ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 22: DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a sack against Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams with George Selvie #99 (left) and Jason Hatcher #97 at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DeMarcus Ware is the best pass-rusher in Cowboys’ history. But is he their best defensive linemen ever?
It’s a complex debate, considering that Ware has technically played only three games with his hand on the ground. But no doubting this: With Anthony Spencer out for the season, the Cowboys need Ware’s pass-rushing productivity more than ever if they’re going to parlay a 2-1 start into a playoff finish.
Once upon a time Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones were in the Valley Ranch war room debating the merits of drafting Ware or Shawne Merriman. But since 2005 the kid from Troy has validated Dallas’ choice, and last Sunday at AT&T Stadium he recorded his 115th sack to eclipse Harvey Martin’s 30-year-old franchise record.
Ware has produced more than 1/3rd of the Cowboys’ sacks over the last decade.
Despite battling chronic neck stingers and once being carted off the field in 2009, he’s never missed a game.
He’s never had less than 11 sacks in a season.
And at 31 he’s changing positions, from stand-up, pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 scheme to a hand-on-the-ground, 7-technique defensive end.
Unlike Martin, Ware was often asked to drop back into pass coverage. And unlike Martin, he didn’t play alongside elite teammates. While Martin lined up with the likes of Larry Cole, Jethro Pugh, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Hall-of-Famer like Randy White, Ware’s best defensive-line teammates have been La’Roi Glover and Jay Ratliff.
With his elite speed and skill, Ware has already secured his spot in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. But where does he rank on the list of the franchise’s best defensive linemen?
10. Larry Cole – Never garnered much individual recognition, but Roger Staubach called him the soul of the ‘70s defense.
9. George Andrie – Made 5 Pro Bowls and helped put the Cowboys on the map in the late ‘60s.
8. Jim Jeffcoat – 2 Super Bowl rings, 102 sacks and 2 interceptions returned for touchdowns from ’83-‘94.
7. Jethro Pugh – Anchored the Doomsday Defense by playing 14 years and making 5 Super Bowls.
6. DeMarcus Ware – Franchise’s all-time sack leader has been a great player on many mediocore teams.
5. Ed “Too Tall” Jones – Cowboys’ record 15 years and 224 games, long enough to be teammates with Lilly and Aikman.
4. Charles Haley – Missing link in ‘90s’ defense won three Super Bowl rings and was inducted into Ring of Honor.
3. Harvey Martin – NFL Defensive Player of the Year in ’77 had 23 sacks and was co-MVP of Super Bowl XII.
2. Randy White – Converted linebacker is in the Hall of Fame after missing just one game in 14 seasons.
1. Bob Lilly – “Mr. Cowboy” won a Super Bowl, induction into Hall of Fame and made a record 11 Pro Bowls.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.