The most notable— and easily the most remarkable— father/son tandem in NFL history is the Manning Trio. Father Archie, though he labored on a losing team his entire career, was widely recognized as a highly-talented quarterback. His two boys, Peyton and Eli, have each led their respective teams to a Super Bowl championship…and Peyton is (or should be) in the argument whenever “greatest quarterback of all time” is kicked around the water cooler.
But what about the Dallas Cowboys? Which of your star-spangled heroes did the best job of following his father’s footsteps to NFL notoriety or leaving footsteps for his son to follow?
Truthfully, there aren’t that many to choose from. Athletic greatness does not often pass from one generation to the next. Precious few are the sons who can live up to the standards set by extraordinary dads. I have only thought of four father/son tandems to include here, and I give them to you in order from least to greatest…
Rob and Bobby Carpenter
Rob Carpenter spent ten years in the NFL as a running back. He played four-and-a-half years each for the Houston Oilers and New York Giants, and then spent his final season with the Rams. He never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, nor was he ever named to a Pro Bowl team. he was, however, a favorite of Coach Bill Parcells and contributed a Giants’ Super Bowl winning season.
Son Bobby was a first-round draft choice of, you guessed it, Bill Parcells. Parcells, at the time the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, selected Carpenter with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft. It was arguably one of the five worst picks ever made in team history. Bobby proved himself too soft to play linebacker for the Cowboys, never won the admiration or trust of his teammates or coaches, and was traded this past off-season for Rams’ offensive tackle Alex Barron.
The Carpenters can say they put two generations of their family into the NFL, and that is nothing to sneeze at. So far, the dad has certainly outshined the son. But who knows? Maybe a change of scenery and scheme will do Bobby some good.
Jim and Jason Garrett
Jason, one of three sons to work in the NFL, is beginning his fourth season as Offensive Coordinator for the Cowboys. He also served as a backup quarterback to Troy Aikman from 1993—99. His most famous moment as a player came on Thanksgiving Day, 1994, when he led a miraculous comeback victory over Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers. He led the Cowboys from a 24—13 deficit to a 42—31 victory.
Jim has two other sons, John and Judd, who also serve on the Cowboys’ coaching staff.
Bum and Wade Phillips
Bum Phillips was the head coach of the Houston Oilers from 1975—1980. It was the most successfuly era in Oilers’ history. He led them to five winning seasons in six years and made the playoffs three consecutive seasons. He was a real cowboy and a larger-than-life figure. Known for his personality and homespun wit and wisdom, Bum became a darling of the football media.
Bum left Houston and took the head coaching job in New Orleans, where he spent five seasons. Like so many before him and so many after, he had no luck in New Orleans, only managing a .500 season once.
Wade Phillips got his start in the NFL on his daddy’s staff. He coached defense. It didn’t take long for him to become known for his prowess as a defensive tactician, which garnered him defensive coordinator positions in various stops around the NFL. Wade has spent eight full seasons as a head coach in the NFL, the last three in Dallas. He has only had one season below .500 as a head coach. He has made the playoffs five times in those eight years, yet has only managed one post-season victory.
Wade does not have the flair his daddy had. He has not yet achieved as much as Bum did either, at least not as a head coach. He does, however, have the same number of Super Bowl rings: Zero. Cowboys fans are hoping that this is one son who will soon outshine dear old dad.
Tony and Anthony Dorsett
When Tony Dorsett came out of college, he was the most prolific running back in history. He had run for more yards than anyone before him and set a career rushing record that would not be eclipsed for twenty years. When he got to the Cowboys, he continued to play at the level of excellence everyone had anticipated, helping his team to two Super Bowl appearances and a world championship.
Until Emmitt Smith came along, Dorsett was without question the greatest running back in team history. Though Smith would eventually surpass Dorsett in just about every category and become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, some Cowboys followers still consider Dorsett the greatest running back in the Cowboys’ glorious history.
Count yours truly among them.
Anthony Dorsett played cornerback in the NFL from 1996 to 2003. He played for Houston/Tennessee and Oakland. He only amassed three interceptions in an eight year career, but he did return two of those for touchdowns…a thing one might expect from the offspring of Tony “TD” Dorsett.
So, here’s to all the dads whose sons make them proud, and here’s to all the sons proud of their dad.
Happy Father’s Day.