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Sports Then and Now

Roger Staubach: Captain Comeback

Posted on January 01, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Roger Staubach

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month for January was known during his NFL career for leading his team to late-game comebacks and improbable victories.

During his nine seasons as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach seemed to always have the uncanny knack of making the big play needed to lift his team to victory. He led the Cowboys to 23 fourth quarter game-winning drives during his career, including 15 times with his team trailing.

Who is the Best Quarterback in NFL History?

  • Joe Montana (32%, 136 Votes)
  • Tom Brady (14%, 59 Votes)
  • Johnny Unitas (11%, 46 Votes)
  • Brett Favre (11%, 46 Votes)
  • Peyton Manning (9%, 38 Votes)
  • John Elway (7%, 30 Votes)
  • Dan Marino (6%, 26 Votes)
  • Roger Staubach (6%, 24 Votes)
  • Bart Starr (4%, 19 Votes)
  • Dan Fouts (1%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 427

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The Cowboys reached the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons as the starting quarterback and advanced to the Super Bowl five times.

He was named MVP of Super Bowl VI and also led Dallas to the title in Super Bowl XXII.

Staubach was a winner even before joining the Cowboys.

He spent three seasons at the Naval Academy and as a junior in 1963 won the Heisman Trophy while leading the Midshipmen to a 9-1 record and a number two national ranking.

Staubach first became nationally known while at the U.S. Naval Academy.

After graduating, he spent five years in the U.S. Navy, including a tour in Vietnam.

He joined the Cowboys as a 27-year-old rookie in 1969 and played in 14 games as a reserve during his first two seasons.

With the Cowboys struggling in 1971, head coach Tom Landry inserted Staubach as the full-time starter and he responded by leading the team to 10 straight victories and their first-ever Super Bowl title.

The following season Staubach missed most of the year due to injuries, but was healthy enough at the end of the year to pull out one of his most memorable comebacks.

In the opening round of the NFL playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas trailed 28-13 in the fourth quarter when Staubach was inserted into the lineup replacing starter Craig Morton.

He led the Cowboys to 17 unanswered points, including two late touchdown passes, and a shocking 30-28 victory.

Perhaps his most memorable comeback occurred three years later when Dallas trailed the Minnesota Vikings 14-10 in the final seconds and had to drive the length of the field to win. Staubach led the Cowboys to midfield and then launched a long pass that Drew Pearson caught for the game-winner. The play was dubbed the “Hail Mary” and is still considered one of the most memorable playoff moments in league history.

Staubach led the NFL in passer rating four times during his career and had the best passer rating in NFL history at the time of his retirement.

Known for his athleticism, Staubach was one of the first quarterbacks capable of winning games both with his arm and with his legs. He gained 2,264 yards rushing during his career.

Because he didn’t enter the NFL until the age of 27, Staubach was 37-years-old when he led Dallas to an 11-5 record in 1979 and tossed a career-high 27 touchdown passes.

Having withstood a decade of NFL pounding, Staubach chose to retire at the top of his game. His career numbers of 22,700 yards passing, 153 touchdowns and 57% completion percentage may seem pedestrian by 2010 standards, but tell only a portion of the story for a quarterback who posted an 85-29 record as a starter.

Staubach was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981 and the NFL Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1999 the Sporting News ranked Staubach as the 29th best player in NFL history and in 2007 ESPN ranked him as the 9th best college football player of all-time.

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