SI Vault
Edwin Shrake
December 10, 1973
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December 10, 1973

Qb Or Not Qb: That Is The Question

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Tex Schramm has been through all this before. The Cowboy general manager got to talking about it in Los Angeles last month the night before the Rams beat Dallas in a game in which Morton did nothing but hold the ball on field goals and extra points. Six nights earlier, in the Monday TV game against Washington, Landry had taken Staubach out late in the evening, and Staubach had tried to put himself back in. Having played what he describes as the worst game of his life in the playoffs against Washington last year, Staubach on this night had wanted so badly to make up for it that several Cowboy players said they thought he might stage a tantrum on the sidelines watching Morton finish and Dallas lose. "His face swelled up and got red," one of them said.

"Roger is a fierce competitor," Schramm said. "He wants to win any kind of game he plays against anybody. Craig's a good competitor, too. The kind of thing that's going on between them now is like it used to be when I was with the Rams and we had Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin. Then Waterfield quit, and Bill Wade came in. Same deal. Then, in Dallas, we had Meredith and Eddie LeBaron competing with each other. Then it was Meredith and Morton. Then Morton and Staubach. Morton has worn both sets of shoes here."

Morton walked out of training camp this year after being offered a contract that was heavy with incentive clauses. He could hardly be blamed if he suspected that he would not be the No. 1 quarterback. Had Morton not started every game until the final one last year, only to spend the entire afternoon on the bench while Staubach ran the club against the Redskins in the playoffs? That's an indication for you. The week before the Redskin game Staubach had replaced Morton in the third quarter against San Francisco and had thrown two touchdown passes in the last minute and a half, and Dallas had won by two points. "At the end of the 49er game there was no doubt in my mind I'd be the starter against Washington," said Staubach, who had missed almost half of the 1972 season with a separated shoulder. "Maybe I should have been surprised, but I wasn't."

There had been little doubt in anybody's mind, either, about who would be the starting quarterback this season. Staubach said in the off-season that he wanted to be No. 1 or be traded. "Being No. 2 around here is like being a rookie," he said. "They treat you as if you aren't even there. I don't have that many years for pro football." Dallas is not about to trade Roger Staubach. So if Landry and Schramm had to make any of their quarterbacks unhappy, it would not be him.

"I've never seen a player as uniquely popular as Staubach," Schramm said. "The only one who came close in my time was Elroy Hirsch. But Roger bridges a bigger span of people than Hirsch did. Staubach came along when the public was getting tired of hearing about guys like Joe Namath. Roger is the All-America hero type. He could make more money than any football player in history. He could make a speech every night of the year at $1,500 a pop if he wanted to, and he could do endless commercials and endorsements in a way that has never happened to Morton. But Roger has been careful about the ones he chose. And he's cautious about investing his money. He'll wind up rich."

Schramm would prefer to keep both Morton and Staubach, but he knows he is not likely to do it. Morton figured incentive clauses are not worth much to a man on the bench, and refused to sign. Recently Schramm offered him a new three-year contract, and Morton turned that one down, too.

"There are several teams Craig could turn into cinch winners," Schramm said. "He's shown he can win for us. It's strange, but with Craig as the underdog right now, there's becoming an increasingly strong vocal group who wants him to replace Roger the way they used to yell for Morton to replace Meredith."

From the outside, Wellingtons looks like an adobe fort. It sits in a garden on a small lake across from a runway at Love Field in Dallas. The jets come over low enough that their engines whine through the din of discoth�que music inside the building, which is usually crowded with young businessmen and pretty girls. Wellingtons has three bars, including one on the roof and another on a darkened second floor furnished with couches. "The second floor's for necking," said a downstairs bartender. He was standing under a sign that said ACHTUNG, YOU VILL ENJOY OUR LIEBFRAUMILCH! "YOU never saw so many pretty ladies as come in this place," he said. In fact, Wellingtons is often so crowded that Morton will not go inside, and until recently he was one of the three owners.

After declaring bankruptcy a few years ago and borrowing against his salary, Morton has pretty well pulled himself out of it now, partly by giving up big houses with swimming pools and partly because he decided to quit giving his money to anyone asking for it. "The hardest word I ever learned to say is 'no,' " Morton said one evening in Wellingtons while girls circled the table, hoping to draw his eye. Morton is big and good-looking, and even his being a semi-hero does not drive them off.

"You don't want people to think you're a bad guy," he said. "You want everybody to like you. So you go and loan money and do what friends want, and all of a sudden you're in a jam and the other people aren't."

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