Cover me, I'm going in. It's one thing to be asked to, which is a tall task in and of itself, but this is as fun as it is next-level challenging. The newest Mount Everest I'll attempt to scale is identifying and building an all-time 53-man roster, but for a team with such a deep, rich legacy that could also sustain its own satellite building in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, let's just say things get interesting -- very quickly.
After all, how many quarterbacks do you carry, and who gets left out in the cold? Should Ezekiel Elliott already be viewed ahead of Tony Dorsett? And when it comes to the offensive line, who do you trust most to protect the QBs and to carve lanes for the stable of running backs?
Those questions are just the tip of the iceberg, and while some legends didn't make the final cut, it's safe to say the ones who did could easily make the Cowboys the most unstoppable team in the history of the NFL, if we were playing fantasy football -- and that is quite literally what we're doing here. So sit back and enjoy, debate it and/or hi five it, but no matter how you slice it, this is all a nod to just how prolific the Cowboys have been at locating and breeding talent since joining the league in 1960.
It's more than 60 years of illustriousness hammered down to 53 spots, because why not?
Offense: The Onslaught
|QB||Roger Staubach||Troy Aikman||Tony Romo||Dak Prescott|
|RB||Emmitt Smith||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Dorsett|
|WR||Michael Irvin||Drew Pearson|
|WR||Dez Bryant||Terrell Owens|
|WR||Tony Hill||"Bullet" Bob Hayes|
|TE||Jason Witten||Jay Novacek||Billy Joe Dupree|
|OT||Tyron Smith||Ralph Neely|
|G||Larry Allen||Andre Gurode|| |
|C||Travis Frederick||Mark Stepnoski|| |
|G||Zack Martin||Nate Newton|| |
|OT||Rayfield Wright||Mark Tuinei|| |
I know what you're thinking: Why carry four quarterbacks on a 53-man roster? Well, to put it plainly, it's because I can. The difficult decision wasn't whether to carry four, but which four to carry, considering Prescott is only four years into his NFL career and could've arguably been beat out by Danny White, the often overlooked successor to the almighty Staubach who led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC Championship Games. The problem for White is he couldn't take the final step, but much like Romo decades later, it was hardly entirely his fault. And considering Romo was tasked with carrying the team to the point of literally breaking his own back (and ribs, and collarbone, and and and) while also racking up franchise records through the air, White finds himself edged by the undrafted free agent who became everything he wasn't supposed to become, and during the brutally hypercritical social media age.
The only thing Romo lacks is the same thing White doesn't have -- a Super Bowl ring -- and Prescott burst out of the gate breaking franchise and NFL records previously set by Staubach and Aikman, and fell only one yard shy in 2019 of taking Romo's single season passing record. All told, while White deserves mention and much more respect than he's ever truly going to get, the fact is Prescott is just getting started and assuming he remains with the Cowboys beyond 2020, he's in position to become one of the best to ever don the Star, especially if he can nab a Lombardi Trophy.
Maybe there's somewhere else I can stash White, but we'll get to that later, because he would've also had a hard time here beating out "Dandy" Don Meredith -- Meredith himself being a legend who narrowly missed the cut. Like Romo, White and Prescott (for now?), Meredith couldn't secure a Super Bowl ring, but he's the originator, and Romo will soon follow him into the Ring of Honor.
With the quarterbacks all locked in, the offensive weapons surrounding them on this roster are incomparable. Can you imagine a Staubach to Irvin connection? Or how about Aikman to Bryant? Then a little Romo to Drew Pearson action? It's tantalizingly lethal stuff, much like seeing Smith, Elliott and Dorsett in the same backfield as block-master Moose Johnston, with the likes of Allen standing next to Tyron Smith, Frederick, Martin and Wright in front of them, and three of the most sticky-handed and iron-forged tight ends to ever play the game ready and waiting to do whatever's needed.
Put this offense against any you could fathom from around the league, and they'll still average more than 45 points per game.
Honorable mentions: Don Meredith, Flozell Adams, Alvin Harper, Frank Clarke, Doug Cosbie, Erik Williams
Defense: The Armageddon Brigade
|DE||Charles Haley||Jim Jeffcoat|
|DT||Bob Lilly||Leon Lett|
|DT||Randy White||Chad Hennings||Jay Ratliff|
|DE||Harvey Martin||Ed "Too Tall" Jones|
|LB||DeMarcus Ware||Dexter Coakley|
|LB||Chuck Howley||Sean Lee|
|LB||Lee Roy Jordan|
|CB||Deion Sanders||Dennis Thurman|
|CB||Everson Walls||Bill Bates/FLEX|
|FS||Darren Woodson||Cliff Harris|
|SS||Charlie Waters||Roy Williams|
If you thought the offense was outlandishly unfair -- by design -- take a look at the defense.
The famed "Doomsday Defense" of yesteryear bulldozed opposing teams en route to perennial league dominance, but they had a weak spot or two. Shore up those areas and it's full-on armageddon, as you'd be hard-pressed to figure out how to anyone would survive the onslaught. This defense is impenetrable, be it on the edges with Haley and the Martin leading the charge (Jeffcoat and Jones foaming at the mouth behind them), or the defensive interior where "Mr. Cowboy" himself and "The Manster" making sure nothing gets through. From there, the pass rush barrage continues with Ware, who is technically a 3-4 linebacker, which allows me to add him to the roster without issue. It's a bit of a shoehorn, yes, but when you're building a Frankenstein of this magnitude and prowess, the hell with reason.
Release the Kraken.
The linebacker corps beside Ware is as stout as the murderer's row in front of them, with players like Howley and Jordan rotating with the oft-forgotten Coakley and a healthy Lee. This is where things got really tough though, because try as I might, I couldn't get Dat Nguyen onto the final roster, much to my chagrin. Nguyen is easily one of the most talented linebackers to ever play the game, but a career shortened by injury cost him a spot here. For if I couldn't figure out who to swap out for the beloved Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, I surely would and did have time navigating who I'd bump from this linebacker list to add Nguyen.
Sometimes, there's just not enough tickets for everyone everybody who deserves to dance. That said, the Cowboys would be more than fine rolling with five linebackers, considering the front four and the fact they have Woodson, Harris, and the bone-rattling play of Waters and Williams patrolling the backfield. You might believe you can field an offense that can score on them, but hey, everyone has a plan ...
... until they get punched in the mouth.
Honorable mention: Thomas Henderson, Bradie James, Eugene Lockhart, Terence Newman, Dat Nguyen, Greg Ellis
Special teams: The Gingerbread Man Unit
|PR||Deion Sanders||Bob Hayes|
Oh hey, there's Danny White.
You got me. I figured out a way to sneak White onto my all-time 53-man roster, and it's because for all the things he did well as a quarterback, he was also the team's punter when relegated to backup QB duty behind Staubach -- unbeknownst to many in the younger generations of Cowboys fandom. That's how talented White was, a two-position player who lands on this roster as a punter but can readily step in should this team need help at QB due to injury or the like, plus he'll enjoy having an endless array of perfect snaps from the immaculate Ladouceur.
From there, the once most prolific weapon in Dallas gets the nod at kicker, and the returners who make the cut turn this into a gingerbread man unit. In other words, catch them if you can.
With the speed and elusiveness of Sanders, Renfro and the "Bullet," there isn't a special teams unit around -- present or past tense -- that has the tackling ability to contain all three on a consistent basis. They're basically all one move away from delivering the home run, and for a team coming off one of the worst special teams outings in franchise history, it's fun to wonder what the best special teams unit in history could like look. Well look no further, because it's staring you in the face.
How 'bout them Cowboys?