Know Your 1992 Dallas Cowboys: Former Backup Babe Laufenberg Joins World League
This post is part of the 1992 Season in Review series, marking the 25th anniversary of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship season.
Not much news about the Cowboys on May 12, 1992, so today’s post is about a former backup.
The Cowboys might have made the playoffs in 1990 if Troy Aikman had remained healthy during the last two games against the Eagles and Falcons. The team might have had a chance if Dallas had kept a quality backup.
Instead, Dallas traded Steve Walsh, leaving Babe Laufenberg as the backup. He completed on 23 of 60 passes with six interceptions and one touchdown during losses to both Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Twenty-five years ago today, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about Laufenberg, who was the backup quarterback on the Ohio Glory of the World League. Thus, he was the backup for the worst football team in the worst professional football league.
It’s Year 9 in the professional football career of Babe Laufenberg and he is in a familiar position: sitting.
He has been remarkably consistent over the years, sitting for the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys, watching as some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks marched those teams up and down football fields, such passers as Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, Mark Rypien and Troy Aikman.
In eight NFL seasons, Laufenberg played in 16 games.
But now he sits for the woeful Ohio Glory of the World League, an expansion team in a league that commands about as much attention as rudeness in New York.
He sits in such places as Barcelona and Montreal and San Antonio. Most recently, he sat in Columbus, Ohio, watching Pat O’Hara, who was a backup quarterback at USC, lead the Glory to their first victory of the season after six dismal losses, a 20-17 thriller over the Frankfurt Galaxy.
Laufenberg, 32, is the backup quarterback for the worst football team in the worst pro football league on the planet.
And this World League, is it, oh, different from the NFL?
“Well,” Laufenberg said, “let me say this: The football is still oblong.”
Things weren’t supposed to happen this way for the talented, 6-foot-3, 218-pound Laufenberg when he left Crespi High in Encino in 1978.
He accepted a scholarship to Stanford but immediately encountered a problem: a better quarterback on his team. It was the start of a trend.
At Stanford, the other guy was John Elway.
So, after sitting in Palo Alto for a year, Laufenberg transferred to Pierce College and played at the Woodland Hills school for a season. Then he transferred to Indiana, and in two seasons as the starter he set school records for yards passing in a season and completions in a career, 361; season, 217, and game, 34.
It was a brief, stand-up stint in Laufenberg’s career. He was about to sit again.
He was drafted by the Redskins on the sixth round in 1983. In two years, he had no game action. Not a single snap. His second season, he was on injured reserve for the entire season.
The Redskins released Laufenberg in 1985. That, too, was the start of a trend.
The Chargers signed him in 1985 and cut him the same year.
The Redskins signed him again, after Theismann’s leg was broken before a stunned national audience in a Monday night game late in 1985.
Laufenberg was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at the time, and watched in a bar as Theismann went down with the injury. He suspected he might get a call from the Redskins. His brother, John, took the call in Los Angeles and eventually got word to Laufenberg.
A quick flight to Los Angeles, where he was met by John, who handed him a clean bag of clothes; another flight to Philadelphia and a late-night drive to Washington brought Laufenberg back into the NFL.
All that effort resulted in another season on the bench. Not a single snap.
In the next five years, Laufenberg went to New Orleans, to Kansas City, back to the Redskins for one game, to San Diego and to Dallas. His best chance at getting to a standing position over time was offered by the Chargers, for whom he started the first six games of the 1988 season. Then, he suffered three broken ribs and never played for San Diego again.
He closed out his NFL career and, he figured, his football career, as the Cowboys’ backup. They released him before the 1991 season, and he found a job that was perfect for his NFL experience, sitting and talking, as the broadcaster for the Cowboys’ flagship radio station in Dallas, KVIL, and as a host of a syndicated TV show for the Cowboys.
“Football was over,” Laufenberg said. “I had my chances. Things didn’t work out real well for me in the NFL, but I never complained. Most guys never get a chance to be on an NFL team for a single game. I hung around for eight years. In San Diego, I had my real chance and I did well. And then I broke some ribs, and when I healed I didn’t have a job. The transition to radio and TV made it easy. I missed football. But not too much.”
More, however, than he knew.
When the new Ohio franchise made Laufenberg the No. 2 overall draft pick during the winter, he packed his bags, kissed his wife, Joan, goodby and headed for Glory. He will earn about $25,000 for the season.
That’s something else different from the NFL.
“At a quick glance, the paycheck looks the same,” Laufenberg said. “But when you look closer you see that there’s a decimal point where the comma used to be. It looks like a huge check, if you use your imagination. Banks, however, don’t have much of an imagination when you go to cash the check.”
At first, Laufenberg said, he was thrilled that his wife had given her blessings to his new endeavor.
“After a few weeks with this team, I realized that she must have been mad at me,” Laufenberg said. “She obviously had checked it out and knew something that I didn’t.”