Skip to main content
Original Issue



You can't be fat...and fast, too.
Fat is hard to see, fat is hard to detect.
It hides under thick skin, it enslaves and slows every movement of the body. untrained eye cannot find fat.
T. L.

T. L. means Tom Landry. Ralph Neely, the tackle, was lying on his back lifting weights with his feet. Looking between his knees, Neely could see the UGLY FAT sign on the wall of the Cowboys' practice field clubhouse in north Dallas. It was late on a Wednesday afternoon, and the Cowboys had been running plays for hours. Most of the linemen were heading toward the clubhouse now, their heads down and their breathing hard, but Roger Staubach and Craig Morton were still over by the goalposts throwing passes, as if the last one left on the field might be the first one in Tom Landry's heart come Sunday.

Staubach and Morton have both been starting quarterbacks for Dallas in the Super Bowl, and neither believes he ought to be No. 2. To Neely it does not matter which one is in the game. Few of the Cowboys are what you would call close pals but certainly they know each other well enough, and if there is any real disagreement over who ought to be the quarterback, it is hard to detect. Unless, of course, you ask Staubach or Morton.

"I used to care," Neely said, resting a moment. "I used to prefer having Craig in there. But now I can honestly say I think they're equal. Roger will sacrifice anything, even his own body, to win a game. Craig is more cool and calm."

Neely did another dozen lifts and sat up. Kids were yelling through the fence for somebody to throw them a chin strap. You could hear pads creaking and the whack of the ball striking flesh.

"Craig has taken so much hell here that he can stay calm now even when they're booing him," Neely said. "The quarterback gets paid to take the heat is the way I look at it. He sure gets the glory if you win. But Craig has taken some stuff from the fans that was just awful, even when the team was winning. Roger hasn't lived through anything like it. Maybe he's had a little taste, but he doesn't really know what it's like when they get down on you. Don Meredith knew, and Craig found out in a hurry."

The two quarterbacks finally walked past the sweating Neely and into the clubhouse. No, make that three quarterbacks. Jack Concannon is on the taxi squad. Concannon was a starter for Chicago before he played out his option and signed with the Cowboys. Next year Concannon's situation is bound to improve because by then Morton will almost surely have been traded, probably to Green Bay.

"Look, I'm a lineman, so the quarterback can't give me anything," Neely said. "He can't throw me a pass or let me run with the ball, so there's no reason for me to play favorites. It just happens to be true that Craig and Roger are about the same on the field in terms of effectiveness. They're not all that different off the field, either. Roger is supposed to be Mr. Pure, dedicated and all that, a sincere family man. Craig is supposed to be a playboy. Well, Craig got that image because he's a bachelor. People think a bachelor quarterback must really live it up, like they think Joe Namath does. But underneath, Craig is just as dedicated as Roger. Craig is the kind of guy who'll drive down to Waco and spend half the night with a sick child who wrote him a letter, and then won't ever mention it."

Neely wiped his face and glanced up at the UGLY FAT sign. "You don't think T. L.'s trying to tell us something, do you?" he said.

Tex Schramm has been through all this before. The Cowboy general manager got to talking about it in Los Angeles last month the night before the Rams beat Dallas in a game in which Morton did nothing but hold the ball on field goals and extra points. Six nights earlier, in the Monday TV game against Washington, Landry had taken Staubach out late in the evening, and Staubach had tried to put himself back in. Having played what he describes as the worst game of his life in the playoffs against Washington last year, Staubach on this night had wanted so badly to make up for it that several Cowboy players said they thought he might stage a tantrum on the sidelines watching Morton finish and Dallas lose. "His face swelled up and got red," one of them said.

"Roger is a fierce competitor," Schramm said. "He wants to win any kind of game he plays against anybody. Craig's a good competitor, too. The kind of thing that's going on between them now is like it used to be when I was with the Rams and we had Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin. Then Waterfield quit, and Bill Wade came in. Same deal. Then, in Dallas, we had Meredith and Eddie LeBaron competing with each other. Then it was Meredith and Morton. Then Morton and Staubach. Morton has worn both sets of shoes here."

Morton walked out of training camp this year after being offered a contract that was heavy with incentive clauses. He could hardly be blamed if he suspected that he would not be the No. 1 quarterback. Had Morton not started every game until the final one last year, only to spend the entire afternoon on the bench while Staubach ran the club against the Redskins in the playoffs? That's an indication for you. The week before the Redskin game Staubach had replaced Morton in the third quarter against San Francisco and had thrown two touchdown passes in the last minute and a half, and Dallas had won by two points. "At the end of the 49er game there was no doubt in my mind I'd be the starter against Washington," said Staubach, who had missed almost half of the 1972 season with a separated shoulder. "Maybe I should have been surprised, but I wasn't."

There had been little doubt in anybody's mind, either, about who would be the starting quarterback this season. Staubach said in the off-season that he wanted to be No. 1 or be traded. "Being No. 2 around here is like being a rookie," he said. "They treat you as if you aren't even there. I don't have that many years for pro football." Dallas is not about to trade Roger Staubach. So if Landry and Schramm had to make any of their quarterbacks unhappy, it would not be him.

"I've never seen a player as uniquely popular as Staubach," Schramm said. "The only one who came close in my time was Elroy Hirsch. But Roger bridges a bigger span of people than Hirsch did. Staubach came along when the public was getting tired of hearing about guys like Joe Namath. Roger is the All-America hero type. He could make more money than any football player in history. He could make a speech every night of the year at $1,500 a pop if he wanted to, and he could do endless commercials and endorsements in a way that has never happened to Morton. But Roger has been careful about the ones he chose. And he's cautious about investing his money. He'll wind up rich."

Schramm would prefer to keep both Morton and Staubach, but he knows he is not likely to do it. Morton figured incentive clauses are not worth much to a man on the bench, and refused to sign. Recently Schramm offered him a new three-year contract, and Morton turned that one down, too.

"There are several teams Craig could turn into cinch winners," Schramm said. "He's shown he can win for us. It's strange, but with Craig as the underdog right now, there's becoming an increasingly strong vocal group who wants him to replace Roger the way they used to yell for Morton to replace Meredith."

From the outside, Wellingtons looks like an adobe fort. It sits in a garden on a small lake across from a runway at Love Field in Dallas. The jets come over low enough that their engines whine through the din of discothèque music inside the building, which is usually crowded with young businessmen and pretty girls. Wellingtons has three bars, including one on the roof and another on a darkened second floor furnished with couches. "The second floor's for necking," said a downstairs bartender. He was standing under a sign that said ACHTUNG, YOU VILL ENJOY OUR LIEBFRAUMILCH! "YOU never saw so many pretty ladies as come in this place," he said. In fact, Wellingtons is often so crowded that Morton will not go inside, and until recently he was one of the three owners.

After declaring bankruptcy a few years ago and borrowing against his salary, Morton has pretty well pulled himself out of it now, partly by giving up big houses with swimming pools and partly because he decided to quit giving his money to anyone asking for it. "The hardest word I ever learned to say is 'no,' " Morton said one evening in Wellingtons while girls circled the table, hoping to draw his eye. Morton is big and good-looking, and even his being a semi-hero does not drive them off.

"You don't want people to think you're a bad guy," he said. "You want everybody to like you. So you go and loan money and do what friends want, and all of a sudden you're in a jam and the other people aren't."

Although Morton had one well-publicized and rather ridiculous fracas with the Dallas police, and another time was badly beaten up by hoods outside a New York nightclub, his style of living has never been half as wild as many people would like to suppose. Some of his attitudes are almost prim. "I'm a closed person," he said. "I don't have many friends. I like the company of just a few. I guess that's why I was never a very good fraternity boy. But for a while there, I wasn't very careful. When you're in the spotlight and you're seen laughing it up, people imagine all sorts of things."

Morton groaned and stretched his legs. "My knees are really sore," he said. From football? He grinned. "No, from driving the bumper cars out at the State Fair. I drove in a circle for hours, banging into everybody."

Like all pro quarterbacks who have been around very long (this is his ninth year), Morton has been hurt several times. His passing arm was operated on after both the 1969 and 1970 seasons. In 1970 he had an injured shoulder and a bad elbow and could barely throw the ball, but he started ahead of Staubach, and Dallas won seven straight games at the end of the season before losing to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. The next year Landry switched back and forth between Morton and Staubach until Dallas was 4-3, then decided to stay with Staubach. The Cowboys won 10 in a row and beat Miami in the Super Bowl, where Staubach was the Most Valuable Player. "I have to admit it, Roger played almost perfectly during that string of games," Morton said.

Morton walked away from Landry cursing when he was benched in the playoff against San Francisco last year. But soon he was back at the field phone, encouraging Staubach. "I still thought I'd be the man against Washington the next week," he said. "When I wasn't, I was very upset. Landry never bothered to explain it to me. He just said he had a 'feeling.' I think Tom understands a little better now how that affected me. I've learned a lot of football from him, and I think he's changing, learning more about people."

Morton and Staubach have adjoining lockers at the practice clubhouse, at Texas Stadium and at most of the road games. Reporters gather around the one who has been more prominent, and the other can always hear what is said. "That can make for some awkward moments," Morton said, "but Roger and I both know the score. He's a compassionate guy. This has been a really terrible year for me. I'm healthy, and I'm ready and I want to play."

Morton is affected by the fans' booing but attempts to conceal it. "I always try to be nice to the kids," he said. "The adults I don't care so much about." Allowed to call their own plays this season while Landry worked more with the defense, Morton says he and Staubach do not run a game the same way. "I believe you have to set the rhythm early with the guys up front," he said. "Not too much razzle-dazzle. The guys up front have to decide they're in a fight, and put their heads down and do the job or you can't win. That's the way I do it. The way Roger does it is the way Roger does it."

In October Dallas lost three of four games. Staubach started all of them. "This has been the first time in a long time that everything wasn't right on the track for Roger," Morton said. "It's been a lot for him to go through. As for me, how'd you like the way I handled the ball on field goals and extra points?"

By now Wellingtons was packed. The dance floor was a blob of flailing limbs. Some girls were acting as if they had lost something at Morton's table. "I love to dance!" a girl was shouting. A jet screamed down across the lake.

Morton slipped out and went home.


Intellect tires, the will never.
The brain needs sleep, the will none.
The whole body is nothing but objectified will.
The whole nervous system constitutes the antennae of the will.
Every action of the body is nothing but the act of the will objectified....
—T. L.

Roger Staubach has never been short on willpower. He cannot understand why anybody would smoke a cigarette or drink too much or get two pounds overweight. When he first came to the Cowboys as a 27-year-old rookie, after four years in the Navy, Staubach could hardly believe what he was seeing: Meredith and Morton behaving like chums. "Are they always like that?" Staubach asked a Dallas columnist. He said they usually were. "I can't see being that friendly with a guy when I'm trying to take away his job," Staubach said.

Staubach still fails to see it although he knows Morton a lot better now and respects him. "Craig and I get along as well as we can in this situation," he said after Dallas had beaten the Giants with Morton appearing only as a holder. "We understand each other's problems. Craig had his run at this job after Meredith left. Two years ago Craig and I were both doing well statistically, but the team was losing too many games. So a coaching decision was made, and I took over.

"I don't care if it's golf or pool or what, I love to win. You can carry that attitude too far, of course. I don't advocate it for kids in the pee wee leagues. But in pro football winning is all there is. If you don't win, you haven't done what the game is about."

At 31 Staubach is a year older to the day than Morton. They played on the College All-Star team together before Staubach went on active duty. Staubach knew while he was at the Naval Academy that he wanted to play pro football and that service time would be a handicap, but the discipline appealed to him. "I've always been a disciplined person," he said. "I liked that Naval Academy educational discipline, the idea that you had to get your work done. I was a natural athlete, starting with baseball at the age of six. But I've worked hard at athletics. I gave up golf because I could see I'd have to play all the time to be good, and I didn't want to be bad."

It eats at him that he was not much of a problem to the Redskins in the playoffs last year. He asked a Cowboy publicity man to deliver the game film to his home, and then did not show up around the office for weeks. "What was there for me to say?" he said. "I was a non-factor in that game. The quarterback is supposed to attack, make things happen. I couldn't make anything happen."

So Staubach concentrated on beating Washington on Oct. 8, and got yanked instead. "I was very hot at being taken out," he said with a tight smile. "The game wasn't out of control. We were leading, and I'd thrown a touchdown pass. Coach Landry said I was hurt, but there were at least a half dozen guys on the field who were a lot more hurt than I was. Tom and I have talked about it. He knows how I feel."

That discussion may account for Morton having been used sparingly since.

"I meant it when I said I wouldn't want to stay here unless I was No. 1," Staubach said. "It's a human reaction to root against the guy you're trying to beat out. That's a bad position to be in, and it's bad for the team, but I don't see how you can help it."

When I was a kid I used to buy bubblegum to get those neat little football-card pictures. Now I am one.
—Roger Staubach in a TV commercial for McDonald's.

In the summer before Staubach's first full pro season, Meredith retired, leaving Staubach to back up Morton. In training camp several veterans took Staubach to a bar. They wanted to see if they could live with him. They made him drink a few beers. Staubach works with the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He does not hang out in bars (he and his wife Marianne go out to dinner once every couple of weeks). The rookie curfew passed. The veterans told Staubach to order another beer. "Their point was that since I was as old as they were, or older, I didn't have to abide by the rookie curfew."

The result was a $100 fine for Staubach. A delegation of veterans went to Landry, explained what had happened and asked that the fine be removed. "I understand what you did, but it'll still cost him $100," Landry said. As a discipline lover Staubach could appreciate that. The veterans liked the fact that Staubach took it with humor. "We found out he could be a pretty loose guy," said Linebacker Lee Roy Jordan.

"I don't think Staubach wants to get to know anybody on the team too well in case they get hurt or traded or cut," says Al Ward, a Cowboy vice-president. "He's got the same attitude as a flight commander or a head coach."

"The guys I played with at Navy are still my best friends," Staubach says. "In Dallas there's not many really close friendships."

Last month it was mentioned to Staubach that there might be a groundswell of pro-Morton sentiment since the Cowboys had already lost three games. "If there is, I haven't noticed it," he said. "I don't feel Washington was my game. Maybe if I throw a few more interceptions, I'll start to notice, but not yet."

Morton says his arm is as strong as it was when he was a rookie and they used him to throw 60-yard passes to practice kickoff returns. Bob Hayes says two of Morton's passes have split his palms open, "but Roger bruised one of my ribs with a ball, so you'd have to say they can both throw it pretty strong." Which brings us back to what Ralph Neely was saying: separate but equal.


PATERFAMILIAS' Staubach plays Pendulum Pool with wife Marianne and daughters Jennifer, 7, Michelle, 5, and Stephanie Marie, 4.


BACHELOR Morton plays it cool at Wellingtons, a Dallas discothèque he used to have a piece of. The staff dresses up on Wednesdays.