The Dallas Cowboys have often been lauded by fans, media, and their people as “America’s Team.” With a title like that, one would assume the Cowboys had generations of MVPs coming and going through their stadium.
A look at the winners of the NFL’s MVP award, however, is surprisingly barren of Cowboys. Sure, they have several of the best players in NFL history, but in all the years of greatness, the team only has one MVP.
There are several candidates one could presume won the MVP award, but the one Cowboy who did it should surprise no one.
Troy Aikman had several top-tier seasons in Dallas. He did, after all, play his whole career there. His 1992 campaign may have been his best. Aikman led the team to a 13-3 record, threw for 3,445 yards and 302 completions, and threw 23 touchdowns. The Cowboys even won the 1992 Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for Aikman, a quarterback named Steve Young also had a monster season. Plus, a loaded quarterback class left several great candidates out of the mix. Aikman would never get the MVP award, but the Super Bowls probably made him feel better.
Roger Staubach was a late-bloomer in the NFL. Although he had a productive season in 1971 and a 10-0 record, he wasn’t a full-time starter for the Cowboys until he was 33 years old. His 1979 season, when Staubach was 37 years old, showed the quarterback throwing some of the best numbers of his career.
Staubach led the Cowboys to an 11-5 record that season, throwing 267 completions for 3,586 yards. He threw 27 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. He did all this during his last NFL season, and unfortunately for him, it was still not enough to win MVP.
Long before Tony Romo was predicting plays with Nostradamus-like accuracy on TV, he was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2014, he had a particularly dominant season, throwing for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns, 304 receptions on 69.9% accuracy, and only nine interceptions in the process.
Unfortunately for Romo, not only was this his last year as a full-time starter, but the Cowboys struggled to rise above mediocrity during his entire time there. They only managed three seasons above .500 during his career. Even if his numbers were there, the voters historically do not pick those who don’t have wins to show for it.
Michael Irvin had several superstar seasons, but his breakout year in 1991 may still be the best he ever had. The wide receiver had 1,523 receiving yards that season, scoring eight touchdowns in the process. The Dallas Cowboys were 11-5 and eventually made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. However, he didn’t win the MVP.
Irvin might have been hurt by the bulk of talent on the team. A loaded team might’ve caused players to take the vote away from one another, especially if several are superstars. Irvin may have won in other decades, but he happened to play on the most talented Cowboys team in history.
Emmitt Smith entered his fourth season in the NFL in 1993. Although he missed a couple of games and came off the bench in a third, these games may have been a deciding factor in Smith’s 1993 MVP award, as the team lost all three without him as the full-time starter. Smith ran for 1,486 touchdowns during his MVP campaign, caught 57 passes, and scored one touchdown, too.
Funny enough, Smith had better statistical seasons in his career, but his value to the Cowboys during their last heyday was too much for the voters to overlook. To this day he remains the only Cowboys MVP in history.