NFC East: Charles Haley

Jerry Jones' top five moments

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
10:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones’ purchase of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium for $140 million.

The highs have been high, but the lows have been low, especially since the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl in the 1995 season.

Here we will look at Jones’ top five moments as the Cowboys' owner and general manager while realizing that a large segment of the fandom will not give him any credit for what happened in the early years when Jimmy Johnson was around.

1. How do you like those Super Bowls?

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
AP Photo/Charles KrupaOwner Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson celebrate their 30-13 win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII on Jan. 30, 1994, in Atlanta.
The Cowboys won three titles in Jones’ first seven years as owner. They became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span, becoming the team of the 1990s with the Triplets -- Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith -- becoming household names. The Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII by a combined score of 82-30. They claimed Super Bowl XXX with Barry Switzer as coach by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17, exacting some revenge for the ‘70s Cowboys who could not beat Terry Bradshaw & Co.

2. Hiring Jimmy Johnson

Jones expressed regret Sunday about the rushed nature of firing legendary coach Tom Landry, but there is no doubt he made the right decision in bringing his former college teammate Johnson with him to the Cowboys. Johnson was the best coach in college football at the time at the University of Miami and brought a brashness that took the NFL by storm. The Cowboys suffered greatly in 1989 by going 1-15, but by Johnson’s second year they were competing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season and winning a playoff game by the third year. By Year No. 4, Johnson had his first of two straight Super Bowl wins. It ended badly between Jones and Johnson, wrecking what could have been a history-making era because of the egos of the owner and the coach.

3. The trade of all trades

This is where the Jimmy and Jerry camps will always be divided. If you were a Jimmy guy, he engineered the trade of Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings. If you were a Jerry guy, he had the final say. Regardless of who you want to credit, the moment is in Jones’ era as owner and is among his biggest moments. The Walker trade brought about the formation of the Super Bowl teams. The Cowboys received five players and eight picks, turning those picks into Smith, Alvin Harper, Dixon Edwards and Darren Woodson. It might be the best trade in NFL history.

4. A new home

At $2.1 billion, there is no stadium like AT&T Stadium. This will be the monument Jones leaves whenever he is no longer the owner and general manager of the team. To get the stadium built, Jones acquiesced to a degree by bringing in Bill Parcells as coach in 2003 after three straight 5-11 finishes. With Parcells and the coach’s two Super Bowl wins, Jones could show people he was serious about winning and changing his ways. The stadium is unmatched in the NFL, if not the world, with its nightclub-type feel, center-hung digital board, retractable roof and sliding doors. The Cowboys might not have the same home-field advantage they had at Texas Stadium, but the stadium has delivered a Super Bowl, an NBA All-Star Game, numerous concerts and the upcoming Final Four.

5. Trading for Charles Haley

Again, this will divide the Jimmy and Jerry camps, but Haley was the piece to the puzzle who got the Cowboys over the top. It weakened the Cowboys’ biggest rival at the time, the San Francisco 49ers, and brought the Dallas defense an attitude it lacked. The signing of Deion Sanders in 1995 also weakened the Niners, but Haley brought two titles -- if not the third, as well. The drafting of Smith, No. 17 overall, was another top moment with him becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. But Haley’s arrival brought to Dallas what the fans want most: Super Bowls.
You sit back and try to figure this out.

Charles Haley is a man who won five Super Bowls with two different teams. He won two with the San Francisco 49ers and three with the Dallas Cowboys. Haley wasn't some scout-team player backing up an elite player.

Haley wasn't some starter that was taken off the field on certain downs.

Haley was an every-down pass-rush specialist who dominated games. Yet, Haley was denied entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

It's really sad. This is Haley's fifth time being a finalist, and it's difficult to understand why he can't get in.

Let's review the stats of the matter: Haley's teams won 153 of 219 games. In 12 seasons he was part of 10 division titles, seven NFC title games, and of course, five Super Bowls.

He was a five-time Pro Bowler and named to the All-Pro team twice. In his career, Haley had 100.5 sacks.

Those are the numbers from an impressive resume.

Now, let's review the intangibles.

Haley changed the balance of power in the NFC when the 49ers tired of his antics and traded him to the Dallas Cowboys.

Getting Haley meant Dallas defensive end Jim Jeffcoat was either out of a job or had to come off the bench.

If you don't believe Haley made a major difference, this is what Jeffcoat said in the book "Boys Will Be Boys" about the Cowboys' dynasty in the 1990s, after hearing the Cowboys acquired Haley: "The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. Charles was a great player who needed to start, and I was comfortable being a sixth man. If anything, it would extend my career."

Jerry Jones' teams needed a defensive presence to go along with the Triplets. Haley was it. He was the driving force behind what the Cowboys needed. Haley won Super Bowls with a driving personality that can turn you off.

His antics are legendary and just embarrassing.

However, there is no disputing what he meant to a football team.

But I hope Haley's issues in the the locker room, and there were many, didn't affect voters on Saturday.

It's just hard to believe a man with his resume would get bypassed for the Hall of Fame.

There are eight Hall of Famers with more sacks than Haley. Does that mean they're better than him?

You can't tell me Rickey Jackson (128) and Derrick Thomas (126.5) were more dominant than Haley. Chris Doleman is fourth all-time in sacks with 150.5.

Is Haley better than him?

Simeon Rice (122) and Clyde Simmons (121.5) are not in the Hall and most likely will never get there. Rice is a three-time Pro Bowler and went five consecutive seasons with double-digit sacks. You can't tell me Haley isn't better than him.

Maybe one day, Haley will walk across the stage in Canton, Ohio.

One day.

Charles Haley a finalist again

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
7:00
AM ET
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 15 finalists on Thursday night. Defensive end Charles Haley, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, was named a finalist for the fifth time.

Haley recorded double-digit sacks in six seasons and was a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler.

It was Haley's move to the Cowboys from the 49ers that shifted the balance of power in the NFC in the 1990s.

Dallas native wide receiver Tim Brown was also named a finalist for the fifth time. Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowler, ranks fifth in NFL history in all-purpose yards, sixth in receiving yards and fifth in catches. Brown played with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and Tampa Bay.

The Class of 2014 will be announced Feb. 1 in New York.

The modern-era finalists are as follows: Morten Andersen, Jerome Bettis, Derrick Brooks, Brown, Edward DeBartolo, Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Haley, Marvin Harrison, Walter Jones, John Lynch, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- One of the reasons why Jason Garrett likes to have a training camp practice at AT&T Stadium is for the current players to mix and mingle with the former players and learn the history of the Dallas Cowboys franchise.

Cliff Harris spoke at the dinner following the two-hour practice and was one of six members of the Ring of Honor in attendance, along with Roger Staubach, Lee Roy Jordan, Rayfield Wright, Mel Renfro and Charles Haley.

Players representing every era of Cowboys’ football were on hand, as well, including Butch Johnson, Jay Novacek, Billy Joe DuPree, John Fitzgerald and Ken Hamlin.

“I want to get my helmet and go through some of these exercises with some of these guys,” said Wright, a Hall-of-Fame offensive tackle who played for the Cowboys from 1967-80.

Wright was looking forward to talking to some of the offensive lineman at the dinner.

“There’s just little techniques that you could communicate with some of the young guys,” Wright said. “We have the talent, skills and ability. These guys have great talent. They’re a lot bigger than we were when I played the game. But they have great talent and if I had the opportunity to sit down and just talk to some of these guys on a personal, one-on-one level, it would be fantastic for me.”
NEW ORLEANS -- Thanks to you all for bearing with me while I helped out on ESPN.com's Super Bowl coverage here for the past week. I tried to keep the blog running while otherwise occupied, but now it's officially the offseason and every team is in the same boat. Nobody plays again until the 2013 regular season begins in September, apparently in Baltimore. (None of our division's teams is scheduled to play in Baltimore next year, by the way, so the Super Bowl champion Ravens will not have an NFC East opponent for their opener.)

Anyway, travel day today, after a very exhausting week of work, so the blog may be light. And since everyone was covering the Super Bowl, the links ain't exactly super-fresh. But they are links nonetheless, and I hope you enjoy.

Washington Redskins

When he showed up here Saturday to collect his Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, Robert Griffin III said he had no doubt he and his surgically-repaired knee would be ready for Week 1.

London Fletcher is speaking out in favor of HGH testing in the NFL. The NFLPA would like Fletcher to understand its position on this as well, which is nuanced. Lots of folks don't like nuance these days. The union will sign off on HGH testing once it's convinced there's a reliable test. To this point, it is not.

New York Giants

Michael Strahan has already had a pretty good year, so it's no surprise he took his Hall of Fame snub in stride. I think Strahan fell victim to the committee's desire to get one of those wide receivers in, and likely lost his spot to Cris Carter. I still don't understand, however, how Warren Sapp was better than Strahan. But they don't ask me.

Chris Canty has his eye on a broadcasting career when his football playing days are over. Sure, I could see that.

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins admits it's not a cut-and-dried issue, but he believes Jay Ratliff will still be a Cowboy in 2013, in spite of the mounting reasons they will at least think about cutting him.

Strahan was snubbed, but so was Charles Haley ... again. Like Strahan, I have to think Haley eventually gets in, but he's had to wait longer than appears to make sense.

Philadelphia Eagles

Before he was a Super Bowl champion head coach, John Harbaugh was an Eagles special teams coach, and that experience helped mold him into what he is today. Which is a Super Bowl champion head coach.

Will the Eagles look into acquiring 49ers backup quarterback Alex Smith? It makes sense. And apparently they have shown some interest in Smith in the recent past.

Breakfast links: Franchise Spencer?

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
8:00
AM ET
Less than a week until the combine. Less than a month until free agency. Still a ways to go before the draft. This is humbly, simply, Thursday, which doesn't have much going on but is nonetheless proud of its links.

New York Giants

Less than two weeks since their Super Bowl title, the Giants aren't even the biggest sports story in New York right now. Antonio Pierce asked his Twitter followers which out-of-nowhere star was the bigger surprise — the Giants' Victor Cruz or the Knicks' Jeremy Lin — and ESPNNewYork.com is asking for your vote on that question. Lin's winning the poll big, and I think he's the right answer. But Cruz isn't a bad comparison.

Chad Jones, the former LSU safety who nearly died in a car accident shortly after being drafted in the third round by the Giants in 2010, is apparently cleared to play and plans to be at minicamps and OTAs this year. Interesting to see whether he can author this comeback story. If he can, the Giants' secondary will be able to find a place for him.

Philadelphia Eagles

Howard Bryant says one of DeSean Jackson's big problems is the NFL's franchise player rule, which he thinks is unfair and should have been a target of the players' union in last year's collective bargaining negotiations. I talked with Howard about this column, and he asked if I thought Jackson would play well if he got the franchise tag and no new contract this year. I think he would, since he'd be happy with the nearly $9 million raise that would represent. But I still think it's likely the Eagles will look to trade him after franchising him, and that his best bet for a big new contract is with some other team.

The Eagles have announced that they will not raise ticket prices for 2012. I consider this a wise decision.

Dallas Cowboys

Troy Aikman isn't sure he and the Cowboys could have won those three Super Bowls without the help of Charles Haley, and he'd like to see Haley get into the Hall of Fame.

I don't know if the Cowboys will franchise Anthony Spencer, and I haven't decided whether I think they should. Spencer's heard the talk, and he says he's surprised by it and would prefer to hit the market and get a long-term deal from Dallas or some other team. But he doesn't sound as though he'd be crushed if he were franchised. I promise to keep thinking about this and eventually post a reasoned opinion. Just don't have one figured all the way out yet.

Washington Redskins

John Keim breaks down the pros and cons of a Redskins pursuit of Robert Griffin III. Look, in a vacuum, with everything being equal, I believe Griffin is the best option for the Redskins this offseason at quarterback. But all things are not equal, and the price for trading up to the No. 2 pick and getting Griffin could be too high. If it is, the Redskins need to find out soon so they know how to proceed in free agency with guys like Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton and Matt Flynn.

Mark Rypien says a Manning pursuit would not constitute a reversion by the Redskins to their old methods of signing old, big-name stars without thinking about how they fit, because (if healthy) Manning's a different case. What I have learned today is that Mark Rypien is a smart man, a rare voice of reason amid the cap-city cacophony spouting too-simple comparisons to years past without appreciating what's different about the team's current management structure. Thank you, Mark Rypien. Those of us trying to inject sense and nuance into this discussion need all of the help we can get.

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the first year in which former New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and New York Jets coach Bill Parcells was eligible for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so the fact that he did not make it is not devastating. There's reason to believe he will get in eventually, but on Saturday night, he was not among the final candidates. Neither was former Cowboys great Charles Haley. My personal opinion is that they both should be in, but Parcells is the more surprising omission, so let's take a look at it.

Bill Parcells
AP Photo/Daniel HulshizerBill Parcells coached the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and New York Jets with great success.
The 44 voters are not allowed to talk about any part of the discussion they had during a 7-hour, 37-minute selection meeting here Saturday, so we are left to speculate. Here are three possible reasons you might hear for why Parcells didn't get in and my opinion on the validity of each:

1. He might come back. Parcells has retired four times and returned to football three times, most recently in 2007 as the Miami Dolphins' director of football operations. There's a sense the voters like to make sure a guy's career is really over before they elect him, which is the main reason for the five-year waiting period. While I don't have any insight into the discussion that went on Saturday, I do know many of the football writers in the room, and I don't think there's a sense among the current football media community that the 70-year-old Parcells, who now works as an ESPN studio analyst, might return to the sidelines or a front office. I do not believe this is one of the reasons he did not get elected.

2. Two Super Bowl wins isn't enough. It's impressive that Parcells won two Super Bowl titles with the Giants, but he's hardly the only coach to turn the trick. George Seifert, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Flores each won two Super Bowls, and none of them is in the Hall of Fame. Winning it twice doesn't make you automatic. Now, the primary argument for Parcells is that he built all four of the teams he coached into playoff teams, and took the Giants and the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Being able to go multiple places and build winners is impressive, and it's likely what will get him in eventually. But playoff and Super Bowl success are, I believe, major factors in this particular committee's decision-making, and two isn't three. My guess is that the names of Flores, Johnson and Seifert were brought up by people who voted against Parcells on Saturday.

3. Team-jumper? I have heard people point out that the way in which Parcells left the Patriots to jump to the Jets in 1997 remains a possible argument against him, since it could allow those who oppose his candidacy to paint him as a coach who was more interested in his own career, legacy and bank account than the success of the teams and players for which he was responsible. I think this is absurd and that Parcells' record of success should trump any such concerns, but opinions do differ, and the way Parcells went about his business did occasionally ruffle a feather or two.

Again, I think it seems clear that he eventually will get in. But he didn't make it on the first ballot, and those are my best guesses as to why not. Parcells will be in Canton this summer for the induction ceremony, however. Curtis Martin, the former Jets and Patriots running back who credits Parcells for much of his own success, was elected Saturday and said on a conference call Saturday night that Parcells will present him at the induction.

Breakfast links: Super Bowl Friday

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
8:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS — My favorite of today's links is Kate Fagan's diary of the Madonna news conference, and it's not because the Madonna news conference was my favorite part of the week so far. It wasn't. Top five maybe, but not No. 1. And no, it's none of your business what No. 1 was. Regardless, Kate's account of Madonna is an excellent and entertaining read. But for those of you who are more traditionally inclined and conditioned to two links per team per weekday ... well, we have that, too.

Oh, and since I know you're counting — the pedometer says I took 22,031 steps Thursday, bringing the total to 78,896 — or about 37.4 miles. All of them for you. Every single one of them for you. Even the ones that got me free gumbo from the 2013 New Orleans Super Bowl host committee. Which was awesome. I seriously wish you all could have enjoyed it with me.

Anyway, links.

New York Giants

Ian O'Connor says the Giants' pregame talk puts them at risk of being a punch line if they lose Sunday. I guess. Still doubt Tom Brady needs bulletin-board material for motivation to win as many Super Bowls as Terry Bradshaw won. Also, I think I think the Giants will win. But predictions come out... you know... later.

Jerry Reese thinks it's funny that his team won 10 regular-season games last year and missed the playoffs, won nine regular-season games this year and reached the Super Bowl and now people think he's smarter than he was then. This is the rare thing on which Jerry and I agree. I also think that's funny.

Philadelphia Eagles

Sam Donellon thinks Juan Castillo is in a no-win situation. I think Sam would be right if media and fan perception were the ultimate judge of the success of a team and a coach. But since it's not -- and since Castillo's employers, who like him, will ultimately make the call on whether he was responsible for the Eagles' 2012 successes or failures -- I think Castillo has a chance to win and win big.

Sheil has a look at Luke Kuechly, who'd be a pretty sweet pick for the Eagles at No. 15 in the draft this April if he's still there.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques thinks the Hall of Fame needs Charles Haley in order to consider itself complete. We'll find out Saturday if the Hall voters feel the same way.

Michael Irvin believes that Dez Bryant will eventually be the best receiver in the NFL. That would be pretty awesome for the Cowboys if that happened.

Washington Redskins

Kyle Shanahan says his opinion on Rex Grossman hasn't changed since a year ago. I guess that's... good? Or bad? I don't know. Still pretty sure they need to upgrade.

Nathan Fenno writes that Sean Taylor's friends and family still await justice.

There are few things I enjoy more on this blog than taking requests, and those who didn't see me on "First Take" this morning have asked for some video, because some of the commenters (whose wardrobes must all obviously be beyond reproach) didn't like the color of my tan summer suit. So here's a link to my discussion with Skip Bayless about how strange it is that former Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley is now in the College Football Hall of Fame but not the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A quick point on the argument itself: Haley was a fourth-round draft pick out of James Madison. It's pretty unlikely that his college career was Hall of Fame-worthy. His pro career almost certainly got him into the College Football Hall of Fame, and it'll probably eventually land him in Canton. Skip thinks he should have been there on the first ballot. Mike Sando makes the point that that's a lot easier said than done, given the bizarre rules for election and the backlog that results.

But anyway, the suit is tan, not "mustard," and it's good to have such invested fans and followers. You guys are the best, I mean it. The best!!!!

Hall of Fame day in the NFC East

February, 5, 2011
2/05/11
1:10
PM ET
DALLAS -- I've heard former Cowboys director of scouting Larry Lacewell tell the story many times, and it never gets old. Lacewell, a former college head coach, was still relatively new to the scouting process. Someone had placed a note on his desk that a ferocious but troubled defensive end for the 49ers named Charles Haley might be available via trade.

"That note sat on my desk for a day or two and then Jerry [Jones] came walking in my office," Lacewell told me a couple of years ago. "When he saw Haley's name, he nearly dove over my desk to grab the note."

[+] EnlargeCharles Haley
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesCharles Haley collected 34 of his 100.5 career sacks during his five seasons in Dallas.
Jones knew he had the makings of a dynasty with The Triplets already in place, but there was something missing. The Cowboys pulled off that trade for Haley and he became a major contributor on a team that won the Super Bowl three of the next four seasons. Haley, who is one of 17 candidates to be voted on for the Hall of Fame today, didn't have much use for the media back then. And half the time, he wasn't particularly kind to his teammates. But he was one of the best closers in the game when it came to taking down quarterbacks. He knew he intimidated pretty much everyone in his path, but he had immense respect for Jimmy Johnson. Haley had bought his ticket out of San Francisco because of bizarre behavior. There's no telling what may have happened if players such as Ronnie Lott weren't there to hold him back when he lost his temper.

Haley has now admitted to struggling with bipolar disorder, but he appears to be as healthy and happy as ever these days. He opened up to a reporter from the Dallas Morning News last year and he's appeared on local radio in recent weeks. I think being in the Hall of Fame would mean the world to him, but it's not what defines him.

"Jerry said, 'We couldn't spell Super Bowl without Charles Haley.' I would agree with that," Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman said per ESPNDallas.com. "I don't think we do anything even close to what we accomplished without him.

"I am surprised that he has not been voted into the Hall of Fame at this time, because he was an integral part of all five of those world championships he was a part of. He wasn't just on the roster or a role player. He was a major reason why."

Haley had an impressive 100.5 sacks, but it's the five Super Bowl rings that define his playing career. Voters aren't allowed to judge players on their boorish behavior. It should come down to the impact they had on the field. Even Jerry Rice admits that San Francisco probably lost out on another Super Bowl title or two because of the Haley trade.

Jones spent some time this week talking about the huge financial commitment he made to Deion Sanders, but it was acquisition of Haley that opened the door to those three titles. Sanders is a no-brainer to be elected into the Hall today.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger. I'll be back later with some Hanburger and Sanders talk, but I wanted to focus on Haley for now.

Allen's the next HOF'er for Cowboys

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
3:36
PM ET
ASHBURN, Va. -- I'll be returning to Redskins practice in a bit, but I couldn't help but notice that ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins blogged about who would be the next Cowboys player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He mentions Charles Haley and Darren Woodson right out of the box, but I think there's a player who will beat both of them into the Hall.

In my mind, guard Larry Allen will be a first-ballot guy. He played the '07 season for the 49ers, so he's a few years away. But Allen's status as one of the greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game will make him a no-brainer. The painfully shy Allen is probably already nervous about his speech. I'll visit with Calvin here in a few minutes via phone to determine why he failed to mention such a remarkable player.

After Allen, I'd like to see Cliff Harris go in the Hall. He was an All-Decade player from the '70s and his contemporaries thought he was perhaps the best safety of his generation. The late defensive end Harvey Martin isn't mentioned enough, either. Either Deion Sanders or Allen will be the next Cowboy to go in. Sanders was somewhat of a mercenary, but he certainly made his time with the Cowboys count.

And I can't have this argument without at least mentioning how shameful it is that wide receiver Drew Pearson's not in the Ring of Honor. Jerry Jones' hesitancy to put him in is among the most curious things he's done as owner.

Who do you guys think will be the next Cowboys player in the Hall of Fame? Is there a former Redskins player who belongs in the Hall?

Best Cowboys Team Ever: 1993

June, 22, 2010
6/22/10
11:00
AM ET
Notable players: QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, FB Daryl Johnston, WR Michael Irvin, G Nate Newton, C Mark Stepnoski, OT Erik Williams, TE Jay Novacek, DT Russell Maryland, LB Ken Norton, DE Charles Haley

Emmitt Smith
Tim Roberts/AFP/Getty ImagesEmmitt Smith held out to start the season, but once he returned, it all came together for the Cowboys.
Analysis: I could make the argument that the ’94 team that lost to the 49ers in the NFC title game was the best, but I’ll save that one for another day. In ’93, Jimmy Johnson and the Cowboys had an enormous target on their backs and the team began the season with Smith in a holdout. Disgusted by an 0-2 start without Smith, Jerry Jones quickly signed the running back to a new contract. The Cowboys ran off seven straight wins and finished the season 12-4.

Dallas sent 11 players to the Pro Bowl after the season, and they could’ve had a few more on defense. If not for Smith’s holdout, this was the type of team that might have made a run at a perfect season. The Triplets were unstoppable, and the Cowboys had perhaps the best offensive line in the league. The Roger Staubach teams of the '70s were formidable, but I just don’t think they were as deep as Johnson’s teams of the early '90s.

The Doomsday defense from the late '70s trumps the defense from the early '90s, but the Triplets surpassed what Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson accomplished.

Most impressive win: It’s too easy to say the Super Bowl, so give me the overtime victory in the Meadowlands over the Giants to end the regular season. The win gave the Cowboys the division title and a wild-card bye week. In that 16-13 win, Smith had one of the best individual efforts in club history. Playing with a separated shoulder, he rushed for 168 yards and caught 10 passes.

Best player: How can you not go with the guy who won the NFL’s MVP award, the Super Bowl MVP and the rushing title in the same season? Let’s go with Emmitt.

Honorable mention

1977: The Super Bowl champions were dominant on both sides of the ball. Dallas began the season 8-0. The Broncos didn’t belong on same field in the Super Bowl. Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy “Manster” White put the “Doom” in Doomsday.

1992: You almost forget how Jimmy Johnson could send waves of pass-rushers at quarterbacks. Tony Tolbert had more sacks than Haley in ’92. And Maryland and Leon Lett were just beginning to figure things out. The collection of talent was remarkable. The Triplets truly began to impose their will on opponents.

1971: Some of the great defensive players from the early days -- Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan -- finally got their championship. The offense scored 29 points per game and the Cowboys won by an average of 13.1 points per game.

Wednesday Beastlines: Peppers to Giants?

February, 10, 2010
2/10/10
11:40
AM ET
Let's take a quick look at the headlines from around the division. Things are fairly quiet this week, but that could change in a hurry.

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

The Beast chat begins at high noon ET

February, 9, 2010
2/09/10
11:59
AM ET
If you're looking for something to do during lunch, here's an idea. Suggested topics: Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Super Bowl XLV, Emmitt Smith, Charles Haley, Clinton Portis, Mike Shanahan, Kenny Phillips, Perry Fewell, Marion Barber, Party Passes, frozen margaritas, Hank Baskett, Kendra Wilkinson.

I'll see you in the chat room -- or something that sounds less creepy.

Smith, Grimm get their Hall pass

February, 6, 2010
2/06/10
5:57
PM ET
In one of the least surprising moments in recent history, former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Smith became the final member of the Cowboys' famed "Triplets" to enter the Hall, mainly because he stuck around for so long. Smith will be joined in Canton, Ohio, by a member of the Redskins' famed Hogs, guard Russ Grimm.

[+] EnlargeEmmit Smith
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesEmmith Smith is the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
The Skins' offensive line played a huge role in the team's four trips to Super Bowls in the 1980s and 90s, but it didn't have a representative in the Hall of Fame. Grimm embodied the spirit of the Hogs. He was big, brash and funny. Offensive line coach Joe Bugel presided over this remarkable group of players. Grimm was named to the all-decade team of the 80s. There was absolutely no reason for voters to keep him out of the Hall any longer.

The voters probably saved a lot of time Saturday with Smith and wide receiver Jerry Rice, two of the greatest players in league history. Maybe that allowed for more time to consider deserving players such as Grimm, Rickey Jackson and John Randle -- none were viewed as locks for the 2010 class.

Smith is the NFL's all-time leading rusher and Rice owns most of the meaningful receiving records. It's fitting the two will be inducted in the same class because they were part of the one of the league's greatest rivalries. The 49ers and Cowboys were the best teams in the league during the 90s and they met in the NFC title game on a nearly annual basis early in that decade.

You'll often read about how running backs fall off a cliff at age 30, but it didn't happen to Smith. He gained nearly 5,800 yards after turning 30. And despite his huge success, Smith always seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder that probably dates back to him slipping to No. 17 in the 1990 draft.

Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson wanted to move up and take Baylor linebacker James Francis in 1990, but the Bengals selected him at No. 12. The Cowboys moved from No. 21 to No. 17 and looked at a list of players that included Rodney Hampton and Steve Broussard. Fortunately for Cowboys fans, Jerry Jones and Johnson eventually decided on Smith. He was available at No. 17 because he didn't run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and he was only 5-9, 210 pounds.

But all of that weight appeared to be in Smith's legs, and he used them to punish defenders. If football was played on a straight line, maybe Smith's numbers wouldn't have been so remarkable. But he seemed to turn every carry into an adventure. Linebackers rarely got a clean shot because Smith could dart away at the last moment. And when he knew a tackle was inevitable, Smith made his body limp so that he could live to see another carry. One scout told me recently that other tailbacks looked like they had been "electrocuted" when they were hit by defenders.

[+] EnlargeRuss Grimm
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesRuss Grimm was on a Washington team that went to the Super Bowl four times.
Maybe that explains Smith's longevity. He never had a true complementary back so that he could catch his breath. And I don't think he would've had it any other way. I'll never forget watching Smith rush for 168 yards against the Giants in the 1993 regular-season finale when he separated his shoulder early in the game. No one would've questioned Smith's toughness had he left that game. Instead, he hung in there and led the Cowboys to a division title and a playoff bye.

The best thing about the "Triplets" is that they all realize how much they needed each other. I don't think the Cowboys would have won three Super Bowls with only Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. And you can say the same thing about the other combinations.

Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley did not make the cut to 10 modern-day players. That's pretty surprising when you consider the man has five Super Bowl rings and was one of the most feared pass-rushers in the game. But I think Haley will have more chances in the future.

Redskins and Cowboys fans are rejoicing this afternoon. Grimm helped pave the way for John Riggins to have a Hall of Fame career. He kept Joe Theismann and Doug Williams on their feet and helped keep things loose in the locker room. I'm sure Joe Gibbs is happier than anyone about today's announcement.

Offensive tackle Joe Jacoby is probably the other member of the Hogs that received the most individual attention. He is probably also Hall of Fame worthy, but on this day, I think all the Hogs feel they are represented.

Pretty remarkable day for two NFC East players.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC EAST SCOREBOARD