However, when the Cowboys got to Dallas, Landry named Roger Staubach, the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner from Navy, as his starting quarterback against the Packers. Staubach is a fiery ballplayer who likes to run if his receivers are momentarily covered. He may be a more inspirational leader than Morton, if not quite as accurate a passer.
"No one on this team has his position made," Landry said by way of explanation. "I'll play the man who gets the job done, in practice or in the game." This is a reflection of Landry's off-season thoughts about the defects in the team and, possibly, in his own approach to the game. The Cowboys have become a mature team in the last few years and, although he hasn't said so, Landry obviously feels that some of his veterans have become complacent.
Staubach, who backed up Morton last season, has the confidence of the younger receivers. Reggie Rucker, who was on the taxi squad last year, worked out with Staubach during the off season, and he reflects their feeling. "The guy can't stand losing at anything," he said. "We used to run wind sprints together every day and I'm probably a tenth of a second or two faster than Roger at 40 yards, but I couldn't convince him no matter how many times I beat him. He was always after me to race him again and every time I beat him he said, 'I'll get you next time.' "
Staubach looked better than adequate even though the Packers beat the Cowboys 35-34 last Saturday night. That is, as long as he lasted. Unfortunately, his penchant for running makes him prone to injury. In the first quarter he was tackled hard on one of his impromptu forays and knocked dizzy. He wasn't seriously injured, but when he was still woozy after the half Landry decided not to put him back in.
Morton, who came in for Staubach and performed at least as well, has inherited not only Meredith's reputation for insouciance but his lack of popularity with the fans, too. Once, when he was forced into a hurried pass by a strong rush and overthrew a wide-open Bob Hayes, he was roundly booed.
He deserves better. Through the first three games of the 1969 season Morton was brilliant, leading the league in pass-completion average. In the fourth game he dislocated his right shoulder, which inhibited his throwing motion for the rest of the year, but he still completed 53.6% of his passes. An operation has repaired the damaged shoulder and he now throws as well as ever.
Too, Morton is honest. Before the Cleveland playoff game last year he admitted he was scared to death and he played that way. If he again beats out Staubach, the added year of experience under pressure should settle him down.
There is one more factor that may help account for the Cowboys' traditional hanging on the money. Most of the black players on the club are less than enchanted with Dallas and the attitude of its citizenry toward blacks. Don Perkins, who was a fine running back, retired while still in his prime and gave as one of the reasons his difficulty in finding suitable housing in Dallas. Another black player said, "Sure, they cheer us when we're on the field, but they can't see us off it. They make you feel like an animal act." Moreover, a few of the white players have no love for the blacks and don't bother to conceal it—a situation that exists on other clubs as well.
Finally, given the cumulative effects of a lack of confidence brought on by a succession of big defeats, breezy quarterbacks, complacent veterans and disaffected blacks, there is the possibility that Landry himself is a factor in pressure-filled games. His offense and defense are extremely complicated and require absolute concentration by every player to be successful.
In a regular-season game the Cowboys can put aside their discontents, but in the playoffs, with the added strain of their reputation for collapse, they tend to make mental errors, and mistakes in the Landry system cost dearly. In the Lombardi-style Packer game, on the other hand, the plays are relatively few and uncomplicated, and are so thoroughly rehearsed that they become instinctive. The old Packer powerhouses could execute them under any kind of pressure.