The 5 Best Wide Receivers in Dallas Cowboys History
In the Dallas Cowboys' 50-year history, they have had some excellent wide receivers. Bob Hayes and Michael Irvin are hall-of-famers, and Drew Pearson is deserving of the same honor. I believe that players should not be judged before their career is over, so I have only included retired players. It is difficult to compare players from different eras, especially when looking at statistics, so statistics are not a major factor in my rankings.
All-Time Top 5 Wide Receivers for the Cowboys
- Drew Pearson
- Michael Irvin
- Bob Hayes
- Frank Clarke
- Tony Hill
1. Drew Pearson (1973–1983)
Drew Pearson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys in 1973. He is arguably one of the best undrafted players of all time. He was named All-Pro three times (1974, 1976, 1977). He was also selected for the Pro Bowl three times. He led the NFL in receiving in 1976 with 58 receptions. When he retired, he was the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver with 489 receptions, 7,822 receiving yards, and 48 touchdown receptions. Pearson was also named to the 1970s All-Decade Team.
Game-Winning Catches From Mr. Clutch
His nickname was “Mr. Clutch” because of his numerous game-winning clutch catches. His most famous catch was the “Hail Mary” in 1975 against the Minnesota Vikings. In 1974, he caught the game-winning touchdown on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Redskins from Clint Longley. And in a 1973 playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams, he caught the game-winning touchdown. In 1994, NFL films named all three of these plays in its top 75 plays in NFL history.
He also made some clutch catches against the Atlanta Falcons in a 1980 playoff game when he caught two touchdown passes from Danny White in the last two minutes of the come-from-behind victory. In the 1981 NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, he almost scored the game-winning touchdown after Dwight Clark made “the catch”. Pearson caught a pass from Danny White around mid-field, and Eric Wright made a one-handed tackle just short of field goal range.
A Lack of Recognition
Despite all of his accomplishments, he is not in the Cowboys Ring of Honor. Apparently, he and Jerry Jones do not get along. Pearson also has not been selected for the NFL Hall of Fame. He is deserving of both honors.
2. Michael Irvin (1988–1999)
Michael Irvin was selected with the eleventh overall pick in the 1988 draft during the last Cowboys draft that would be run by Tom Landry, Gil Brandt, and Tex Schramm. The following year, Jerry Jones would buy the Cowboys and hire Jimmy Johnson to replace Tom Landry. Irvin is the only player to play for each of the Cowboys' first four coaches (Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, and Chan Gailey).
Super Bowls and Records
Irvin was one of the “triplets”, which consisted of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. They were a major factor in the Cowboys winning three Super Bowls in four years during the 1992, 1993, and 1995 seasons.
In 12 seasons with the Cowboys, he had 750 receptions for 11,094 yards and 65 touchdowns. He had 47 100-yard receiving games, which ranks third in NFL history. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, which is the most by any Cowboys receiver. In the post season, he had 87 receptions for 1,315 yards, both of which rank second only behind Jerry Rice. He also had six 100-yard receiving games in the post season, again only second to Jerry Rice who had eight.
Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame
Irvin was inducted into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame in 2007. He was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2005. Irvin was also named to the 1990s All-Decade Team.
3. Bob Hayes (1965–1974)
Bob Hayes was selected in the seventh round of the 1964 NFL draft. The Cowboys took a chance on “the world’s fastest man” who had recently won two Olympic gold medals in sprinting in the 1964 Olympic Games. Bob Hayes is the only person to win both a gold medal at the Olympics and win a Super Bowl ring. Since no single player could keep up with Hayes, defenses had to come up with different ways to cover him. Hayes is the reason the zone defense was created.
Super Bowls and Records
Bob Hayes was instrumental in the Cowboys' first Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl V against the Miami Dolphins. He was the first Cowboy receiver to gain 1,000 yards in a season as a rookie. He finished his career with 371 receptions, for 7,414 yards and 71 touchdowns.
4. Frank Clarke (1960–1967)
Frank Clark was selected in the expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 after spending three seasons with the Cleveland Browns. He moved into the starting lineup for the Cowboys in 1961.
He had the best opening day performance of any Cowboys receiver in team history, catching 10 passes for 241 yards. In 1962, he became the first Cowboy receiver to gain 1,000 yards in a season. He also had 14 touchdown receptions that year, which was a Cowboy record until Terrell Owens broke it in the 2007 season. He finished his Cowboy career with 281 receptions for 5,214 yards and 51 touchdowns.
5. Tony Hill (1977–1986)
Tony “the Thrill” Hill was selected by the Cowboys in the 1977 NFL draft in the third round. He gave the Cowboys the deep threat they had been missing since Bob Hayes retired.
Super Bowls and Records
He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times in his career. He finished his career with 479 receptions for 7,988 yards and 51 touchdowns. His best season was 1985 when he caught 74 passes for 1,100 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also won a Super Bowl ring in 1977, his rookie season.
Nearing the end of his career, some questioned his work ethic and his lack of effort in games. He was cut during training camp in 1987.
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© 2010 Shawn Scarborough