’90s Cowboys-turned-announcers: The official rankings

The Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s were known for high-level athletic excellence (remember, they won three Super Bowls) and wild times off the field (One of my favorites from the book: receiver Alvin Harper being kicked out of a Dallas strip joint—something a Cowboy would really have to work hard to do).

Now, however, they’re also known as the NFL dynasty responsible for the most television commentators. It’s staggering, really, considering how much mischief these guys caused off the field. But if Darryl Strawberry can wind up in the studio, so—I reckon—can Michael Irvin.

Without further babble, here’s my ranking of the ’90s Cowboys who appear on TV:

1. Troy Aikman, Fox: Aikman isn’t simply the best ex-Cowboy color guy around, he’s the best color guy—period. What’s amazing is that, through much of his career, Aikman was known as a real introvert who often seemed less interested in football than, well, escaping football. It’s not all that hard to imagine Aikman morphing into a Cris Collinsworth, roaming to different sports, jumping back and forth between color and play by play. GRADE: A+

2. Darren Woodson, ESPN: One of my favorite people during the research of Boys Will Be Boys, Woodson is a handsome, intelligent, quick thinking guy who really handles the analysis well. He’s not in Aikman’s league as far as breaking down a game, but that might be positional. The QB always knows. Grade: A-

3. Deion Sanders, NFL Network: I know … I know. A lot of people think Deion is horrific. I’m not one of them. He’s colorful, but also offers up some darn good nuggets of information. Also has a detailing understanding of exceptional players. In other words, he can sit across from a T.O. or Tom Brady and have them explain in common terms what it feels like to be special. Grade: B.

4. Jimmy Johnson, Fox: Johnson is good, but he’s worn me out. Always feel like the guy’s yelling at me when he talks, and the whole chummy-chummy thing they try and convey in the studio annoys me to no end. But he’s certainly solid. Grade: B-

5. Daryl (Moose) Johnston, Fox: Everyone seems to love Moose, but I’m indifferent. When he explains a game, I hear Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Grade: C

6. Michael Irvin, NFL Network: Great receiver—but, ugh. Yells and yells and yells and yells—without making logical points. Quiet, please. ESPN wisely gave him the boot, and the NFL Network only used him for Hall of Fame coverage. Praise God. Grade: D

7. Emmitt Smith, ESPN: This video sums it up. Maybe the worst ever. Grade: F-