The Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins would both like to win the Super Bowl very much—so you can write off the favorite intangible most coaches use to explain victory or defeat. Desire is equal.
Both clubs have extraordinarily talented individuals, capable of what is usually called The Big Play although, as often as not, it is The Fortuitous Play.
Both teams have bright coaches and good scouting staffs, and both will go into the Super Bowl with precise and detailed information on offense, defense, special teams and how long it takes the opposing punter or placekicker to get the ball in the air.
A great deal of the pregame publicity will be concerned with matchups—a cornerback on a wide receiver, an offensive guard on a defensive tackle, a defensive end on an offensive tackle, a center on a middle linebacker—and the judgments arrived at from evaluating these will be valid, up to a point.
Both teams are strong and skilled, and if the matchups seem a shade in favor of Dallas, matchups do not really mean that much anymore. Professional football, at the level at which Dallas and Miami will be playing in New Orleans, is not really a game of individuals.
It is, and has been for some time, a game of carefully fitted and meticulously coached units. The basic confrontation in the line next weekend will not be All-Pro Tackle Bob Lilly versus Miami Guard Bob Kuechenberg, or Cowboy Guard Blaine Nye versus Miami Tackle Manny Fernandez. These matchups will undoubtedly occur now and then, but, given the variety of offense and defense that both teams will use, the odds are that they will not very often have a clear-cut and definitive effect on the outcome of the game.
What will decide the winner of this game—and it should be Dallas by something over two touchdowns—will be the efficiency shown by the units of both teams. And efficiency within a unit—offensive line, defensive line, linebackers. defensive backs or whatever—derives from experience and, more important, the experience of the unit as a whole, not of the individuals who make it up.
Paul Wiggin, one of the San Francisco coaches, analyzed it properly after the Cowboys beat the 49ers for the NFC title. "The Vikings have the reputation for defense, mostly because of their line," he said, "but the Cowboys are probably the best defensive team in the league because of how well they coordinate all they have."
Well, coordination is not an individual thing; in the long run (no pun intended) it comes from a group of people doing the same thing together for a long time. Within the structure of modern pro football there are quite a few groups, and the groups on the Dallas team have played together, under stress, longer than those on the Dolphins.
Let's run down the matchups, group by group. The operative blocking section of the Cowboys is made up of Tony Liscio at left tackle (eight-year veteran), John Niland at left guard (six years), Dave Manders at center (seven years), Nye at right guard (four years), Ray-field Wright at right tackle (five years) and either Mike Ditka (11 years) or Billy Truax (eight years) at tight end. True, both ends joined Dallas recently, but they are veterans who fit into a new style quickly and easily.