The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Top Five Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks of All-Time

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Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys have been lucky to have some of the better quarterbacks in league history on their side.  I think the recent string of quarterbacks which included Vinny Testaverde, Quincy Carter, Drew Henson, and Chad Hutchinson are reminder enough to appreciate the importance of a top-notch signal-caller.  Here is my list of the best Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks of all-time. . .

5.  Don Meredith

The 60s were quite a different era.  Meredith is considered a Cowboys legend, yet his career completion percentage is just over 50 percent.  He threw 135 career touchdowns and 111 picks, averaging 7.5 yards-per-pass in the process.  His career passer rating of 74.8 and playoff record of 1-3 don’t seem “legend-like” either.  Still, he was one of the more efficient passers of his day.

4.  Danny White

In reality, White’s career numbers aren’t much different from Roger Staubach’s.  He threw for 21,959 yards, 155 touchdowns, and 132 interceptions.  His career 7.4 yards-per-attempt is comparable to Staubach’s as well.

However, White compiled just a 5-5 career playoff record, winning zero championships.  Amazing how one’s play in the most crucial of games drastically alters future perceptions, isn’t it?

3.  Tony Romo

He’s been a starter for only three full seasons and won just one playoff game, so how is Romo ranked at No. 3 on this list?  Well, I asked myself which quarterback I’d prefer to be my starter as I enter a season, and while your opinions may differ, I’ll take Romo over White and Meredith.

Romo’s 8.0 yards-per-attempt is insane–fourth all-time and the highest for any quarterback since 1960.  His 95.0 passer rating ranks fifth all-time, and in his three seasons as starter, he’s averaged 4,047 yards passing and 29 touchdowns per year.

And he WILL win a Super Bowl before all is said and done.

2.  Roger Staubach

What separates Staubach and Aikman from the rest of the Cowboys quarterbacks?  Super Bowl rings, of course.  Staubach brought home two of them and compiled an impressive 11-6 playoff record.  Many people think Staubach’s era was radically different from today’s game, but offenses passed the ball at almost the same rate 25 years ago (54 percent then, 56 percent now).

Staubach’s numbers aren’t astonishing (153/109 TD-to-INT ratio, 7.7 yards-per-attempt, 83.4 career passer rating), but it is his post-season success that sticks in the minds of Cowboys fans around the country.

1.  Troy Aikman

A lot of people might find my placement of Aikman ahead of Staubach as blasphemous, but it’s all about the rings. Sure, Aikman’s regular season numbers were never incredible, but they didn’t need to be.  While other west coast offenses were allowing quarterbacks to rack up completions, yards, and touchdowns, Aikman was asked to make the more difficult throws to complement a dominating running game.  Is that really his fault?

Still, he threw for nearly 33,000 yards and 165 touchdowns.  His career 81.6 passer rating and 7.0 yards-per-pass were both inferior to Staubach’s, but Aikman began his career 10-1 in the playoffs.  Not bad, I’d say.

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14 Responses to Top Five Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks of All-Time

  1. Vince Grey says:

    No problem, with your order, except at the top, where I’d place Roger over Troy, but I do have several quibbles with you here.

    Concerning White’s numbers versus Roger’s, I definitely think you have to consider that Roger played the bulk of his career in the “dead ball” 70′s, while Danny played his after the rules changes of `78. While the percentages of passes/runs was similar, there’s no arguing that passing became MUCH easier in `78 and beyond.

    In the Aikman/Staubach debate, while I do agree that the number of titles account for a big “grade”, I also consider these points:

    1) This is theoretically arguable, but for the most part Aikman played on superior teams. He had the better O-line, (With the possible exception of the `71 line.) the better receiving TE, the better receivers overall, and the better RB. No knock against TD, who was great, but his best season was about equal to Emmitt-in-his-prime average season.

    2) Again, I don’t think you can discount Staubach’s passing numbers in the 70′s. Comparably speaking, his passer rating’s were awesome for that time period. And he did it with basically one receiver of note (Drew Pearson).

    3) Roger’s path to more SB wins was blocked by the Steelers, maybe the greatest defensive team of all time. Of course, they cheated like hell with `roided up linemen, and the fact they weren’t charged with even one penalty in SB X was a bad joke, but they were still a great team, and Roger had us within 4 points each time.

    4) I just can’t discount the special come-from-behind ability Staubach had. For whatever reason, Troy rarely displayed that aspect of his game.

    It’s a close call, but I give the edge to Roger.

  2. No qualms here…all fair points. I didn’t even know the SB X no penalty stat…incredible.

    My primary defense for Aikman was the nature of the offense…I think he “lost” a lot of completions and yards because of how dominant the run game was at the time. For his completion percentage to be so high with the throws he had to make is remarkable.

    Also. . .I’m still a “youngster.” New school vs. old school I suppose.

  3. Vince Grey says:

    I would argue that Aikman benefited percentage wise, from Emmitt’s presence in the backfield, though I’ll readily concede his overall numbers suffered a lot.

    If you go back and watch several of Roger’s games, you’ll notice some very odd things, compared to today. Except for the shotgun, all his drops were 7 steps minimum, so even a relatively short completion was a fairly long throw. Also, about the only alterations on passing downs was the addition of Preston Pearson for Dorsett or Newhouse.

    Also consider that in `75 and `76, the Cowboy’s basically had no running game to speak of and yet they went 10-4 and to the SB and 11-3 respectfully.

    Staubach was a truly GREAT QB.

  4. Douglas Mullins says:

    I also think that Titles say a lot but I have to say that Roger Staubach is the person most responsible for me being the hardcore die hard Cowboys fan that I am today . When Roger was in the mix you NEVER dared quit watching a game or believing that a W was possible until every second had ticked away. They were undoubtedly both great QBs though and I think they could go either way . The rest of the pack is just about what I thought it should be .

  5. Jason Neighbors says:

    Yes, Staubach was truly great. But Aikman was even greater. In his prime, Aikman was a nearly an unstoppable machine, especially in the postseason. Staubach was better later in his career, but I think Aikman’s back started giving out on him even before ’00. Vince, I would argue that Smith and the rest of the offense benefitted just as much from Aikman as vice versa. And Aikman only had one receiver of note as well. I mean, Harper made some big plays, but he was far from great. He disappeared when he left for Tampa.
    One thing I’m a bit confused on Jonathon. The pass/run ratio 25 years ago would have been in White’s era. Did you mean 35 years ago?

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  8. Fred says:

    Tony Romo will never win a Super Bowl with the Cowboys. He’s not that good.

  9. USAF AB Williams says:

    Romo averages statistics in the top ten QB’s every year. He averages over 4,000 yards a season. He makes the plays he has to make and if you watch most times we lose is because recievers drop vital passes or the line can’t hold up long enough for him to get a throw off. He is also one of the best sack avoiders in the league today. Romo could very well win a super bowl if the team played to their potential. He is definitely good enough.

  10. John Fox says:

    Agree with the list inasmuch as I am only 50 and never really saw Meredith other than MNF broadcasts. To me, Aikman and Romo are entirely different types, both great in their own way. Troy beat you for four quarters, Roger knew he only needed to save his energy and pay attention to one. No doubt that Roger’s approach made for more interesting television and legend. Frankly, as much as I appreciate Troy, his best games to me were both losses. Early in his career it was easy to see his poise and presence, but his early loss to Phoenix/Arizona sticks in my mind. The boy ran around (Staubach/Romo-like), got hit and sacked forever but kept on playing hard and brilliantly. Shame he didn’t win that close game (with inferior talent) but he definitely won me over with his performance that day. The only other game that stands out for me would be the epic 1994 NFC Championship played in Candlestick. Troy’s best game in my mind by far. Holy Cow, down 21 points within the first few minutes and then to make a game of it? Holy Mackeral! Still keep a copy of that game in my video library. Next to the ’92 NFC Championship Game and Superbowl, I think it’s my favorite. Even though it was a loss, it was to me the best I ever saw Troy play – and it was GREAT.

    Agree with the Romo rating. He definitely has the talent to raise the ability of his team even more than White or even Aikman ever did. In that way, I see him like Roger. Roger though, was a clear leader. Romo it seems is just beginning to learn how to be one. If he gets there though, I think your list will need some re-writing.

    J-Fo

  11. denise larkin says:

    roger was the best and dorset best rb

  12. lee says:

    romo is one of the most over rated qb’s of all time and this column is further proof. he runs up stats against prevent defenses after his boneheaded moves puts the team down in the first half.
    how hard is it to have a good qb rating when you’re throwing to dez bryant, miles austin and jason witten? if he didn’t have that star on his helmet he’d be ryan fitzpatrick. i’d take don meredith or danny white in a heartbeat over romo. you wouldn’t see either of them running off to mexico with a hollywood bimbo while his team is getting ready for a playoff game. or skipping around the field giggling like a little girl while his team is behind. he’s no winner and the bigger the game, the smaller he plays.

  13. RoDias says:

    I agree with all except Romo. He is one of the worst QB’s Dallas has ever had. It is sacrilegious to even put him in with the other four quarterbacks. He is out of his league when it comes to those four. He will never come close.

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