Dexter Coakley played linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys from 1997-2004. He missed the dynasty years and left just before things got good again. Does his career, underrated during this dark time in Cowboys football, deserve to be recognized in the team’s Ring of Honor?
Coakley was one of the few bright spots during those down seasons. He was named to the 1997 All-Rookie team and went to the Pro Bowl in 1999, 2001, and 2003.
A recent report stated that Dallas is considering naming past contributors like Gil Brandt, Jimmy Johnson, and Jay Novacek to the Ring. The idea here is to close the book on past eras before it becomes time to consider modern stars like Tony Romo and Jason Witten.
But there was about a decade between the glory years of the 90s and Romo’s rise to fame, where cap mismanagement and poor drafting left the Cowboys with only two winnings seasons.
Guys like Larry Allen and Darren Woodson were lucky enough to have been around for the 90s Super Bowls, even though they played mostly in those losing years. Dexter Coakley wasn’t so lucky, but should he be penalized for that?
Coakley is in the top five for all-time tackles in franchise history. He is tied for the franchise lead in defensive touchdowns with five, matching Defensive Back Dennis Thurman who played from the late 70s to early 80s.
In eight seasons with the Cowboys, Coakley only missed one game. He started every single game he played in, even as a rookie. Dexter was one of the teams best players from almost the moment he entered the NFL.
Had it not been for the overall decline of the franchise, Coakley would’ve easily been named to more Pro Bowls and received greater recognition on a national level.
This isn’t an easy decision because the Ring of Honor should have high standards. For a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, players being a part of those championships is a fair criteria.
But let’s go back to Romo and Witten, then. They have no more postseason accomplishments than Coakley did.
That’s not to insult to Tony and Jason, but to make the point that perhaps the era of Cowboys football between the Dynasty and Tony Romo shouldn’t be so easily skipped over. A guy like Dexter Coakley shouldn’t be casually dismissed.
Individual excellence, regardless of team performance, is what the Ring of Honor should be about. Coakley was excellent for the Dallas Cowboys during his eight seasons, and he deserves to be considered.