Thanksgiving and the Dallas Cowboys go together like Christmas and Santa Claus.
Since 1978, Thanksgiving Day has traditionally featured both the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, playing at home, with turkey legs and—thanks to Fox—weird looking trophies awaiting the winner.
The Lions usually play first and the Lions usually aren’t very good, so America usually just focuses its attention on America’s Team. Go figure.
The ‘Boys and food. Food and the ‘Boys. That’s the dynamic duo of this day. And that brings us to the burning question that has been eating at us for years: If assorted members of the Dallas Cowboys were Thanksgiving Day menu items, which dish would each of them be?
Fortunately, we’re here for you on this magical, football-infused holiday to provide the answers. You are what you eat—and Dak’s a turkey.
Player: Dak Prescott
Why? When it’s good, it’s really good. But turkey is a fickle mistress. Any misstep in its preparation and it’ll come out with all the moisture of a Saharan sand trap.
When properly prepared and dressed for success, the turkey is the star, of course, but even the best turkey can be hit or miss, with dark meat and white meat varying substantially in flavor, consistency and satisfaction.
Player: Ezekiel Elliott
Why? Turkey gets first billing—and/or wins NFL Rookie of the Year, despite stuffing leading the league in rushing—but Zeke the stuffing is the real MVP and everyone knows it.
Not only is it the best dish on the table, but its versatility makes it the most important—particularly late in the fourth quarter, when you’re heating up that third helping, and you need to lean on a dish to carry the team on its back.
Player(s): The Offensive Line
Why? No one talks about the offensive line or the gravy—unless it’s bad. Gravy is absolutely crucial. In fact, an argument could be made that gravy is the most essential piece to a successful Thanksgiving Day meal. But no one is ever going to say that gravy is their favorite dish, just like no one is ever going to say that Zach Martin is their favorite player.
Zack Martin has been the NFL's best guard so far this season. pic.twitter.com/9gNDVdJe5A— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 16, 2018
Good gravy can cover up a mediocre meal. At the same time, if the gravy isn’t good—or in the case of Travis Fredrick, it’s missing altogether—every other item on your plate has to be at the top of its game because there’s nowhere to hide.
Food: Mac & Cheese
Player(s): Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch
Why? Apart, both macaroni noodles and cheese are great. But, together? Together, those two ingredients become one of the best, most exciting linebacker duos in the National Thanksgiving League.
Food: Mashed Potatoes
Player(s): The Defensive Line
Why? Both mashed potatoes and a dominant defensive line are often viewed as a luxury item in the grand scheme of things. But if you have some killer mashed potatoes, it can transform the entire meal and allow numerous other dishes on the plate to play over their head.
Huh? No mashed potatoes? 🤔 https://t.co/jdI5PRPnyT— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) November 19, 2018
Mashed potatoes provide a foundation that allows gravy to take its game to the next level, just like a great pass rush makes the secondary look better … just like strong interior line play can keep the linebackers freed up to make plays.
Food: Sweet Potatoes
Player: DeMarcus Lawrence
Why? At first glance, you might group a sweet potato in with the other potatoes because, well, it’s a potato. You’d be right. But you’d also be very wrong.
Whether its baked, fried or turned into a casserole, the sweet potato is an absolute game-changer. The sweet potato creates magic where the regular potato would not. The sweet potato, like DeMarcus Lawrence, is the piece you didn’t realize you couldn’t live without until it’s right there on your plate dominating.
Food: Cranberry Sauce
Player(s): Whoever Is Lining Up at Tight End
Why? You know for a fact that it’s going to be the worst thing on your plate. You know this. Nonetheless, you spend the week talking yourself into it.
“Gotta have it … It’s part of the meal … It adds color to the plate.”
And, yet, on gameday, you almost forget it entirely, include it out of necessity, and when you do try it, you’re reminded, yet again, why you didn't want it to begin with.
Food: Green Bean Casserole
Player: Byron Jones
Why? The tape doesn’t lie. The green bean casserole has been making plays at its position for years. Even still, it initially seems like the riskier play. It would be much easier—albeit uninspiring—to simply toss the green beans in a pot and check the vegetable box.
The highest graded players on the Cowboys defense in their win over the Falcons yesterday. pic.twitter.com/oQ9VYJlqvp— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 19, 2018
Even an average green bean translates pretty well as a standard Thanksgiving Day vegetable, just as first round cornerbacks translate just fine as plug-and-play safeties out of the can. But, if you’ll just let the green bean casserole be a damn green bean casserole, it’ll go from just being a guy to being the guy.
Player: Cole Beasley
Why? On its own, corn is a below average dish. Nobody is checking their plate looking for corn. But corn is actually an excellent complimentary piece that can make the whole meal better. It goes great with turkey — but plays an entirely different role than the, um, roll.
Speaking of which…
Player: Amari Cooper
Why? You might be able to convince yourself that you can do without the dinner rolls. It’s just bread, after all. Just spread some butter over a slice of Mrs. Baird’s and it accomplishes the same thing, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.
Cowboys on road this season without Amari Cooper: 0-4— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 18, 2018
Cowboys on road with Amari Cooper: 2-0 pic.twitter.com/npXVydNVpy
The roll, makes everything better. The roll spreads the field. The roll demands attention. The roll transforms ho-hum leftovers into a premier meal that, an argument can be made, is actually better than the original first helping.
Player: Tavon Austin
Why? Whether it’s pumpkin, pecan or otherwise, without pie, the Thanksgiving Day meal still goes off without a hitch. It’s not a must-have. It’s not something you’re counting on. But, when you get it, for those fleeting moments while you’re drowning in the nirvana of a perfect cherry-to-crust ratio, you’ll earnestly wonder why you don’t incorporate much more pie into your typical game plan.