Darren Woodson is one of the best players in the history of the Dallas Cowboys franchise. His versatility, toughness and intelligence also make him a good candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Like most Dallas Cowboys fans, I believeÃ‚Â the HOF votersÃ‚Â have displayed anÃ‚Â anti-CowboysÃ‚Â bias. This, and the voters’ inability to appreciate the contributions of the safety position, will continue to hurt Woodson’s chances for enshrinement. While there is some doubt the HOF voters will get it right with Darren Woodson, there is really no intelligent argumentÃ‚Â against having his name and number permanently etched on the upper deck in AT&T stadium at some point. His rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ© is impeccable.
Darren Woodson was a 2nd round pick in 1992 by Dallas out of Arizona StateÃ‚Â and as such he wasÃ‚Â integral toÃ‚Â all three super bowl championships for the Cowboys in the 90’s. The Triplets (Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin & Emmitt Smith) garnered all the highlights but theÃ‚Â defense more than held its own.Ã‚Â Woody grew from a consistent contributor as a rookieÃ‚Â to a team leader on defenses that ranked in the top 10 for his 1st six years in the league. Four of those yearsÃ‚Â Dallas wasÃ‚Â ranked in the top 4 and twice they were the #1 ranked defense in the league (1992 & 1994). This 1994 SI articleÃ‚Â Ã‚Â gave a glimpse into his emerging greatness.
While versatility (and 4.35 speed) made Darren Woodson special, he wasn’t defined just by being able to do everything. He did everything WELL. He blitzed better than most linebackers, he covered the slot better than any safety and with 1350 tackles he brought down more ball carriers than anyone else in the storied history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Some observersÃ‚Â give a slight knock toÃ‚Â Darren Woodson because he was on some bad teams in the last 2-3 years of his career. To me, that entirely misses the point of his greatness. Woody’s ability was showcased, not diminished in those years. He displayed leadership in both words and actions and he mentored safety Roy Williams into becoming a 5-time pro bowler in his own right. Williams was able to focus on his strength of being anÃ‚Â intimidating hitter precisely because Woody could do everything else at an elite level. In this, Woody displayed one of the hallmarks of an all-time great. He made the players around him better. This influence was painfully clear once Darren Woodson’s back betrayed him and Williams lack of coverage ability wasÃ‚Â instantly and repeatedly exposed.
I could recite all of Darren Woodson’s amazing stats and they would justify himÃ‚Â being in the Cowboys Ring of Honor. But the question is: why should he be next? Why should he go in before some of the 70’s greats that I believe also earned that honorÃ‚Â and haveÃ‚Â waited for so long? This answer is quite simple and you can look to another Cowboys ROH member to see why.
Bob Hayes was so dominant during his early career that he forced defenses to change the way they played against the pass. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to convince the NFL Hall of Fame voters to put him in. One of the lame excuses they used for years was that Hayes wasn’t even in the team’s Ring of Honor. One thing we know about Jerry Jones is that he is very loyal to the former players that helped win those three super bowls. He is also smart enough to know, that even though it shouldn’t matter, the Cowboys’ all-time tackle leader’s Hall of Fame chances will increase significantly once he is inducted in the team’s ROH.
At this point, there is very little chance that any of the Landry-era players that are worthy of the ROH, but not yet in, will be seriously considered for the NFL Hall of Fame. By adding Darren Woodson to this exclusive group, Jerry Jones (the one person ROH committee)Ã‚Â could restart the conversation outside of North Texas on Woody’s greatness and significantly enhance his chances of being considered a legitimate candidate for the NFL Hall of Fame. Helping out one of his favorite players by giving him an honor he has clearly earned makes this an easy call for Jerry. Make Woody the “Next Man Up”!