By 1971, the Dallas Cowboys were a reputation as regular season dynamos for folding in the playoffs. They were getting closer, though. In 1970, they lost in the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Colts. The core of the team returned, but there were issues to be resolved. Star running back Duane Thomas was feuding with mangement, and Head coach Tom Landry was vacillating between Roger Staubach and Craig Morton at quarterback. After seven games the team was a disappointing 4-3. Then, roughly coinciding with the decision to play Staubach exclusively at quarterback, the team won its last seven regular season games and crushed three opponents in the playoffs, including a 24-3 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. Aron, who has covered the Cowboys for the Associated Press since 1999, relies on print sources and first-person interviews in this vividly detailed account of the tumultuous 1971 season. Thomas' turmoil and the quarterback controversy receive a large amount of attention, but little escape's Aron's scrutiny, including the midseason opening of the then state-of-the-art Texas Stadium. Great reading for any fan of the NFL's golden age.
Before they became "America's Team, " the Dallas Cowboys were derisively called "Next Year's Champions " because they seemed unable to win the big one. Now it's easy to forget Dallas's early struggles to get over the hump. Aron (Texas sports editor, Associated Press; Dallas Cowboys: The Complete Illustrated History) here revisits the Cowboys' first championship in 1971 and puts into perspective how important that season was for the legacy of Tom Landry as he led a team roiled by the alienating antics of star runner Duane Thomas. In retrospect, it's hard to believe how long it took before Landry chose to go with daring Roger Staubach over erratic Craig Morton as quarterback. That season was about the emergence of Staubach; the vindication of longtime Cowboy stalwarts Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley, and Lee Roy Jordan; and the essential leadership provided by key veteran acquisitions Herb Adderley, Lance Alworth, and Mike Ditka.
The Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s were one of the most dominant teams of a generation. During the decade, they played in five Super Bowls, won two championships, and reached the playoffs eight times. Cowboys games were a fixture on national television, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders became a true cultural phenomenon. In short, the Cowboys were “America’s Team.”
But it wasn’t always that way. Tom Landry’s Cowboys did not win a single game in their debut campaign of 1960, and Dallas failed to secure a winning record in any of its first six seasons in the league. By the second half of the 1960s, the Cowboys emerged as consistent contenders, but they also earned a reputation for being unable to win “the big one.” They were perpetually “Next Year’s Champions.”
So, what changed? How did the Dallas Cowboys go from perennial underachievers to one of the most successful and highest valued sports franchises in North America?
In Breakthrough ’Boys, author Jaime Aron explores the Cowboys’ breakthrough season of 1971, beginning with their heartbreaking loss to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V and concluding with the team’s hoisting of the championship trophy 12 months later. In a year that began with Craig Morton as the starting quarterback and the aging Cotton Bowl as their stadium, the Cowboys rallied to glory with future Hall of Famer Roger Staubach at the helm in the sparkling new Texas Stadium.
Aron takes you week-by-week through this pivotal season to show how Dallas bounced back from a 4–3 start and secured nine straight wins to reach the title game. With Staubach keeping the offense humming and Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, and others powering the “Doomsday Defense,” the ’Boys finally exorcised their demons on January 16, 1972, with a 24–3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.
Going beyond the events on the gridiron, Aron examines the quarterback controversy that hung over the team in the early 1970s, the devastating injuries that threatened to slow the team’s progress, a public contract squabble with star running back Duane Thomas, and the unique leadership of the great Landry. Including recollections from Staubach, Morton, Lilly, Jordan, Thomas, Calvin Hill, and other key players from the 1971 Dallas Cowboys, Breakthrough ’Boys is the story of the people and events that made this the pivotal season in the history of America’s Team.