IRVING, Texas -- Now that Charles Haley’s long journey to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is complete, who’s next for the Dallas Cowboys?
You can look at some of the Tom Landry-era players, like Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan and Cliff Harris. When Harris was not selected in 2004 from the Senior Committee route, I was stunned and wanted to believe in the “Cowboys bias” many presumed with the selectors. It’s hard to argue a bias now with the recent run of Cowboys, but many of those picks -- Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith -- were no-brainers.
Howley, Jordan and Harris have Hall of Fame-worthy resumes. But every team has players with Hall of Fame resumes that need to be considered, so they could have a longer wait.
I want to look at a Jimmy Johnson-era player: Darren Woodson.
He is the Cowboys’ all-time leading tackler with 1,350. He had 23 interceptions. He had 11 sacks. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times. He was named an All-Pro three times. He was on the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl teams of the 1990s.
But he was more than that.
He was a linebacker at Arizona State and moved to safety after the Cowboys took him in the second round of the 1992 draft. He became a starter in his second season and was an impactful player. He covered receivers in the slot.
In this era, that is almost unbelievable to ask a safety to cover wide receivers. But the Cowboys knew they could count on Woodson to handle the job with his athleticism and smarts. He wasn’t just an every-down defensive player -- he was an every-down special-teamer as well, working on the punt and kickoff teams.
He played for five Cowboys coaches -- Johnson, Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells. They all quickly realized how important he was on and off the field.
Woodson was a first-time Hall of Fame finalist in 2015, but he never made it “inside the room” for discussion, while John Lynch did.
Their resumes are fairly similar, but Woodson’s career ended in 2003 with a back injury. Lynch was able to play three more seasons than Woodson, with the Denver Broncos. Lynch played in nine Pro Bowls, but he was named All-Pro three times, just like Woodson.
If Lynch eventually gets into the Hall of Fame, then there better be a spot for Woodson, too.
And if that doesn’t happen, then Jerry Jones needs to at least put Woodson in the club’s Ring of Honor.
Actually, that should happen now.