterback for six seasons but his 36.8% completion rate is too rough to ignore.
Number 19: Miles Austin, WR, 2006-2013
Analysis: From undrafted free agent to the all-time franchise leader for receiving yards in a game which made him a star overnight. Austin spent eight seasons with the Cowboys having 301 receptions, 4,481 yards, and 35 total touchdowns (one rushing). Austin was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys, emerging as Tony Romo’s playmaking receiver for a few seasons. Though he never lived up to his contract extension, he had quite the career for a receiver out of Monmouth.
Honorable mention: Lance Rentzel was a pretty good receiver that started 53 games for the Cowboys in the late 1960’s. He caught 183 passes for 3,521 yards, and 31 touchdowns while a member of Don Meredith’s Cowboys.
Number 20: Mel Renfro, DB, 1964-1977
Analysis: There really is no other player that deserves to be in this conversation with Renfro as he’s got them all beat. Renfro was voted to the Pro Bowl 10 straight years from his rookie year to 1973. He won two Super Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 1969. Though tackle numbers weren’t recorded in his day, Renfro was one of the very best safeties of all time. He recorded 52 interceptions with three pick-sixes. He also had 13 fumble recoveries and was the enforcer of the 1970’s Cowboys teams. Renfro was placed in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 1981 and inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. In a long history of great defensive backs to don the star, Mel Renfro set the bar.