Of all the smiles in the Dallas Cowboys' locker room last night, none flashed like Danny White's. The critics said White couldn't win the big one. They said he couldn't inspire his team to marvelous comebacks the way Roger Staubach used to do. They said he probably shouldn't even be playing ahead of Gary Hogeboom.
"That's why he got more satisfaction out of this one than probably anybody else on the team," receiver Butch Johnson said. "He showed everybody on national television what we knew all along. The man can play quarterback."
The Redskins would be the last to argue. After completing one of nine passes for only 10 yards in the first half, which White called a personal embarrassment, he threw three second-half touchdowns to complete what some would call a Staubachian comeback and a 31-30 Dallas victory.
"Obviously," White said, "the situation in this locker room wasn't a pleasant one at halftime. It was an embarrassment, not completing a pass, not being able to move the ball across midfield. I can't think of a worse first half we have played offensively.
"I was burning up. I was throwing helmets; fumes were coming out of my ears."
The fumes were still burning when White came out for the second half, only they seemed to be coming out of his right arm, not his ears.
White threw to Tony Hill for a 75-yard touchdown two minutes into the third quarter that pulled Dallas within 23-10, and to Hill for a 51-yarder six minutes later.
"I had confidence we could score if we could just get decent field position," White said.
On the first touchdown pass, Hill ran a simple fly pattern past cornerback Vernon Dean. The second took a little more ingenuity.
Hill told White and Coach Tom Landry at halftime that the Redskins were faking double coverage against him at the line of scrimmage, then dropping one of the defenders. He had room to get open down the sideline.
Hill reminded White in the huddle. "I told Tony that if he got a bump-and-run coverage to keep running--don't stop--and head down the sideline," White said. "I told him I'd look off the strong safety and try to hit him."
White hit Hill, and the Cowboys were in full stride toward a comeback.
Dallas Coach Tom Landry said he never thought about changing quarterbacks in the second half. "We just didn't ever have the ball in good field position," Landry explained.
White, who whooped and hollered like a real cowboy in the locker room, was asked if he feared being replaced after halftime.
"No," he snapped.
"All of Danny's critics are on the outside," said safety Dextor Clinkscale. "He's tough. He's a winner. We came back and won this game on the big play, and Danny initiated them."
White, still glowing in the moment, his smile restored now, was asked about the rough treatment he took in the first half. "I got bounced off the turf a few times," he said. "But I wasn't going to let myself get knocked out again."