The Dallas Cowboys are one of the premier and most well known sports franchises in the entire country, heck even the world. This is probably why they're nicknamed "America's Team" regardless of any random person across the U.S. liking them or not. The Cowboys have a rich tradition and long standing history which is topped off by some of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen.
But, like many other franchises, they have a few that you may not even remember and they'd like to keep it that way. Ranging from NFL Hall of Fame down to third stringers with one career start, the Dallas Cowboys have had a wide net of talent grace us throughout their storied franchise.
Following Troy Aikman's early retirement, the Cowboys had difficulty finding their next franchise signal caller, but now they've managed to transition to two very good quarterbacks. After a decade with Tony Romo as their starter, they now have Dak Prescott firmly in place as their starter for the foreseeable future. However, it didn't always come easy for the Cowboys to find a capable quarterback under center.
With all that said, here are the best and the worst of the historic franchise.
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15 Best: Steve Beuerlein
Beuerlein played in 24 games in two seasons with the Cowboys and went 4-0 in games started during the 1991 season and led two game winning drives in those four games. He had a respectable 5-3 touchdown to interception ratio during those two years and even led the Cowboys to a playoff win during that 1991 streak. The following year he earned a ring backing up Troy Aikman in Super Bowl XXVII.
Beuerlein ended up having a 14-year NFL career in which he was a Pro Bowler in 1999 as a starter for the Carolina Panthers. During that season he led the league in completions (343) and passing yards (4,436). Beuerlein went on to finish his career with a solid 147 touchdowns to 112 interceptions while throwing for over 24,000 yards and a 56.9% completion rate.
Although his career didn't take off as a Dallas Cowboy, he was able to get a Super Bowl ring and lay the foundation for a long NFL career in which he saw very moderate success and topped it off with a Pro Bowl appearance in his career best 1999 season.
14 Worst: Kevin Sweeney
Sweeney only spent two seasons in the NFL, both with the Cowboys. He had a decent three game stretch his rookie season where he went 2-0 with four touchdowns to one interception. Up to that point he was only the third rookie to ever start for the Cowboys. His glory didn't last long however, the following year he went 0-2 in three games with a poor 42.3% completion rate and tallied five interceptions compared to only three touchdowns. In addition he tacked on three fumbles.
Sweeney has done quite well since his playing days ended. He is now a Senior Vice President and National Sales Director for Wells Fargo. Fortunately for him he was able to make a better career off the field than he did in his stint in Dallas. Congrats to Kevin Sweeney for not being a perpetual NFL failure and making a great business choice to be successful elsewhere, albeit not as the next Cowboys great.
13 Best: Dak Prescott
Yes, we're aware he's only played one season, but his rookie season alone puts him on the list, much less the potential he has moving forward. The fourth round pick out of Mississippi State wasn't expected to start the season, but surely proved himself as a more than capable NFL starter for years to come.
During his breakout rookie season he won 13 games, completed nearly 68% of his passes while throwing for 23 touchdowns and rushed for six more, all while only throwing four interceptions. It's no surprise he was able to have five game-winning drives in the process to leading the Cowboys to the number one seed in the NFC.
Although the Cowboys playoff struggles continued, Prescott was able to play his way to his first Pro-Bowl and arguably one of the best rookie quarterback seasons of all time. He has laid the groundwork for a long future with the Cowboys in which as each season passes he can move up this list.
12 Worst: Brad Johnson
Johnson won a Super Bowl, just not with the Cowboys. That's where his credit on this list ends. Sure, he had an overall successful career. He finished with a winning record (72-53), two Pro Bowl appearance and of course a Super Bowl ring. Johnson also threw for over 29,000 career yards. However, his two seasons in Dallas didn't live up to the rest of his career. The aging quarterback faltered and ultimately finished his career after his second season as a Cowboy.
During his two years there he started three games, which ended with a 1-2 record, two touchdowns versus five interceptions and a lackluster 54.8 quarterback rating. Don't get me wrong, Brad Johnson had a fine NFL career, heck he has more rings than Dan Marino, but for the sake of the Cowboys history books, he will go down as one of the worst in terms of performance during his time there.
11 Best: Craig Morton
Morton slides into the sixth spot perfectly. After all, he ranks sixth in Dallas quarterback history in yards (10,279), wins (32), and touchdowns (80). These statistics didn’t come easily or even all at once. Morton was drafted fifth overall in 1965, but spent the next four years backing up another Cowboys great Don Meredith. During these four years he played in spurts before getting a chance to start in 1969 after Meredith’s retirement. The following season Morton led the Cowboys to a 10-4 record and a Super Bowl appearance that resulted in a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts.
After leading the Cowboys to a Super Bowl that season a quarterback controversy arose when head coach Tom Landry alternated playing time between Morton and Roger Staubach. Eventually Staubach won the starting job outright, went on a 10 game winning streak and led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl win over the Miami Dolphins. Morton had a nice career as a Dallas Cowboy, but unfortunately for him he was sandwiched between two greats that we will see later on in this list.
10 Worst: Clint Stoerner
Stoerner played in a grand total of five games and started two of them in his brief NFL career. In his two starts he went 1-1 and had a final stat line of four career touchdowns to five interceptions. Stoerner was one of a few forgettable players who filled in between the long eras of Troy Aikman and Tony Romo. Stoerner’s stint isn’t as bad as it could have been or not quite as bad as some others we will see, but his atrocious second half performance highlights his play in Dallas.
During a 2001 game versus the Giants he threw four interceptions in the second half alone. It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to move on and try their hand with a few other quarterbacks until Romo came along. Once the Cowboys moved on, so did Stoerner as 2001 was his final NFL appearance.
9 Best: Danny White
This is another arguable ranking with who the next best in above him, but White slides into fifth best of all-time. He was the heir to the throne after Staubach, but unfortunately never won a Super Bowl. White threw for 21,959 yards during his career (4th in Cowboys history), 155 touchdowns (3rd), and won 62 games (4th). White did throw 132 interceptions in his career which ranks as second most in Cowboys history. Unfortunately for White he went 0-3 in three consecutive NFC Championship games and missed out on putting his stamp in Cowboys history.
While he ended up having a great career, he will likely be remembered as Staubach’s successor that didn’t quite have the same success. That being said White will be remembered as one of the most underrated quarterbacks in Cowboys history because although he never won the big game, he ranks in the top five in many of the Cowboys quarterbacks rankings.
8 Worst: Anthony Wright
There wasn’t much good that came out of Wright’s time as a Cowboy. While in Dallas he accumulated a 1-4 record throwing five touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing only 58.1% of his passes. In his rookie season of 2000 he put up an atrocious QB rating of 31.7 before nearly doubling it in his second season, to a better, but still poor 61.1 in 2001. Wright’s two year stint in Dallas didn’t do much for his career as he stuck around until 2007 where he finished with an overall 8-11 record. His worst highlight came in his start against the Tennessee Titans in the last week of the 2000 season.
Wright led the Cowboys to a 31-0 beat down and had three turnovers in the third quarter alone. To Wright’s credit he was able to stick around in the league a bit longer than a couple other poor performing Cowboys quarterbacks.
7 Best: Don Meredith
Meredith easily has the best nickname out of anybody on this list, Dandy, and he deserves it. His statistics aren’t quite what the next few or even a couple behind him put up but Meredith was able to compile 17,199 yards and throw for 135 touchdowns and win 47 games, all of which rank fifth in Cowboys history. Meredith was there on the first Dallas team ever in 1960, and became the starter from 1963 until 1968. During his final three seasons as a Cowboy he led the team to a 27-9-1 record, three consecutive playoff appearances and earned three Pro Bowl selections along the way.
Once his career had completed he moved onto commentating for Monday Night Football. All in all Meredith started the trend of Cowboys history and will be remembered as a legend as seen as a Ring of Honor member.
6 Worst: Ryan Leaf
Who else forgot Ryan Leaf played for the Cowboys? Widely considered the biggest bust in NFL draft history, Leaf didn't do much in San Diego and managed to do even less while in Dallas. He didn't have a lot of time to make a run for the worst in Cowboys history, however, due to his lofty draft selection he finds himself on this list and his final failed attempt to stay in the league.
While in Dallas he went 0-3 in four games where he only threw a single touchdown, but threw three interceptions during that time span. Not only does his poor performance factor into this ranking, but the fact that he was released in September of 2001 from the Cowboys for failing a physical only to be re-signed again just to put up those numbers factors in on this.
Leaf latched on to the Seattle Seahawks after being released by the Cowboys, but later retired without explanation. He did go through a dark period in which he was arrested and faced drug abuse issues. Fortunately, he has cleaned up and is on the road to recovery.
5 Best: Tony Romo
The only thing missing his a ring or two and now that Dak Prescott has arrived, Romo may not have that opportunity anymore. Well, at least not in Dallas. The thing that separates him and makes a clear distinction between the top two guys and everyone else is the lack of rings. In all of Tony Romo's glory there isn't a Lombardi Trophy. Romo will forever be etched into Cowboys history. As it stands now, he leads the franchise in yards (34,183), touchdowns (248) and game winning drives (30). This is all while throwing only 117 interceptions and having a 97.1 quarterback rating with a career completion percentage of 65.3%.
During his tenure for the Cowboys he led the cowboys to 78 wins (3rd all-time). Unfortunately Romo has a career 2-4 playoff record and has never reached a Super Bowl. And as mentioned earlier it appears his time to shine in Dallas has come to an end with the emergence of Dak Prescott. It's unlikely he will move beyond being great and into legendary status like Aikman and Staubach.
4 Worst: John Roach
Talk about disappointment. Don't get me wrong, more power to him for being able to back up Bart Starr and play for Vince Lombardi and get a couple Super Bowl rings in 1961 and 1962. He even played well going 3-1 in a short stint during the 1963 season, even though he threw eight interceptions to four touchdowns during that stretch, but no matter what he did elsewhere, his time in Dallas is forgettable.
In four starts for the Cowboys he went 0-4 with only one touchdown and threw six interceptions. This poor performance led to 30.8 passer rating and eventually the end of his career. Roach may not have been a Cowboy for long, which may be why you don't know him, but it's probably better that way. Like Sweeney, he was able to find success off the field in business where he moved on to a career at a Dallas investment firm. Just because his tenure in Dallas wasn't a great success, at least he was able to recognize his time to retire and moved on to other successful ventures.
3 Best: Troy Aikman
This was the toughest choice and yes Aikman has the most Super Bowl rings out of any quarterback in Cowboys history. Unfortunately that wasn't quite enough to launch him into the greatest in franchise history. Aikman is one of the greatest of all-time. He is a Hall of Fame quarterback with three Super Bowl rings and threw for 32,942 yards. He added on 165 touchdowns but threw 141 picks (most in franchise history). Aikman did help the great Cowboys of the 90s take shape and give us the most recent memory of Dallas success.
Aikman also leads the franchise in wins with 94 but also leads in losses with 71. He went to the playoffs six times in his 11 seasons and along with Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin led one of the greatest eras of football history. Now Aikman sits alongside Joe Buck in the broadcast booth and has found another successful career as an NFL commentator. We all know however that he will forever be remembered for wearing #8 as a Dallas Cowboy.
2 Worst: Babe Laufenberg
The worst quarterback in Dallas Cowboys history. As great as some have been Babe Laufenberg was equally as bad. He played in seven games during his brief two seasons in Dallas and managed to get a start in 1990. That would be the last one of his career. In his final stat line as a Cowboy he finished with one touchdown and six interceptions, all of which came in the final two games of his career. Considering he didn't throw a pass in the previous season he was able to quit after getting a chance even though it resulted in a miserable 16.9 rating.
After hanging up the cleats Laufenberg found a long standing career as a sports director for a Dallas news station until 2015 and is now an analyst for the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network. Luckily for Laufenberg he was able to move beyond his performance on the field and find a steady career in the game of football.
1 Roger Staubach
The greatest Cowboys quarterback of all-time. This may be controversial due to his numbers not quite being the same as Aikman and having less rings but Staubach is the reason the Cowboys became America's Team. He appeared in five Super Bowls, won two of them and was also a Super Bowl MVP (like Aikman). Staubach is a Hall of Famer and ranks in the top 5 of almost every statistical category. He was able to rack up 22,700 passing yards (3rd), 153 touchdowns (4th), 23 game winning drives (2nd) and all while only throwing 109 interceptions, significantly less than Aikman.
What stands out the most is Staubach's winning percentage. He finished with the second most Cowboys wins at quarterback (85) but lost only 29 games during his significant career. Although the argument can be made that Aikman is the greatest Cowboy of all time my vote is for Staubach due to his winning percentage and place in history for making the Cowboys be known as America's Team.
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