Behind White is the polite but quite forgettable Steve Pelluer, who is supposed to be a great scrambler but last year was sacked 47 times in 10 games and looked at times as if he would have a hard time getting out of the way of a cold front. Backing up Pelluer is a short (5'11�") long shot, rookie Kevin Sweeney, the NCAA Division I-A career passing yardage leader. Don't be surprised to see Sweeney across the bottom of your set this fall.
"All right, we don't have a quarterback right now," says Schramm, "but the Raiders and Pittsburgh don't, either. How many good ones are there?"
Not many. Maybe just enough to fill the playoffs. But even if Dallas had one, to whom would he throw? Sherrard is gone for at least this year, and the Cowboys' alltime leader in reception yardage (7,998), Tony Hill, was released before camp began because he failed to lose weight. Hill reportedly refused three times in the off-season to get on a scale. He also refused to work out hard in the team's "voluntary" off-season program. "It's so voluntary," says Pearson, "that they kicked him out for not showing up."
Strict by-the-bookness doesn't play as well as it used to for Dallas. Nobody practices longer or harder than the Cowboys do, but does it pay? Over the last four years, the Cowboys are 3-10 in December. Last year they never overcame a halftime deficit. By the first exhibition game of this year, they had suffered more than 25 injuries. Five receivers went down within 30 hours.
"With the Cowboys, the more you lose the more you run," says former Dallas defensive back Ron Fellows, who was traded to the Raiders last month for receiver Rod Barksdale. "In the third quarter of a lot of games last year, I was just beat."
Says Barksdale, "There are so many ways to get fined here. I was getting so paranoid that by the end of the first day, I almost saluted one of the coaches.... We practice for so long and so hard, I don't see how anybody can be ready for a game. You're so sore." No wonder after only one year in Dallas, Herschel Franchise was already talking about retirement.
We should have seen all of this coming. After all, last year was the first in history that neither Don Shula, Chuck Noll nor Landry made the playoffs. Because the NFL is so sophisticated now, because it has no free agency and because the league is hopelessly over-weighted toward parity in everything from drafting to scheduling, it's getting harder and harder to stand out. For every ship that comes in, one must go out.
Still, Davis, in particular, has shown signs of his old rapacious self this year. He acquired Swervyn' Mervyn Fernandez, a wide receiver who in 1985 was named MVP of the Canadian Football League, and the former Green Bay Packer wide receiver, James Lofton. The latter move is vintage Davis: signing the great troubled player late in his career and giving him new hope for a ring, a la Plunkett at age 30 and Alzado at 33. Of course, Davis also signed the world's most expensive Kelly Boy, running back Bo Jackson. An outfielder with the Kansas City Royals, Bo will fill in for a couple of months a year.
Davis is probably just buying time in order to convince Jackson he's better off in a game in which only the punts curve. "Once again," says Long, "the best owner in pro sports has dipped into his pocket—his bag of tricks—and come up with four jacks."
As for the Cowboys, their return flight will be delayed longer, but they do have the best young offensive brain in the game, pass offense coordinator Paul Hackett, and Landry seems possessed this year. "Hey," says Hackett, "we're teed off."