'The Dodger,' page 2

01/01/2005

For the Cowboys and their electrifying field leader, the 1971 season was just a beginning. From 1971 to 1979, Dallas won six NFC Eastern Division titles and played in four Super Bowls, including a 27-10 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII. Except for 1972, when an injury curtailed his playing time, Staubach was the perennial leader of a high-powered Cowboys offensive machine.

Staubach actionStaubach was All-NFC in 1971, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979. He was elected to six Pro Bowls and led the NFL in passing four years and the NFC in a fifth season in 1977. There are many reasons why Staubach's feats will be remembered for a long time but, if one characteristic symbolized his daring play more than any other, it would be the uncanny ability he had to lead the Cowboys to come-from-behind victories. On no less than 23 occasions, he engineered fourth-quarter comebacks that produced victories, 14 of them coming in the final two minutes of a game or in overtime.

Perhaps his most famous come-from-behind magic occurred in a 1972 playoff game against San Francisco at the end of a season that had seen Roger play in just four games and throw only 20 passes because of a severe shoulder injury.

The Cowboys, were behind, 28-13, when Roger replaced starter Craig Morton in the fourth quarter. With 78 seconds to play, Dallas still trailed, 28-16, but Roger had his team in high gear. A 20-yard pass to Billy Parks culminated a 55-yard drive and set up a successful onside kickoff by Toni Fritsch. It took Staubach just three plays to wrap up a 30-28 Dallas victory. The clincher was a 1-yard toss to Ron Sellers.

Roger would repeat his hero's role many more times. Clearly, with time running out and the Cowboys trailing, Staubach, blessed with a tremendous will to succeed and in total command of his team's two-minute offense, was at his absolute best.

Even in the last 140 seconds of his final regular-season game in 1979, Roger was still up to his old tricks when he threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:20 to beat arch-rival Washington, 35-34.

As might be expected, such individual game brilliance led to blue-ribbon career records. The 6-3, 202-pound superstar wound up his career with an 83.4 passing rating, the best mark ever for an NFL passer up to that time. His career chart shows 1,685 completions for 22,700 yards and 153 touchdowns. His ability to scramble out of trouble netted another 2,264 yards for a 5.5-yard average and 20 touchdowns.

Few players at any level of football ever generated as much excitement as Staubach did every time he took a snap from center. Fans and opposing players alike had little idea as to whether Roger was going to hand off, pass or run. If his receivers were in trouble and he saw the slightest opening, he had the tendency to tuck the ball under his arm and take off. With long strides and quick, jerky movements of his hips and shoulders, he was a difficult Cowboy to control.

Staubach and LandryAlthough coach Tom Landry would have preferred that his ace quarterback wasn't quite so willing to risk injury with his "runs to daylight," Staubach's scrambling ability did add a dynamic dimension to the Dallas attack. Time and time again, he made key first downs by running away from a pass rush that undoubtedly would have aborted his passing attempt. In fact, many teams were so concerned about Staubach's running that they often overlooked the fact he also was an outstanding passer.

Roger had an unusually strong arm and he threw bullets. His 57.0 career completion percentage will attest to his accuracy. After one long afternoon trying to stop Staubach, defensive tackle Mike Reid of the Cincinnati Bengals remarked admiringly: "We were too concerned with his ability to run. We really forgot about how well he throws. He is just an exceptionally fine athlete."

A study of the success of the Dallas Cowboys before during and after Roger's reign may provide a final insight into the magnitude of "The Dodger's" accomplishments. During the nine years Staubach was the starting quarterback, Dallas won 85 games against just 30 losses. As a team, the Cowboys enjoyed winning records every year after 1964 but, except for their 1970 NFC championship which was followed by a loss in Super Bowl V, all of the Cowboys' finest victories were achieved when Staubach was firmly in command on the field.

Putting it another way, Bob Griese, the Miami Dolphins' superb quarterback, once commented about the Dallas ace: "Roger can make a positive play out of one that starts tike a loser."

When the confident and capable Staubach was leading his team, there were very few losers, whether it be for a single play, a full game or a championship showdown. This means when Roger won, the Cowboys won. When he was no longer around - he retired after the 1979 season - the Cowboys learned the realities of life without Roger. They didn't win even one NFC championship, let alone make a Super Bowl, for more than a decade following Roger's retirement.

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