Blocking on Brink, who was exceptionally big for his day and who overpowered most tackles facing him, would be Rayfield Wright, who is bigger (6'6", 255) and more experienced. Brink would not have overpowered Wright and did not have the maneuverability to go around him. Blaine Nye, at right guard, might have had trouble with Winkler, although Nye is a bit bigger and considerably more experienced, but the odds are that Nye would have handled him.
The Rams used the Eagle defense in 1951, which included a middle guard playing over the center in a five-man line. West was a typical middle guard, immobile, ineffectual in a pass rush and to either side, which was all he needed to perform his function of plugging up the center against a run. Dave Manders, the Dallas center, would have blocked on West, using five years more experience and much more speed to clear a road up the middle for runners like Wall Garrison and Hill. At right tackle, Toogood would have been 12 pounds lighter and five years less experienced than John Niland, a totally impossible handicap for a defensive tackle to overcome. And Robustelli, who went on to become All-Pro for both the Rams and the New York Giants, certainly could not have beaten Ralph Neely, who would have outweighed him by 45 pounds and has been All-Pro himself four times. Neely has whipped ends of the caliber of Deacon Jones; he would have slammed the door in Robustelli's face.
So, if most football games are won in the line, the Cowboys would certainly have won this one. But the disparity extends beyond the line. The two first-rate receivers for the Rams in 1951 were Tom Fears and Elroy Hirsch, and there is no doubt whatever that they would have been first-rate today. But there is some question whether or not they would have been as effective against modern defenses and modern defensive backs. Hirsch ran the 100 in about 9.8; Fears was not that fast. Speed is not the be-all and end-all of good receiving, but it has become a necessity. Bob Hayes has run the 100 in 9.1; there was not a defensive back on the Ram team who had run it under 10 flat. Lance Alworth, the other Cowboy wide receiver, ran a 9.6 100 as a freshman at Arkansas.
The fastest men on the Ram team were Bob Boyd, a little-used end who had a 9.5 100 to his credit, and a halfback named Verda Thomas Smith. He was nicknamed Vitamin, and he ran the 100 in 9.6. But Vitamin was only 5'8", 180. The Rams did have a trio of big, fast backs in Deacon Dan Towler, Dick Hoerner and Younger. They ranged from 220 to 226 pounds and were called the Bull Elephant Backfield. No one has called the Cowboys' backs bull elephants, but Hill is bigger than any member of the Ram trio and can run the 100 in under 10 seconds.
The Rams were regarded as by far the fastest pro team in 1951; as an example of how much faster modern teams are, the Houston Oilers had three men in camp this year who had run the 100 in 9.3. This speed is used, as often as not, in the defensive backfield, where the cornerbacks and safeties must be fast to keep up with the likes of Hayes, Alworth and Paul Warfield. There, again, the 1951 Rams would have been hard put to survive in the modern game. Their defensive backs were fast—for their time. Jerry Williams and Woodley Lewis, the speediest, could not possibly have covered a Hayes or an Alworth on a fly pattern; they would have been losing a yard in 10.
It is unfair to compare linebackers because of the differences in defenses today. In Don Paul, the Rams had a big, tough player who was marvelous against the run, but neither Paul nor the other linebacker had much pass defense responsibility. Paul was very likely not as fast as any one of the three Cowboy linebackers; Jordan and Chuck Howley, especially, are faster than many of the backs who played in the NFL in 1951.
If the difference between the 1971 Cowboys and the 1951 Rams is shocking, the difference between the lesser teams during the two eras is even more so. With inadequate scouting systems, they went to the draft meeting with copies of a college football annual, and by the time they had exhausted the obvious choices, they drafted in the dark. And many were chosen. Each club picked 30 as compared with 17 now, so that the total number of players drafted was 360 against 442.
Another important element that has contributed to the greater ability of pro football players in recent years is money. When Van Brocklin signed his rookie contract with the Rams, he was paid a $500 bonus and an annual salary of $12,500. Pro football was not a particularly inviting career in 1951. Now a bright, competent athlete is far more likely to try to make it in that sport.
But probably the biggest factor that has prevented any dilution in the quality of pro football players—and, as a result, in the quality of the game itself—is the wholehearted acceptance of blacks. Although the Rams were pioneers in signing black players, there were only five on the 1951 team—Boyd, Lewis, Harry Thompson, Towler and Younger. The Dallas team that lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl V had 14, the Colts 13.
As good as the 1951 Rams were—and I remember them with enormous affection—it is most unlikely that they could have won even a division championship in either the NFC or the AFC in 1971. They are a great memory, but only a memory.