TSN Archives: Roger Staubach Wins NFC Player of the Year (January 22, 1972)
This story, by Bob St. John, first appeared in the Jan. of the Cowboys Roger Staubach was named NFC Player of the Year by TSN for the 1971 NFL season. Dallas was a week away from defeating the Dolphins, 24-3, for its first Super Bowl win. Staubach was named MVP of the game.
DALLAS, Texas — Ever since Roger Staubach entered professional football, the coveted Heisman Trophy has been tucked away at home. It was used…sort of. His three little girls play with it like a kind of workhorse.
“Well,” reasoned Roger before the start of the season, “he is tall and the man on it is reclined so children always ride or sit on it.
“But I don’t have any of my college trophies to show off. I’m not going to show them off until I’ve proven myself in professional football. I want to prove myself with the best.”
The place of the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Trophy and other college awards has improved in the Roger Staubach house. It was the season that Staubach, the 29-year-old third-year quarterback, proved his best. He’s led professional football, both conferences, by the way, received full NFC recognition, won the Bert Bell Award, which is the professional equivalent of the Maxwell Trophy, and now he’s been named The Player of the Year. Sporting News NFC.
His children will not be able to ride on the prize that accompanies the designation. He will receive a suitably engraved Bulova Accutron Mark II wristwatch from The Sporting News. He will also receive a handsome trophy, presented each year jointly by cigarette manufacturers Marlboro and The Sporting News.
A year ago, Staubach stepped onto the bench while Craig Morton did the best he could with a badly injured right elbow that would require surgery at the end of the season.
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Staubach knew his arm was fine. He knew he could do the job. But coach Tom Landry thought Morton’s experience was more valuable than Staubach’s formidable ability. So Roger watched as the Cowboys defense swept the team in the Super Bowl, a game lost to Baltimore due to offensive incompetence.
“I couldn’t take it,” Staubach once said. “Craig was hurt and people kept saying the quarterback was a weak spot for the Cowboys. It wasn’t fair. I wanted them to say the quarterback was a strong position. I wanted be there and show them.”
Prior to the start of this season, Staubach spoke with Landry and indicated that he would be somewhere else just as quickly if he didn’t have an equal shot at being the No. 1 quarterback. Landry gave him his shot and, ultimately, after Morton and Staubach had split time for most of the seven games, Landry declared Roger to be No. 1 now or until injury separated them.
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Most of the attacking players I knew seemed to lean slightly towards Morton’s experience. Defensive players seemed to want Staubach. Landry was in the middle. But he had to make a decision to give his team a rallying point
Roger was. Dallas was 4-3 when Landry made his decision. The Cowboys haven’t lost since, winning nine straight games, including playoff victories over Minnesota and San Francisco, to qualify for the Super Bowl for the second straight year. The thing is, Dallas has never lost a game Staubach has started and finished. Personally, he’s 13-0 under those circumstances in his three years with Dallas.
“It was a very important decision for Coach Landry to pick a No. 1 quarterback,” Roger said. “He had to get out of it. But if he had gone the other way and picked Craig, I think we would still be where we are now.
“People don’t give Craig credit. He made a tremendous comeback and now his arm is as good as ever. He had right shoulder surgery after 1969, then elbow surgery before this season. If I’d had two operations on my throwing arm, I’d be a cook on a Navy ship somewhere right now.
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Staubach has made an incredible comeback himself. No one has spent four years in service, returned to professional football and carved out a place for themselves. No one doubted Roger’s abilities when he left the Naval Academy in 1963. But everyone thought his football career was over when he began his four-year enlistment in the Navy. Dallas, on a hope, drafted him as a future in the 10th round. He finally reported as a 27-year-old rookie in 1969.
Roger worked harder than anyone I remember from the start. I remember writing after his first training camp that I would hate to have a guy like Roger Staubach after my work because he would work while you slept or played. He is incredibly dedicated, talented, persistent and, of course, an excellent athlete.
“Roger Staubach is a man you can never say he can’t do something about,” Cowboys tight end Mike Ditka said before the start of the season.
No one is more devoted. Staubach’s idea to break the workout is to put whipped cream on his pie.
Originally, the error in his throw was a slow delivery. But when it was brought to his attention after last season, he corrected it.
“Now,” said Cowboy special assistant Ermal Allen, who rates and monitors all NFL players, “Roger has one of the fastest deliveries in the league.”
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Staubach threw fewer interceptions (four) than anyone else in football last season. After becoming the No. 1 quarterback, he had a streak of 134 without an interception on 173 attempts, which is phenomenal.
A big key is his jamming. If he thinks he can’t get the ball to a receiver, he won’t try to force it. Instead, he’ll run off, Landry, who once hated jamming, learned to live with Roger the Dodger.
It was Staubach’s 29-yard run for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys a 13-0 win over arch-rival Washington this season.
“He does what he has to do,” Landry said, “and he does it well. No, we don’t have any play where Roger is supposed to run. He runs enough without any play.”
Room for improvement
“Staubach is a great runner,” San Francisco defensive end Cedrick Hardman said. “He’s smarter than Greg Landry.”
Roger says he wants to reduce his jamming. He said the same thing for three consecutive years. He has other ideas, including calling his own plays, which Landry made that sense.
“I have a lot of improvements to make,” Roger said. “I don’t have the full attacking control I want to have when calling plays. But I guess I can’t call them. I’m lucky to have the smartest man in football who does it for me.
“But I know I’m not a complete quarterback. These awards are nice, but I know I got them because of circumstances. I’m a quarterback with the best team. So these are more awards. team than individual rewards.”
Staubach is confident, modest, good. It should be on the back of breakfast cereal boxes. It turned out to be a big move when Dallas used that drift pick in the 10th round. Roger Staubach apparently knew this before anyone else.