"The head rules the heart. As cold as it sounds, this is the characteristic that serves the organization so well."
Dallas Cowboy president and general manager.
The Dallas Cowboys seem to have the best-looking uniforms, the best cheerleaders, the most imaginative offense and probably the best players in all of football.
They use computers to draft players, computers to scout other teams and computers to help them with their game plans.
There have been at least 25 books written about the Cowboys, three of them novels. There have even been two movies made about them.
The Cowboys do have some characters on their team. They have a linebacker, Tom Henderson, who might be the best all-around athlete in the National Football League. He also wants to be a movie star and auditions during most postgame interviews.
They have probably the best defensive lineman in the league in Harvey Martin, who had his heart broken after he had offseason surgery on his jaw to improve his looks and, unrecognized, couldn't get into New York's Studio 54 disco.
After easily winning Super Bowl 12, the Cowboys were expected to walk through the NFL this season on their way to a second straight title.
On paper at least, no team was suppose to be able to stay on the field with them. But the Cowboys have struggled. The old spark doesn't seem to be there.
They go into Monday night's game with the Washington Redskins with a 3-1 record, but they have played well only in spurts. They beat Baltimore, the New York Giants and St. Louis and lost to Los Angeles.
"We've been struggling, trying to find that explosiveness we used to have," said running back Preston Pearson. "It's frustrating because we have people who can explode. We just aren't at our peak. We're world champions of 1977, all right, but this is 1978."
"I think our team has an excellent attitude. We just aren't playing with the intensity we did at the end of last year," quarterback Roger Staubach said. "It just isn't there yet. As a result, we're making a lot of mental and physical errors. We're certainly capable of being a better team than we've shown."
The Cowboy offense still revolves around Staubach, but it is halfback Tony Dorsett who determines how effective it will be. He is the NFC's leading rusher and the Cowboys' game-breaker.
Dorsett ran for 154 yards against the Cardinals Sunday.
"This year, my knowledge is 100 percent advanced over last year," Dorsett said. "This is not an easy system to pick up.I had a rough time at times last year. I'm still learning, but I can read defenses better now and I understand our offense better."
Dorsett says that the Cowboy's biggest current problem is that everyone is standing back waiting for the long run or the long pass to bail the team out.
"We have a lot of weapons on this team and that gives us the tendency to fall back and depend on that maybe too much.
"The hell with that. You can't win games sitting back waiting for the big play all the time. We have to be ready to go three yards in a cloud of dust if we have to."
There have been only five changes in the lineup that started the Super Bowl and the one that will probably start against the Redskins at RFK Stadium Monday night.
Second-year man Tony Hill from Stanford moved ahead of both Golden Richards and Butch Johnson at one wide receiver spot and Richards was traded to the Chicago Bears.
Pat Donovan, the Cowboys' best offensive lineman, moved from right tackle, where he played last year in place of the injured Rayfield Wright, to left tackle this year, replacing the retired Ralph Neely.
Andy Frederick became the starting right tackle and Wright is now a reserve.
The only change defensively has been Mark Washington for Benny Barnes at left cornerback. That change was made last week, partly because of Barnes' physical condition.
Kicker Efren Herrera was traded to Seattle after squabble. Rafael Septien is his replacement.
Landry isn't often excited about young players, but he has been raving about Hill from the first day of training camp.
"He's one of our best runners after he catches the ball, so we want to get him into position where he can run," Landry said.
Therefore, the Cowboys run a lot of screens and short passes to Hill in an attempt to break him loose.
Hill has 10 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown, but pulled a hamstring muscle in the Cardinal game and made only two catches for 17 yards. He is expected to be healthy for the Redskins.
Donovan, also from Stanford, could be the next great offensive tackle in the NFL. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, in his fifth year. He was drafted as a defensive end and then moved to tackle. He is the strongest Cowboy and runs 40 yards in 4.7.
In the opener against Baltimore, he received the highest grade any Cowboy has been given since the team began doing that sort of thing.
The Cowboys are certainly not invincible and their weakest link is the secondary. The cornerbacks are Washington and Aaron Kyle and the safeties are Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris. None is very big or particularly fast.
Dallas, as much as any team in the league, has been hurt by the one-chuck rule. "It's really putting us in a bind," Waters said.
The rule limits the defense to one chuck, or bump, on a receiver and that must be done within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
The Redskins' secondary is more adept at man-to-man coverage, so it hasn't been hurt as much by the rule.
The Cowboys are not a good man-to-man team and speedy receivers have caused them considerable trouble this season.
Ron Jessie of the Rams, for instance, caught seven passes for 144 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago and Mel Gray caught seven for 107 and a touchdown in last Sunday's game. Most of the time, both were working on the Dallas left cornerback.
Barnes had bone spurs removed from his feet in the offseason and he isn't yet 100 percent, and Jessie had a field day against him.
The Cowboys didn't have much better success with Washington in Barnes' spot.
Whenever the Cowboys talk about unsung heroes, they talk about Robert Newhouse.
Most teams stack their defenses to try and stop Dorsett and it is Newhouse who is called on to get the tough yards.
With Dallas going into the fourth quarter behind, 12-7, against the Cards, it was Newhouse who scored one touchdown on a two-yard run and caught a 15-yard pass from Staubach for another score to win the game.
"When it comes down to a pinch, the ball goes to Newhouse," said Pearson.