To be considered a “senior player,” one must have played their final season 25 years ago. Since we’re projecting for at least next year’s class, one would play the player’s last season during the 1998 season or earlier.
There are many players to choose from in the senior group. The most notable is a freakish nightmare for his combination of size and speed in defensive lineman Ed “Too Tall” Jones. He is a player whose impact far surpasses his stats and accolades—the definition of a tape guy.
One should not be six feet and nine inches tall, yet fast enough to immediately jump into the backfield. While the size gave him enough reach to grab any ball carrier within three yards of him, quarterbacks always knew where he was on the field.
Jones only eclipsed 10.0+ sacks twice in his 13 seasons, but that’s because quarterbacks often got rid of the ball before getting taken down. If the NFL tracked pressures in the ’70s and ’80s, then numbers would show his impact. He played 224 games in the NFL at a high level.
In the end, Too Tall would end his career with only three Pro Bowl nods and one First-Team All-Pro selection. Again, underwhelming by the numbers. That may hurt his chances of getting a bust, but a long-lasting legacy and eye-popping tape could do it.
One of the best defensive backs from the late ’60s, and early ’70s remains on the outside looking in. Cornell Green was the dominant defensive back in Dallas before the arrival of Cliff Harris, Mel Renfro, and Herb Adderley.
Renfro would join the Cowboys two years after Green did, making for a dominant corner-safety duo. Green played corner, Renfro played safety up until 1970, and then the two switched positions.
The undrafted corner was unafraid in his switch from basketball to football, but his inability to come down with as many interceptions was his downfall. That didn’t stop him from being an impact player, though.
Renfro’s efforts earned him a two-time First-Team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, one of five players to earn multiple Pro Bowls at corner and safety. Three are already Hall of Famers, with one, Charles Woodson, soon to join. Green would be the only one not to have a bust in Canton.
Being selected to any All-Decades Team means you are the best player at your position within the respective decade. That sounds like a Hall of Fame candidate. Yet, defensive lineman Harvey Martin’s family is still waiting.
The legendary lineman, unfortunately, passed away due to pancreatic cancer in 2001. He had a kind soul, which carried over to the gridiron. That was until Cowboys coaches demanded he changes that with the threat of being cut from the team.
Cowboys Nation will never forget his legacy as one of the cornerstone players during the ’70s. That includes winning Super Bowl XII and being named Super Bowl MVP. That, along with four Pro Bowl nods, one First-Team All-Pro, and a defensive player of the year award.
He eclipsed 10.0+ sacks four times, including his 20-sack season en route to the Super Bowl win. According to the Cowboys, he had 23.5 sacks that season, which would be the most in an NFL season ahead of Michael Strahan’s official record of 22.5.
The Dallas Cowboys are like a university of offensive linemen. That began in the late ’60s with the combination of Ralph Neely and John Niland. Both played to win one Super Bowl, but Neely got another ring while on the sidelines for Super Bowl VI with an injury.
They were integral to winning their respective championships but also had their fair share of individual accolades. Neely was a three-time First-Team All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler, and a member of the ’60s All-Decades Team. Niland was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro.
Hidden behind the names of Bob Lily and Chuck Howley is Lee Roy Jordan. The linebacker sits second in Cowboys history with 743 solo tackles, behind only Darren Woodson. In 1973, He picked off Ken Anderson three times in five minutes, returning one for a touchdown.
All the names above have a realistic shot at making the Hall of Fame. It’s a travesty that some of them aren’t already there. These players were among the best players of their time, and it’s about time they get recognized for it.