The National Football League hatched the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 above the caterwauling of George Preston Marshall, who owned the Washington Redskins and coveted the South. Marshall imagined a sprawling southern TV network with Washington installed, in the Confederate sense, as "America's Team." To that end, he kept the Redskins as white as the monuments.

By their second season (after going winless the first), the expansion Cowboys already were able to tie the 25-year-old Redskins. Come the third, Dallas massacred them in Washington, 38-10. A spectacular animosity developed, the extent of which went far beyond the customary differences between cowboys and Indians.

Proving nothing was sacred, Cowboys owner Clint Murchison obtained a piece of the copyright on Washington's well-loved spiritual, "Hail to the Redskins," sung for a humiliating time at his forbearance. The Redskins responded with an even dirtier trick, George Allen. The shooting kept up, back and forth, for more than 20 years.

Even now, the gunsmoke only seems to have cleared. In the wakes of Murchison, General Manager Tex Schramm, superscout Gil Brandt and Coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys are back where they began. Effectively, Dallas is an expansion team. Nonetheless, Washington persists in measuring itself against the Cowboys, whose only victory last season (13-3) occurred here.

On the down-tick themselves, the Redskins have neglected to make the playoffs for a couple of years. During that period, they have beaten no teams of note. Their most significant loss was to San Diego: namely, General Manager Bobby Beathard.

Beathard had grown weary of arguing for the future against the past and present. His preferences for Mark Rypien over Doug Williams, and for Stan Humphries over Rypien, were well-known. Coach Joe Gibbs is a confirmed Rypien man now, but Jack Kent Cooke may be slightly less enthusiastic. According to San Diego sources, Beathard's attempts to acquire Humphries have been rebuffed personally by the Redskins owner.

Nothing about the Cowboys, including their quarterback controversy, is private anymore. In a juicy counterpoint to the authorized best seller, "Tom Landry," Dallas Times-Herald columnist Skip Bayless has written a rough book entitled "God's Coach," pricklingly subtitled "The Hymn, Hype and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry's Cowboys."

From a Redskins point of view, it is fascinating but not particularly consoling to learn that draftmaster Brandt was a sham. Not only was his brochure bio (defensive back out of the University of Wisconsin) a fiction, no evidence could be found that Brandt ever played high school football. The most brilliant bird dog in the NFL turns out to have been, in reality, a baby photographer who gathered the bulk of his information in tradeoffs with college coaches and sportswriters.

Landry, that famous sideline sentry in the fedora, is redrawn as a befuddled and overwhelmed Captain Queeg who relied on Roger Staubach's improvisations but then minimized them in team meetings. The Cowboys dissolved, Bayless reckons, because Landry and Brandt forgot what frauds they were and attempted to act out their own images. Picking for himself -- mostly third-rounders in the first -- Brandt turned in a decade of barren drafts (1978-88). Landry unplugged his assistants' headsets and made a fool of the team.

"I thought these were the Dallas Cowboys," Jimmy Johnson murmured when he left the University of Miami to replace Landry last year. "Do you mean to tell me these are the Dallas Cowboys?"

Johnson appointed defensive back Everson Walls his first captain and liaison, but Walls came to him mostly to complain about the length of practices. Thereafter, Johnson decided to tear down what was left of the team and rebuild from scratch.

Under the circumstances, exchanging runner Herschel Walker for a mile of draft choices made eminent sense. But, in the quarterback department, backing up No. 1 pick Troy Aikman with supplemental No. 1 Steve Walsh qualified as peculiar, at least. In that position, one young celebrity is usually enough. Probably it is fair to say Walsh's past life as Johnson's Hurricane hero has been less than a comfort to Aikman.

Reportedly, Aikman was assured in private that Walsh was taken merely for trade, but the offers that came in offended Johnson. Now the coach seems determined to prove both can play. Aikman is muscled and tough, a snuff-dipper. Walsh is bookish and a bit of a wraith. One has stature plus a gun, the other a parodoxical knack for moving a team that doesn't much care for him.

On the Redskins, they would make a compelling quarterback controversy. But who quarterbacks the Cowboys isn't of much consequence yet. Unless Dan Henning materializes at RFK today to fake a punt, the Cowboys are pretty sure to be stomped. On the way to the weekly slaughter, they look amused that Washington still finds this a matter of significant moment. If lambs can smile, they're smiling.