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Giants-Cowboys Connections: Top 5 who saw rivalry from both sides

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Looking through history at some of the coaches and players who had the biggest impacts on both franchises.

Tom Landry statue
Tom Landry statue
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The year was 1958. Two Texas oilmen, both of whom had passion for the game of football, tried to purchase existing NFL clubs and then relocate them to Dallas.

For almost two years, Lamar Hunt attempted to buy the Chicago Cardinals. During this identical juncture, Clint Murchison, Jr. was in the midst of working up a contract for the sale of the Washington Redskins. Hunt would fail. Murchison succeeded - only to have the deal voided because of excessive clause changes.

Hunt would go on to invent the American Football League (AFL) and own the Dallas Texans (later relocated to Kansas City and renamed the Chiefs). At the same time, the NFL felt the league must also have a presence in Big D and instantly installed the very first expansion team: the Dallas Steers. Murchison would later purchase the infant franchise and change the name to the Rangers (then later the Cowboys).

Because the Rangers were basically a rush project, the club was invented after the college draft. This meant the team must be comprised of players from existing NFL franchises via the first-ever player expansion draft. Three players were selected from each of the 12 NFL squads.

From the Giants, backup quarterback Don Heinrich was selected along with offensive linemen Al Barry and Buzz Guy.

So, from that very first year of existence for Dallas in 1960, the Giants and the Cowboys have had a connection - apart from being in the same division for the past 54 years.

There have been numerous players and coaches who have mingled among the rosters of both the Giants and the Cowboys. Today's rosters see this trend continue with George Selvie and Dwayne Harris, both former Cowboys; while on the other side of the fence Dallas Head Coach Jason Garrett, Tight ends Coach Mike Pope and Assistant Head Coach Jimmy Robinson each wore blue at some point.

Then there are the subtle coincidences with each team. Long snapper Zak DeOssie's father Steve played for both teams. LB Devon Kennard's dad Derek played right guard for the Cowboys for two seasons.

And there have been many more: DT Chris Canty, FB and coach Maurice Carthon, CB Justin Anderson, DT Marvin Austin, RB and coach Dan Reeves, LB Dan Conner, QB Craig Morton, Special Teams Coach Joe DeCamillis and WR Mike Sherrard, to name a few.

But, who were the greatest connectors between the New York Football Giants and the Dallas Cowboys Football Club? Let's list the Top 5.

5. Sean Payton - Payton has found success as head coach of the New Orleans Saints and brought the Big Easy their very first Super Bowl trophy home after the 2009 season. He was the Cowboys Assistant Head Coach/Quarterback Coach from 2003-2005 and helped groom a young Tony Romo. Before the Dallas gig, he was Offensive
Coordinator for the Giants under Head Coach Jim Fassel. During the 2002 season and lackluster offensive showings, Coach Fassell took over the play calling, to which the Giants would make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. The following year, the Cowboys
hired him before he was supposedly fired. When he was hired by the Saints in 2006, they made the playoffs and Payton was named AP Coach of the Year. Through last season, he had compiled an 87-53 record with New Orleans.

4. Everson Walls - This Cowboys cornerback signed as an undrafted free-agent and lit up the Dallas defensive secondary from minute one. He led the league in interceptions his first two seasons (11, 7) and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. After an eight-year career with Dallas, Walls was named All-Pro three times, went to the Pro Bowl four years, led the NFL in interceptions three different seasons and tied the record for career Pro Bowl interceptions. He was the 1980's version of "Revis Island" as opposing QBs quit throwing to his side of the field. The Giants signed him to a two-year $1 million dollar contract. He was instantly installed at safety in an already stellar defense led by Lawrence Taylor, Erik Howard, Carl Banks, Mark Collins, Pepper Johnson and Leonard Marshall. That 1990 season produced a stellar 13-3 record and a Super Bowl berth against the Buffalo Bills. In that game, Walls tackled Bills RB Thurman Thomas on what would have been a sure touchdown with less than two minutes remaining.

3. Bill Parcells - To any Giants fan, Parcells would most certainly top most any list. However, with the tie-in also being related to the Cowboys, our former coach had mixed reviews. Parcells won two Super Bowls while with the Giants and had a knack for creating monster defenses with his linebacker's coach mentality. He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1986. With Big Blue, he compiled a 77-49-1 regular season record and went 8-3 in the post season. After a brief retirement, he coached the New England Patriots and the New York Jets before another retirement. Then, after three continuous 5-11 seasons, Dallas coxed him out of his life of fishing in 2003. The Cowboys went 10-6 in his first tenure as head coach, but lost in the Wild Card playoffs. After missing the post season with 6-10 and 9-7 seasons in 2004 and 2005, respectively, Dallas qualified again for the playoffs in 2006 but lost 21-20 to the Seattle Seahawks on Tony Romo's botched hold on the game winning field goal attempt.

2. Herschel Walker - This college running back Phenom played for the Cowboys twice, but it was his first stint that was the most memorable - and had the greatest effect on the Giants. In his third NFL rookie season, Walker amassed over 2,000 yards rushing and receiving. During the following 1989 season, Walker was abruptly traded to the Minnesota Vikings in a blockbuster deal that sent shock waves throughout the NFL for years to come. The Cowboys ended up initially with three first round picks, three second round selections, a third and a sixth rounder - all courtesy of the Vikings. Then head coach Jimmy Johnson parlayed those extra picks with numerous trades on draft day that would eventually bring in RB Emmitt Smith, DT Russell Maryland, S Darren Woodson, LB Jesse Solomon, WR Alvin Harper, LB Dixon Edwards and CB Isiaac Holt. The extra draft picks, which would translate into multiple other draft slots, would enable the Cowboys to take the short cut towards respectability eventual Super Bowl champions. Walker's 1995 season with the Giants was less memorable.

1. Tom Landry - Looking back, it is almost inconceivable to see Landry, known as one of the greatest and innovative defensive minds, as the Giants defensive coordinator in 1959 and yet never received an invite to become the head coach.

An engineering student and native Texan, he was offered the head coach of the newly-formed Houston Oilers of the AFL but wanted to be in the same arena as what he considered to be the more stable league. Landry was a stellar defensive back with the New York Yankees in the rival All-America Football Conference. When that league merged into the NFL, the Giants claimed Landry in the player dispersal draft. He eventually became player-coach and is credited with inventing the umbrella and the 4-3 defense. From 1954-1959 he was the Giants defensive coordinator and was recognized with building dominant defenses with the likes of Sam Huff, Rosey Grier, Emlen Tunnell, Jim Katcavage, Lindon Crow and Andy Robustelli. In fact, the 1959 Giants defense gave up a league low 14.2 points per game. At the same time Landry was starting his family and contemplated whether to become an industrial engineer or try his hand as a head coach. His wife Alicia, loved New York but yearned to raise their children back in their home state of Texas. Although the Oilers offer was much more than the $34,000 salary offer, he chose the newly-formed Dallas Rangers as well as the NFL.

A couple of weeks after Dallas hired Landry, Giants Head Coach Jim Lee Howell abruptly announced that he was retiring. Had the ownership of the team known this earlier, they would have made a bigger push for their defensive guru. As it turned out, the Cowboys would go on to win two Super Bowls and record an astounding 250 wins. Landry was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. As Dallas' head coach, the Cowboys earned the longest streak of consecutive winning seasons with 20. There is little doubt those same successful seasons could have had the Giants written all over them.