Far be it from me to fathom Tom Landry, who works in mysterious ways. Sportswriters are the bugs on his windshield. He tolerates us, turns on the wipers and keeps his eyes on the Big Picture.
After Sunday’s game, a writer asked Landry if his Cowboys again had a Quarterback Controversy. Instead of reciting his, “Danny White’s the starter until he can’t do the job,” Landry asked the writer where he’s from. Very un-Landrylike. He usually answers patiently while looking right through the swarm of questioners. Do you ask the bugs on your windshield where they’re from?
The guy said he was from Pittsburgh. And Landry nodded at me and another Dallas writer and said, “Ask them if we’ll have a controversy.”
Dallas afire over White-or-Hogeboom only because we’re writing about it? I’m flattered Landry thinks we have that much impact. We don’t. But Landry does. He must prepare this team mentally and emotionally, call the right plays and make the right personnel changes if it is to rise above its .500 talent.
Yet Landry never seems to shoulder any blame. If fickle fans and players suddenly switch quarterback loyalties, as we writers predicted when Landry kept both star-crossed quarterbacks, it’s because we bugs again are splattering the thing all over the papers. Frankly, I’m getting tired of writing about it, because at this rate a forgiven Hogeboom will replace an injured White, who’ll replace a battered, pressing Hogeboom, who’ll replace ...
I’ll quit bugging Landry when I finally grasp what the heck is going on. Lately, nothing he does or says seems to have any direction or consistency. It’s almost as if Landry is feeling the same headline heat that has turned White, then Hogeboom, then White into Keystone Flops. Tom Landry? Surely not.
So suffer me while I wonder why Landry replaced White at all Sunday. Yes, in the fourth quarter, Gary Hogeboom turned a 26-0 eyesore into 26-21. But hasn’t Landry said all along that “football isn’t like baseball. You can’t have relief pitchers”? Doesn’t this team desperately need for its coach to say, once and for all, here is your quarterback, your leader? Didn’t Landry proclaim before training camp that White was his starter, period, end of controversy?
Why give Hogeboom the nothing-to-lose chance to come in flinging against the tiring, toothless defense White already had riddled for 226 yards passing? Why let Hogeboom operate behind a mostly second-team line that appears to be at least as effective as the first? Wasn’t it the perfect spot for the hot-blooded Boomer to do what he does best -- stand tall in the pocket without much blitz pressure, laser-beam receivers and fire up the huddle?
Sure, Hogeboom’s 21 points were spectacular, but he hadn’t lost sleep the previous few nights worrying about starting and being finished by one or two bonehead throws or missed blocks. Have you forgotten starter Hogeboom against the Giants and Saints and Bills last season? Yet if Landry thinks Hogeboom is ready to sustain Sunday’s brilliance as leading man, great, give him the job for the rest of the season. Give him a fair chance.
Or stand behind White so the team and fans will. Give him the chance to win back respect and confidence, as he did after throwing five interceptions in a 38-35 loss to the Giants in 1980 (the Cowboys then won four straight) or in Staubachian comebacks against Atlanta that year or Miami the next. Didn’t Roger Staubach sometimes stink it up for three quarters without having to worry about reliever White? Didn’t Landry himself say Tuesday, “I’ve seen too many quarterbacks turn it around”?
Didn’t Cleveland Coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose Browns visit Sunday, say that no matter how quickly rookie savior Bernie Kosar progresses, “This season belongs to Gary Danielson”? Why even give us writers a chance to stir up the Controversy?
Yes, yes, White’s throwing thumb was sprained (Danny said) late in the first quarter. Yet Landry indicated just after the game, before knowing the nature of the injury, that it had little to do with his decision. He went to his bullpen. Does this mean he had given up all hope of winning? Or was he just trying to keep Hogeboom happy with a little playing time? Did the Boomer cross him up by coming within an onsides kick of a miraculous comeback?
Surely Landry didn’t panic.
Surely this whole thing, like a starter’s pass, is going right over my head. But it appears the Cowboys have two relievers.
All I know for sure is that I’m glad I’m not Danny White or Gary Hogeboom.