Jerry Jones, the NFL’s version of P.T. Barnum, may not be as articulate as the old ringmaster, but he has proven himself every bit the slick showman/businessman.
In a bewildering move, Jones has eschewed any Ring of Honor inductions for the 2010 season. As previously noted, that just doesn’t make sense…especially when you consider how Jerry never misses an opportunity to promote his team and capitalize on a golden (or greenback) opportunity.
It isn’t enough for me to sit in the critic’s corner and tsk tsk the man. There must be logic behind the argument in order to validate it. My argument for a 2010 Ring of Honor celebration stands on two powerful legs:
- The timing. The inaugural year of the billion-dollar playground for Jerry’s Boys is a once-in-a-team’s-lifetime opportunity. There may never be a more appropriate time to celebrate the team’s accomplishments and the men who have helped to make the Dallas Cowboys America’s Team. Any new additions to the RoH is a wonderful excuse to parade all of the still-among-us, hallowed members before their adoring fans.
- The candidates. Timing alone isn’t enough. There must be men worthy of the honor; men whose careers were not only fraught with accomplishment, but whose names were synonymous with the team.
If these two conditions exist, then we can conclude that Jerry has dropped the shiny, silver ball on this one. The first condition hardly requires argument. Just look at it and nod your head, because you know I am right. That leaves only the matter of the candidates. Can we find men worthy of induction to such a hallowed place in such a momentous season?
My answer is, Yes! Yes, we can. As I stated in the first part of this two-part diatribe, I believe it would be the better part of wisdom for Jerry to select one man from the old regime and one from his own glory days.
And now, the candidates:
The Old School Boys
Drew Pearson, Wide Receiver, 1973 – 1983
If you were watching the Cowboys on December 28, 1975, unless you suffer from amnesia or have recently undergone a lobotomy, you remember the play forever dubbed as the Hail Mary. It was a last-second, desperation bomb from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson…and it remains the single most miraculous, memorable play in franchise history.
That play alone would be reason enough for Cowboys fans to forever revere Drew Pearson. But that kind of prime-time heroism was a regular part of this players repertoire. He was, for a decade, Captain America’s go-to guy. He was elected to three Pro Bowls and named three times to the All-Pro team. Drew caught 489 regular season passes for 7822 yards and scored 48 touchdowns. He participated in 22 post-season games, catching 67 passes for 1105 yards and scoring eight touchdowns.
Pearson’s numbers are not extravagant by today’s standards, but he was a notable player of his era and a singular presence in the 70’s Cowboys’ receiving corps. Lynn Swann, the 70’s Steelers’ standout receiver and NFL Hall of Fame member played fewer years and caught fewer passes than Pearson. In fact, if history could erase one Jackie Smith end zone bobble, the Cowboys and Steelers would have won the exact same number of Super Bowls that decade, with the Cowboys having made one more appearance than their nemesis…and any so-called big-game separation between Swann and Pearson would be nil.
Drew Pearson is the original number 88. He was a great player with soft hands, big-play ability, and remains the finest sideline-catch, tip-toeing receiver I have ever seen. It is a shame that he isn’t enshrined in Canton, and an absolute travesty that he is not already a member of the Ring of Honor.
Charlie Waters, Strong Safety, 1970 – 1981
Charlie Waters is often mentioned in the same breath with Cliff Harris, primarily because the two were the NFL defensive backfield equivalent of Butch and Sundance. They patrolled the field with precision and ferocity, striking fear in the hearts of rival receivers. Harris is in the Ring of Honor; Waters is not…yet.
Charlie Waters was named to the Pro Bowl three times, from 1976-1978. In both ’77 and ’78. the Pro Football Writers named him first-team all-NFL. Waters appeared in 160 games, recorded 41 interceptions, and scored two defensive touchdowns. He had an NFL record nine interceptions in the playoffs, including three in one game. In Waters’ twelve year career, the Cowboys never suffered a losing season and appeared in five Super Bowls, winning two of them.
A beloved Cowboy and lucid communicator, Waters found himself in the booth as a radio analyst for the team for a few seasons. He also served on Dan Reeves coaching staff in Denver, proving himself both a student and teacher of the game.
His wait to be honored by the team that would not be the same without him has been utterly too long.
Billy Joe DuPree, Tight End, 1973 – 1983
Besides having one of the all-time cool names, DuPree was the first great Cowboys Tight End. (He wasn’t of course, the last. There will someday be three Tight Ends whose resumes will be too impressive to dismiss without serious consideration, but that is another discussion.)
Billy Joe played in 159 regular season games for the Cowboys, 102 as a starter. he caught 267 balls for 3565 yards and 41 touchdowns. He appeared in 19 playoff games, scoring four touchdowns. He had four receptions for 66 yards in Super Bowl XII versus Denver, and caught two passes for seventeen yards and a touchdown against the Steelers in Super Boxl XIII.
As to awards, DuPree was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1976-78. The Associated Press named him first-team all-Conference in 1976 and ’78. The UPI bestowed that same honor for all three years from 76 to 78. He was also named the NFL’s Man of the Year once.
Names from the Nineties
Larry Allen, Guard/Tackle, 1994-2005 with Cowboys
Eleven-time Pro Bowler. Six-time first team All-Pro. Stands alongside Rayfield Wright as the greatest offensive lineman to ever wear the star on his helmet. No argument. No debate. No decision. No-brainer.
Darren Woodson, Strong Safety, 1992 – 2003
Arguments could be made concerning who was the greatest offensive player of the 1990s Cowboys. Was it Aikman? Smith? Irvin? Allen? But on the defensive side, no man was as good, as consistant, and as consistantly good as Darren Woodson. He was the Qb of the Dallas D. He was great from start to finish. He was leadership personified. He was a quick thinker and a hard hitter. He was everything the Cowboys could have hoped for when they made him the 37th pick overall in the ’92 draft…everything and more.
Woodson was a 5-time Pro Bowler (in consecutive years, ’94-’98) and was named first-team all-Pro three times, in ’94, ’95, and ’96. He started 162 regular season games for the Cowboys, recording 803 tackles and 138 assists. He also recorded 23 interceptions and scored two defensive touchdowns, one of them a 94-yarder.
If there is any justice in the world, Woodson will find himself enshrined in Canton soon. If Jerry has any sense at all, he will beat the NFL to it and place him in the Ring of Honor.
Jay Novacek, Tight End, 1985 – 1995
Aikman had Irvin to outfight defenders for tight passes and outmaneuver them for underthrows. He had Smith to keep eight men in the box much of the time. He also had a raw-boned, bow-legged, tough-as-nails security blanket named Novacek.
Novacek is the only candidate in this list who was not drafted by the Cowboys. He was drafted by the Rams, where he played his first three years. Only a sixth round pick, Novacek exceeded all expectations. As a Cowboy, he was elected to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1991 – 95. He was named first-team all-Pro in ’92.
For his career, Novacek caught 422 passes for 4630 yards and 30 touchdowns. He contributed to all three of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl wins in the Nineties. In thirteen playoff games, he caught 62 passes for 645 yards. He scored six post-season touchdowns, including one each in Super Bowls XXVII and XXX.
This is not a suggestion that Jerry Jones sweep all of these men into the RoH this year. Not at all. It is hard evidence that an induction ceremony in 2010 is more than just a good idea: it is a great idea. Any of these men would be worthy of induction in this year of years for the franchise.
If only the Ringmaster could see that.