Danny White: Underrated Star in the Cowboy Galaxy

Danny White came to the Cowboys in 1976 as a backup quarterback to Roger Staubach and to do duty as the Cowboys punter.  He had spent the previous two years (1974-1975) in the World Football League with the Memphis Southmen.  Danny remained at the backup quarterback position through the 1979 season when Staubach retired, giving White his opportunity to lead the offense starting in 1980.

White led the Cowboys to three consecutive NFC Championship games (1980-1982) and made the Pro Bowl in 1982.  The Cowboys lost all three championship games despite being favored and White was severely criticized for his role in those losses. In 1983 Danny had his best season ever statistically, leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and another playoff appearance.  Despite the 12-4 record, the Cowboys finished 2nd to the Redskins in the NFC East and then lost the Wildcard Playoff game to the L.A. Rams bringing about further calls for White to be replaced.

In 1984, Danny lost the starting QB spot to Gary Hogeboom, but Hogeboom’s ineffectiveness led Landry to place White back in the starting position and the team finished 9-7 missing the playoffs.  In 1985, White led the Cowboys back to the playoffs after finishing first in the NFC East, but once again, they were defeated in the post season by the L.A. Rams. In 1986, the Cowboys found themselves with a 6-2 record, tied for the lead in the NFC East and ranked as the #1 offense in the NFL. Then White suffered a broken wrist against the Giants which ended his season. Steve Pelluer took over as QB and the Cowboys finished with a 7-9 record and their first losing season since 1964. In 1987, White again returned as the starter but was eventually replaced by Steve Pelluer and the Cowboys finished with a 7-8 record (one game was canceled). In 1988, Pelluer became the starter during training camp and White remained as backup for the entire season while the team finished with a dismal 3-13 record. In 1989, with the Cowboys under  a new owner and coach, White’s contract was not renewed and he decided to retire.

At the end of his career, Danny had racked up 1,761 completions on 2,950 attempts for 21,959 yards.  He passed for 155 touchdowns and 132 interceptions. In the area of rushing, he gained 482 yards and scored 8 touchdowns. Another interesting stat about Danny is the fact that he had two pass receptions for touchdowns which resulted from half-back option passes.  As punter, Danny punted 610 times for 24,509 yards, had an average of 40.4 yards per punt. 144 punts were inside the 20 yard line and he had 77 touchbacks. His record as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback was 62-32 during the regular season and 5-5 during the playoffs.

After his retirement as a player, Danny White has continued to be successful as a head coach in the Arena Football League, winning two Arena Bowl Championships in 1994 and 1997.

The late Tom Landry, said this of Danny White:  "I don’t know of any quarterback who could have replaced a Roger Staubach and done a better job…Not many people realize what a fine quarterback Danny White was.  He threw more touchdown passes than either Staubach or Meredith.  And in 1983 he had the best statistical year a Cowboys’ quarterback ever had when he set club season records for 3,980 passing yards and twenty-nine touchdown passes.  Danny White was probably as fine a winner as we have had in football."

Here are some team records Danny set during his career:
• Most four-or-more TD-pass games in a career (8)
• Most Pass Attempts in a season (533)
• Completions in a season (334) (Broken by Romo with 335 in 2007)
• Touchdowns (29) in a season (Broken by Romo with 35 TDs in 2007)
• Passing yards (3,980) in a season (Broken by Romo with 4,211 yds in 2007)
• Best Single Game Pass Percentage (21-24, 87.5%)
• Most pass attempts (53) and completions (32) in a playoff game
• Most punts (11) in a game and a career (612)

Statistically, Danny White stacks up very well against other quarterbacks with the Cowboys and other football organizations. He broke many of Staubach’s individual records and Aikman was unable to top White in many areas during his stellar career. Now, under Romo, more of White’s records are starting to fall. Personally, I believe Danny has never received the praise he deserved as a quarterback largely due to the fact that he never led the Boys to a Superbowl title. If the Cowboys had earned at least one Superbowl Championship under Danny, would we see him differently today? Replacing Staubach might have been a no-win situation for any quarterback.  Could he have been one of the “Great Ones” if he had been placed with a better supporting cast?  I’m not sure if he could have been but I do know this:  Danny was a very good quarterback, one who wore the Star well, and one who deserves far more accolades than he gets among fans today.

For more information on Danny and what he’s doing today, visit his personal site at http://www.dannywhite.com/ or go to www.utahblaze.com to check out his team site.



  1. Jason aka Big.J.74
    Jason aka Big.J.74 says:

    Your very right! But to us cowboy fans we know what he ment to us and our team. Think of it this way. If (IF) Romo cant win the BIG one he will be looked at the same way. A good QB that we love but wont get the “ONE OF THE GREATS” title.
    Good Job.

  2. Raina
    Raina says:

    Wow Rich I feel like I wrote the article myself! Danny deserves alot more praise than he gets! He is my all time favorite cowboy!

  3. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Thank you Rich for writing this. Danny was a terrific QB that didn’t have much glory as a Cowboy. Over time more people have realized what an asset he was but still too many just forgot about him.
    My mother adored him and would have loved this article. So again, thanks for writing it.
    Always a Danny White fan….

  4. John
    John says:

    Danny White are you kidding me? NO TRUE fan will EVER forget Danny White! When I talk about QB’s from the Cowboys, Danny White is always on my list!
    Thanks Danny for the years you played!
    Thank you for the great article!!

  5. Richie
    Richie says:

    Thanks for mentioning that Danny White did play for the Memphis Southmen of the old World Football League.
    Danny White almost entered the NFL via the Memphis team, but were denied an expansion franchise at the March 1976 NFL owners meetings.
    Danny White did have a rough job of taking over for the legend Roger Staubach, but he came through with flying colors, and I think most people will remember he had a great NFL carear.
    Thanks again for a nice article!

  6. Melody
    Melody says:

    Danny White has always been my favorite quarterback. He should make the Hall of Fame, but I don’t think the powers that be will ever let him. Thanks so much for paying tribute to him. He, to me, is simply the best!

  7. Cowboy
    Cowboy says:

    When the Cowboys were in search of a new head coach, I mentioned Danny White as a possibility in another website.

  8. Raina
    Raina says:

    That would be my dream come true for Danny White to coach the cowboys! He could get his superbowl ring that way couldnt he?