Commentary

Greatest Dallas Cowboys of all time

Our 50 are in the Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor, and proudly wear Super Bowl rings

Updated: January 31, 2012, 2:07 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

It isn't difficult to come up with a list of 50 great players in the history of America's Team.

The challenge is cutting the list to include only 50 Dallas Cowboys greats. And it gets really tough when it's time to rank them.

After all, 18 players have been inducted into the franchise's Ring of Honor, and a list of worthy candidates are waiting for their day. Ten of those men have Hall of Fame busts, as do a handful of other players who came to the Cowboys near the ends of their careers.

There have been plenty of hours passed on bar stools debating which Cowboys are the best at their positions, much less how they all fit in the bigger picture of the franchise's pantheon of greatness.

Should Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman be the top-ranked quarterback? Pick between the pair of six-time Pro Bowlers who led the Cowboys to a combined five Super Bowl titles.

Should Michael Irvin or Bob Hayes be the top-ranked receiver? You want to go with a man who set the franchise's records for catches and receiving yards and served as the inspirational leader of the '90s dynasty or the team's record holder for touchdown catches whose blazing speed changed the passing game in the NFL?

How about the best defensive player in franchise history? The top two candidates are Hall of Fame defensive tackles: 11-time Pro Bowler Bob Lilly and nine-time Pro Bowler Randy White.

In some cases, the value of longevity also had to be considered. One-man Ring of Honor committee Jerry Jones determined that defensive end Charles Haley did enough in his five seasons in Dallas to be included among the franchise's legends. How about Deion Sanders? Mike Ditka in four seasons? Terrell Owens in three?

How much does winning matter? Should the lack of playoff success be held against active stars such as DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Tony Romo?

The ESPNDallas.com panel -- Todd Archer, Jean-Jacques Taylor, Calvin Watkins and myself -- had to pick sides on those debates during the process of coming up with our lists of the top 50 players in Cowboys history. We didn't agree in many cases, but the votes were tallied to come up with a consensus opinion.

Of course, your opinion might vary. That's part of the fun. Pull up a virtual bar stool and let us know what we got right and what we got wrong.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

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