Dallas Cowboys Fans Have a Favorite Debate

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Allow me to put this in perspective for you. Dallas gained 182 yards rushing that day. Only 14 yards and 4 carries were not Emmitt Smith. Troy Aikman completed 24 passes; 10 of them were to his star RB. The next closest receiver was Daryl Johnston with 6. Michael Ivin only managed 3. Troy’s only TD pass was to Emmitt. Dallas had 339 total yards gained in the game, and 229 of those yards belonged to Emmitt Smith. In other words, Emmitt Smith put that team on his back and carried them not only into the playoffs, but to a second straight Super Bowl title. On the way he not only earned another rushing title, but was also named League MVP and Super Bowl MVP.

With all apologies to Barry Sanders, nothing he did ever impressed me as much as what Emmitt did that day. No jaw dropping run he ever made can compare to pure heart. Barry was no relation to fellow 1989 Draft alum Deion Sanders, but much like Deion he seemed to have a fear of being hit. Okay, in fairness Deion was afraid of hitting, and that is worse. It just isn’t what I want from a RB.

Jan 2, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Florida Gators and Dallas Cowboys former running back Emmitt Smith watches the Sugar Bowl from the sidelines during the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I want a guy carrying the ball who wants it to be 3rd and short. If you are a Defensive Coordinator would you rather see 3rd and 3, or 3rd and 12? It isn’t even close is it? You would much rather see the other team 3rd and long so you can send a blitz and raise your chances for a positive outcome. On 3rd and 3, a blitz is riskier because of not only the chance of a run, but also a dump off pass. Barry Sanders, caused the Lions too many 3rd and long situations for them to ever succeed in my opinion.

In the post season, where games matter the most, Emmitt Smith was not only the heart and soul of his team, he was productive. In his career he scored 21 post season Touchdowns, including at least one in each Super Bowl he played in. The Cowboys were 12-5 in Emmitt’s post season career, and he failed to score only twice in that span of games. Scoring, that is what sets Emmitt apart to me more than anything else over Barry Sanders. I will come back to that topic later.

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  • Collin


  • Mike

    So….Barry inherited the run and shoot offense in 1989 after smashing virtually every NCAA single season rushing record the year before…behind a fullback.

    Barry played behind a fullback (Tommy Vardell) for the first time in his NFL career in 1997…and rushed for 2,053 yards. The next year (his last) he played in a 2 back set and “dropped off dramatically”…rushing for a “mere”1,491 yards. That’s “pretty good”.

    Keep it up, though. Keep perpetuating that myth that Barry was ALWAYS looking for the big play and would routinely give up 3 yarders for the chance to break one for 60. The truth is, Barry picked up a lot of 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 yard gains….when he SHOULD HAVE lost 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 yards. You see the 60 and 70 yarders on YouTube…unless you have the tapes or watched Sanders during his career, you may not remember him breaking 3 tackles on a busted play to turn minus 3 into minus 1.

    Saying you’d take twenty backs over Barry Sanders shows just how objective you are.

    • Rowdy Yates

      Thank you! Barry wasn’t necessarily always looking for the big play, he was looking to move the ball forward. When he moved the ball forward, often he was able to make the big play happen. Because he COULD make everyone miss, that’s what he did. No running back before or after had the gift that Barry had. The NFL has seen a lot of great running backs, and you could replace Emmitt Smith with just about any of them and they would produce the same results on the field. That’s not taking anything from Emmitt, because he is one of the greats, but Barry was a truly a one-of-a-kind talent.

  • Rowdy Yates

    Wrong! I gave the author the benefit of the doubt until he questioned Barry’s ‘heart’. Emmitt was glad Barry retired, because if he hadn’t Barry would have the records, and this debate wouldn’t exist. For the record though, I think this debate is pretty stupid. Even though they were both RB’s, this is an apples and oranges comparison. They were very different players, as the author notes, but the difference wasn’t in the players’ hearts. Emmitt couldn’t do the things Barry did, and Barry couldn’t do the things Emmitt did. Barry is a small guy, Emmit, while not a huge guy, was bigger and had more power. And the Lions’ coaches didn’t let Barry do some of the great things he was capable of, like leaping over a pile in a goal-line or short yardage situation. The Lions offense was designed to keep Barry from getting hit – to play to his strengths. It didn’t always work, but Barry didn’t really get hurt, which is why he was able to make the most out of his 10 years in the NFL, especially when you consider that he played for the Lions. Unfortunately the Barry years are only thing a Lions fan has in recent history to remember fondly. Dallas fans will never understand. I can watch Barry Sanders’ highlights all day and never get bored. I can watch Barry Sanders lose yards all day never get bored. Emmitt Smith wasn’t so exciting, as the author fairly notes. I’d take Barry over Emmitt in a minute, but that doesn’t change the fact they were both great players and class-act guys.