All these pictures of Justin Timberlake putting in work at Jerry Jones’ Hall of Fame party got me thinking. While that in itself is a dangerous thing, I became interested in looking at which Cowboys players are the most deserving of getting a call from the newly minted Hall of Famer Jones to get their name up in AT&T stadium. If you follow the Cowboys, you are well aware that Mr. Jones is the single judge and jury for entrance into one of the most exclusive groups in the entire NFL. What makes the Cowboys version of their Hall of Fame – the Ring of Honor – so special is this exclusivity.

As such, I don’t want to have just anyone put in there. Rather, I want to look back into the great history of the Cowboys and see who may be a deserving omission. We’ll make it interesting by discussing why they deserve inclusion and what may be keeping them out. This is not a ranking of these standout Cowboys players, but rather an alphabetical listing of my top 5 that are not in the Ring of Honor. For reference, I will use the same 5 year timeframe from retirement for eligibility. That means I won’t include two recently retired slam dunks for this honor, DeMarcus Ware and Tony Romo, both of whom will probably see their names up in Arlington before they become eligible for Canton. Remember that when you tell me who I missed in the comments. I also put far more emphasis on All-Pro selections than Pro Bowls. America’s Team racks up in the fan votes so those can be skewed due to the team’s popularity.

Cornell Green

Case for the Ring of Honor:

Four-time All-Pro selection (1st team once); 1962 NFL All Rookie Team; named to the Dallas Cowboys 25th Anniversary Team; Cornell Green was a two time All-American college basketball player for Utah State university, who never played a down of college football. Green played his entire 13 year career with the Cowboys, and finished with 34 interceptions – which is fifth in Cowboys history. He was versatile and durable. Green never missed a game in his 13 seasons, playing his first 8 season as an All-Pro CB and then transitioning to SS for the remainder of his career.

Reasons he isn’t in the Ring of Honor:

Green finished his career at safety which is where most NFL observers remember him. As followers of the NFL Hall of Fame voting process know, it is very difficult to get recognition at that position. He is also hurt by having below average ball skills. Cowboys personnel legend Gil Brandt reportedly said of Green, “if he had any kind of hands, he would have had three times as many interceptions”. His early years as an All-Pro faded away in the mists of time along with his tremendous career as great Cowboys player.

Jimmy Johnson

Case for the Ring of Honor:

2-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach (1992-1993); 1990 NFL Coach of the Year; Jimmy Johnson was both the architect and the engine that created the Dallas Cowboys dynasty in the 1990s. His brash style gave his young team an identity. Johnson also gave them the belief that they could accomplish more than anyone before them, and do it faster than anyone could imagine. His five years at the helm of the team was all encompassing. To borrow a concept from Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, he picked the best groceries and cooked the finest meals in leading the Cowboys from 3-13 before he arrived and 1-15 in his first season to the top of the football world.

Reasons he isn’t in the Ring of Honor:

Two words encompass why Jimmy Johnson is not in the Cowboys Ring of Honor: Ego & Longevity. If we boil it down even further, ego caused the lack of longevity. The reasons for Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson being unable to maintain a working relationship have been well documented so it not necessary to hash that out again. Maybe now that Jerry has received the ultimate honor of induction in to the NFL Hall of Fame, the passage of time might convince him to honor his old college teammate with the highest honor he can give.


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Harvey Martin

Case for the Ring of Honor:

1-time All-Pro (plus three 2nd team All-Pro selections); Voted member of NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team; 1977 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; Harvey Martin was simply one of the best pass rushers of any decade. Martin’s 1977 season was as dominate as any in NFL history. He finished the season with 23 sacks (they weren’t an official stat then) which is more than the current NFL record . Martin still holds the team records for most sacks by a rookie (9 in 1974 which tied Willie Townes) and the aforementioned record  for a season (23 in 1977). The Martin-izer, as he was known, had a five year run from 1976 to 1980 with double digit sacks every year. He is Dallas through and through as he never played a home game in HS (South Oak Cliff), College (East Texas State-Commerce) or the NFL outside of the North Texas.

Reasons he isn’t in the Ring of Honor:

Harvey Martin’s tremendous accomplishments have never been as well recognized as they should be because he played a decade too soon. The NFL did not make the QB sack an official stat until 1982. This is why Martin’s 23 is forgotten by most NFL observers. Also, while Martin was able to dominate on the field for his hometown team, he wasn’t nearly successful in fighting his personal demons. Martin struggled through addiction, as well as other well publicized personal and financial difficulties. He retired in 1984 after a dispute with team over refusing to take a drug test the team ordered and later admitted he was addicted to cocaine at the time. In my opinion, he is the most deserving of hearing his name of all the other Cowboys out there. I also believe he should be in the NFL Hall of Fame, though that ship has probably sailed.

Ralph Neely

Case for the Ring of Honor:

4-time All-Pro selection; Voted member of NFL 1960’s All-Decade Team; 1965 NFL All Rookie Team; Ralph Neely started his career with the Cowboys with a bang and remained a premier Offensive Tackle until his retirement after the Cowboys 1977 Super Bowl victory. Neely was considered so valuable that the dispute between the Houston Oilers (who had already signed him under his AFL rights) and the Dallas Cowboys (who received his NFL rights via trade from the Colts) was a part of the AFL-NFL merger agreement. His value was so well established by the time of the merger that the Cowboys had to give the Oilers a 1st, 2nd & two 5th round draft choices to settle the matter.

Reasons he isn’t in the Ring of Honor:

For all of his accomplishments with the Cowboys, Ralph Neely career was always overshadowed by his bookend teammate, Rayfield Wright. Maybe Neely will get his due with the Cowboys and that can open up discussions to have his career achievements revisited by the NFL Hall of Fame voters as well.

Deion Sanders

Case for the Ring of Honor:

4-time 1st-team All-Pro as a Cowboy (8 overall 1st team selections Voted member of NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team; Deion Sanders was quite possibly the best there ever was at covering a WR. For five years, he took away an entire side of the field from opposing QBs, brought Texas Stadium to its feet regularly with his punt return brilliance and even moonlighted as a receiver. Equally important as all of this was the fact that his signing away from championship rival San Francisco helped put Dallas back in the Super Bowl in 1995. All of this makes him one of the most decorated Cowboys ever.

Reasons he isn’t in the Ring of Honor:

Neon Deion, Prime Time or just Prime; Deion Sanders had almost as many nicknames as teams whose jersey he wore during his career. Sanders was already a superstar when he came to the Cowboys, heck, he was a star before he ever stepped in the NFL after an outstanding career at Florida State. While Deion was a huge part the Cowboys 3rd title in the 1900s, he has always been viewed as a mercenary. Cornell Green, Ralph Neely and Harvey Martin worked their magic exclusively with a star on their helmets. Deion Sanders won his 1994 Defensive Player of the Year award playing for bitter rival San Francisco (yes he did commit pass interference on Michael Irvin in the 1994 NFC Championship game). He even played for the hated rivals in Washington the year after his Cowboys run ended. He has also already has his name added to the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor for the five years he played there. In recent years as an NFL Network host, Sanders garnered a reputation of being very critical of the Cowboys in general and Tony Romo in particular. We all know how much the only actual voter for this loves Romo. All of this has left Cowboys fans conflicted about Sanders legacy with the Cowboys and will likely keep him from ever getting honored individually Dallas.

These are my five most worthy for induction. I am interested in your opinion on where I got it right and who I may have missed. You can add your comments or suggestions below.

  • Good list. I hope they all make it one day.

    • Big Harb

      Thanks for reading. I’m really hoping the Martin & Green get to their deserved spots in the NFL Hall of Fame. I don’t think happens ifc they aren’t in the ROH first