CANTON, Ohio – I was talking to Roger Staubach at a Hall of Fame function the other day about the lack of representation by his franchise in Canton.
We talked about how one game – either of the two Super Bowls between the Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s – could have changed the face of history.
Had Dallas won one of those two evenly played title games in the 1975 or 1978 seasons, the Cowboys would have wrestled away the mantle of Team of the Decade from the Steelers. That would have given the Cowboys a decade-best five Super Bowl appearances and three championships.
More Hall of Fame
Had the Cowboys won either of those two Super Bowls, Rayfield Wright would not have had to wait 27 years for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would have been enshrined sometime in the 1990s – not Saturday.
Cliff Harris also would be in the Hall of Fame by now. He was an all-decade safety who has been short-changed by fate. Harvey Martin and Drew Pearson, a couple of other all-decade performers in the 1970s, also might be in Canton. Maybe even Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan.
Those 1970s Cowboys would have been considered one of the greatest teams of all-time. But because the Steelers won those four Super Bowls that decade, that's their perception.
And those 1970s Steelers have been the beneficiary of one powerful perk – the election of nine Hall of Famers.
Watching Troy Aikman on the podium Saturday for his enshrinement left me shaking my head. Another great Dallas team is about to be short-changed, this time by its own doing.
The 1990s Cowboys were the team of the decade with three Super Bowl championships in a span of four years. But those Cowboys could have been the team for all decades if Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones could have peacefully co-existed.
They formed a powerful tandem – the business acumen of Jones and the football acumen of Johnson. In a short period of time, four years, that Jones-Johnson partnership steered the Cowboys from the worst team in the NFL to the best.
The Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1992-93 seasons and would have been the team to beat again in the 1994 season. Except that there was a meltdown that off-season between Jones and Johnson. Their egos got the best of them.
The two men decided individually that there wasn't enough credit and glory to go around. So Johnson walked away – or was shoved out by Jones, depending on which story you trust – and the downward spiral of the Cowboys began.
I believe if Jimmy Johnson had coached that team in 1994 and thereafter, the Cowboys would have won four consecutive Super Bowls. And I'm not alone in my thinking.
"There's always a part of me that will wonder if Jimmy had stayed for 10 years, how would we have been different?" Aikman said this weekend. "What would have been different about our team over the course of those next five years with Jimmy?"
I've talked to several Cowboys from that era. To a man, they believe Dallas would have made it three championships in a row in the 1994 season had Johnson been their coach. And again in the 1995 season. That's how talented those 1990s Cowboys were.
Four consecutive Super Bowls? Never been done. May never be done. But those Cowboys could have – and probably should have – done it. That feat would have vaulted the Cowboys onto a plateau above the 1960s Packers, 1970s Steelers and 1980s 49ers.
And Michael Irvin would be in the Hall of Fame. He's been passed over by the selection committee of the last two years. Charles Haley also might be in the Hall of Fame.
Darren Woodson would be viewed as a lock. He'd be to those Cowboys what Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott was to the 1990s 49ers. Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders, Larry Allen also would be in the queue. Jay Novacek, Daryl Johnston and maybe even Erik Williams would be considerations instead of after-thoughts.
Great players, great teams in the 1970s and 1990s – but the players may never get the individual credit those teams deserved.
REST OF THE BEST
Here are some comments by NFL writer Rick Gosselin on the Hall of Fame's Class of 2006:
Provided the run defense that freed up Lawrence Taylor to rush the passer on those New York defenses of the 1980s.
A great coach on a great Oakland team who suffered the misfortune of trying to win AFC titles in the 1970s against the Dolphins and Steelers.
A volume selection – so many yards and touchdowns but so few victories in January.
He is to the defensive end position what Joe Greene was to the defensive tackle position.