Jackie Smith was a lifelong member of the St. Louis Cardinals. As a tight end he was better than most, especially during the era that he played professional football and Tom Landry knew it. Smith had retired following the 1977 season, capping off a career that saw him go to five Pro Bowls and an eventual spot in Canton. No more would Smith torture the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the National Football League.
In late September of the 1978 season the Cowboys tight end Jay Saldi suffered a broken arm, and head coach Tom Landry knew the man he wanted to have added to his roster. Before the end of the week, Jackie Smith had come out of retirement for one more season on the gridiron and a shot at the one thing that had eluded him during his time in St. Louis. Smith would have one more shot to play in the biggest football game of them all.
He was no longer the player that had once dominated from his position; being reduced to a backup role was the reason Smith left St. Louis. It was the role he had willingly accepted to play under Landry. In a situational role Jackie was still more than capable of getting the job done. He became a fixture as a blocking tight end in the Dallas goal line offense. Although receiving had been his forte as a Cardinal, Smith did not catch a single pass from Roger Staubach during the 12 games that he played for the Cowboys.
It was during the post season that Smith became something other than a blocker in the Dallas offense. During the divisional game against Atlanta, Smith caught his only touchdown pass as a Dallas Cowboy, and it could not have come at a more critical point in the game. Starter Roger Staubach was out of the game and the Cowboys were trailing the Falcons when Danny White found his back up tight end for the game tying score. For the moment Jackie Smith was a Cowboys hero.
Things took a turn for the worse when the Cowboys advanced all the way to Super Bowl XIII. Although Roger Staubach has always claimed that the fault was his, Jackie Smith will forever be remembered for the dropped pass in the endzone that could have tied the game. Instead, Dallas was forced to settle for a field goal and eventually fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-31.
Jackie may be remembered in Canton for his 480 catches and 40 touchdowns, but in the memory of Cowboys fans he will forever be held accountable for those numbers not being 481 catches and 41 touchdowns.
A quote from my good friend Tom Ryle sums up how many of us feel. Jackie Smith will forever be known as the GGOAT (Greatest Goat Of All Time). Looking back over his career, Jackie deserves better, but he will likely never get it from Cowboys fans.