It was if the computer in Dallas was spewing out a printout with three lemons on it . . . as if Tom Landry had blown his sangfroid in this annual slump by the Cowboys and was assailed by self doubts.
At the risk of being charged with inability to motivate the best collection of talent since the Lombardi years, Landry acknowledged the other day that he was going through the most complicated playbook in pro football and shredding the formations that have not been executed well recently.
If an implicit reflection on his executive officer could be read into the reassessment of "what's wrong with the Cowboys," it was not of a magnitude to prompt Landry the signal caller to give the game back to the players, quarterback Staubach in particular.
The product of the Navy's officer training long has chafed at not being entrusted with the privilege of making the strategy decisions in the command slot.
Landry said at his weekly news conference, "Roger's accuracy has been a little off, but he does burden himself somewhat with full responsibility for losses, which is bad. If he has a weakness, that's it."
Without meaning to, Staubach sounded a bit trapped, maybe a little hurt, when asked whether the possibility of the play-calling being returned to the quarterback came up during the review of the Cowboys' playbook last week end.
"He (Landry) knows how I feel," said Stanbach. "I'd like to handle the play-calling. But there's no way he's going to let me call the plays. I'd like to control the game more and do things I'm comfortable with.But I can't knock the success he's had calling the shots. He's been a great coach and he's been fantastic.
"I was not consulted. He had me in on Saturday (a week ago) and we went over the entire offense, mainly the running game . . . a lot of little things, like going wide on runs; we have not been doing that."
The Cowboys are leading the National Conference in total offense, rushing, and passing. Staubach ranks No.3 in passing behind Archie Manning of New Orleans and Fran Tarkenton of Minnesota. Staubach leads in scoring throws, with 16, and an average yards gained per pass, 7.07, has been intercepted 13 times in nine games and has been sacked 18 times for losses of 114 yards.
Landry naturally was not going to tell which plays he was discarding against the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday in the 4 p.m. national network game, but he set himself up for gibes.
A snide source in Miami suggested, "I imagine he will keep a handoff to Tony Dorsett in the game plan, or maybe there will be a lateral to Dorsett on the Dallas bench."
That was an allusion to Landry sitting down the running back for missing a Saturday practice recently, Dorsett has carried the ball only 30 times in the last three games for 86 yards, a 2.9 average.
Staubach, who has a career pass completion percentage of 57, dropped to 45.8 in the last two games, 22 of 48 for 256 yards.
If Landry looked in the Cowboy's suggestion box this week, he could have found advice such as, "Use the formations Minnesota did (in a 21-10 victory marked by wide-open plays normally identified with Landry)."
Other, unsolicited counsel recommended that Landry should dust off the blitzkrieg plans used against Baltimore for a 38-0 triumph in the opening game of the season.
This will be the unique game today. There will be some question as to who is the better running back, Dorsett or Delvin Williams. That challenge may be enough to bestir Dorsett.
In Miami they are predicting it will be "the kid from Kansas," Williams who has a 5.1-yard rushing average to Dorsett's 4.6 and needs onlyy 113 yards to qualify for the 1,000-yard Club, as the leader in the American Football Conference with 887 yards.
Dorset is in fifth place in the NFC, with 670 yards.
The fans in Miami became so worked up about the game that the 75,000 seats in the Orange Bowl were sold out by Monday.
Amateur astrologers wonder what make of Bob Griese and Staubach being Aquariur quarterbacks; and the Aries runners, Dorset and William
Years ago Shula made the overall decision about play-calling, by relying on Griese's judgment.
There are the colliding prides of the coaches to consider; Don Shulsion in trying to measure up to his 17-0 season in 1972; Landry self-conscious about slumping with the defending Super Bowl champion.
They are the active coaches with the best winning records - Shula 170 60-5 in 16 seasons; Landry 168-107-6 in 19 seasons.
Both teams have 6-3 records, behind 7-2 clubs in their respective division; New England in the AFC East and Washington in the NFC East. Losses become critical at this phase of the season.