Ranking All Dallas Cowboys Quarterbacks in Franchise History
From Don Meredith and Craig Morton to Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman to Tony Romo and Dak Prescott, every era has featured signal-callers who, at the peaks of their powers, were game-changers and helped spark victory after victory.
The Cowboys opened their franchise history in 1960 with Eddie LeBaron throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions in a high-scoring loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since then, 46 more men have entered the fray, tallying a combined 24 Pro Bowl seasons.
Using the Total Yards Added (TYA) metric I developed for QB Math, which evaluates quarterbacks’ success relative to league average in four facets of the game — rushing, passing, sack avoidance, and fumble avoidance — we’re highlighting each and every one of the 47 Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks with at least one qualified game for the organization since ’60. These rankings will be updated continuously and are accurate heading into Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season.
Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Nos. 47-11
|Franchise Rank||Quarterback||Qualified Games||Total Yards Added|
Keep in mind that this is about career production.
Playing in more games usually means moving further away from the league-average score of zero, which is why Quincy Carter — objectively not the least-talented of the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks — falls all the way to the bottom of the pack despite having a far superior per-game output to other low finishers such as Anthony Wright and Chad Hutchinson.
10. Steve Beuerlein
- Years: 1991-92
- Stats: 4-0 record, 80-of-155 (51.6%), 1,061 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT
- Total Yards Added: 136.889
Steve Beuerlein came tantalizingly close to stealing the starting job from Troy Aikman during the 1991 season.
After the future Hall of Famer, still early in his career, went down with a knee injury in Week 13, the 26-year-old backup got a chance to take the reins. He won each of his four starts to close out the regular season, going 58-of-120 for 774 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions before receiving a controversial playoff start over Aikman, whose knee had recovered enough that he could play, and submitting a mistake-free game against the Chicago Bears to get a fifth W.
However, he was benched in a blowout loss to the Detroit Lions the following week and subsequently found himself on the bench for every game of the 1992 campaign.
9. Bernie Kosar
- Years: 1993
- Stats: 0-1 record, 36-of-63 (57.1%), 410 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
- Total Yards Added: 149.587
Once the Cleveland Browns released Bernie Kosar in favor of Vinny Testaverde, the Dallas Cowboys inked him to a one-year contract so he could serve as a backup to Jason Garrett. It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old to see the field as Garrett, stepping into the lineup for an injured Troy Aikman, struggled to make the most of his snaps.
He went 13-of-21 in relief of Garrett during a 20-15 victory over the Phoenix Cardinals, tossing 199 yards and a score. Then he got a start against the Atlanta Falcons one week later and threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, albeit in a loss.
8. Jason Garrett
- Years: 1993-99
- Stats: 6-3 record, 165-of-294 (56.1%), 2,042 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT
- Total Yards Added: 234.237
Jason Garrett spent seven of his eight NFL seasons with the Cowboys, though he made just nine starts over that stretch, rarely playing football that deviated from a league-average level by too large an extent.
That said, he did start five games during the 1998 campaign and put together the best outing of his career against the Carolina Panthers that year, going 14-of-22 for 287 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in the 27-20 victory.
7. Danny White
- Years: 1976-88
- Stats: 62-30 record, 1,761-of-2,950 (59.7%), 155 TD, 132 INT
- Total Yards Added: 759.604
Danny White spent his entire career with Dallas, but it can essentially be split up into two segments.
From 1976 through 1979, he made just one start at quarterback and totaled three touchdown passes, instead serving as a full-time punter. He continued to punt after transitioning into the 1980s, but he also took the reins under center, rising as high as fifth in MVP voting during a 1982 season in which he went 6-3 while throwing 16 touchdown passes.
6. Craig Morton
- Years: 1965-74
- Stats: 32-14-1 record, 685-of-1,308 (52.4%), 10,279 yards, 80 TD, 73 INT
- Total Yards Added: 1,067.35
Two years do a lot of heavy lifting for Craig Morton.
During the 1969 and 1970 seasons, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback went 18-5-1. Though he completed just 51.9% of his passes, he made the most of his efforts, leading the NFL in yards per passing attempt each season and tallying 36 touchdowns to 22 interceptions. By TYA, both go-rounds landed in the top 25 throughout the franchise’s loaded history at the position.
5. Don Meredith
- Years: 1960-68
- Stats: 47-32-4 record, 1,170-of-2,308 (50.7%), 17,199 yards, 135 TD, 111 INT
- Total Yards Added: 2,133.58
Don Meredith was firmly in the great-not-elite tier throughout the first half of his career, but everything came together during his final three seasons with the Cowboys, all of which featured Pro Bowl appearances. Though never a particularly accurate passer, he had an ability to hit receivers in stride and create chunk plays down the field, allowing him to pace the NFL in yards per completion twice.
Meredith could have continued to perform at a high level after making his third straight Pro Bowl in 1968, but he threw three interceptions and was benched against the Cleveland Browns in the Eastern Conference Championship Game. He ultimately chose to retire, presumably too mentally fatigued after plenty of notable postseason letdowns (that game, a fourth-down interception against the Green Bay Packers in 1968, and the infamous Ice Bowl one year prior).
4. Troy Aikman
- Years: 1989-2000
- Stats: 94-71 record, 2,898-of-4,715 (61.5%), 32,942 yards, 164 TD, 141 INT
- Total Yards Added: 2,396.691
Seeing Troy Aikman pop up this soon may be surprising, given his reputation as one of the greatest passers in NFL history and the fact he has a bust in the Hall of Fame.
But Aikman, despite making six Pro Bowls and winning three Super Bowls alongside a loaded supporting cast, never quite put up legendary numbers during any given season. He topped out at fifth in MVP voting during the 1993 campaign (his only appearance on a ballot) and never led the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, or yards per passing attempt.
Obviously, the 6-foot-4 signal-caller excelled and put together high-quality effort after high-quality effort. He still has three of the Cowboys’ 10 best quarterbacking seasons, per TYA. But without a true top-of-the-league year, he can only rise so high for a career that ended in his mid-30s.
3. Dak Prescott
- Years: 2016-present
- Stats: 63-36 record, 2,229-of-3,345 (66.6%), 25,341 yards, 168 TD, 65 INT
- Total Yards Added: 3,322.172
Though fans might have grievances against Dak Prescott following his postseason shortcomings and interception-happy approach in recent years, the fourth-round gem from the 2016 class has put up individual numbers that are nothing short of prolific.
After starting all 16 games as a rookie, earning fringe MVP votes, making the Pro Bowl, and winning Offensive Rookie of the Year behind 23 touchdown passes and only four picks, Prescott hasn’t really slowed down. He’s posted a quarterback rating over 90 in all but one season, consistently depressed his interception tallies until 2022, posted two campaigns with at least 30 touchdown passes, and generally thrived through the air.
Prescott’s 2019 efforts, which saw him throw for 4,902 yards, 30 scores, and 11 interceptions while completing 65.1% of his passes, remain the No. 2 season by TYA in the star-studded history of Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.
2. Tony Romo
- Years: 2004-16
- Stats: 78-49 record, 2,829-of-4,335 (65.3%), 34,183 yards, 248 TD, 117 INT
- Total Yards Added: 5,334.661
Tony Romo may never have gotten over the hump to win a title for America’s Team, but the four-time Pro Bowler was deadly accurate and managed games incredibly well as soon as he stepped into the starting lineup during the 2006 season.
He also displayed an uncanny ability to change his playing style at the drop of a hat, sometimes evading rushers and extending plays before launching the ball downfield and sometimes operating as more of a traditional pocket passer.
If these rankings measured peak performance, Romo likely wouldn’t be in the top four, much less checking in at No. 2. But because we’re looking at the totality of a career, his ability to avoid bad seasons does a lot of heavy lifting. By TYA, even his worst year as a starting quarterback was significantly better than the league-average level of performance.
1. Roger Staubach
- Years: 1969-79
- Stats: 85-29 record, 1,685-of-2,958 (57.0%), 22,700 yards, 153 TD, 109 INT
- Total Yards Added: 6,514.905
Roger Staubach remains the gold standard of Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks, looking both at the totality of his career and at his peak performance.
The Hall of Famer made six Pro Bowls, won two Super Bowl titles, and earned top-four MVP finishes in three different seasons. He was one of the NFL’s leading figures throughout his 11-year career, all of which came with the Cowboys, and helped turn the franchise into a legitimate powerhouse that never posted a losing season with him in the starting lineup.
As for peak performance, all Dallas quarterbacks are still chasing his 1971 campaign.
In just his third season, Staubach won each of his 10 regular-season starts while going 126-of-211 for 1,882 yards, 16 touchdowns, and four interceptions. Those may not seem like eye-popping counting stats, but the efficiency with which he played sparkled as he paced the league in interception percentage, yards per passing attempt, and quarterback rating.
Plus, it helps that he capped off the efforts with a championship.