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?1981: Tackle Howard Richards (first round) injured most of the time, ineffective the rest, a sometime starter. Bad pick.
?1982: Cornerback Rod Hill (first round), ineffective, traded. Worse pick.
?1984: Linebacker Billy Cannon (first round), forced out of football by a congenital spinal condition. Bad luck. Defensive back Victor Scott (second round) is still second string.
?1985: Defensive tackle Kevin Brooks (first round), still not starting. Linebacker Jesse Penn (second round), not starting either, and the linebacking core is weak.
"It's a bad job," says Schramm. "Our gambles didn't pay off. We might've gotten to the point of reaching too far." However, as Cowboy vice-president Gil Brandt says, "You got the feeling that Tom Landry was so great that you felt like every player you drafted you were delivering to Superman himself." But in the '80s, there are precious few secrets in the draft and even fewer Calvin Hills. "It used to be," says Landry, "we'd list our top 100 guys on a board on draft day and get five or six out of our top 28. Nowadays, we line up the 100 and then they go just like we had 'em. We just mark 'em off, one by one."
"It was a case of overpreparation," says former Cowboy star Drew Pearson, who was never drafted. "You've got to look at a player for more than how many weights he lifts or what his score on the IQ tests were. You have to look at him as a football player. Does he talk like a football player? Line up like a football player?...Rod Hill just didn't have the heart. He was just a jokester.... And Howard Richards didn't have the heart, didn't have the drive. He was content if he was hurt.... Same with Larry Bethea. And I think Kevin Brooks could be another one of those guys—guys that don't have the drive to be the best."
With the players the Cowboys passed up, you could win a few Super Bowls. To get Richards they passed on Mike Singletary, James Wilder, Cris Collinsworth and Long. Indeed, had it not been for great trades that brought Dallas Tony Dorsett, Jones, Randy White, and great luck, like getting Herschel Walker with a fifth-round pick, the Cowboys would be flatter than Amarillo.
Dallas could have had Marino, too, but the most unforgivable goof was in the third round in 1979, when the name at the top of the Cowboys' list when their turn came around was Joe Montana. Now, the Cowboys never go against philosophy. And the philosophy dictated that they always take the guy at the top of the list. So what did Dallas do? "We jumped him," says Schramm remorsefully. The Cowboys went instead for tight end Doug Cosbie. "We just didn't think we needed a quarterback," says Schramm. "It just kills me. Of all the times not to follow our own system and our own intelligence. Cripes."
Now their quarterback is an aging, ailing Danny White, whose wrist was broken in Game 9 last season and is still sore. White will start, but he cannot even throw a dump-off pass without great pain. Also painful for White lately is picking up the newspaper. A recent series of stories in the Dallas Morning News detailed how three companies in which White is a primary partner accrued at least $230,000 in debts. Lawsuits await, sleep abates. "I've always gone to bed thinking about making great plays, throwing touchdown passes," says White. "Lately, I go to bed thinking about bills and newspaper stories. I'd call that a distraction."