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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.