painting by Chuck Feist
Who hasn’t been a sports fan and wondered what would have happened if some event were changed and what would be the outcome in a game or a future for a team. This certainly bodes well in football as fans always question the fortunes of a team.
For instance: What if the Immaculate Reception was ruled illegal in the 1972 AFC Semi-Final Playoff game between Oakland and Pittsburgh?
What if Ernest Byner didn’t fumble in the AFC Championship game in 1997?
What if Gale Sayers hadn’t suffered a crippling knee injury against San Francisco?
Or What if Seattle chose to run the ball instead of throwing a risky second down pass
in the Super Bowl against New England?
You can play this game with any team and a dozen scenarios. Here are my 5 “What Ifs” involving Americas Team the Dallas Cowboys starting with the one which is asked by so many Cowboy fans who watched this game.
What if Duane Thomas’s fumble in Super Bowl V was ruled a recovery by the Cowboys on the Colt Two yardline? In theory, Dallas goes on to score and lead 20-6 in the third quarter. Conventional wisdom has Dallas winning their first Super Bowl, but how does that change the future? Well, for one thing, Roger Staubach probably requests a trade the following year because Craig Morton would not be replaced. A town would skin a coach alive if that happened. Landry admitted that Morton’s faliure to move the team late and the two interceptions to led to the game tying touchdown and the game winning field goal were a factor in his decision to open the QB job. Which means Dallas does not become “America’s Team.” Something to think about. Pettis Norman once said that Super Bowl V MAY have been the most important game in the future of the Cowboys because of what was to happen next.
Jerry Kramer is ruled for a False Start in the Ice Bowl in 1967. Well in the universe of What If’s, this is a big one. With Green Bay on the one yardline and no traction for either team because of the icy conditions that would have been a huge call. Kramer has admitted that he may have left early to get a good submarine move of Jethro Pugh and if he were caught, then the Packers are on the six yardline with 00:18 remaining and the Cowboys leading 17-14. Which brings up an even bigger question? Does Lombardi try a game tying field goal? With terrible field conditions, even that is no sure thing. Also the Green Bay coach knew that a longer game might favor Dallas. Let’s just say for instance, the Cowboys pull this one out and go to their first Super Bowl? What is the overall effect? One theory is Don Meredith probably doesn’t retire at age 32. Meaning also that Craig Morton may still be waiting and backup Jerry Rhome might still decide to ask for a trade while Staubach would still be a third stringer when he finishes his commitment with the Navy in another year.
What if Drew Pearson breaks away from Eric Wright’s horsecollar tackle in the 1982 NFC Championship game? There is NO bigger What If in the Dallas Universe which may control the future of quarterback Danny White than this one. One thing is for sure, if Pearson breaks free, he’s gone for a 60-yard game winning touchdown and even if he is finally caught deep in 49er territory, the Cowboys are posed for a game winning field goal. If you are White, wouldn’t that be a better ending for your legacy. One thing is for sure. The CATCH becomes very academic that jump started the careers of both Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. So what is the aftermath? Well, Dallas faces Cincinnati in the Super Bowl and Landry’s teams had always played well against the Bengals. Let’s just say Dallas wins, does that change multiple legacies? Probably, although I still think Montana goes on to have a great career although it may take a couple years longer.
What if Jackie Smith makes the touchdown catch against Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl? There may be no dropped pass that is more painful for Dallas fans than that one. Well, lets just say he makes the catch and ties the score at 21-all. For that matter, would the referee picks up his flag on the Bennie Barnes interference call which was later ruled by the league as no interference? That also means, Randy White’s comical fumble on the ensuing kickoff never happens which means Swann doesn’t make his extended TD catch. YES! It’s amazing how if you change one factor it alters the entire makeup of a result. But lets say Dallas pulls this one out and becomes the first team to win three Super Bowls. Does both Jethro Pugh and Ed Jones leave the team? Does Staubach still retire after the 79 season? Staubach said before that the left side of the defensive line was constantly overrun in 1979 and Roger did suffer several severe concussions. It also meant that many Cowboys were held out of the HOF. He also admitted that if he knew Jones would have come back then he might have considered returning. Also 1980 was a fun year because the rule changes to favor offense were starting have their effect. In 1980, Pearson, Dorsett and Tony Hill all gained over 1,000 yards in either catches or carries. The first time that had ever happened. This game certainly had plenty of possible scenrios all because of one dropped pass.
What if Tony Romo doesn’t fumble the center snap on the possible game winning field goal against Seattle in the 2006 NFC Semi-Final? It is ironic that one play is what Dallas fans always associate Romo with. Playing for the Cowboys at the quarterback position is like playing centerfield for the New York Yankees and Staubach may have had more to do with making it an impossible task to accomplish by his Super Bowl victories and last second comebacks. There’s no question that this play and the Catch (or no catch) by Dez Bryant against Green Bay in 2015 are the turning points in Romo’s Cowboy career. But what if he makes a successful hold and Dallas wins? Well, they would be facing Chicago in the wind and snow of Soldier Field and Romo had shown that he was very successful at doing things for the first time. Of course this is merely conjecture at this point and getting past the NFC Championship game means a trip to the Super Bowl against the Colts (a team which they beat earlier that season). That would certainly change a lot of negativity towards Romo’s legacy. But even more importantly, would Bill Parcells come back for one more season? That one is for the ages and how would it change the Cowboys future and Romo’s for that matter. Just as importantly, no one ever questions the pass completion to Jason Witten which should have been a first down at about the two which was ruled after review just short on third down.
So that’s just a few What If’s and there are certainly so many more because as long as we watch sporting events, we will always ask the question “What If?” I’m interested in hearing yours if you have any on your favorite team and the different outcomes.