Will Roger Staubach retire after 11 years as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys?
"I will wait, just like last year, until the bumps and bruises heal and then I will think about it," he said. "Yes, it is possible. But I said that last year. Everything is possible."
Will the Cowboys, after being shocked Sunday in the playoffs by Los Angeles, undergo some dramatic personnel changes?"
"I don't think so," General Manager Tex Schramm said, "but we won't make any decisions until we sit down, as always, and evaluate our personnel. There is no doubt that we have to help our defense a little."
Will Dallas now take back erstwhile linebacker Tom Henderson, who was cut before retiring after a late-season loss to the Redskins?
"No way," Schramm said. "He will never play again for the Cowboys. I understand from unnamed league sources that he'll probably wind up in Oakland."
Will the city of Dallas ever recover from the unexpected loss to the Rams, who barely scratched their way into the playoffs?
The Cowboys never expected to be contemplating those questions, at least not now, not on the last day of the 970s. The club that became a national institution in the decade had eyes on another Super Bowl trip and possibly another NFL title.
Instead, the Cowboy world fell apart Sunday afternoon when an inexperienced quarterback named Vince Ferragamo riddled their once proud Doomsday Defense for three long scoring passes.
It was evident long before those touchdown throws that the Dallas defense was crumbling. Its statistics were the worst since the building years of the 1960s. But the Rams supplied the knockout puch.
The question is, however, how do Schramm and Coach Tom Landry reconstruct the unit to its old formidable state.
Their usual weapon, the draft, is only half-loaded. They gambled in midseason by trading away first and second-round choices for end John Dutton, hoping his presence would make up for the loss of Too Tall Jones and spur the club into the playoffs.
It was an uncharacteristic Cowboy move and it ultimately fizzled. Dutton was no Jones and now Dallas, which has not drafted well the last three years, could be forced into another uncharacteristic decision a straight player-for-player deal, in order to shore up the leaky defense.
"There is no question that our defense never was as good as last year's," Schramm said. "You can't lose the players we lost (Jones, Henderson, Jethro Pugh, Charley Waters) and expect it to be the same.
"We got hurt a lot by big plays and by injuries. We never could get settled. It was frustrating but there are some things you have no control over."
The big play, especially, killed the Cowboys. Before Sunday, they surrendered 16 gainers of at least 25 yards, including TD shockers for 76, 66, 64, 61, 55 and 52 yards. Opponents scored 105 more points than in 1978 and yardage was up in every other area.
"Our defense did not have the solid impact to carry us," safety Cliff Harris said. Added end Harvey Martin: "We had ego problems and we had injury problems. It was very hard to come back from the four people we lost." i
Redskin Coach Jack Pardee maintained all season that the Cowboys no longer were on a level above the rest of the NFC. With Pugh and Henderson gone forever and Jones an unlikely returner, the presence of a healthy Waters next season will not, on its own, refute Pardee's contention.
Retirement by Staubach would further hurt the team, which is one reason he probably won't leave. Although his wife Marianne is disturbed by the battering he is taking (he was knocked out twice this season), he also is coming off perhaps his best season as a pro.
He was the league's No. 1-rated passer, his third such title, and now he has a 96-35 record as a starter. Yet he has never been named Consensus. All-Pro, one honor he would like to receive.
On Staubach's game-saving heroics got Dallas into the playoffs. His ability to perform in pressure situations kept the Cowboys from finishing in the middle of the NFC pack. His potential replacement, Danny White, is unlikely to continue his savior role.
"We can't lose Roger," receiver Drew Pearson said. "When I think about 1980, the first thing that comes to mind is that I hope all our people are back. Roger is such a great player, I want him to go out a Super Bowl winner one more time."
Staubach said he'll "start shooting a few baskets next week and check my bumps and bruises. I'll be 38 years old in a few weeks and retirement is something to think about. What happened against the Rams won't make any difference about how I think."
Staubach will think about that errant pass to guard Herb Scott in the last two minutes Sunday.
"Wouldn't it be ironic," Staubach said with a muffled grin, "if the last pass of my career was completed to an offensive lineman?"
Tackle Rayfield Wright probably will retire and both Harris and linebacker D. D. Lewis have talked about quitting. Back Preston Pearson keeps saying he wants to leave for a team that appreciates him more.
"We never played up to our level of last year," Landry said. "It takes time to learn our defense and to be able to play together. It just never came together this season. We were always scrambling."
As for the fans, publicist Doug Todd fielded one phone call in the press box after Sunday's game from an angry Cowboy rooter.
"How can you think for one minute the whole team got together and decided to throw the game," Todd finally said. "I bet you weren't complaining when we came back to beat Washington a couple of weeks ago.
"Just face it. We ran out of miracles. It's that simple."