Micah Parsons On Track To Become An All-Time Dallas Cowboys Great

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Micah Parsons has taken the NFL by storm since his debut in 2021. Some considered him a Defensive Player of the Year candidate even as a rookie, and this year he’s the center of attention for one of the NFL’s top defenses. Unanimously considered as one of the elite defenders in all football, Parsons’ place among the best Cowboys of all time is already up for discussion.

Of course, Micah’s ultimate legacy will depend on longevity and if he continues to play at this level. But when was the last time that Dallas had a defensive player who was this heavily praised? Even if Parsons never played another down, you can still look at the current level of adulation and struggle to find comparisons.

Before Parsons’ arrival, DE DeMarcus Lawrence was generally considered the best defender in Dallas. But even at his pass-rushing peak with 24.5 sacks from 2017-2018, Lawrence was never really seen as a top-tier guy at his position. He did finish fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2017, receiving one vote, but was never put on the same pedestal as Aaron Donald or Calais Campbell.

The Cowboys have had several recent defenders with flashes of greatness. Most would agree that LB Sean Lee was an elite talent those few times that he was fully healthy. Once Byron Jones returned to playing cornerback in 2018 he was quickly one of the best in the league. Even linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch had dalliances with the upper echelon of the NFL. But even at their absolute bests, none of these players were ever put on that top tier.

Ironically, one of Micah Parsons’ current teammates may be his closest rival in recent memory. CB Trevon Diggs 11 interceptions in 2021 put him on a short list of the league’s most infamous defensive players. Now adding “shutdown” performances this season, Diggs is starting to get more recognition as a truly complete player and not just for the picks.

Micah Parsons vs. DeMarcus Ware

But before Parsons or even Diggs, you’d have to go back to DE DeMarcus Ware for the last Cowboy to have earned the same level of respect. Not only is Ware the all-time sack leader for Dallas, but he’s also 13th all-time in the NFL and was a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro from 2006-2015. Ware finished second in the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year race, losing out to the Steelers’ James Harrison despite 20 sacks that season. He also tied for fifth the following year.

Even at his best, though, DeMarcus didn’t have Micah Parsons’ versatility. I don’t remember Ware ever being compared to the likes of Lawrence Taylor during his run. He certainly was one of the all-time greats and is already overdue for a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but does anyone hold him in quite the same esteem?

MORE: Best Cowboys defensive players of all-time

Unfortunately, Ware’s legacy is hurt by the Cowboys’ lack of success as an organization during his run. While certainly not DeMarcus’ fault in any way, the Cowboys’ inability to either make or stay in the playoffs throughout those years made it hard for any of the top players of that era to have the respect their individual contributions deserved.

Naturally, Parsons has the same challenge ahead of him. If Dallas continues its long streak of postseason futility then Parsons may wind up on similar footing to guys like Ware and Jason Witten.

If Parsons can help lead the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl, though, then we may start talking about him on an even higher level. At that point, he just might be taken in that handful of the truly special players to ever grace the NFL. And from that ever shorter list, the elite of the elite, the last guy to come through Dallas was CB Deion Sanders.

While DE Charles Haley and S Darren Woodson were legends in their own right, Sanders is one of those rare players whose talent shined just a bit brighter. Generally considered the best corner in NFL history, “Primetime” is right there with Lawrence Taylor, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Ronnie Lott, and others who immediately make any “all-time” lists for NFL defenders. Some might even argue he’s better than a few of them.

Parsons isn’t there yet, of course. He has to sustain what he’s doing right now for many years to join those paragons. But the fact that he’s even on that trajectory is remarkable and immediately puts him in rare company among the Cowboys’ long list of great defensive talents.

More Cowboys legends

We could keep going backward and talk about Bob Lilly, Randy White, Mel Renfro, and others who staked their claim on the all-time list in Dallas. Lilly is the only Cowboys player whose number is unofficially retired; a special recognition enjoyed by just “Mr. Cowboy,” Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith.

Will Micah be the last to wear #11 in Dallas? Only time will tell, but the question of where this 23-year-old already compares to NFL royalty is a beautiful situation for the Cowboys. It’s why they’re still alive in 2022 despite Dak Prescott’s injury, being carried by one of the league’s best defenses spearheaded by a truly elite player.

Sure, we don’t ever want to go overboard with our praise of a player. But the fact that this conversation around Micah Parsons isn’t crazy should tell you something. This is a rare experience and, hopefully, none of us are taking it for granted.