Before the Dallas Cowboys had their glory days as "America's Team,"
they had another, less-flattering moniker: "Next Year's Champions."
They always came close ... but could never win it all this year.
And, boy, what a season it was -
a wild ride from start to finish, with the biggest challenges
coming from within their own locker room.
This was the year Duane Thomas got angry, then went silent.
It was the year Tom Landry was so befuddled over whether
Craig Morton or Roger Staubach should be his quarterback
that he had them alternate snaps one afternoon.
The Cowboys lost that quarterback-carousel game,
dropping them to 4-3 at the midway point of the season.
Lee Roy Jordan and Bob Lilly decided they'd had enough, so they urged Landry to pick a quarterback already.
The same day he chose Staubach, the Cowboys lost the anchor of their offensive line, Ralph Neely; he shattered a leg while riding motorcycles with several teammates.
How did Landry replace a blocker who'd been named to the NFL's All-Decade team in the 1960s? With a guy who'd been selling real estate.
Add in the debut of Texas Stadium,
the late-season dominance of the “Doomsday Defense”
and a Super Bowl whipping of a Miami team that would go undefeated the next season and win the next two Super Bowls,
and it’s easy to see that the most important season in franchise history also was among the most dramatic.
Award-winning sports writer Jaime Aron
brings the 1971 season to life
through stories about, and the voices of,
the people who made the breakthrough possible.
is published by