State Your Case: Too Tall too good to be ignored by Canton any longer?

Ron Borges

For Ed “Too Tall’’ Jones, football was never his first love, but that never prevented the men who tried to block him from hating their nearly impossible task.

Jones played only three games of high-school football before accepting a basketball scholarship to Tennessee State, one of 52 schools that courted him. None wanted him to play football.

But after two years on the hardwood, the towering 6-foot-9 Jones suddenly decided to quit basketball and return to the game no one seemed all that anxious for him to play, including himself. It didn’t take long until that changed.

Two years later, in 1974, the Dallas Cowboys made Jones the first player from a historically black college taken as the No. 1 selection in the NFL draft, thus beginning what would become a 15-year NFL career of Hall-of-Fame caliber.

Jones was a raw talent when he first arrived in Dallas, but within a year was starting on Tom Landry’s Doomsday Defense next to future Hall-of-Famer Bob Lilly and down the line from future Super Bowl MVP Harvey Martin. Sometimes accused of not always playing with full obsession early in his career, Jones once snorted, “Some players give 110 percent all the time, but they can’t make big plays in big games. I make big plays in big games.’’

Certainly that was the case during the Cowboys’ 1977 playoff run to a Super Bowl XII championship. In three post-season games Jones had a remarkable 23 tackles, two sacks, two passes batted down and two forced fumbles. In the NFC championship game against the Vikings, Jones had a sack, two forced fumbles and eight unassisted tackles as he totally controlled the line of scrimmage and Minnesota’s offense. At that point, he seemed on his way to football immortality ... only to walk away from the sport a year later to pursue his first love – boxing.

An amateur boxer as a kid, Jones made no bones about the fact that boxing was always the sport he fancied, but the Cowboys were stunned at his announcement. At 28, after five years in Dallas without missing a game, he left, saying, “It was something I had to do. I knew if I hadn’t done it then that I would be one of those guys who realized when he’s 40 he never had experienced it. I did something I wanted to do all my life. Football was always number two.’’

As towering a presence in the ring as he was at the line of scrimmage, Jones went 6-0 as a professional with five knockouts against low-level competition and had every one of his fights televised on CBS because of his NFL notoriety. But for reasons he never enumerated, a year later he returned to the Cowboys and became an immediate starter. He would remain so for the next 10 years, never missing a game and returning a better player than when he left.

“He was in better condition,’’ Cowboys’ head coach Tom Landry said of the returning Too Tall.” Clearer mind. He had more of an intent of being a football player.’’

Jones became the dominant football player Landry had hoped when he drafted him. Jones was named All-Pro three times (1981, 1982, 1983) and went to three Pro Bowls in the final 10 seasons of his career, He would never miss a game, finishing with a team-record 244 games (including 20 playoffs) and 223 starts.

Always durable and often dominant, the Jones who returned from the boxing ring was even more difficult to block than the one who left for a year.

“My reaction time was so much quicker coming off the ball,’’ Jones said. “I was able to make a lot more plays.’’

Although sacks were not an official statistic early in his career, the Cowboys kept their own tally.  Jones finished with 104 career sacks, including a career high 13 in 1985. He retired as the Cowboys’ fifth leading tackler of all time with 1,032, blocked nine kicks (seven of them field-goal attempts) and batted down so many passes the NFL began to keep it as a new defensive statistic.

Too Tall Jones was a disruptor by trade, a man who not only chased down quarterbacks but often batted their passes out of the air. In 1980, for example, the Cowboys tipped 19 passes all season. Eleven were by Jones.

“My attitude was I’m the toughest, biggest, baddest on the block,” Jones once said. “That was my attitude throughout my career.’’

Was he dominant enough to one day win a bust in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame? His career numbers and his penchant for making the big play in the big game certainly warrant a hard look at one of the hardest men to block who played for the Dallas Cowboys. 

Comments (16)
No. 1-3
brian wolf
brian wolf

Great case Ron ...

I watched Jones for a long time and though he could go stretches without making plays, there were many times he was just unblockable.

Nobody ran at or around him very often and he batted down more passes than anyone, causing many interceptions and passes defenced.
He took awhile to reach 100 sacks but was a complete defensive end who had great postseasons as well.

In his book, Jimmy Johnson raved about him and wished he could have coached Jones for a long time.
Jones may have had even more sacks had he played in a more attacking scheme than the Flex ...

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

Nice article Ron,
Though I grew up a Cowboys fan I just never really thought of Jones as a HOFer...probably because I felt they had more worthy candidates like Howley, Jordan & Green...and also I know some people preferred Harvey Martin...I don't know if the fact Jones isn't even in ROH has played a part in his case not being heard.

Plawren2
Plawren2

In my view Harvey Martin has the better case, and like Jones he is not on the Cowboys ROH (and at this point likely never will be) although I doubt that is really the issue as Chuck Howley with his 5x all pro has been ROH member since 1977 and it has not helped him get in the Hall

15 Replies

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

Howley is in my mind the most deserving Cowboy not in, at least defensively

brian wolf
brian wolf

I think they both cancel each other out because though Martin was the better pass rusher, Jones was the more complete defensive end and both should have already been part of the Ring Of Honor ...

Jerry Jones really doesnt care about Landry's players and Jimmy Johnson may never enter as well ...

brian wolf
brian wolf

Think about it ...

In the 32 years of owning the Dallas Cowboys, Jones has only allowed seven Cowboys from the Landry eras to enter, and the first, Lee Roy Jordan was slated to enter before Jones bought the team ...

That leaves only Dorsett and Randy White, who were put in the ROH during the afterglow of the first two championships for Jones/Johnson, then it wasnt until 2001, that Jones put in another of Landry's Cowboys, Hayes from the 60s, followed by Wright, Harris and Pearson.

Thats it ...

Yes, the non players like Landry, Schramm and Brandt have made it, but will other great players from the Landry years like Andrie, Neely, Green, Martin, Jones and Walls ever make it ?

Plawren2
Plawren2

I doubt any more of Landry era player will be out into Cowboys ROH by Jones, he will now move on to Ware, Romo and Witten

brian wolf
brian wolf

I think youre right ... I see Ware going in next but I am not sure about Romo and Witten will get in as well ...

With Romo bringing in fans to the new stadium, he probably will get in but it will be controversial like Irvins induction. Some people will want Dez Bryant to get honored as well.

I am sorry but despite Romo being an exciting QB, a 2-4 playoff record doesnt cry out ROH or HOF to me ...

brian wolf
brian wolf

Okay, okay ... maybe I am being harsh, maybe based on wins and statistics -- Romo has a case for the Ring Of Honor

But not the HOF -- Why ?

Counting postseason, his first four starting seasons, his record was 39-20
Impressive ...

But then he gets injured in 2010 -- from 2010-2013 his starting record is only 25-28 with no postseason wins till 2015 -- five years after his first playoff win ... Unfortunately, these are the crucial years to his candidacy ...

Yes, Romo has a great 2014/15 season, which proves he can still play great football but gets injured again in 2015, which ends his career for good ...

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

A few years ago when Walls was a finalist I thought Jones would put him in ROH to help boost his HOF chances, but when that didn't happen I gave up all hope for more Landry era players.

brian wolf
brian wolf

Its a shame because other players deserve to be added as well ...

I know this will sound like blasphemy to many Cowboys fans, though I am one of them but I dont think Don Meredith should have been added ...

Yes, he became a star for the Cowboys after getting beat up behind a terrible offensive line in his early years but was never a big game QB, beating only the Browns in the postseason.
Its no coincidence that former Packers and Colts players didnt feel he had what it takes ...

Then, with Craig Morton breathing down his neck and losing confidence, he decides to retire ...

Feel free to weigh in on your comments Rasputin, I know you are out there and happy for Drew Pearson.

I will admit though, seeing Margo Robbie wearing his throwback jersey in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was awesome !

brian wolf
brian wolf

A pregnant Margot at that !

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

Cornell Green & John Niland are 2 players that deserve to be in ROH & considered for HOF

brian wolf
brian wolf

I hope Jones will consider Andrie, who had 95 sacks and was excellent in the postseason while winning a SB

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

I've stated that Cornell Green is the most underarated Cowboy,but
perhaps that should apply to George Andrie.

brian wolf
brian wolf

Its close between them two but Don Perkins is there as well ... everytime I watch old NFL films of the team, his pass protection blocking is incredible.

Thats why his receiving stats are slight, he could block like a guard.

Another underrated Cowboy is OG Herbert Scott who could roadgrade people.
The Cowboys lost a lot of toughness on the line when he retired in 85 ...

WMcCoy
WMcCoy

At least with Perkins he is in ROH...I always thought that Scott along with Pat Donovan were underrated

brian wolf
brian wolf

Thats true ... but if you asked 20 Cowboys fans what great player wore #43 ... All 20 would say Cliff Harris ...

Perkins could have racked up more numbers and been elected to the HOF -- he was the fifth leading rusher all-time when he retired -- but Landry utilized his unselfish running, blocking and receiving, as a 205lb fullback no less, to share the load with runners Amos Marsh, Dan Reeves, Craig Baynham and Walt Garrison into turning the Cowboys from losers into a top, contending team.


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