Although the Dallas Cowboys remain one of the league’s most heralded organizations, the famed NFC East franchise has never technically retired a jersey number — yes, really. Despite the fact that the Cowboys have employed quite a few Pro Football Hall of Famers, while finding immense success for the better part of the team’s existence with a slew of Super Bowl titles to show for it, Dallas has yet to formally retire a jersey number.
However, the Nos. 8, 12 and 22 have been out of circulation in Dallas for quite some time after those digits were sported by a trio of Cowboys legends in quarterback Troy Aikman, quarterback Roger Staubach and running back Emmitt Smith, respectively. While there could no doubt be a few more of these occurrences based on the success found by various former members of the franchise, the Cowboys can’t get too carried away as Dallas does have to fill out a 53-man roster week in and week out.
While the Chicago Bears lead the way with a whopping 14 retired numbers as it stands today, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans join the Cowboys as teams that don’t have a single number formally retired.
Troy Aikman, No. 8 (1989-2000)
Arguably the best overall player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys franchise, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman will assuredly be the last player to sport the No. 8 for this organization.
Retiring from the NFL back in 2000 after spending his entire professional playing career as a member of the Cowboys, Aikman famously led Dallas to a trio of Super Bowl titles, which ultimately led him to Canton, Ohio. Initially elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February 2006 before eventually being enshrined in August of the same year, Aikman not only won three Super Bowl titles as a member of the Cowboys, but he also managed to secure a Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, six Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl MVP Award along the way.
Of course a member of the team’s “Ring of Honor,” Aikman was originally selected by the Cowboys with the No. 1 overall pick in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft out of UCLA while the rest is history.
Roger Staubach, No. 12 (1969-79)
Perhaps just behind the aforementioned Aikman in the all-time quarterback rankings for the Dallas Cowboys, legendary signal-caller Roger Staubach also spent his entire NFL playing career with the famed NFC franchise before eventually finding himself in Canton, Ohio as well.
Staubach was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a first ballot selection back in 1985, capping off a career that saw him win not one but two Super Bowls as a member of the Cowboys. In addition to winning a pair of titles in Dallas, Staubach also captured a Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year Award, Walter Payton Man of the Year honors and six Pro Bowl appearances.
Leading the league in passing touchdowns in 1973-74, Staubach was a second-team All-Pro selection in 1971-72 and claimed Super Bowl MVP honors as a result of Super Bowl VI in 1971-72. There is no doubt that Staubach paved the way for players like Aikman that would ultimately become the next generation of Cowboys legends.
Emmitt Smith, No. 22 (1990-2002)
With the tandem of signal-callers in Troy Aikman and Roger Staubauch typically receiving the majority of the notoriety, which comes along with playing the quarterback position, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that longtime Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith is the best non-quarterback to ever suit up for the NFC franchise.
While longtime Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin could make a case for such an honor, many players have worn the No. 88 since his retirement while Smith will certainly be the last Dallas player to sport the No. 22. Although Smith didn’t spent his entire NFL playing career in Dallas as the Cowboys legend went on to spend two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003-04 and 2004-05, he is one of only two non-kickers in the history of the NFL to score more than 1,000 career points (Jerry Rice is the other player).
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 in addition to being enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame a few years earlier in 2006, Smith is a three-time Super Bowl champion in addition to serving as the Super Bowl XXVIII MVP, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, the 1990-91 NFL Rookie of the Year, the 1993-94 NFL MVP and 1993-94 Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year Award winner. Capping it all off, Smith was tabbed as an All-Pro selection a whopping six times with four of those nods being first-team All-Pro honors.