America’s Game: The story of the 1971 Dallas Cowboys

The NFL Network has done a fantastic job showcasing America’s Game.  In short, they document a Super Bowl winning team and have three players from this team discuss their perceptions of that entire season.  The story of the 1971 Dallas Cowboys had Captain America Roger Staubach, Mr Cowboy Bob Lilly, and Duane Thomas.

I think many are aware that this was Dallas’ first Super Bowl victory and they could finally shake loose the tag of “Next Year’s Champions” and always being known as the “Bridesmaids of the NFL.”  However, I learned the following from this documentary that really surprised me:

  • At the beginning of the season Coach Landry had two starting QB’s, Craig Morton and Roger Staubach.  In one of Landry’s poorest moments, he had the two alternating each series, and at one point every offensive play.  After seven games (the midpoint of the season) Landry eventually chose Staubach and they never lost another game that year.  At that point, their record was 4-3.
  • This was running back Duane Thomas’ second year in the NFL, in his first year he won Rookie of the Year honors.  He wanted a raise, and GM Tex Schram said no.  Thomas wasn’t happy, so he was traded to the New England Patriots before the start of the season.  After headbutting with the New England coaches, they petitioned Commissioner Pete Rozelle and he reversed the trade over ‘ethical’ reasons, the first and only time this has ever happened in the NFL.  Thomas thus played the entire season for the Cowboys BUT never talked to his teammates, coaches, Dallas Cowboys management, or the media.
  • The Cowboys played the first half of the season in the Cotton Bowl and then played the rest of the season in brand new Texas Stadium.  Players didn’t really like the new place because it seemed very quiet compared to the Cotton Bowl.  The first game was played Oct 24, 1971 in which the Cowboys beat the New Englad Patriots 44-21.
  • Duane Thomas had this to say of Super Bowl VI, “If it’s the ultimate [game], how come they’re playing it again next year?”
  • I learned that Staubach, while serving active duty in the Navy, spent his two weeks leave every year practicing with the Dallas Cowboys.


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One Response to America’s Game: The story of the 1971 Dallas Cowboys

  1. Dan says:

    Good stuff. All this was before my time, but I believe Duane Thomas’ career was similar to Ricky Williams…short-lived and well below expectations because of his personal demons

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