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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You can't be fat...and fast, too.
Fat is hard to see, fat is hard to detect.
It hides under thick skin, it enslaves and slows every movement of the body. untrained eye cannot find fat.
T. L.

T. L. means Tom Landry. Ralph Neely, the tackle, was lying on his back lifting weights with his feet. Looking between his knees, Neely could see the UGLY FAT sign on the wall of the Cowboys' practice field clubhouse in north Dallas. It was late on a Wednesday afternoon, and the Cowboys had been running plays for hours. Most of the linemen were heading toward the clubhouse now, their heads down and their breathing hard, but Roger Staubach and Craig Morton were still over by the goalposts throwing passes, as if the last one left on the field might be the first one in Tom Landry's heart come Sunday.

Staubach and Morton have both been starting quarterbacks for Dallas in the Super Bowl, and neither believes he ought to be No. 2. To Neely it does not matter which one is in the game. Few of the Cowboys are what you would call close pals but certainly they know each other well enough, and if there is any real disagreement over who ought to be the quarterback, it is hard to detect. Unless, of course, you ask Staubach or Morton.

"I used to care," Neely said, resting a moment. "I used to prefer having Craig in there. But now I can honestly say I think they're equal. Roger will sacrifice anything, even his own body, to win a game. Craig is more cool and calm."

Neely did another dozen lifts and sat up. Kids were yelling through the fence for somebody to throw them a chin strap. You could hear pads creaking and the whack of the ball striking flesh.

"Craig has taken so much hell here that he can stay calm now even when they're booing him," Neely said. "The quarterback gets paid to take the heat is the way I look at it. He sure gets the glory if you win. But Craig has taken some stuff from the fans that was just awful, even when the team was winning. Roger hasn't lived through anything like it. Maybe he's had a little taste, but he doesn't really know what it's like when they get down on you. Don Meredith knew, and Craig found out in a hurry."

The two quarterbacks finally walked past the sweating Neely and into the clubhouse. No, make that three quarterbacks. Jack Concannon is on the taxi squad. Concannon was a starter for Chicago before he played out his option and signed with the Cowboys. Next year Concannon's situation is bound to improve because by then Morton will almost surely have been traded, probably to Green Bay.

"Look, I'm a lineman, so the quarterback can't give me anything," Neely said. "He can't throw me a pass or let me run with the ball, so there's no reason for me to play favorites. It just happens to be true that Craig and Roger are about the same on the field in terms of effectiveness. They're not all that different off the field, either. Roger is supposed to be Mr. Pure, dedicated and all that, a sincere family man. Craig is supposed to be a playboy. Well, Craig got that image because he's a bachelor. People think a bachelor quarterback must really live it up, like they think Joe Namath does. But underneath, Craig is just as dedicated as Roger. Craig is the kind of guy who'll drive down to Waco and spend half the night with a sick child who wrote him a letter, and then won't ever mention it."

Neely wiped his face and glanced up at the UGLY FAT sign. "You don't think T. L.'s trying to tell us something, do you?" he said.

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