With insincere apologies to Quentin Tarrantino for pilfering his wonderful movie title (I even kept the curious spelling because it just seems to fit the blood-and-gluts glory of yesterday’s NFL: you know, before they instituted a glorified game of two-hand touch football), I give you the ten most underrated Dallas Cowboys in team history.
Some of the names on my list are anything but anonymous faces in Cowboys lore. Time and distance, however, have eroded their memory, until their names are seldom called and – for a new generation of Dallas Cowboys fandom – relatively unknown and completely unappreciated.
These men may be underrated for any number of reasons, ranging from never having won the ultimate title of Super Bowl champion to laboring under the long shadow of someone better – or at least better known. But they made their mark. They contributed more than time and effort to the team for which they labored. They brought talent, as well. They brought grit and determination. And they enjoyed a measure of success.
George Andrie, DE (1962 – 1972)
George Andrie was 6’6”, 250 pounds, which made him a big dude in the 1960s NFL. At
Marquette University, he played both ways. He led the team in receptions and was among the team’s leaders in tackles, as well.
Andrie earned the starting job at right defensive end his rookie season with the Cowboys. He proceeded to earn a spot on the NFL’s All-Rookie team. Andrie would go on to forge a fine career for himself, earning Pro Bowl honors five consecutive times from 1965 – 1969. He would also receive first-team All Pro honors in 1969.
Overshadowed by Bob Lilly, the defensive tackle known as Mr. Cowboy, Andrie was a solid player for a decade and a major contributor to the DoomsDay Defense and the emergence of the Cowboys as a championship contender.
Walt Garrison, FB (1966 – 1974)
Walt Garrison was once, twice, three times a Cowboy. He played for The Oklahoma State Cowboys in college, the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, and participated as a bona fide bronc-riding cowboy in the professional rodeo circuit.
One of the most colorful players in Cowboys’ history, Garrison served both as a steady runner of the football and a devastating lead blocker for the halfback. He was a fan and media favorite. Any Cowboys fan who was a child of the late sixties, early seventies remembers Walt Garrison pitching his favorite smokeless tobacco, Skoal. And which of us never tried it out to see if his assertion that “just a pinch between your cheek and gum gives you full tobacco flavor without lighting up” wasn’t true?
I know I did.
Walt Garrison was only named to one Pro Bowl team, after the 1972 season. But he played a significant role in a Cowboys’ offense that participated in Super Bowls V and VI. He played well in both games, too, rushing for 65 yards on 12 attempts in a losing effort against the Baltimore Colts, and gaining 74 yards on 14 carries against the Miami Dolphins in the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl victory.
Don Meredith, another colorful Cowboy and the Cowboys quarterback for the first part of Garrison’s career, once said of Walt Garrison, “If it was third down, and you needed four yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, he’d get ya five. And if was third down and ya needed 20 yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, by God, he’d get you five.”
Everson Walls, CB (1981 – 1989)
After recording a slow time in the 40-yard dash, NFL scouts backed away from Everson Walls, believing him to be too slow to make it as a cornerback in the National Football League. Consequently, he went undrafted.
Everson Walls’ hometown team, the Dallas Cowboys, offered him a free agent rookie contract. Walls paid them back by snagging 11 interceptions his rookie season, good enough to lead the NFL. Walls would go on to play in four Pro Bowls and be named All-Pro once. He recorded 44 interceptions in nine years with the Cowboys.
Unfortunately, many simply remember Walls as the defender futilely swiping at the ball San Francisco’s Dwight Clark caught against the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game of the 1981 season. The play became known simply as “The Catch,” and it forever changed the fortunes of the two teams. Walls’ coverage was not bad on that play. Clark simply made a great play on a ball only he could reach.
Ralph Neely, RT-LT (1965 – 1977)
Ralph Neely and hall-of-famer Rayfield Wright secured the tackle positions on a stellar Cowboys offensive line for more than a decade. Wright has rightfully been honored for his prowess by being inducted into both the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and the National Football League Hall of Fame. Ralph Neely, through no fault of his own, has yet to be invited to either place.
Neely was drafted in the second round of the 1965 draft by both the Houston Oilers of the AFL and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL. He initially signed with the Oilers, but when the Colts traded his rights to the Dallas Cowboys, he reneged on the agreement with the Oilers and signed with the Cowboys.
At 6’ 6” and 265 pounds, Ralph Neely was a big, strong, versatile lineman. The first half of his career he played the right tackle position. He was moved to left tackle in 1971. Neely was named to the NFL All-Pro team three times from 1967 to 1969. He played in two Pro Bowls, 1967 and 1969. He participated in four Super Bowls and retired after the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII in 1977.
Nate Newton, LG (1986 – 1999)
Nate Newton fell into bad company and made poor choices after his professional football career was concluded. Caught transporting over 200 pounds of marijuana in Louisiana, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
While many choose to focus on Newton’s moral and legal failures, it should be pointed out that since his release from prison, he has apparently turned his life around and is doing his part to encourage kids not to repeat his mistakes.
None of that has any bearing on what Newton accomplished on the football field. A huge man – and powerful – the 6’3 lineman played at a reported 318 pounds, but that may be short-selling him. Though Nate was a jolly fellow and always good for a quote before or after a game, he was fierce competitor and significant contributor to an offensive line some have called the best in history. Newton played in six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro twice.
Nate helped pave the way for Emmitt Smith to run for more yards from scrimmage than any back in league history. He also helped create the pocket for statuesque Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman. Newton and his compatriots bowled over the competition, becoming the first team in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in four years.
Billy Joe DuPree, TE (1973 – 1983)
Bill Joe DuPree has one of those cool Louisiana surnames that just sticks with you. But he was more than just a cool name in a Cowboys uniform; he was the starting tight end for a very good Roger Staubach (and later, Danny White) led offense for all of his eleven years with the team. At 6’ 4”, 225 pounds, DuPree was a good run blocker and an excellent receiver.
DuPree played in three Pro Bowls during his career. He also recorded a 25 reception, 225 yard game against the Saint Louis Rams in 1975. The following year, he would go off for 195 yards against the Saints. Impressive showings for a tight end. DuPree would finish his career having recorded 41 touchdown receptions. He averaged 13.4 yards per reception.
Ed “Too Tall” Jones, DE (1974 – 1989)
Ed Jones was the first player taken in the 1974 draft. It was a good pick by the Dallas Cowboys.
Ed was Nicknamed “Too Tall” because, at 6’ 9”, he was the tallest man in the NFL. He used his height to great advantage, swatting passes back into the faces of frustrated quarterbacks throughout his career. Jones was the starting left defensive end for the Cowboys from 1975 until he retired in 1989.
The NFL did not begin officially recording sacks until 1982. Once they did, Jones would record 57.5 sacks from 1982 – 1989, an average of just over eight per season. He recorded 13 sacks in 1985 and 10 in 1987.
Jones was named to the Pro Bowl for three consecutive seasons, from 1981 – 1983. He was also named first-team All-Pro once, in 1982.
Harvey Martin, DE (1973 – 1983)
Harvey Martin and “Too Tall” Jones were bookend defensive ends on the famed DoomsDay Defense of the 1970s Dallas Cowboys. While Jones was adept at quarterback sacks, he was more of a run-stuffer and pass blocker. Harvey Martin, on the other hand, was a sack machine. Most of his sack count is unofficial due to the fact they weren’t officially recorded by the league until his final two seasons.
Martin’s sack numbers are nonetheless impressive, if not staggering. As a rookie, he recorded eight sacks. He was the first Cowboy (and the only one until DeMarcus Ware matched him in 2008) to record twenty sacks in a season. He finished his stellar career with the unofficial count of 114 sacks.
Martin’s post-football life, like so many before him and many after, was not pretty. He became a substance abuser, suffered bankruptcy, and was arrested for domestic violence.
The former four-time Pro Bowler died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. He was 51 years old.
Danny White, QB-P (1976 – 1987)
Danny White was the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback-in-waiting behind Roger Staubach from 1976 – ’79. He was also the team’s starting punter. As a punter, he was dangerous. Not only was he among the league’s best at his craft, he was always a threat to throw or run for a first down.
In 1980, White became the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. Staubach, who remains the team’s greatest icon (along with Landry), retired after the ’79 season, and Danny White was finally given the reins he had been chomping at the bit to take.
White wasted no time establishing himself as a more-than-capable replacement for the legendary QB. In his first year as a starter, he guided the team to the NFC championship game, which the Cowboys lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a tough loss and a bitter pill, but gave Cowboy Nation the confidence that their beloved team was in good hands.
In 1981, Danny White’s second year at the helm, the Cowboys returned to the NFC championship game. This time, the game was in San Francisco at Candlestick Park. The 49ers were led by the young upstart quarterback Joe Montana. They were young, talented, and hungry.
The game would prove to be a classic. It was a back and forth battle of gargantuan proportions. Down 27 – 21, Montana led his team down the field, but stalled in the red zone. On a scrambling, desperation play, with Ed “Too Tall” Jones bearing down on him, Montana heaved a prayer into the end zone as he was falling out of bounds. Receiver Dwight Clark, with cornerback Everson Wall trailing him, was crossing the back of the end zone. Clark made an improbable leaping catch on a ball that seemed to be sailing harmlessly overhead. The touchdown gave the 49ers a 28 – 27 lead late in the fourth quarter.
The play was simply called “The Catch,” and stands as one of the most famous plays in the annals of NFL history.
On the ensuing drive, White would lead his team into San Francisco territory, only to be sacked and fumble the ball. What seemed to be an inevitable field goal that would have secured a 30 – 28 victory was not to be. The Cowboys lost.
The following season, the Cowboys would make the NFC championship game for a third straight season. They would lose again, this time to the Washington Redskins.
In his book, “The Catch,” which chronicles the impact the Montana to Clark pass had on the two franchises, the coaches, and the players involved, author Gary Myers says no player’s career was more adversely impacted than Danny White’s. He sees it as the turning point, the catastrophic moment that would mark the beginning of the Cowboys’ slow descent into mediocrity and would keep White from being recognized as a truly great NFL quarterback.
Danny White was selected to just one Pro Bowl, but he closed out his career in possession of many of the franchise’s career records. The numbers he posted were anything but pedestrian:
- 21,959 yards passing
- 1761 completions on 2950 attempts (59.7% completion ratio)
- 155 touchdowns to 132 interceptions
- 482 yards rushing, with eight rushing touchdowns
- He had a 62 – 32 regular season record and was 5 – 5 in the playoffs
- His career quarterback rating was 81.7
- He punted 610 times, averaging 40.4 yards per punt
Don Meredith, QB (1960 – 1968)
Football fans from my generation (I am, ahem, somewhere past 40) remember “Dandy” Don Meredith more for his work on Monday Night Football, as part of the legendary crew featuring himself, Howard Cosell, and Frank Gifford. Meredith brought homespun wit and humor to the broadcast and often engaged in playful verbal sparring with the brainy – but potentially insane, and decidedly egomaniacal – Cosell.
Who can forget Don Meredith singing, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over,” when he deemed a game out of reach?
Don Meredith was a fan favorite from the start. He was an east Texas boy from the small town of Mount Vernon who had starred at SMU in Dallas and then, via trade with the Chicago Bears, joined the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL.
Meredith joined the Cowboys when they were a fledgling expansion club and not very good. His first two years, he was the backup quarterback to Eddie LeBaron. In 1963, coach Tom Landry named him the starter and by 1966, Meredith had helped to mold the Cowboys into a formidable, championship-contending playoff team.
Meredith suffered two heart-breaking losses in NFL championship games at the hands of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. His team hosted the first meeting in 1966 and lost in a wild, high-scoring affair, 34 – 27. The next meeting, in 1967, took place in Green Bay on the coldest day any NFL football game was ever played. The famous “Ice Bowl” game came down to a Bart Starr quarterback dive into the end zone. The Packers won the game 21 – 17.
Don Meredith was named to three Pro Bowl teams. He was the NFL’s player of the year in 1966. During his career, which was cut short by his unexpected decision to prematurely retire, Meredith threw for over 17,000 yards and 135 touchdowns.
Don Meredith is in the Dallas Cowboys’ ring of honor and ought to be in the NFL Hall of Fame. But, as the very loquacious quarterback once quipped, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, wouldn’t we all have a merry Christmas?”