Going into Sunday game, Dallas Cowboys in limbo

The identity of the Dallas Cowboys is a work in progress.

Are the Cowboys the gutsy team that won in overtime at San Francisco, handing the 49ers their only loss, or the wobbly one that collapsed down the stretch against the New York Jets and Detroit Lions?

Is Tony Romo an asset, a liability, or both?

Is Jason Garrett the right coach to lead them where they want to go?

Exactly 40 years ago Monday, Halloween of 1971, the Cowboys were at a different crossroads, one detailed in the just-released book “Breakthrough ‘Boys,” which chronicles the pivotal 1971 season that ended with Dallas winning its first Super Bowl.

That highly touted team was 4-2 — including an unfathomable loss to the pathetic New Orleans Saints — when it played a Halloween game at Chicago. The Cowboys’ Tom Landry, then regarded as a bright coach who simply couldn’t win the big game, was flip-flopping on quarterbacks, alternating snaps between Craig Morton and Roger Staubach. Morton appeared to have the inside track on becoming the full-time starter.

The Cowboys racked up a lot of yards against the Bears in that game but could never really get in rhythm with their constant quarterback rotation. They lost, dropping to 4-3, and the drumbeat got louder for Landry to finally settle on a quarterback. He surprised just about everyone by going with Staubach — and they didn’t lose again that season, winning 10 in a row and their first championship, thumping a Miami team that would go on to win the next two Super Bowls.


“It’s hard to imagine now that the decision to go with Staubach was so tough,” said

Breakthrough ‘Boys” author Jaime Aron, Cowboys beat writer for Associated Press since 1999.

“If the ’71 Cowboys could change quarterbacks in midseason and win their first title, then you’ve got to figure that in a wide-open season like this one, practically anyone could end up winning it all.”

— Sam Farmer