Controversy in 1972: Who Calls the Plays?

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This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

During the post-game interviews following Super Bowl VI, one of the comments Roger Staubach made was that he wanted to start calling the plays.

Just weeks after SB VI, Tom Landry addressed the issue, saying:

I’m sure Roger would love to call his own plays. But we won’t change the pattern we’ve been winning with. If he can move in there and take over at training camp and in the pre-season games then he will call them. Otherwise, we won’t change.

The Cowboys had other concerns as well. Some key members of the championship team were beginning to show their age, and the team was starting to make plans to replace them.

One player was Herb Adderley, the former Packer who had been with Dallas for two seasons. He led the team with six interceptions in 1971, but the 1972 season would be his 12th. Charlie Waters was the leading candidate to replace Adderley.

Another player of concern was linebacker Chuck Howley, who turned 36 before the 1972 season. Dallas had a solid backup in D.D. Lewis, but Howley would be tough to replace.

Running back Dan Reeves announced his retirement in February 1972 (though he came back to play once the regular season began). Landry was stacked at running back, with Duane Thomas, Calvin Hill, and Walt Garrison.

Thomas, of course, wasn’t going to last long in Dallas.

Cowboys Reach the Summit By Winning SB VI

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This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Relying heavily once again on its dominant defense, the 1971 Dallas Cowboys smothered the upstart Miami Dolphins and won Super Bowl VI by a score of 24-3 on January 16, 1972 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

Miami only managed 185 yards in total offense. One of the most famous plays of the game, and one of the most famous defensive plays of all time, occurred on the final play of the first quarter. Bob Lilly and Larry Cole chased Miami quarterback Bob Griese for several seconds before Lilly finally recorded the sack. The Dolphins lost 29 yards on the play.

Roger Staubach won the Most Valuable Player award thanks to a solid (though not spectacular) day. He threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Duane Thomas led the rushing attack by gaining 95 yards on the ground. As a team, the Cowboys gained 252 rushing yards.

The full replay of the game is available as part of the Greatest Games DVD set. Here are a couple of clips.

Pregame Introductions


Part of the Second Quarter (showing Staubach’s touchdown pass to Lance Alworth):

More references:

Box Score (Pro Football Reference)

Dallas Morning News Story: Super Cowboys Bowl ‘Em Over

Play by Play (USA Today)

Cowboy Defense Dominates the ’71 Playoffs

85346332.jpgTom Landry came to the Dallas Cowboys as a defensive genius, and it was his defense that led the team to the top of the mountain in 1971. In two NFC playoff games in 1971, the Doomsday Defense caused a total of eight turnovers, helping the Cowboys to earn a trip to Super Bowl VI.

In three games overall, the Cowboys only allowed one touchdown. And that one touchdown came late in the divisional round matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. In three playoff games, including Super Bowl VI, the Cowboys gave up a total of 18 points.

Here is a look at the two NFC playoff games.

Divisional Round, December 25, 1971: Dallas 20, Minnesota 12

U1725566.jpgThe temperature of the Dallas-Minnesota game was supposed to be around 10 degrees, bringing back memories of the Ice Bowl of 1967 (thus, the picture above of Mel Renfro and Bob Hayes). Instead, the game held on Christmas Day of 1971 was played when the temperature was a more balmy 30 degrees.

The Dallas offense managed only 183 total yards, but the offense did enough. The defense forced five Viking turnovers, including four interceptions. Dallas scored on a touchdown run by Duane Thomas and a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Bob Hayes. The two touchdown broke open a 6-3 game in the third quarter. The Vikings managed a safety and a late touchdown, but the outcome was not in doubt at that point.

Tom Landry:

Our defense was super. It was the best defense we’ve
played all year. The statistics may not be real impressive but we got
ahead (20-3) and laid back a little and let them have the turn-ins and
stuff like that.

Box Score

DMN Summary

1971 NFC Championship Game, January 2, 1972: Dallas 14, San Francisco 3

85351542.jpgThe Cowboys gained 172 yards on the ground on 46 carries, and the defense was again impressive, as Dallas beat San Francisco for the second consecutive season in the NFC championship game. The Dallas Morning News described the game as “a day at the office.”

Roger Staubach only had 103 yards passing, but he led the team with 55 rushing yards.  Calvin Hill and  Duane Thomas scored the two touchdowns, which were all the Cowboys needed. The defense held the 49ers to 239 yards of offense and forced three San Francisco turnovers.

With the win, the Cowboys were set to take on the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. Regarding the game, Bob St. John wrote:

This time the Super Bowl, what the NFL is all about these days, means
the Cowboys against the Miami Dolphins, a newcomer. These are the NFL’s
two glamour teams this season and it seems a fitting match.

Box Score

DMN Summary

Late-Round Picks for the Cowboys: CB, S, TE, WR, K

The Cowboys were apparently concerned about adding depth and a bunch of special teamers in this draft. With seven picks in the final three rounds, the Cowboys took some backup-quality defensive backs, a potential third tight end, a potential slot receiver, and a 227-pound kicker.

5th round (143rd overall): DeAngelo Smith, CB, Cincinnati

The Cowboys must have loved the University of Cincinnati’s defense last year, because the Cowboys snapped up both of the Bearcats’ corners. Smith is supposed to be good in the zone and could be a nickel or dime corner.

5th round (166th overall): Michael Hamlin, S, Clemson

Not to be confused with the Dallas safety who forgot how to tackle last year, Michael Hamlin could join Ken Hamlin as a starter next season.

5th round (172nd overall): David Buehler, K, USC

The only guess about this pick that makes sense is that Buehler will serve as a kickoff specialist.

6th round (197th overall): Stephen Hodge, SS, TCU

Hodge was a special teams ace at TCU, so this may have been a decent pick.

6th round (208th overall): John Phillips, TE, Virginia

With Tony Curtis leaving for Kansas City, Phillips will have a chance to make the team as the third tight end.

7th round (227th overall): Mike Michens, CB, Cincinnati

Michens’ name was being thrown around much earlier than the 7th, for Dallas to get him here was great. Michens led the NCAA in interceptions last season.

7th round (229th overall): Manual Johnson, WR, Oklahoma

The Cowboys finally picked up a recevier in the 7th round. Johnson isn’t big, but he could turn out to be a quality slot receiver.

Rounds 3 and 4 for Dallas: OLB, OT, QB, DE

So much for the Cowboys addressing needs at safety or wide receiver. Alabama safety Rashad Johnson was available in the third round (either pick), but Dallas decided against selecting him. Nevertheless, the Cowboys found several backups in the third and fourth rounds of today’s draft. The four picks:

3rd round (69th overall): Jason Williams, OLB, Western Illinois

Williams is known for his speed and quickness. Williams impressed many with his Pro Day performance at Western Illinois. He may move to ILB, even though he is known for his ability to rush around the edge.

3rd round (75th overall): Robert Brewster, G/T, Ball State

Brewster will probably be moved to guard in Dallas. The DMN already asked whether Brewster is another in a long line of offensive line draft busts.

4th round (101st overall): Stephen McGee, QB, Texas A&M

The last time the Cowboys selected a QB in the draft was Isaiah Stanback, who was converted to receiver. The last time the Cowboys picked a QB to play QB was Quincy Carter in 2001. (Before that? Bill Musgrave in 1991).

4th round (110th overall): Victor Butler, DE, Oregon State

He is listed as an undersized pass-rush specialist. At 248 pounds (just a little bit bigger than Williams), he will likely be moved to outside linebacker.

4th round (120th overall): Brandon Williams, DE, Texas Tech

At 6’5″, 252 lbs., he has better size than Butler, but he’s still pretty small for a 3-4 defensive end. He led the Big 12 in sacks in 2008.

The Cowboys are All Over the Second-Day Picks

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More than five hours after the draft began, the Cowboys were finally on the board. The clock ticked down. The clock hit zero. Stephen Jones was on the phone. Wade Phillips’ gut looked larger now than it has in the past. Jerry Jones was in and out of the frame on TV.

The announcement: the Cowboys had passed on the 51st pick in the draft.

Interesting choice for an underachieving team, but it turns out that the Cowboys traded their second round pick to the Bills for picks in the third and fourth rounds. That gives Dallas 12 picks tomorrow.

The last time that the Cowboys did not have a pick in either the first or second round was 1980 (see here). Not a great strategy, but whatever.

Here are the picks, for now:

3rd Round

69. Dallas (from Cleveland).

75. Dallas (from Buffalo).

4th Round

101.
Dallas (from Detroit).

110. Dallas (from Buffalo)

117. Dallas.

5th Round

156. Dallas.

166. Dallas (from Tennessee).

172. Dallas.

6th Round

197.
Dallas (from Miami). Dallas acquired this pick along with a 6th round
pick in 2008 for DT Jason Ferguson and the Cowboys’ 6th round pick in
2008.

208. Dallas. This is a compensatory pick for the free agency loss of Jacques Reeves.

7th Round

210. Dallas (from Detroit). Dallas acquired this pick in the trade for WR Roy Williams.

227. Dallas.

Draft Needs of the Dallas Cowboys: 2008 vs. 2009

One year ago today, the Cowboys were preparing for the 2008 draft, where they expected to fill specific needs to take the final steps towards a NFL championship. In anticipation of the draft last year, we looked at Six Things the Cowboys Shouldn’t Forget During the Draft. Here is a summary of those six things, along with a look at how those “things” have affected the 2008 season and especially this year’s draft.

(1) Don’t forget that Pacman still has a large hill to climb

The odds, I think, are actually against Pacman Jones thriving in
Dallas. While there are numerous examples of players with behavior
problems from college doing well in the NFL, I cannot think of one
example of a player with this many problems occurring while he was a pro who has also turned his life around.

Now: Pacman did not survive in Dallas and will now play on Pros vs. Joes. Fortunately, the Cowboys found some good corners in the draft, so the Pacman debacle was not the end of the world.

(2) Don’t forget that receivers over the age of 35 tend to decline rapidly

At some point, look at the statistics
of some of the all-time great receivers and notice when their stats
started to decline. In nearly every instance, receivers tend to begin
to slide at the age of 33, and very few remain productive at 35 and
older.

Now: Terrell Owens turned 35 in December, and he was not much of a weapon in 2008 (save one great game against San Francisco and a few other plays here and there). Owens had plenty of excuses, but in the end, the distractions he caused led to his release from Dallas.

(3) Don’t forget that Marion Barber himself was a 4th round pick,
and there may be plenty of options left at RB after the first round

I won’t be terribly disappointed if the Cowboys pick up Felix Jones
or another running back, but there may be options left with the 61st
pick. With his 4.24 40 time, if Chris Johnson of East Carolina fell
that far, it may be a gift.

Now: The Cowboys indeed took Felix Jones in the first round, but they also found a fourth-round pick in Tashard Choice, who came on strong late in the 2008 season.

(4) Don’t forget that Roy Williams cannot cover anyone

The Cowboys’ opponents haven’t forgotten, and it looks as if the
team may limit using him in nickel and dime packages. Reggie Smith of
Oklahoma seemed like he could come in an have immediate value due to
his ability to play both corner and safety, but he was not impressive
in his workouts (he may drop to the third round anyway). A pick for a
player who can both play strong safety and cover would be nice.

Now: Williams barely played in 2008 thanks to a broken arm. He still couldn’t cover, and the Cowboys released him after the season. He is still unemployed.

One of the biggest needs of the 2009 draft is strong safety. This is no surprise.

(5) Don’t forget that the Cowboys have not shown an ability to draft tackles

I’ve seen some mock drafts with Dallas taking a tackle in the first
round. After Jacob Rogers (2nd round, 2004); Rob Petitti (6th round,
2005); Pat McQuistan (7th round, 2006); James Marten (3rd round, 2007);
and Doug Free (4th round, 2007), I am not terribly confident in the
team’s ability to draft for this position. Let’s give McQuistan,
Marten, and Free a chance to fail before we waste more picks.

Now: The Cowboys did not try to draft a tackle in 2008, but the team needs someone to groom to replace Flozell Adams on the left side. Nobody has emerged.

(6) Don’t forget that Dallas has taken a linebacker in the first round three drafts in a row

The first of these picks was DeMarcus Ware, so I won’t say Dallas
has bombed with all of these picks. In fact, only Bobby Carpenter
should be labeled as a bust, because Anthony Spencer looks pretty good
right now. That said, it will be frustrating if the team uses another
first or second round pick on a linebacker.

Now: The Cowboys did not draft a linebacker in 2008, choosing instead to sign free agent Zach Thomas. The Cowboys signed Keith Brooking during the off-season, but the team make take a shot at another ILB later in the draft this year.

Cowboys Dominate Second Half of the 1971 Season

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This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

After the Cowboys lost to the Bears in week 7 of the 1971 season, Dallas was two games behind the Redskins, who had already beaten the Cowboys. The Cowboys could not afford to lose to the Cardinals in week 8.

During the week before the St. Louis game, Tom Landry announced that Roger Staubach would be the principal starter. Although Craig Morton had been a quality starter, he had struggled in 1971, managing only seven touchdowns compared with eight interceptions. Staubach, by comparison, had 15 touchdowns compared with only four interceptions. A comparison of the passer ratings (using the modern calculation) of the two quarterbacks was no contest: Staubach – 104.8; Morton – 73.5.

A second development also benefited the Cowboys. Duane Thomas’ trade to the New England Patriots was nullified by the league, and Thomas returned to the Cowboys. He played in weeks 4 through 7, but he had not stood out yet. Against the Cardinals, Thomas carried the ball 26 times and had his first of two 100-yard games. Thomas finished the season with 11 touchdowns in 11 games.

The last development was the dominance of the Doomsday Defense. In the final seven games of the 1971 season, Dallas gave up more than 300 yards of total offense just one time (vs. L.A.). The defense forced a total of 24 turnovers in the final seven games, compared with only 10 turnovers committed by the offense.

Here are some resources about the 1971 Cowboys:

Box Scores (Pro Football Reference)

Dallas Morning News Stories

DallasCowboys.com

Week 8: Dallas 16, St. Louis 13

Dallas record: 5-3

The Cowboys saved their season by beating the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Cardinals had a 10-3 lead in the first half, but Dallas was able to tie the game in the second half thanks to a touchdown pass from Staubach to tight end Mike Ditka. With less than two minutes remaining, newly-acquired kicker Toni Fritsch nailed a 26-yard field goal, giving Dallas the 16-13 win.

Duane Thomas had 101 yards on 26 carries. And Tom Landry stayed true to his word, sticking with Staubach for the entire game.

Week 9: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 7

Dallas record: 6-3

Two Duane Thomas touchdowns were enough to give the Cowboys a 20-7 win over the Eagles. With Washington losing to the Bears, the Cowboys were only a half-game behind the Redskins.

Week 10: Dallas 13, Washington 0

Dallas record: 7-3

Dallas traveled to Washington with the NFC East lead on the line, and the Cowboys dominated in a shutout win. Roger Staubach scored the sole touchdown of the game on a 29-yard run, but the real story focused on the defense, which shut down the Redskins in the biggest game of the regular season.

Week 11: Dallas 28, Los Angeles 21

Dallas record: 8-3

The Cowboys fell behind early to the Rams, who were fighting to stay in the playoff chase. Roger Staubach threw touchdown passes to Bob Hayes and Lance Alworth, but L.A. was able to tie the game in the third quarter. Up to that point, the Cowboys had outplayed the Rams, but three L.A. turnovers helped keep the game close. Dallas took the lead for good on a five-yard run by Duane Thomas in the fourth quarter.

Rookie Ike Thomas only returned seven kickoffs in 1971, but he returned two for touchdowns. He opened this game with an 89-yard TD return.

Week 12: Dallas 52, New York Jets 10

Dallas record: 9-3

Ike Thomas opened yet another game with a touchdown on a kickoff returning, bringing back the opening kickoff 101 yards. Calvin Hill scored two receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, helping Dallas to race to a 38-3 halftime lead. Duane Thomas rushed for 112 yards in the game, which was the biggest blowout of the 1971 season.

Week 13: Dallas 42, N.Y. Giants 14

Dallas record 10-3

Staubach hit Bob Hayes on touchdown passes of 46 and 85 yards, helping Dallas to a 28-0 lead over the Giants.  The Cowboys put up 439 yards of total offense, marking the fifth time in 1971 that the team surpassed 400 total yards in a game.

Week 14: Dallas 31, St. Louis 12

Dallas record: 11-3

Duane Thomas scored three touchddowns, helping the Cowboys to overcome a sloppy game against the Cardinals to end the regular season. Dallas committed four turnovers, including three fumbles, but the game was never in doubt.

1971 Final Standings, NFC East

Dallas, 11-3
Washington, 9-4-1
Philadelphia, 6-7-1
St. Louis, 4-9-1
N.Y. Giants, 4-10

1971 Playoff Schedule

Saturday, December 25: Dallas (11-3) at Minnesota (11-3)
Saturday, December 25: Miami (10-3-1) at Kansas City (10-3-1)
Sunday, December 26: Baltimore (10-4) at Cleveland (9-5)
Sunday, December 26: Washington (9-4-1) at San Francisco (9-5)

’71 Cowboys Struggle Thanks to Confusion at QB

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This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Given that the first and second halves of the 1971 regular season were completely different stories, we will cover the season in two parts.

During weeks 1 through 7, Dallas coach Tom Landry struggled with his choice of leader at quarterback. Even more so than the story of Duane Thomas, the alternation of Roger Staubach and Craig Morton at quarterback is what dominated the storyline of the ’71 Cowboys, who stood at 4-3 midway through the 1971 season.

Week 1: Dallas 49, Buffalo 37

Dallas record: 1-0

2009-04-23_233007.gifThe Cowboys opened the 1971 season by beating the Buffalo Bills in a wild one. With Roger Staubach injured, Craig Morton started the game. Morton completed 10 of 14 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, including a 76-yarder to Bob Hayes in the second quarter. Calvin Hill rushed for a total of four touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a 49-37 win.

Tom Landry’s comment after the game: “Whew. It could have been worse.”

Week 2: Dallas 42, Philadelphia 7

Dallas record: 2-0

2009-04-23_232936.gifThe Eagles threw a total of seven interceptions against the Cowboys, who raced out to a 21-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Morton was solid again, throwing for two touchdowns, including a four-yarder to Walt Garrison (shown above). Calvin Hill added 80 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground. Bob Lilly also scored by returning a fumble for a touchdown, marking Lilly’s fourth and final TD as a pro.

Herb Adderley had his best day as a Cowboy, intercepting three passes.

Week 3: Washington 20, Dallas 16

Dallas record: 2-1

2009-04-23_235008.gifIn the rain at the Cotton Bowl, the Cowboys could not overcome a 20-9 deficit and lost to the Redskins. Craig Morton and Roger Staubach shared time at quarterback, but both struggled. Washington gained 200 yards on the ground, which was remarkable given that the Dallas defense gave up more than 100 rushing yards only three times all season.

Week 4: Dallas 20, N.Y. Giants 13

Dallas record: 3-1

2009-04-23_235538.gifWith Morton struggling against the Giants in week 3, Tom Landry decided to start Staubach in week 4 on Monday Night Football against the Giants. Staubach led Dallas to a 13-6 halftime lead, but Landry decided to start Morton in the second half. Though the Cowboys won the game, the confusion at the QB position began.

Staubach threw a touchdown pass to Billy Truax in the second quarter, marking the only touchdown Truax scored with Dallas. Bob Hayes also caught a touchdown pass, a 48-yarder from Morton in the second half.

The game was the team’s finale in the Cotton Bowl, as the Cowboys played their next home game in the brand new Texas Stadium.

Week 5: New Orleans 24, Dallas 14

Dallas record: 3-2

Both Staubach and Morton saw action against New Orleans. Even though the Saints only managed 157 yards in total offense (compared with 300 yards for the Cowboys), Dallas lost 24-14. The Cowboys turned the ball over six times, including three fumbles and three interceptions (two by Morton and one by Staubach).

According to DMN writer Bob St. John:

This is the highlight of Saint history. The first time the team has ever
beaten the hated Cowboys. On the other hand, it might be the low-light
of Cowboy history.

Week 6: Dallas 44, New England 21

Dallas record: 4-2

2009-04-24_000516.gifThe Cowboys opened Texas Stadium on October 24, 1971 by routing the New England Patriots, 44-21. Staubach started the game and took every meaningful snap. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The game was over by halftime, with Dallas leading 34-7, and Morton did not play until the fourth quarter.

Week 7: Chicago 23, Dallas 19

Dallas record: 4-3

Notwithstanding Staubach’s success against the Patriots, Landry decided to alternate his two quarterbacks on every play of the week 7 game against the Bears. The results were disasterous as the Cowboys turned the ball over seven times. The Cowboys managed 344 passing yards, but Morton and Staubach combined for four interceptions.

NFC East Standings (after Week 7)

With the loss to the Bears, the Cowboys were 4-3 at midseason and were two full games behind the Redskins.

Washington Redskins, 6-1
Dallas Cowboys, 4-3
St. Louis Cardinals, 3-4
Philadelphia Eagles, 2-5
New York Giants, 2-5

1971 Dallas Cowboys Draft: Worst of the Decade

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This post is part of the 50 Seasons in 50 Weeks Series.

Thanks to trades with St. Louis and New Orleans, the Cowboys had extra picks in the third and fourth rounds of the 1971 draft. That gave Dallas seven picks in the first five rounds.

The result: Awful. First-round pick Tody Smith held out for most of training camp and was left on the taxi squad for much of the 1971 season. He was best known as the brother of Baltimore defensive lineman Bubba Smith, but he never did anything in Dallas.

Ike Thomas, who played at Bishop College in Dallas, was supposed to be some sort of steal in the second round. After started one game as a rookie in place of an injured Herb Adderley, but Thomas was burned often. He seldom played after that and was shipped off to Green Bay in 1972.

The best player on this list who actually played in Dallas was Bill Gregory (#77, shown above). He was a backup for seven years on the defensive line.

The best player overall was Ron Jessie, whom the Cowboys traded in July to Detroit. Jessie later played for the Rams and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.


Round

Name

Pos.

College

Career
1 Tody Smith DE USC Dallas, 1971-1972; Houston,
1973-1976; Buffalo, 1976
2 Ike Thomas DB Bishop Dallas, 1971; Green Bay,
1972-1973; Buffalo, 1976
3 Sam Scarber RB New Mexico San Diego, 1975-1976
3 Bill Gregory DE Wisconsin Dallas 1971-1977; Seattle,
1978-1980
4 Joe Carter TE Grambling State n/a
4 Adam Mitchell T Mississippi n/a
5 Ron Kadziel LB Stanford New England, 1972
6 Steve Maier WR Northern Arizona n/a
7 Bill Griffin T Catawba n/a
8 Ron Jessie WR Kansas Detroit, 1971-1974; Los
Angeles, 1975-1979; Buffalo, 1980-1981
9 Honor Jackson DB Pacific New England, 1972-1973; New
York Giants, 1973-1974
10 Rodney Wallace T New Mexico Dallas, 1971-1973
11 Ernest Bonwell DT Lane n/a
12 Steve Goepel QB Colgate n/a
13 James Ford RB Texas Southern New Orleans, 1971-1972
14 Tyrone Covey DB Utah State n/a
15 Bob Young TE Delaware n/a
16 John Brennan T Boston College n/a
17 John Bomer C Memphis n/a

My grade: F.

The third, fourth, and fifth rounds of the 1971 draft featured a bunch of long-time starters. Who could the Cowboys have had instead of Tody Smith in the first round?

Julius Adams (New England, 2nd round), a 12-year starter in New England.

Jack Ham (Pittsburgh, 2nd round), a Hall-of-Famer with the Steelers.

Dan Dierdorf (St. Louis, 2nd round), a Hall-of-Famer with the Cardinals.

As for the slew of picks the Cowboys had in rounds 2 through 5, Dallas could have taken Lyle Alzado (Denver, 4th round); tackle Larry Brown (Pittsburgh, 5th round); or quarterbacks Ken Anderson (Cincinnati, 3rd round) or Joe Theismann (Miami, 4th round).

Fortunately, better drafts would come in the years that followed.