The Best of Dallas: Offense

No team in the history of the National Football League has possessed Hall of Fame-caliber players at every position in the course of a given year. Not only is it financially unfeasible, but often times greatness needs to lead and not merely co-exist with other great players.

The axiom that there is only one ball is never truer than when a team has too many superstars. But for this experiment, we want to stock this team with the best that Dallas has ever had to offer. The cherry on top of the Sunday best, we want to assemble the greatest team of all Cowboys.

Of course, this is an old game argued by football fans since the game began. But here are the men that The Ranch Report thinks of as the greatest players at each position. If you think differently, then stop by the website (TheRanchReport.com) and tell us so. But be advised, someone will always be there, 24/7 to offer a differing point-of-view.

The criteria for each position will take into account what is required of that position in regard to the offensive or defensive goal, which is to win games.

"Begin at the beginning," as my gray-haired Pappy always said. So we will start with the spoon that stirs the coffee. And since we are building this team, we might as well begin by creating the biggest controversy of the entire article.

Quarterback
Nominees: Danny White, Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman
Danny White holds the single-season record for yards passing with 3,980 yards in 1983. And he did post an 81.7 passer rating in his 13-year career, with a total of 21,959 total passing yards. But he didn't win it all during his time as a starter, and in the company of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, it would be difficult to elevate White over two quarterbacks with five Super Bowl victories.

Roger Staubach (aka Captain America) led the Cowboys in their first golden era during the 1970's. He racked up 22,700 passing yards in his 11-year pro career. While I watched every game played by Roger Staubach, and I understand he brought the team back from behind a record 23 times, if I am starting a team to win it all, I have to put the reins in the hands of Troy Aikman.

Aikman's ability to distribute the ball to all parts of the field, with accuracy, is the core of his talent. His 61.5 completion percentage and 32,924 yards passing put him number one on the list of Cowboys quarterbacks.

But he also was a vocal leader who would impose his will on his teammates and focus their efforts to overcome the opponent.

Staubach had an ability to carry a team. However, at the same time, he also was the quarterback of record when the team was getting behind for those spectacular comebacks.

And don't make the mistake of thinking Troy had better talent surrounding him.

While he didn't have Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, Staubach had his share of great players to call on when the game was on the line. If one aspect of the early 90's Cowboys offense tells the tale, then reflect on this: Dallas played to get the lead by passing the ball. Then they held the lead by burning clock and running Emmitt.

And every time you saw Emmitt take a swing pass and tear the defense up with a nice first down or long run, it was Aikman's precision passing that put the ball where it needed to be.

Our vote for the top quarterback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys goes to Troy Aikman.

Running Back
Nominees: Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett
It's difficult to argue against the all-time leading rusher in NFL history.

Emmitt Smith did more with arguably less talent than any player in the history of the game. Not to say he was short on talent, but the continual knock of too small and too slow will follow him all the way to the Hall of Fame.

Yet there is something that clearly suggests a vote for Tony Dorsett. He, too, was not the biggest, but there would never be anyone who watched "Touchdown Tony D" run that could ever accuse him of being slow.

Just witness the 99-yard touchdown against the Vikings on a Monday Night game when Dallas had only ten men on the field. Dorsett took it to the house and into the record books.

But this position has to be manned by the most prolific runner of all time.

Our vote for the top running back in the history of the Dallas Cowboys goes to Emmitt Smith. Who else could it have been?

Fullback
Nominees: Robert Newhouse, Daryl Johnston
Robert Newhouse played 12 years for the Cowboys, mostly during the 1970's when Dallas was quickly earning the reputation of "America's Team." He led Dorsett through the hole and was a threat both as a runner and receiver.

Labeled as the human bowling ball, Newhouse's most significant touchdown came in the game against the Redskins in 1979 when the Cowboys were making Staubach's final comeback.

Daryl Johnston received one of the highest accolades ever made toward him in a comment by Emmitt Smith when Emmitt claimed part of the rushing title belonged to Johnston.

He wasn't a great ball carrier, with less than 800 total yards of rushing. It was the passing game where Johnston contributed the most with the ball in his hands. He totaled 2,227 receiving yards and fourteen touchdowns in his 11-year career.

But, even more, it was as a battering ram that Johnston benefited the 1990's Cowboys, as he opened holes for Emmitt to set records.

But this game is about moving the ball, and while Johnston is a sentimental favorite of the fans, Robert Newhouse was more significant to the overall success of the Cowboys.

Our vote for the top fullback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys goes to Robert Newhouse.

Wide Receivers
Nominees: Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper
In the early years of the team, there were many fine receivers that took the field at Texas Stadium.

But Tony Hill was the first true star at this position.

With 51 touchdowns and nearly 8,000 yards from 1977 to 1986, Hill was a premier pass catcher and threat from anywhere on the field.

Another well-known nominee is Drew Pearson, an undrafted receiver from Tulane.

During his 11 years with the Cowboys, he was almost a mirror of Tony Hill, compiling 7,822 receiving yards to go along with 48 touchdowns. But he also was responsible for catching a pass which will live infamy as the Hail Mary against the Minnesota Vikings.

Michael Irvin may have been the most motivated player in team history. Surely the heart of the 1990's teams, his contributions led to three Super Bowls in four years.

Alvin Harper was to Irvin as Pearson was to Hill. A smooth receiver with superb athletic abilities, his leaping ability allowed him to play much larger than he was. And like Tony Hill, he was an underachiever because of lack of self-discipline.

Tony Hill could have been the best of this lot had he given his best. So could Harper, if he had worked harder than he did.

But the tandem that starts for this team is Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson.

Our votes for the top wide receivers in the history of the Dallas Cowboys go to Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson.

Tight Ends
Nominees: Billy Joe Dupree, Doug Cosbie, Jay Novacek
If the tight end is the quarterback's security blanket, then Billy Joe Dupree was the safety net for Roger Staubach. Dupree played in an era when the tight end was more of an additional lineman rather than a pass catcher. But his career with Dallas produced almost 3,600 yards and gave Staubach a target in the middle of the field.

Doug Cosbie could have been a movie star with his good looks. But a rugged player and perhaps the first true star tight end, Cosby brought game to the position and was a fearsome weapon for the early 1980's teams.

Although Jay Novacek wasn't drafted as a Cowboy, his career didn't really begin until he donned "the Star." Not until in 1988 did Novacek put up numbers, which looked like the player he would eventually become during the 1990's. But it took Troy Aikman to bring out the best games and seasons in him. Frozen in time in the minds of Dallas fans is the leap he made over a safety as if he were a high hurdler.

Our votes for the top tight ends in the history of the Dallas Cowboys go to Billy Joe Dupree and Jay Novacek.

*Jason Witten, the second-year pro from Tennessee, will likely supplant Dupree on this list within the next two years.

Offensive Line
Tackle – Rayfield Wright is a member of the NFL's All-Decade team of the 1970's and the only member of that exclusive club that's not in the Hall of Fame. This year he has been nominated in the Senior's category, and his play surely should put him with the elite that played this sport.

Guard – Larry Allen is the top offensive lineman that ever played the game. From the pancake block to a player which looks routine in chasing down linebackers after interceptions, there has never been a player with his size, strength and speed.

Center – The quarterback of the offensive line, center is the play caller of the big men up front. For fourteen years Tom Rafferty anchored the Cowboys' offensive line. Snapping the ball for Roger Staubach, Danny White and Troy Aikman, he may be the best-kept secret of any player to wear the blue star.

Guard – Nate Newton may have had off-field issues after football, but his play on the field gave both Troy Aikman time to pass and Emmitt Smith openings into the defensive secondary. Newton was seemingly never pushed back into the backfield, and he consistently drove his opponent out of the play. What else can you ask for from an offensive lineman?

Tackle – Erik Williams was the best right tackle to ever play for the Cowboys. Big and mean, he had his best games against the top players of the NFL. His dominance of Reggie White led the Cowboys past the Green Bay Packers in the 1990's as a stepping-stone towards three Super Bowls.

Our votes for the top offensive linemen in the history of the Dallas Cowboys go to Rayfield Wright, Larry Allen, Tom Rafferty, Nate Newton and Erik Williams.


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