Captain Comeback. Roger the Dodger. Captain America.
The man who coined the phrase "Hail Mary" brought the first ever championship to the fans of America's Team. He would add another ring, in Super Bowl XII against this week's opponents, the Denver Broncos. Staubach's Cowboys would play for another two championships, and he'd have his troops constantly in the hunt for the big prize each of his 9 starting seasons out of 11 played. As such, Roger Staubach will forever be the first name mentioned when it comes to the pantheon of Dallas Cowboys quarterbacking.
The tradition at that position for the Cowboys is second to none around the NFL. No franchise has been blessed with such a long string of successful signal-callers as Dallas has since the franchise's inception in the early '60s. Of course, their success is tiered based on the overall team success, which no matter how hard some try will never be uncoupled from a signal-callers' resume. With four trips to the Super Bowl, Staubach earned his place at the head of the table.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Roger last week about several things. I didn't want to focus on the immediacy of the game that had just passed or the upcoming one, but instead wanted to talk about his overview of today's game, as well as from when he was behind center.
BTB: The league is littered with quarterbacks that are considered talented, but have never had the opportunity to win. What's the difference between talent and what it takes to be a champion?
Staubach: Well I think obviously the talent is a big part of it, and in the NFL you have to have arm strength. But a few years ago, everyone was saying you have to be 6'4, 6'5 as a quarterback. The Russell Wilsons and the Drew Brees have dealt with that issue. It's really a matter of instinct, it's making the right decisions in a very short time frame. You have a couple seconds to make those decisions. If you have the instincts, again you have to have the physical talent, you have to get the ball between people and there's just not a lot of weak people on defense. In college, you can pick on the weak part of the other team, but in the NFL you gotta be able to get the ball into tight situations.
It's really the instincts, you see Russell Wilson and some of the players that aren't the bigger players, they make good decisions, they move around well. Even in the pocket, you still gotta take that step to the left or the right and you have to have that feel of what's happening around you. That makes a big difference between being just a good quarterback and a great quarterback.
BTB: You mentioned about how in college you had the opportunity to find a weakness in the defense, maybe there are a couple players that aren't as physically talented. But one of the things that's leaked over from the collegiate game in recent years is the read-option and the dual-threat quarterback that can run and that can pass, which obviously you were one of. It's gotta be pretty funny to see the NFL quarterback position to come full circle and see the return of the option, even though it's tweaked to the read-option. Do you think that the new offenses based on the dual-threat quarterback is something that can be successful in today's NFL?
Staubach: You know KD I think it can be successful if used sparingly, but it's not gonna be like last year. A lot of teams, with RGIII and Russell and Kaepernick and what they were able to do kind of surprised some other teams and it seems like this year, especially Kaepernick is having a more difficult time. But being used now and then, it still can work, it's just not going to be the dominant part of your offense, the defenses will figure that out. A quarterback is still very vulnerable out there. You can slide and you can prevent getting hit, but in a read-option you're putting yourself at risk. I think the defenses have already figured that if they know it's coming then they can plan for it and do a better job with it. Last year, it really brought back good memories for me. I go way back in college and I was running back then and everyone was criticizing the quarterback running and now it's kind of the thing to do.
I think RGIII slowed that down when he got hurt at the end of the year and even this year it seems like these running quarterbacks are a little bit better under control, at least early in the season.
BTB: That's something that I'll be paying close attention to, to see if the coordinators are playing a little bit of cat and mouse, and not relying on it as much and will basically pick their spots to break it out.
Staubach: As you know too, in the NFL if you can buy time, because you can't hit receivers beyond five yards, well you’re not supposed to but you can put your hands on them a little bit… so if you can buy time, you know guys are going to be open. So moving around if you’re a running quarterback and can buy that extra time, that’s good. Or if you’re a Peyton Manning or Brady that stay in the pocket, and they just know what’s going on. They can buy time on their own because their so smart. That’s still a key to be able to buy some time. If you can run around and buy a few extra seconds there’s people that are going to be open and if you can find them, that’s a great asset for you.
BTB: The Ring of Honor is the pinnacle of success for a Cowboys player, just about as hallowed as can be. Many of your former teammates share that honor with you. But who are some of the unsung guys from your time that you feel are worthy of the accolade that you feel might be forgotten as time passes on?
Staubach: When I go way back, I kind of quarterbacked Don Meredith's team. When he retired, I got a chance to play quarterback in '71. Of course we had Duane Thomas and Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison was kind of the unsung guy. He was tough as can be and a great runner.
In the passing game, we picked up some different receivers that kind of filled in at times. But the later years, the Preston Pearson's and Butch Johnson's and people like that really made a difference. Preston really became that kind of slot receiver, as a running back they moved him into the slot. He could read defenses, and he really made a lot of big plays. I think if coach would have used him more in that San Francisco game, when they lost out there on "The Catch" it could have been a different story. I was a big fan, Preston just made a lot of great plays. He and Butch Johnson were unsung heroes as receivers.
BTB: I had the pleasure of talking to Rayfield Wright last year and he couldn’t say enough nice things about being able to play with you so I know the relationship that you have with that offensive line.
Before you got the chance to play for the Dallas Cowboys and after your college career, you served your country in Vietnam. We all thank you for your service and the millions of men and women that do that without the accolades, we definitely appreciate everyone’s call to duty. I think in this disjointed world today, not enough appreciate the sacrifices that you and other soldiers have made. Briefly, talk to me about your recent work with USAA and MillionFanSalute.com.
Staubach: Well USAA they're a great organization and I've had the privilege because of the Army-Navy game.. and their honoring of the military. MillionFanSalute.com is a website that shows the things they're doing in various NFL cities. If you [visit the site], they add up the salutes and the top 5 NFL cities will have some nice awards going to the local military. Could be the national guard in the city,and they're putting money into athletic fields and athletic equipment. They're there to honor the military and I'm trying to help, especially with the Army-Navy game. Also, we'll [be at] NFL games and we get a chance to talk about what's going on with the Million Fan Salute.
Of course, that's not all we talked to Roger about. I asked him for his take on Tony Romo and the potential for this year's Cowboys team. To find out the answers to those questions and to hear the interview in its entirety, you're going to want to tune into tonight's 9pm Eastern live episode of Cowboys Crunchtime With KD. We'll also be joined by Cowboys Insider Mike Fisher as we break down what is and isn't working for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys.
Many thanks to Roger for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share some of his thoughts with us at BTB.