Vince Lombardi's Packers, the Dolphins under Don Shula and the Steelers with Chuck Noll have won the Super Bowl twice, an accomplishment that certifies those coaches as masters of muscular mayhem. The addition of Tom Landry, the Cowboy brain, improves the neighborhood. He's done something unique.
Only Landry won his Super Bowls with two different teams. The other three coaches won successive games, the team personality and personnel unchanging. In 1972 the Cowboys beat Miami, 24-3, with a team of veterans not far removed from Medicare. No, six Supers later, the Cowboys have won again, this time with children.
Of the 22 men who started for Dallas in sunday's 27-10 dominance of Denver, only five started in the other super victory: quarterback Roger Staubach, offensive tackle Ralph Neely, defensive tackle Jethro Pugh and defensive backs Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris.
Of Sunday's 22, only seven were even on the roster for the '72 game. We could go on, and we will: of the 22, nine have played three years or fewer in the pros. The offense averages five years of experience, the defense six. This is a team that led its conference in offense and defense -- the first to do that astonishing trick since the undefeated Dolphins five seasons ago -- and the cowboys are still learning.
"We could continue to be outstanding," Landry said today. "Our young players are not near the level of maturity they'll eventually reach. Tony Dorsett plays by feel now. Two years from now, he'll understand our system and he'll be great --even greater than he is now . . . We'll get stronger next year."
Pat Toomay is a defensive end for the Oakland Raiders. His mind is unencumbered by X's and O's. In the anger and melancholy that was the Raiders' locker room after that disputable loss at Denver two weeks ago, Toomay alone of the Raiders could smile. "Too bad," he said of the defeat, "it would have been a great matchup: Darth Vader against R2-D2."
The Raiders would be the dark villain, the Cowboys the unintelligible computer, for those are the images that have come to identify the teams. In 1972 the Cowboys may have been truly a computer, those old guys doing the job efficiently, coldly. "This team has a different personality," said Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' president-general manager. "They have great enthusiasm and play with excitement."
Computers may do the scouting, help choose the college talent and develop game plans, but these Cowboys on the field are R2-D2 with a short in his wiring. "This team, I never know what's going to happen next," Landry said. He smiled indulegently, as if speaking of a child prodigy whose failings, grievous though they may be, are as nothing next to his gift.
Dallas helped Denver to a field goal Sunday by having 12 men on the field. The Cowboys also tried to field a punt at their one-yard line. Ann-Margaret would know better than that. And when is the last time you saw a computer open the Super Bowl with a double reverse? The Cowboys tried that Sunday and wanted, later, to have Dorsett throw a pass to Staubach, going deep. This is cold efficiency?
"We opened up the offense," Landry said. Teams traditionally outlaw imagination on Super Day. Keep the ball between the tackles, don't throw up the middle, don't go deep, don't make a mistake. The Super Bowl becomes Super Bore. Not to dispel boredom but to let Denver know it had a job on its hands, Landry called the double reverse on the game's first play.
"We had to nullify their pursuit," he said. That means the Denver defenders move quickly toward the ball carrier, pursuing him relentlessly. Against that sort of defense, offenses hope to trick the pursuers, get them moving in one direction while the ball goes another. The double reverse is a perfect play.
Unless you drop the football. Which Dallas did. "We were too high," Landry said. Another indulgent smile. "I wouldn't do it again." The play lost nine yards.
The Cowboys fumbled six times, a Super Bowl record, and they had 12 penalties, another record. Ordinarily, those malfunctions would have sent the computer to the repair shop. But Landry's game plan was so well-conceived and executed that the Dallas problems were minor next to denver's.
Everyone has trouble running against the Dallas flex defense. (For the reasons, send your cards and letters to Landry, the only man who knows.) Landry, assuming Denver couldn't run on him, then decided to harass Craig Morton, the Broncos' quarterback.
"Our linemen knew how active he was," Landry said. "With that bad leg (Morton had a severely bruised hip), he just doesn't run. Therefore, our linemen were very confident that Craig would be there when they arrived."
Under the unremitting pressure, Morton could get nothing done. That was the game. And the day after, Landry must have made some people uncomfortable when he said, "I'm a better coach now than I was." He's better at handling individuals, he said, and he's having so much fun he doesn't know when he'll retire.
"How old am I? he said. "Fifty-three." he has four years to go on his current Cowboy contract and said he has no plans beyond that. "I believe in God's plan. He'll find something for me to do." It may be coaching the Cowboys, it may be something else, he said.
For now, he plans to go skiing.
"In colorado," he said with a smile.
Where in Colorado?
"I'm not caying," a chuckle. No dummy, this computer.