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Zack Martin, Micah Parsons named to a very special group of NFL players

The Cowboys could wind up with two players who are the GOAT at their respective positions.

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It feels like we have reached a place where it is universally (just about) agreed that Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time, right? Right. We do not need to lay out Brady’s career accomplishments but we should mention that the last game that he ever played was a playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys. No big deal.

So Brady is the GOAT, but in today’s day and age there are a lot of GOATs. We live in a pasture so to speak. In the world of sports there are all-time GOATs, modern-day GOATs and even GOATs relative to certain qualifiers like eras or positions. When it comes to the latter, there is an argument to be made that the Cowboys have a couple of contenders, and incidentally that argument was recently given!

Zack Martin and Micah Parsons were named as potential GOATs at their respective positions

On Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell laid out arguments for players currently in the NFL that have the potential to be the greatest player of all time at their respective positions. It is a fun read with a curveball or two and is well worth your time.

There were a handful of positions that were conceded based on no real cases that were both active and legitimate. Running back was one of these with Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher, having his argument atop the mountain.

All told seven players were listed and only two teams had multiple appearances. The Kansas City Chiefs saw Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce show up at their positions and the Dallas Cowboys had two members accounted for as well.

First up was guard Zack Martin who may wind up as the greatest player in team history, too.

Active player who could become the GOAT: Zack Martin, Cowboys

For all we talk about the Cowboys, we don’t often talk about their best player. Martin has been a model of consistency since entering the league, with an injury-hit 2020 season serving as the only time he hasn’t made it to a Pro Bowl. Offensive line nominations for the Pro Bowl can be, shall we say, curious, but he also held up his own in making six first-team All-Pro appearances.

Since Martin entered the league in 2014, the Cowboys have generated 0.07 expected points added (EPA) per play with him on the field and 0.01 EPA per play without him. For context, the Cowboys have played like the 2023 Bengals when Martin has been on the field and the 2023 Browns or Steelers when he has been unavailable or taking a breather. Some of that is not having quarterback Dak Prescott on the field for most of that 2020 campaign, but you get the idea: Martin is a difference-maker.

Right now, it feels like he’s toward the bottom end of that logjam of candidates who might be considered among the greatest guards of all time. To get to the top, the 32-year-old Martin could start by adding two more first-team All-Pro appearances to his name, which would make him the first player in league history to earn that honor eight times as a guard. He also has failed to advance as far as the NFC Championship Game as a pro, so a deep playoff run or two wouldn’t hurt his chances.

Chances Martin will end his career as the GOAT: 35%

We have spent almost a decade talking about Zack Martin and his dominance at right guard for the Cowboys. Looking back at the 2014 NFL Draft, it is astounding that he fell to the Cowboys and that Dallas did not go in a direction that we don’t need to bring up!

With the exception of the 2020 season, Martin has been a Pro Bowler or All-Pro every season of his career. He is quite literally the perfect player and example of greatness. All that is missing from his career accomplishments are team-centered things like, duh, winning the Super Bowl.

It may seem low but 35% is pretty high in terms of odds for Martin to finish his career as the greatest ever. The only player Barnwell discussed who he gave better odds to was the aforementioned Travis Kelce, although Barnwell did outright declare Aaron Donald as the 100% greatest ever defensive tackle and Cordarrelle Patterson as the best ever kick returner.

This means that Micah Parsons, while listed, does not have as strong of a case according to Barnwell. He was given 3% odds along with San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa. Parsons was also, as usual, compared to Lawrence Taylor.

Taylor winning Defensive Player of the Year twice puts him ahead, and he has a historical element that Parsons won’t be able to match. The perception of Taylor, both at the time and certainly in hindsight, is that he changed the game of football. Parsons is an incredible talent, and spending time as a middle linebacker at school gave him a unique set of skills, but he rushed the quarterback on more than 81% of dropbacks last season, and that number is likely to rise in the years to come.

I don’t think Parsons will change the sport as we know it, which means he’ll have to beat Taylor with accolades, numbers and playoff success. Parsons doesn’t have a Defensive Player of the Year award on his mantel yet, but becoming the first defender in league history to take home four of them would be a good start. His 26.5 sacks place him eighth on the unofficial all-time list and sixth on the official list behind Aldon Smith, Reggie White, Von Miller, Derrick Thomas and Shawne Merriman. Pretty impressive company.

There is no question that Micah Parsons has had a GOAT-like start to his career (Martin as well obviously), and if he can continue things at the pace he is on then he will certainly find himself very squarely in the conversation. The thing is, keeping all-time pace for a long period of time is a difficult thing to do.

Like with Martin, a Super Bowl would significantly improve Parsons’ chances here. Unlike Martin, Parsons has the ability to win a notable individual award in Defensive Player of the Year. It feels much more like a matter of when and not if he will finally do so, although that is clearly not his top priority.


Will Zack Martin or Micah Parsons finish their careers as the GOAT at their position?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Only Zack Martin will
    (328 votes)
  • 3%
    Only Micah Parsons will
    (25 votes)
  • 33%
    Both Zack and Micah will
    (263 votes)
  • 21%
    Neither will
    (166 votes)
782 votes total Vote Now

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