The Dallas Cowboys don’t retire jerseys, but they do recognize greatness via their coveted Ring of Honor.
Anyone visiting AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX can glance upward and take in the glory of names such as Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Troy Aikman and others who’ve helped take the franchise to new heights during their stints in the Metroplex. With the retirement of quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten in subsequent years, the question now becomes when will the club’s most prolific passer and his best friend — the ironman who was legendary both on and off-the-field over the course of 15 seasons — see their names ascend to the pantheon of greats.
Well, it may not be as soon as you’d think, with the Cowboys mulling a few others they’d like to see recognized first. According to Jean Jacques-Taylor of NBC DFW, the current frontrunners for induction include legendary scout Gil Brandt, tight end Jay Novacek and in a plot twist few — if any — saw coming, former head coach Jimmy Johnson.
Brandt is one of the founding fathers of the Cowboys’, tasked with finding talent for general manager Tex Schramm that would be coached by the incomparable Tom Landry. The triumvirate turned the team from an expansion franchise to a contender in relatively short order, led by players like “Dandy” Don Meredith, the aforementioned Lilly. In his nearly 30 years with the team, Brandt boasts an utterly insane list of Hall of Fame talents discovered, solidifying his status as one of the most important individuals to ever step foot into the Cowboys’ organization.
Both Schramm and Landry are already in the Ring of Honor, and adding Brandt would reunite the triumvirate in deserving fashion.
Novacek saw himself snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee in 2018, but his contributions at the TE position are well-documented. Before Witten, there was Novacek, the Cowboy who is an actual cowboy. A three-time Super Bowl champion and key piece of the dynasty that owned the league in the early 1990’s, Novacek finished his career having delivered 4,630 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. While that may seem like a drop in the bucket in today’s pass-heavy league, it was more than enough — combine — and with his blocking prowess to help spring Emmitt Smith — that made him a fan- and team-favorite for years.
Already inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and waiting still on his Canton, OH honors, the Cowboys may beat the latter to the punch in making sure he receives a vaunted accolade at the professional level.
And then there’s Jimmy Johnson, the leader of a Cowboys’ team that seemingly couldn’t be stopped unless they stopped themselves. So it was, they eventually did just that, when Johnson and owner Jerry Jones very public spat resulted in the former calling it quits. The Cowboys would win their fifth Super Bowl under Barry Switzer the following year, but the team has never been close to the greatness achieved when Johnson and Jones were a tandem. He also didn’t see much success himself after seceding from the Cowboys, proving one hand truly did wash the other in Dallas.
Following years of vitriol hurled in one way or another, and sometimes both — be it directly or indirectly — the relationship between Johnson and Jones has healed as of late, so much so they’ve been verbally affectionate to one another. That alone is something no one could’ve predicted given the venomous dynamic following the split, but seeing Jones thank Johnson during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech looks to have been the kicking down of a final door that may have kept the two emotionally distant.
Like Novacek, Johnson has felt the snub of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well, but a reunion (of sorts) with Jones now seems inevitable after decades of appearing to be the polar opposite.