Last week produced an interesting exercise where ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look at all active players in the NFL and tried to figure out which ones could end their careers as the greatest player ever at their specific position. Two Dallas Cowboys were listed, Zack Martin and Micah Parsons.
During my Friday morning radio hit with my friends at San Antonio Sports Star, host Rob Thompson brought this question up and called it a “classic” sports radio segment. Rob is totally right in that this is the exact sort of thing that floods call lines because it is the type of subject that everybody has an opinion on. Consider that one of the times where I saw the SA call lines the most full was when we were discussing what the name of San Antonio’s AAF team should be (it wound up being the Commanders before the league folded).
So Rob, his co-host Rudy Jay and I were all discussing this, but Rob actually misinterpreted the question in a really wonderful way. He thought the premise was which Dallas Cowboys players specifically could finish their careers as the greatest of all time in team history. Obviously this widens the floor for discussion a little bit.
Like Barnwell did in the original exercise, it is important to rule out a handful of positions because they are not worth having the argument over. For the purposes of this discussion we will exclude spots where no legitimate argument can be made given players on the current roster and also avoid re-listing Zack Martin and Micah Parsons because their cases have already been presented and we do not need to be redundant.
There are four names that I came up with and I am sure that they will be met with universal praise and agreement!
Current OT GOAT: Rayfield Wright
It does not feel fair to look exclusively at left tackles given that the Cowboys have had some incredible right ones over the course of their franchise history. That being said, the bench to clear at the tackle position for this exercise is Rayfield Wright, although there are plenty of other strong cases.
In terms of individual accomplishments, Tyron Smith is a bit step-for-step with Wright. The problem is that Smith has missed so many games over recent memory and it feels likely that will continue. The body of work is currently smaller and dwindling. Ultimately Smith is down on the back nine and running out of holes to catch The Big Cat.
Super Bowl wins are hardly a measurement between tackles in NFL history, but it is worth mentioning that Wright was a part of two groups that got it done (although not a ton of action for Wright in the 1977 season) while Smith has not even been to an NFC Championship Game. This exact thing will be the hang-up when discussing some more modern players in Cowboys history when their candidacy for things like the Pro Football Hall of Fame comes up. While Smith will one day have a bronze bust and gold jacket, unless he experiences a late-career resurgence it sort of feels like Wright might have him beat out.
Things like this obviously depend on how you want to look at them. There is an argument to be made that at his peak Smith was a more dominant player than Wright. That isn’t outlandish by any means.
But Wright put together a larger body of work with about the same individual honors and has the team ones to boot. He is one of the more underrated legends in franchise history and finishing second to him is hardly anything to scoff at.
Current WR GOAT: Michael Irvin
When it comes to the four names here, the order is generally most likely to least likely. So if Tyron Smith is the most likely (again, outside of Martin and Parsons) then CeeDee Lamb is the second-most likely.
Truth be told it is pretty silly to put Lamb in any kind of conversation like this. He has a long way to go if he wants to surpass the other three recognized members of Club 88: Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant.
But Lamb is fortunate to play in an era where passing is the name of the game. If he were to average something around 1,200 yards a season and 8-10 touchdowns per campaign for half of a decade, then this conversation becomes a very real and legitimate talking point. But the hardware has to be there, too.
Pearson and Irvin both tasted football’s ultimate glory, but Bryant never did. Lamb will have to be a part of a group that climbs the game’s ultimate mountain if he wants to be the Cowboys GOAT receiver.
Current CB GOAT: Mel Renfro and/or Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders played five seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, and while he is the greatest cornerback of all time and played for the team, you could argue that Mel Renfro was the best in terms of overall career with the team. You get my point, but to each their own.
That being said, did you know that Sanders had 14 interceptions in 63 career games with the Cowboys? Now what if I told you that Trevon Diggs has 17 picks through 45 career games.
Measuring a cornerback’s total worth off of interceptions is a silly way to go about things. They matter, but they are hardly some sort of end-all, be-all. Diggs would have to do a lot more to surpass Sanders or Renfro in terms of greatest corner to ever wear the star unless he continues to take the ball away at an insane rate. Interceptions alone are silly, unless you have a million of them!
Part of why Diggs is difficult to assess here is because so much of his numerical contributions and statistics are outside of the realm of his control by nature of the position he plays. He has a chance and deserves to be included in this conversation, but the road ahead is a long one.
Current QB GOAT: Roger Staubach and/or Troy Aikman
Two things here to start:
- You can pick whichever GOAT you’d like here. Staubach or Aikman.
- As silly as it is to measure things off of wins and wins alone (especially playoff ones) they will admittedly be essential for the future of this discussion.
Let’s be clear, I am not proclaiming that Dak Prescott is the best quarterback that the Dallas Cowboys have ever had. But if we are opening the door of conversation as to what is possible, then how can you argue that this isn’t?
Obviously Prescott does not have the career accomplishments that would be required for this particular gold medal, but just like Lamb (who he is obviously connected to) he plays in an era that lends to statistical success at his position. When it is all said and done, he will likely own every passing record in franchise history and may hold most of the rushing ones as they pertain to the quarterback position. Lots of ifs, ands and buts here, admittedly.
But for Dak to ever be regarded as the best quarterback in this franchise’s history, he will have to do more than that as his predecessor Tony Romo knows full well. Hardware must be won. Banners must be hung. Parades must be had. If Dak (who is only just now about to turn 30 years old) is able to reach the promised land and to be the quarterback who finally does it for this team, then the magnitude of breaking through (especially if done multiple times) may weigh differently when we look back on this era.
As noted, Prescott is the least likely to finish his career as the franchise GOAT at his position, but he has far and away the most control and influence of any player that we have mentioned. The Cowboys go as he goes, and given that this is a true statement, if they go to some wonderful places the credit for that will be significant for his legacy.