The Almost All-Time Dallas Cowboys Defense
This list, as the title implies, pays tribute to greats NOT in Canton.
The Dallas Cowboys are a team that has etched a significant image in the NFL landscape over a short period of time.
Their inception year was 1960, and this was also when the legendary trio of Tom Landry, Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm came on board to the team.
This group of men worked quickly into building the Cowboys as a perennial contender. They would appear in back-to-back NFL Championship games within just seven years, and would soon set an NFL record for having a winning record 20 straight seasons.
The Cowboys also went to the playoffs eight straight years, an NFL record, then broke that streak by appearing in the playoffs nine straight years. They also have appeared in a record eight Super Bowl games, winning five.
They are a team that most either love or hate. This might have mostly spawned from an NFL Films editor dubbing the Cowboys "America's Team" just before the 1979 season.
This expression has brought the team and league a lot of coin. The Cowboys have sold out a record 160 games in all stadiums they have played in since the 1990 season.
Though Dallas has not been to the Super Bowl since 1995, they are a team most fans speak of as a contender yearly. This aura was created by that trio of Tom, Tex and Gil, and it should continue in the foreseeable future.
I hope you enjoy the list, and any debate on my selections is welcome.
For the Almost All-Time Cowboys Offense, look in my profile.
Defensive Tackle: Jethro Pugh
Jethro was an 11th round draft pick of the Cowboys in 1965, and was the 145th player chosen overall.
Dallas was looking for someone to be the heir apparent for veteran Jim Colvin in order to compliment Hall Of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly, and Pugh was the man who filled the bill.
Standing 6'6", he found his way into the starting lineup by his third season in 1967. He led the NFL with four fumble recoveries, and recorded his first career safety. Dallas would go to the NFL Championship Game that year, but lose to Green Bay.
In 1968, Jethro recorded another safety, had 15.5 sacks, and was named to the Associated Press Second Team All-NFL.
Pugh had his only career interception in 1970, then helped the Cowboys reach Super Bowl. After losing that game, Dallas returned to the Super Bowl the next year and won.
Pugh recorded four more fumble recoveries in 1973, and would be a key member of the Doomsday Defense that helped Dallas reach Super Bowls.
After winning the Super Bowl in 1977, Pugh played one more season in 1978, then retired with 95.5 career sacks.
His 14 years with the team is tied as the second longest tenure in franchise history.
Though Lilly and Randy White were Hall Of Famers who played opposite of Pugh, Jethro was an excellent player in his own right.
Defensive Tackle: La'Roi Glover
Glover was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 1996 draft, and was the 166th player chosen overall.
After playing in just two games with the Raiders in his rookie year, he was traded to the New Orleans Saints.
Though he started just two of the 15 games he played in 1997, Glover recorded 6.5 sacks.
La'Roi then had 10 sacks and an interception in 1998 and 8.5 sacks the following year.
He made his first All Pro Team in 2000, after leading the NFL with 17 sacks. He would make the All Pro Team for the next five seasons as well.
After recording eight sacks for the Saints in 2001, Glover joined the Cowboys. He had 6.5 sacks and an interception his first year with Dallas.
After five sacks and a safety in 2003, Glover had seven sacks the following year.
He was moved to nose tackle in 2005 and had three sacks.
La'Roi then signed with the St. Louis Rams before the 2006 season. He had 5.5 sacks that year, then six the next.
Glover played in 13 games for the Rams in 2007, and recorded half a sack. He just retired from the game recently.
Glover's four Pro Bowl appearances are the third most in Cowboys history by a defensive tackle, behind Lilly then White.
He is the only Cowboy to have been named to the Pro Bowl in every year he played with the team.
He is one of the best to have played his position for Dallas.
Defensive End: Harvey Martin
Harvey was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of the 1973 draft by the Cowboys, and was the 53rd player chosen overall.
He played right away, and set a still-standing franchise record of eight sacks for a Cowboys rookie.
Harvey continued to be a pass rushing extraordinaire, helping the Cowboys form one of the better defenses in the NFL.
The 1976 season was the first of four consecutive years Martin would be named to the Pro Bowl Team, and he also had his first career interception.
He had a Dallas record 23 sacks in 1977, helping the Cowboys go on to win Super Bowl XII.
In that game, Harvey and Randy White shared the MVP honors.
Martin then had 14 sacks in 1978, along with the last interception of his career.
He had nine sacks the next year, and recorded a safety. Harvey then had 12 sacks in 1980.
In the strike shortened season of 1982, Martin had eight sacks in nine games.
His last year in the NFL was 1983, where he had two sacks.
He retired with 114 sacks in 158 career games.
He is also a member of the NFL 1970s All Decade Team.
Harvey passed away in 2001, but he may be the greatest pass rusher in Cowboys history.
I expect Harvey Martin to one day find his rightful place in the Cowboy's Ring Of Honor.
Defensive End: George Andrie
George was drafted by the Cowboys in the sixth round of the 1962 draft, the 82nd player picked overall.
He recovered four fumbles over his first two seasons, while playing next to Hall Of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly at right defensive end.
After playing on the left side of the defense in 1964, George was switched back to his original position and stayed there throughout his career after making his first All-Pro Team and also scored a touchdown off of a fumble recovery.
Already a noted sack master, Andrie accumulated a career best 18.5 sacks in 1966, while also scoring a touchdown off of the only interception of his career, and returning to the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys ended up reaching the NFL Championship game in 1967. George scored six of the 17 points Dallas had in the loss by taking a fumble into the end zone.
He once again was named to the Pro Bowl after that season, and would achieve that honor again the following year and again in 1969 for the last time.
That season saw Andrie record the only safety of his career.
The 1970 season saw George take part of the first Super Bowl after the merger with the American Football League was completed.
The Cowboys faced the Baltimore Colts, but lost in a game known for the record 11 turnovers committed by both teams, as well as 10 penalties committed by Dallas.
Andrie and the Cowboys exacted their revenge the following year by winning Super Bowl VI.
This was in the heyday of "The Doomsday Defense," and they did not disappoint by trouncing the Miami Dolphins 24-3. It is the only Super Bowl where a team has failed to score a touchdown.
George played his last season in 1972, then retired with 97 sacks in his 11 seasons with Dallas.
While it is a mystery as to why he has yet to be inducted into the Cowboys Ring Of Fame, George Andrie is probably the greatest defensive end in Cowboys history.
Middle Linebacker: Lee Roy Jordan
Lee Roy was the Dallas Cowboys first draft pick of the 1963 draft. He was the sixth player chosen overall.
Jordan only suited up for seven games in his rookie year, but started each game at left outside linebacker. He ended up swiping three interceptions and recovering a fumble. Jordan would pick off one pass the next year, then none the following season.
He was moved to middle linebacker in 1966 and would stay there the rest of his career.
This was the time the famous "Doomsday Defense" was at its beginnings, and Lee Roy was the leader. He picked off one pass that year and returned it 49 yards for a score.
Lee Roy had three interceptions the next year for a career best 85 yards, while scoring another touchdown and recording a safety.
The Cowboys would end up making it to the 1967 NFL Championship Game before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the famous "Ice Bowl."
Lee Roy was named to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls that season. Jordan had three picks in 1968, then two the following year.
After getting an interception in 1970, he ended up playing in Super Bowl V, the first Super Bowl after the NFL/AFL merger.
The Cowboys ended up losing in the waning seconds to the Baltimore Colts in a game dubbed "The Blunder Bowl" because it was a game that featured 11 turnovers by both teams and 10 penalties against Dallas.
Lee Roy had two interceptions in 1971, and a career best three fumble recoveries.
The Cowboys would go on to beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI. It is the only Super Bowl where a team was prevented from scoring a touchdown.
Jordan had two more swipes in 1972, then had a career high six interceptions in 1973.
In one game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Texas Stadium, Jordan picked off three passes in a five minute span. He took one ball for a 31-yard touchdown, and was named to the Pro Bowl after the season.
Lee Roy made his final All Pro Team in 1974, after having two interceptions.
The 1975 season saw Jordan tie his career high of six interceptions, while leading the Cowboys to Super Bowl X. The Cowboys ended up losing a close game to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jordan again started every game in 1976, but did not record any turnovers for only the second time of his career.
He retired after that season as the franchise's all time leader in tackles, and his 32 interceptions are still tied for the third most ever by a linebacker in NFL history.
He was a true leader who always gave it everything he had on every play without fail.
Not only was he a tackling machine, but the man helped get the ball back for his team's offense over 50 times in his career.
Jordan gathered a turnover in every 3.72 games he played in his career, an outstanding percentage.
His three-interception game was named one of the 10 most memorable moments in the history of in Texas Stadium in 2008.
Not a big man in size or stature, Jordan's heart was immeasurable, and he was one of the top linebackers in the NFL almost every year that he played.
Lee Roy Jordan is a member of the Cowboys Ring Of Fame.
Bob Bruenig, his successor, deserves mention.
Outside Linebacker: Chuck Howley
Howley was a first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1958, the seventh player chosen overall.
After getting an interception in his rookie year, Howley hurt his knee in the third game of 1959 and retired.
After sitting out the 1960 season, Howley decided to return to the NFL. His rights were traded to the Cowboys for a few draft picks.
Chuck started in 13 games at both outside linebacker positions in 1961, and recorded an interception.
After having two interceptions in each of the next three seasons, Howley was named to his first All-Pro Team in 1965, an honor he would achieve every year until 1971.
He recovered a fumble in 1966, and ran 97 yards for a touchdown. In 1967, he took his lone interception 28 yards for a touchdown. He scored again the next year after having a career best six interceptions.
In 1970, the Cowboys would reach, and lose, Super Bowl V. He was named the games MVP after having two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Not only was he the first defensive player to win the award, but he is the only player on a losing team to garner that honor.
Howley refused the award because of the fact that Dallas lost the game.
The Cowboys went back to the Super Bowl the next year and won. That season saw Howley intercept five balls for a career-best 122 yards.
Chuck had a fumble recovery and an interception for 41 yards in the Super Bowl victory.
After grabbing an interception the next year, Howley only played one game in 1973.
He retired with 26.5 sacks, 17 fumble recoveries and 25 interceptions for his career.
Though he has yet to be inducted into Canton, Howley is the greatest linebacker in Dallas history.
His 14 years with the team is tied as the second longest tenure in franchise history.
Chuck Howley is a member of the Cowboys Ring Of Honor.
Outside Linebacker: Dexter Coakley
Dexter was the Cowboys third round draft choice in the 1997 draft.
He started right away, and had an interception, 2.5 sacks and a touchdown off of a fumble recovery.
He had an interception and two sacks the next year, then had a career best four interceptions in 1999. He took one swipe 46 yards for a score, and made his first All-Pro Team.
In 2000, Dexter ran a ball 24 yards on offense.
He returned to the Pro Bowl in 2001, after scoring twice off of interceptions.
Dexter then took a lone pick for a career-long 52 yards and a touchdown in 2002.
Dexter made his last Pro Bowl the next year after having a sack and an interception.
In 2004, he ran a ball for a career-long 33 yards on offense.
Coakley was released by Dallas after 2004 due to salary cap issues, and he signed with the Saint Louis Rams.
He played two years with the Rams before retiring due to an ankle injury.
Only two linebackers in Dallas history, Howley and Jordan, have appeared in more Pro Bowls than Coakley.
Only DeMarcus Ware and Bob Bruenig have matched his total.
Dexter Coakley was a sound pass defender and solid in run support. He is one of the better linebackers in Cowboys history.
Strong Safety: Charlie Waters
Charlie was the Cowboys third round draft pick in 1970, the 66th player chosen overall.
Waters backed up Cliff Harris at free safety in his rookie year, but did start in six games after Harris had to serve military duty.
Waters had five interceptions that season, as the Cowboys would go on to lose Super Bowl V.
Waters started three games the next year, had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, as the Cowboys would go on and win Super Bowl VI.
Charlie was a reserve again in 1972, but had career bests with six interception for 132 yards and a touchdown.
He was moved to cornerback the next year, and had five interceptions for 112 yards.
After two interceptions the next year, Waters was moved to strong safety in 1975.
He responded with three interceptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys would end up reaching Super Bowl X, but lose.
Charlie made his first All Pro team in 1976 after snagging three picks.
He returned to the Pro Bowl the next year after getting three more interceptions, as the Cowboys wound up winning Super Bowl XII.
The 1978 season was the last year Charlie would go to the Pro Bowl. He had a safety and four interceptions. The Cowboys ended up playing in Super Bowl XIII, but lost.
Waters injured his knee before the start of the 1979 season, and would sit out the entire year. He returned in 1980 and had five interceptions.
After getting three interceptions in 1981, he retired with 41 career interceptions.
Charlie Waters 11 postseason interceptions are an NFL record.
Though Darren Woodson was an excellent player who deserves mention, Charlie Waters was a big play safety who always came up big for Dallas.
Especially when it mattered most.
He may be the greatest strong safety in Cowboys history.
Free Safety: Cliff Harris
Though the Cowboys have had quite a few decent players at this position, I cannot see anyone else here but "Captain Crash."
Harris was not chosen in the 1970 NFL Draft, but started immediately at free safety in his rookie year.
He intercepted two passes, returning one for 60 yards. Harris also recovered three fumbles. Although military obligations caused him to miss the second half the season, he returned in time for the Cowboys' Super Bowl VI win.
Harris also returned punts and kickoffs for the Cowboys from his second season until his fifth season.
His best season returning kickoffs was in the second year. Harris returned 29 kicks for 823 yards at an excellent 28.3 average. All of these stats are his career highs. He took one kick 77 yards for the longest return of his career.
He also averaged a career best 7.6 yards per punt return on 17 punts. Harris picked off two passes that year and recovered three fumbles as well.
He ended up with 63 kick returns at an impressive 25.7 average for his career. He also returned 66 punts in his career.
Harris was steady. He intercepted two or more passes every year of his entire career.
His career high was five in 1977, when the Cowboys won Super Bowl XII.
In 1975, Harris took an interception 27 yards for the only touchdown of his NFL career.
Harris was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1974, and would be named to the Pro Bowl each year for the rest of his career.
He was a starter his entire NFL career, and was fearless versus the run.
Harris was a notoriously hard hitter who would make opposing wide receivers get alligator arms when coming across the middle.
He was on five Dallas Super Bowl teams during his career.
Harris wore the pads of place kickers in order to keep his speed and quickness up throughout his career, making his hitting prowess even more impressive.
Harris announced his retirement following the 1979 to concentrate on his business ventures, where he runs a company with former Cowboys strong safety Charlie Waters.
Sports Illustrated named him to their Dream Team at free safety.
Harris was named to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2004.
Cliff Harris changed the way the free safety position was played.
His run support is legendary in Texas, and his intelligence was a big part of his game.
Harris teamed with his best friend, Waters, to form one of the better safety duos in the NFL throughout the 70s. Waters made three Pro Bowls from 1976 to 1978.
Harris was noted for always being around the ball. He got the ball back for the Cowboys 47 times in his 10-year career.
He has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I don't know what the voters are waiting for. He should have been in already.
With his being so close to being inducted in 2004, there is little doubt in my mind that Cliff Harris will one day be in Canton.
Hopefully sooner than later.
Cornerback: Cornell Green
Cornell signed as a free agent with the Cowboys before the 1962 season despite never having played college football.
His brother, Pumpsie, was the first black player to ever play for the Boston Red Sox.
Cornell learned fast enough to start three games in his rookie year. The next season saw Green set career bests with seven interceptions for 211 yards. He also returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
He made his first Pro Bowl in 1965, after returning a fumble for a touchdown and snagging three picks.
He returned to the Pro Bowl the next year after having four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
The 1967 season saw Green match his career high of seven interceptions, and he once again was on the Pro Bowl Team.
In a playoff win over the Cleveland Browns, Green returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown. Dallas would end up playing, and losing, in the NFL Championship Game.
He had four interceptions the next year, and returned one for a score. Cornell made his last Pro Bowl Team as a cornerback in 1969 after picking off two passes.
He then was moved to strong safety in 1970 and had one interception for 59 yards. Dallas would go on and lose Super Bowl V.
Cornell went back to the Pro Bowl the next year after having two interceptions. Dallas would end up winning Super Bowl VI that year.
Green made his last Pro Bowl Team in 1972, after getting two interceptions. After getting two more interceptions in 1974, Green retired with 34 interceptions and four touchdowns.
Cornell Green was named to the Cowboys 25th Anniversary Team in 1985.
I find it surprising he has yet to be put in the teams Ring Of Honor, because Cornell Green is definitely one of the best defensive backs in the franchises history.
Cornerback: Don Bishop
Don went undrafted just before the 1958 season. He signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and played in 12 games, and caught three passes for 58 yards on offense.
After playing in two games with Pittsburgh the next year, he then joined the Chicago Bears for one game.
Bishop then signed with the expansion Cowboys for the 1960 season. He appeared in 12 games and had three interceptions.
The next year saw Don had career highs with eight interceptions for 172 yards.
Don then made his only Pro Bowl Team in 1962. He had six interceptions for 134 yards, while taking a fumble recovery 84 yards for a touchdown.
Bishop then had five picks the following year. After playing the next two seasons, he retired due to a knee injury.
His 22 career interceptions is the 10th most in Dallas history.
The Cowboys have had several great cornerbacks, but Don Bishop's contributions to the franchise must be remembered.
Bishop played on some bad teams, and was one of their stars by leading the team in interceptions for three years.
He is certainly one of the better cornerbacks in Dallas franchise history.
Everson Walls and Deion Sanders deserve mention, but they should end up in Canton one day.
Punter: Danny White
Danny was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of the 1974 draft, the 53rd player chosen overall.
Danny opted to join the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League instead.
After two seasons with them, White joined the Cowboys in 1976.
Though he was the primary backup quarterback, Danny handled the punting duties.
In his first four years with the team, he threw 103 passes, completing 56, for three touchdowns and six interceptions. He even won the one game he started over that time.
He did punt the ball 70 times in his rookie year for an average of 38.4 yards per punt. He also had a career-high two blocked.
He then had 80 punts in the Cowboys Super Bowl winning season of 1977, and 76 punts in each of the two following seasons.
Hall Of Fame Quarterback Roger Staubach retired after the 1979 season, so Danny ended up being the starter. He also continued his punting duties.
Though he was a successful quarterback who went 62-30 in his career, he became the teams all-time leader in punting attempts and second in yardage.
He did make the Pro Bowl as a quarterback in 1982. That year saw Danny punt a career high 82 times.
After punting just one time for 43 yards in 1985, he became a full-time quarterback until he retired after the 1988 season.
Ron Widby has been to two Pro Bowls, the most is Cowboys history, so he deserves mention. Sam Baker, Mat McBrier, and Mike Saxon deserve mention as well.
The reason I chose Danny White is not only because of his place in the Cowboys record books, but also due to the fact the man-handled quarterbacking and punting duties full time for several seasons.