Of all the theories on The Cowboys' Collapse, the silliest belongs to Don Meredith, the resident good ol' boy on Monday Night Football.

Tom Landry doesn't hug his boys.

That's what Meredith said was the problem. Look at Dick Vermeli, the Eagles' coach. Look at him hugging his players as reward for work well done. That's what Dandy said. And he said you'll never see Landy do that. And football is a physical game, Dandy said, and a coach has to be physical, too.

Well, being physical got Woody Hayes into the book-writing business and it got Frank Kush into a million-dollar lawsuit. Anyway, for 20 years Landry has been a master at his craft and he didn't suddenly grow dumb on a Monday two weeks ago.

Save us, Howard, from Dandy's drivel.

The Cowboys did not lose to Philadelphia because Landry didn't kiss Roger Staubach every time the quarterback did something right. Any professional football player who depends on his coach for emotion is an airhead who won't win big games, anyway.

The cowboys's problem are much more basic than Dandy's needle-insentimentalism's-clothing.

The problems are:

Injuries. Important players are hurt. Denfensive back Charlie Waters has been out all season, and the Cowboys have been burned early and often by long passes. Denfensive tackle Randy White is out, too, which is like losing two men. On offense, center John Fitzgerald and running back Preston Pearson have been hurt.

Retirement. Ed Jones went boxing. Without Too Tall at left defensive end, the Cowboys' rush became invisible. It is no accident that everyone now attacks the left side of the Dallas defense.

An out-of-control ego. Before he proclaimed himself the Ali of football, Thomas Henderson was a gifted linebacker, dedicated to making it. With fame's arrival at last year's Super Bowl, Henderson became a prima donna, arriving late for team meetings, loafing through practice, finally clowning on the sidelines during defeats. A team with no problems can absorb such foolishness; a team with problems can be torn apart by it.

An impossible schedule. With the injuries and all, it is no surprise the Cowboys have lost four of their last five. The first loss was at Pittsburgh. The last three have come in a brutal 11-day period against teams with 10-3, 8-4 and 8-4 records.

News item: The Big Sky Conference will not name an All-Academic football team this year. Not enough players with B grade averages can be found at Boise State, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, Nevada-Reno, Northern Arizona, Portland State and Weber State.

Corollary quote, from Conrad McBridge, chairman of political science at Colorado:

"We have a professional football team here which bills itself as amateur; a pro team, owned by several large contributors, administered on the campus of the University of Colorado. We ought to raise the question: Does the University of Colorado want to support a pro football team?

"If yes, hire a general manager, get the best players -- buy them, steal them -- but don't pretend they are students."

In print, I once asked, "Whatever happened to Joe Don Looney?" Soon enough, a series of correspondents tracked down the onetime football badboy in India, where he was an elephant keeper for a guru named Baba Muktananda.

Now comes a letter from one of my Looney-trackers, Jim Morrissey of Louisville, who says, "In mid-July, I was again in the august presence of cool Joe Don Looney.

"He is still a devotee of Baba Muktananda, currently in residence in a Catskills resort.

"Joe don is so relaxed you wouldn't know him. 'Cool' takes on a new meaning. He is absolutely beatific. And he is resigned to the fact that his days of gridiron glory have ended.

"'You know, man,' Joe Don told me, 'I wasn't just thrown out of the league. I WAS BARRED FROM PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL FOR LIFE!'

"Joe Don thought a moment and then added, "That's probably means for all of my lives."

"You see, Joe Don, like other of Baba's devotees, plans on coming back again and again. I guess until they get it right."

The readers scold the typist:

Janet Johnson of Charlottesville didn't like it when I said Ann Meyers had been paid $50,000 by the Indiana Pacers to make a fool of herself and her sex by trying out for the men's pro basketball team.

"Sportswriting must be an extremely difficult job," Mrs. Johnson wrote. "It demands that the writer sometimes throw away his own human dignity and take a hard stand on the issues. I say 'Bravo,' Mr. Kindred, for laying your self-respect aside in order to write an effective essay about Ann Meyers."

Shucks, weren't nothin'.

Paul Kimball of Alexandria writes, "You are only partially correct about Roy Smalley Sr." I had written that the Chicago Cubs' shortstop of the early 1950s endangered human life in the first base bleachers with his wild throws.

"You have the number of errors correct," Kimball said. "But the majority of them were not by throwing. Most of them came right through those long, skinny legs right at me in the left field bleachers. Remember how he used to drink all those milkshakes to build up his weight?"