When looking back on the history of a franchise like the Dallas Cowboys, it’s not easy sorting through the ten best to ever don the star on their helmet. Alas, we did our best to list the best Cowboys players of all-time.
Comparing a wide receiver to a defensive lineman is apples to oranges. But when making this list, we considered not only individual success but the accomplishments of each player’s teams.
However, that didn’t stop us from putting one Cowboys quarterback that some fans love to hate on our list.
After sorting through everything, here’s what we came up with.
Best Cowboys players of all-time (Updated March 23, 2023)
10. Mel Renfro
Renfro had a 14-year career with Dallas in which he won two Super Bowls and made 10 pro bowls. It’s a stereotype that defensive backs play the position because they can’t catch the ball, but you can’t say that about Renfro.
His 52 interceptions returned for 626 yards are both tops in Cowboys history, and good enough to make him a hall of famer.
Renfro was also an impactful special teamer, too. In his rookie season, he led the NFL in punt and kickoff return yardage.
9. Tony Romo
The Eastern Illinois product catches plenty of flak for his lack of postseason success, and it’s certainly warranted. Two postseason wins in 13 seasons is disappointing to say the least. But Romo’s place among all time Cowboys quarterbacks is undeniable.
His 34,183 passing yards and 248 touchdowns rank first in franchise history. He even has more fourth quarter comebacks than Captain Comeback himself, Roger Staubach.
8. Jason Witten
When thinking of Witten, the word consistency comes to mind. He played in the most games in Cowboys history at 255 over 16 seasons. He’s also caught more passes for more receiving yards than any player in Dallas’ history and ranks second in touchdowns.
Not only was he a threat in the passing game, he helped move the chains on the ground, too. Running backs like Marion Barber, DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott got some massive lanes to run through thanks to Witten’s skills as a blocker.
7. Randy White
Nicknamed The Manster thanks to his 6’4, 260-pound frame, White carried the status as one of the NFL’s most intimidating players in the 1970s and 1980s. His physical style of play would’ve gotten him plenty of penalty yardage in today’s NFL.
After starting his career as a linebacker, Cowboys coaching legend Tom Landry made the right call when he switched White to the defensive line. If it wasn’t for that move, White would’ve never recorded 111 sacks, the third most in Cowboys history.
6. Tony Dorsett
After going second overall in the 1977 draft, the Heisman winner made an immediate impact. He rushed for 1,007 yards in his rookie campaign, making him the only Cowboys rookie to do so before Ezekiel Elliott surpassed the 1K mark in 2016. In that same season, Dorsett helped Dallas win a Super Bowl.
Dorsett’s speed and elusiveness had Cowboys fans glued to their TVs when the ball was in his hands. He’s tied for the longest play from scrimmage in NFL history thanks to a 99-yard touchdown run in the 1982 season. Good luck beating that one.
The Hopewell, Pennsylvania native ranks second in rushing yards and touchdowns in Cowboys history.
5. Michael Irvin
The Playmaker was an ultra-competitive player whose flashy celebrations were sometimes misinterpreted as selfishness. Irvin was always a leader who wanted to win games rather than rack up personal stats.
There was no shortage of team achievements during Irvin’s 12 seasons in Dallas, winning three Super Bowls alongside two other hall of famers on the Cowboys offense.
Among Dallas wide receivers, Irvin has the most receiving yards and second-most touchdowns. He also led the team in receiving yards for eight consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1998.
4. Bob Lilly
Selected 13th overall in the 1961 NFL Draft, the Cowboys hit a grand slam with its first ever draft pick by taking Lilly. The defensive lineman from TCU was a towering 6’5, 260-pounds, and his strength made him a menace to quarterbacks for 14 seasons, recording 95.5 sacks. But he also possessed a quickness that helped him disrupt rushing attacks.
Individually, Lilly is also the most decorated player on this list, making 11 pro bowls and seven All-Pro teams. Not to mention Lilly was the leader of Dallas’ defense in 1971 when they brought home the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Despite playing a physically punishing position, Lilly never missed a regular season game. His constant availability helped him become the first Cowboys player inducted into the hall of fame.
3. Roger Staubach
Roger the Dodger is a fan favorite not just for his play, but because of the gap from his college days to his NFL career while he was in the Navy. Because of this, he didn’t take his first snap as a pro until he was 27.
Staubach was under center for Dallas’ first two Super Bowl wins in 1971 and 1978, taking home MVP honors in the first game.
Staubach was the first great Cowboys quarterback and helped coach Landry get over the hump and raise the Lombardi Trophy, thanks in part to his late game heroics that earned him the nickname Captain Comeback.
2. Troy Aikman
The second triplet on this list, Aikman was the signal-caller during the greatest decade of Cowboys football: the 1990s. Dallas won three Super Bowls in four seasons during that time.
His 32,942 passing yards and 165 touchdowns each rank second on the Cowboys all-time list. Aikman earned a spot in the hall of fame after spending all 12 of his years in the NFL with Dallas, making six pro bowls during that time.
1. Emmitt Smith
It’s only appropriate that the NFL’s all-time leading rusher in yards and touchdowns also holds the top spot on this list.
Being a four-time All-Pro, eight-time pro bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion were all achieved by Smith thanks to the longevity of his career
In Smith’s 13 years as a Cowboy, he averaged 311 carries per season. In three seasons, Smith even led the league in touches, with his highest mark coming in 1995 when he carried the ball 377 times.
Sustaining a 15 year career as a running back is unheard of, especially considering how high his usage was.