Some National Football League playoff thoughts, after reminding Maryland to realize, during its search for a coach with flair on and off the field, that while he was coaching the San Francisco 49ers, Dick Nolan frequently was referred to as "Mute Rockne." And wondering why Bart Starr, who is not very good, gets another chance as an NFL head coach while Lionel Taylor and other clearly qualified blacks get overlooked again:

Turnaround and turnover are the operative words for these parity-polluted playoffs. Two teams, New York (Jets), New York (Giants), qualified this year after going 4-12 last year; two others, Cincinnati and San Francisco, won division titles after 6-10 seasons.

The defending Super Bowl champs, the Raiders, couldn't qualify for this one, and the other finalist, Philadelphia, fumbled its chances for a repeat appearance away to the Giants during the Wild Card Round of Losers.

Don Shula tries again for his first playoff victory in eight years this weekend, and Bud Grant is absent from the postseason for just the second time in the same time frame.

"What a division the NFC East is going to be next year," offensive tackle Stan Walters said Sunday, after the sting of the Eagle loss had subsided. "Us, Dallas and the Giants probably stronger, and the Cards and Redskins coming on fast."

The NFC East already is the toughest division in the NFL, regardless of who wins the Super Bowl. It probably has been underrated for years, having produced at least two playoff teams 10 of the last 11 years and the maximum three this season.

In six of those 11 years, an NFC East team has made the Super Bowl, including the Redskins in No. 7 and the Eagles in No. 15. But if the Giants are the division's intriguing team at the moment, the Cowboys are its giant: past, present and, very likely, future.

For nearly a generation, the Cowboys have been the team that gave parity, the league-wide conspiracy to dilute excellence, its most devastating punches. Nobody has stayed stronger longer, or done more to discourage the notion that predictable, mistake-free offenses are the only way to win regularly.

The dominance of most NFL coaches can be measured by the durability of an exceptional quarterback they either inherited or developed. This is not to imply that they couldn't win any other way, or even that special quarterbacks were the major reason for their success. But Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw forever will be linked; Lombardi didn't win without Starr; Shula hasn't won a playoff since Bob Griese began sliding; Weeb Ewbank had John Unitas and Joe Namath.

Tom Landry has been to NFL championship games in the '60s and '70s with three different quarterbacks--Don Meredith, Craig Morton and Roger Staubach--and to the NFC title game in 1980 with a fourth, Danny White. He lost a Hall of Fame tackle, Bob Lilly, in the early '70s, but now has another, Randy White, who may be better.

The Cowboys are difficult to type. Shula won gloriously with a tankful of talented Dolphins on hand when he arrived in Miami; Lombardi had similar good fortune; Noll was uncanny with nearly every high Pittsburgh draft choice for years.

Dallas has gone on, and on, and on, and on with some of the lousiest first-round draftees imaginable. This is the team that chose Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Too Tall Jones and Billy Joe DuPree in round one during the '70s and also Bill Thomas, Tody Smith, Aaron Kyle and Larry Bethea.

Players in the league regard the Cowboys as among the cheapest and coldest organizations in sports. The turnover rate within the team is about as high as the turnover rate in games is low. Plug in almost anybody with two legs at cornerback and Dallas still wins.

But the Cowboys pay dearly for players they regard as among the six to eight all-pros necessary to maintain a dynasty. By discarding excess--and usually overrated--stock, they get the draft-choice rights to highest quality football thoroughbreds.

For Smith and Billy Parks, they got Houston's top pick in the '74 draft and took Jones. For Morton to the Giants a year later, came Randy White. Dorsett came in '77, via Seattle for an exchange of first-round picks plus three second-round choices.

Twice in a five-year period, the rest of the league thought the Cowboys finally were vulnerable, in 1975 and last year. In '74, they were 8-6 and missed the playoffs for the first--and it developed, only--time since 1966. With 12 rookies, four of whom later made assorted all-pro teams, Dallas made an unprecedented transition, all the way to the Super Bowl.

Before the 1980 season, many teams sensed another Dallas demise. Staubach, whose last-minute heroics were the stuff of sporting lore, had retired. Perhaps the Cowboy edge had gone with him.

Hardly.

How do you figure the season will go without Roger, a Cowboy insider was asked a few days before Danny White assumed the regular-season starting position against the Redskins here.

"Oh, 11-5," he said, "maybe 12-4."

A Washingtonian snickered. The Cowboys laughed last, for they won 14 games in all before losing to the Eagles in the NFC final.

With a lot of Everson Somebodies in the secondary, Dallas has seemed even better this season. Or at least in games they had to win. Or thought they had to win, against the Rams, Dolphins and Bills and twice against the Eagles. They play anybody any time, in the out-of-sync games, Mondays, Thursdays and Thanksgiving.

"One of these days, we're gonna put it all together," Danny White said after one of those days the Cowboys didn't this season. "And (when we do), they'll have to realign the league."

Perhaps that will start to happen in the playoffs, Saturday in Dallas against Tampa Bay. I hope it does. I'd like to see the Cowboys stampede into the Super Bowl, and out of it victorious. That would be a fitting end to a season both invigorating and exasperating, evidence that it still is possible to whip legislated mediocrity.

If he is allowed to last long enough, even Starr will make the playoffs. usually overrated--stock, they get the draft-choice rights to highest quality football thoroughbreds.

For Smith and Billy Parks, they got Houston's top pick in the '74 draft and took Jones. For Morton to the Giants a year later, came Randy White. Dorsett came in '77, via Seattle for an exchange of first-round picks plus three second-round choices.

Twice in a five-year period, the rest of the league thought the Cowboys finally were vulnerable, in 1975 and last year. In '74, they were 8-6 and missed the playoffs for the first--and it developed, only--time since 1966. With 12 rookies, four of whom later made assorted all-pro teams, Dallas made an unprecedented transition, all the way to the Super Bowl.

Before the 1980 season, many teams sensed another Dallas demise. Staubach, whose last-minute heroics were the stuff of sporting lore, had retired. Perhaps the Cowboy edge had gone with him.

Hardly.

How do you figure the season will go without Roger, a Cowboy insider was asked a few days before Danny White assumed the regular-season starting position against the Redskins here.

"Oh, 11-5," he said, "maybe 12-4."

A Washingtonian snickered. The Cowboys laughed last, for they won 14 games in all before losing to the Eagles in the NFC final.

With a lot of Everson Somebodies in the secondary, Dallas has seemed even better this season. Or at least in games they had to win. Or thought they had to win, against the Rams, Dolphins and Bills and twice against the Eagles. They play anybody any time, in the out-of-sync games, Mondays, Thursdays and Thanksgiving.

"One of these days, we're gonna put it all together," Danny White said after one of those days the Cowboys didn't this season. "And (when we do), they'll have to realign the league."

Perhaps that will start to happen in the playoffs, Saturday in Dallas against Tampa Bay. I hope it does. I'd like to see the Cowboys stampede into the Super Bowl, and out of it victorious. That would be a fitting end to a season both invigorating and exasperating, evidence that it still is possible to whip legislated mediocrity.

If he is allowed to last long enough, even Starr will make the playoffs.