NFL Nation: Roger Staubach

IRVING, Texas -- If all goes according to plan on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will surpass Hall of Famer Roger Staubach for number of starts in franchise history at 115.

Romo
When Romo plays against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium he will have 115 starts, second-most in franchise history behind Troy Aikman (165).

"Roger is the elite of the elite," said Romo, who is behind Staubach (85) and Aikman (94) in wins with 68. "I think anytime you're good at anything and you're mentioned in the same breath, playing the same number of games, it's obviously a huge honor. You're just humbled by it, but knowing Roger the way I do, he's excited by what we've been doing. I'll be excited to see him after one of these home wins and get a chance to communicate with him."

Staubach reached out to Romo after he became a full-time starter in 2006, and the two formed a close relationship. Staubach has said many times that he believes the Cowboys will win a Super Bowl with Romo as the starting quarterback.

"It's been great," Romo said of having Staubach in his corner. "I think just knowing you have a guy like that reaching out and saying positive things and believing in me, it makes you feel that you are doing something right. He's been great to me and my family, and we will be huge Roger Staubach fans."

Roger Staubach and Drew PearsonAP Photo/Bill Kostroum
Score: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
Date: Dec. 28, 1975 Site: Metropolitan Stadium

With nearly 40,000 votes cast, Roger Staubach’s Hail Mary pass to Drew Pearson was voted as the most memorable play in Dallas Cowboys' history by the ESPN.com readers.

Troy Aikman’s fourth-quarter pass to Alvin Harper in the 1992 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers that set in motion the 1990s dynasty finished second. Bob Lilly's sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI was a distant third even if it propelled the Cowboys to their first championship.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Cowboys' history?

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    36%
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Discuss (Total votes: 38,414)

The voters got this one right. Staubach is the most iconic player in franchise history, and that play is frozen in time. It was one of the most iconic plays in NFL history and introduced “Hail Mary,” into the league’s lexicon. You cannot write the history of the NFL without that play.

To recap the play: With time running out in a 1975 divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had the ball at midfield and needed a miracle. They had dominated statistically, but the Vikings had a 14-10 lead.

Staubach pumped to his left after taking the shotgun snap, in hopes of moving safety Paul Krause away from the sideline. As he pumped, Staubach said he nearly lost the ball and as a result the pass was underthrown.

Subsequently, Pearson had to pull up and either knocked Nate Wright down (Minnesota's version) or made an excellent adjustment to the ball (Dallas' version) to score the winning touchdown, pinning the ball against his right hip.

Some of you wondered why Tony Dorsett's 99-yard run, Emmitt Smith's carry in which he broke Walter Payton’s rushing record or his stiff-arm of Lawrence Taylor playing with a separated shoulder, Clint Longley's Thanksgiving Day heave against the Redskins or even Leon Lett's miscue in Super Bowl XXVII didn’t make the list.

Two of my personal favorites: Marion Barber’s run out of the end zone against the New England Patriots breaking seven tackles and Tony Romo's first-down scramble vs. the St. Louis Rams after a shotgun snap sailed over his head didn’t make the list either.

There needed to be some historic value to the play. The Hail Mary had that, so did Aikman-to-Harper and Lilly’s sack.

But there’s no question which play had the most value.

The NFL agreed to remove a $675 million cap on damages from thousands of concussion-related claims on Wednesday. A federal judge didn't believe there would be enough money to cover more than 20,000 retired players who are expected to bring in a claim.

Among those 20,000 players is former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett.

In a "D Magazine" article last year, Dorsett said he suffers memory loss among other mental health problems related to playing football.

"When I'm out there, I'm on a cloud. It's like a fog, man," Dorsett said in the story, published last year. "It's like a fog. That's the only way I can explain it. I can't get out of it, and I know -- it's just a weird feeling, dude. I hate it, and I get really, really -- and that can make me get real frustrated, if I'm not careful. I get mad at myself for certain things. Not knowing how to get certain places, forgetting where I'm going, driving somewhere then forgetting where I'm going. That kind of craziness, man. So I've learned to write notes. Or speak into my phone, write notes on it. Write it down."

The Carrick Brain Centers in Irving, Texas is designed to treat diseases and disorders of the brain and central nervous system for its patients. One visit inside the facility will show you all sorts of machines where patients can work on their motor functions after getting diagnosed with a concussion. Several former pro athletes have used places such as the Carrick Brain Center to work through their health issues.

"We focus on the principles of Neuroplasticity, in essence the brain has the ability to heal itself through stimulation of new neurons and the strengthening of compromised neural pathways," said Dr. Andre Fredieu, Chief of Neurology at Carrick Brain Centers. "Our evidence-based diagnostic tools and protocols utilize multiple theraputic modalaties to enable us to achieve measureable results in the quickest possible time, relieving debilitating symptoms and returning the patient to a measureably better quality of life."

The NFL is a vicious game and there's almost no way to prevent concussions in the sport outside of avoiding helmet-to-helmet contact -- which the league has outlawed -- because a player's head can hit the ground or another body part where a concussion can occur.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody denied preliminary approval of the NFL concussion lawsuit deal in January because she worried money could run out sooner than expected. The settlement, negotiated over several months, will help last at least 65 years and cover retired players who develop Lou Gehrig's disease, dementia or other neurological problems believed to be caused by concussions suffered during their pro careers.

More than 4,500 former players filed suit.

There are numerous players who haven't filed suit, such as Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach, who suffered multiple concussions in his career. Staubach has said he's suffering no health problems as it relates to concussions. Troy Aikman, another Hall of Fame quarterback, retired due to back issues. But Aikman also suffered numerous concussions.

Aikman, like Staubach, has reported no health problems regarding concussions.

But we have Dorsett, the legendary Hall of Fame running back, who was diagnosed with having CTE, a form of encephalopathy that is a progressive degenerative disease related to people who have a history of concussions and other head injuries.

There is no cure.

"I'm a Hall of Famer," Dorsett said in the magazine story. "I'm one of the most visible guys during my era. And nobody's reached out to me. Nobody from the NFL has even checked, even asked a question to me. 'Hey, man, I'm sorry' or 'Hey, man, I wish you well' -- whatever. 'Man, is there anything we can do to help you?' You know, because sometimes -- I go to doctors and I can't remember the doctors' names."

Wednesday's ruling won't change Dorsett's condition, but along with the Carrick Brain Centers and other facilities, rehab might just help a little bit.
Johnny ManzielRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesIs Tony Romo's back enough of a concern for the Dallas Cowboys that they'd take a flier on the media circus that would come with drafting quarterback Johnny Manziel?

IRVING, Texas -- Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing player in this draft, so naturally people believe he will end up with the Dallas Cowboys, the most polarizing team in the NFL.

With the first round coming fast, ESPNDallas writers take a roundtable look at what a union of the Cowboys and Manziel would mean.

SportsNation

Should the Cowboys take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 16th pick if he falls to them?

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Discuss (Total votes: 16,137)

Todd Archer: Let's make an huge assumption here that Manziel will be available at No. 16 when the Cowboys pick in the first round. I ask this question first: Should the Cowboys pick the Texas A&M quarterback? We'll get to "Would the Cowboys pick him?" in a second.

My take is, yes, the Cowboys should take him, and I'm not even thinking about the marketing opportunities and off-field stuff that Jerry Jones thinks about. From a football standpoint, I'd argue it would be a great value pick. There is no way the Green Bay Packers thought they would get Aaron Rodgers in 2005 late in the first round, but they took him even when Brett Favre was playing well. Tony Romo is 34 and coming off two back surgeries. I think he'll be fine and return to form, but what happens if he doesn't or he takes a big hit in Week 8 and is down for the year?

Jerry always tried to find a quarterback on the cheap after Troy Aikman retired and he never found a guy until Romo. And that was lucky. I think he'd be lucky again if Manziel were there at No. 16.

Calvin Watkins: I don't believe the Cowboys should take him. No. 1, I don't believe he'll fall to No. 16 or even out of the top 10. If he does fall to No. 16, the Cowboys should either bypass him or trade down. This team has bigger holes to address such as secondary and defensive line before quarterback. There are quarterbacks later, such as Aaron Murray from Georgia, who can be taken in the second or third round. Yeah, I know Romo is coming off back surgery and he's 34 and all of that. It's a back injury and you never know about backs. However, getting Manziel at No. 16 isn't worth it to me. You can find a good quarterback to groom in the later rounds.

Tim MacMahon: Heck, yes. If you can get a guy you feel is a franchise quarterback in the middle of the first round, you do it, especially when the fate of your franchise rests on a 34-year-old back that has been operated on twice in the past year. This isn't about trying to run Romo out of town. It would be a chance to extend the window of having a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback another decade or so, an opportunity the Cowboys shouldn't pass up after navigating that rickety bridge from Aikman to Romo. It would be complicated for a couple of years because of Romo's massive contract and the potential chemistry issues that Roger Staubach mentioned, but it would be well worth it if Manziel can make plays in the NFL like he did in the SEC.

Jean-Jacques Taylor: No. No. No. A thousand times no. This team has way too many holes to draft a quarterback in the first round to sit behind Romo for at least three years. That makes absolutely no sense. When Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers and let him sit, they were a contender. They could afford to do it. There's a good chance Jason Garrett gets fired at the end of next season if he's not in the playoffs. Do you think he wants to take a first-round pick and stash him for the next coach? Heck, no. This was the worst defense in the universe last year. Are they really going to miss out on a chance to help it to draft a quarterback who may or may not be a star?

Archer: OK, let’s move on to the second part of the question: Would the Cowboys take Manziel if he is there at No. 16?

I believe they would. We always talk about how the Cowboys should draft a quarterback every year, so now when they could do it, we’re going to say, "No, not that guy?" I don’t think the next Cowboys quarterback will be developed by this team. In other words, a middle-round pick who sits for a few years and takes over. Almost all of the top quarterbacks come from the first or second round. The Cowboys would have Manziel ready to go without the burden of having to carry the franchise early on. He is skilled. He has ability. And he is a draw. I do think it would be incumbent on the coaches to manage this thing the right way because the second Romo throws a poor pass, fans will be calling for Manziel. You can't operate that way.

Watkins: Say the Cowboys do take him, which I doubt, can you imagine if Romo has a bad game? He has been known to have them from time to time. Garrett would be under pressure to send Manziel into the game when he's not ready. Then if he does use Manziel, you've got a media and fan circus. The Cowboys have endured their own type of drama from Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Romo's own issues, Jerry Jones and how he runs the franchise among other things, but a quarterback drama isn't fun for anybody. Having Manziel around isn't fun. But if Jerry drafted him he wouldn't care, it would be about the business of marketing and not the business of football.

MacMahon: Well, that might depend on who gets the last word in with GM Jerry. I can’t imagine Garrett, a head coach fighting to keep his job as he enters the last season of his contract, would be thrilled with the idea of using a first-round pick on a guy who might be holding a clipboard and still drawing a media horde as a rookie. But Stephen Jones seems just as enamored with Johnny Football as his father is. I don't think Jerry could help himself if Manziel were available when the Cowboys are on the clock. A strong football argument can be made for Manziel as a fit, and it’d be a home run for the marketing department. And we all know the Cowboys' GM cares about marketing almost as much as he does about football.

Taylor: Jerry loves collecting baubles. We know this. Dez Bryant was a bauble. So was Terrell Owens. And Rocket Ismail. He loves any marketing aspect that added more cash to the family treasure trove. I can absolutely see Jerry using the force of his personality to persuade Garrett and vice president Stephen Jones the right move to make is adding Johnny Football to the roster, even though he's going to sit for multiple seasons and wouldn't make an impact on the team unless Romo was hurt. Hey, at least the preseason games would be sold out.

Archer: Let's be honest, he won't be there at No. 16 and I think we all believe it would cost too much to trade up to get him, so who takes Manziel and why is he a better fit there than with the Cowboys?

I’m going with Jacksonville. They need a quarterback and they need a draw. It’s probably not the most sound football decision to think of it like that, but the Jaguars have no juice. Manziel would give them some juice. And the Cowboys will see him at Wembley in November. Perfect.

Watkins: It's interesting, but when I read Ourlads' mock draft, it didn't have Manziel going until No. 26 to Cleveland. But when I look at the top 10, I can see six teams taking him. I think Cleveland takes him at No. 4, but you have to wonder about the weather in the AFC North. Manziel hasn't played in that on a regular basis in college. Can he produce in cold weather in Pittsburgh and Baltimore in November and December? Oakland seems logical as well at No. 5. Matt Schaub should start in 2014 and Manziel would get his chance the following year. It's just no easy place for him to go. Houston, I don't believe, thinks Manziel is better than the two defensive players. So, I guess to answer this question, I think Cleveland takes him at No. 4.

MacMahon: I think the Browns take him at No. 4. The Browns have been searching for a franchise quarterback since cutting Bernie Kosar, and drafting Manziel would fire up a rabid fan base desperately searching for a reason to be optimistic. Strange as it sounds, I also see Cleveland as a team that would give Manziel a chance to succeed early in his NFL career. Josh Gordon just led the NFL in receiving yards as a 22-year-old despite dealing with a QB rotation. Tight end Jordan Cameron is coming off a Pro Bowl season as a 25-year-old. The Browns have two Pro Bowl offensive linemen -- left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack -- who are in their prime. And Cleveland addressed its need for a running back by signing Ben Tate. Add an electrifying quarterback, and the Browns might actually have one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.

Taylor: On the surface, Jacksonville should be really intrigued by Johnny Football because they need a quarterback and they need someone to put butts in seats. They're going to be bad again, so they need a playmaker on offense. That said, coach Gus Bradley is a defense-minded dude, so he'll probably go defense and take Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. That leaves Johnny Football to Cleveland. The Browns have a really good, young defense. They have a young star in receiver Josh Gordon. What they need is a triggerman. Since 2002, the Browns have had 10 different players lead them in passing, which is not a positive. If he's the star some project, Johnny Football will turn that franchise around and he'll own the city.
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IRVING, Texas -- Roger Staubach found out he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 10th round of the 1964 NFL draft by reading the Washington Post.

“I was in my room at the Naval Academy,” Staubach said. “No one called me. They had this little story, ‘Staubach drafted in Round 10.’ … To me, it wasn’t a big deal. I had five years to go before I could go play.”

Staubach is the greatest 10th-round pick in NFL history. He surely is part of one of the best draft classes ever. The 1964 NFL draft produced a record 11 Hall of Famers, and three were drafted by the Cowboys: Mel Renfro (second round), Bob Hayes (seventh round) and Staubach.

“You know why it was special?” said Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' vice president of player personnel at the time. “Because basically Tex [Schramm] and I did it by ourselves. We didn’t have nine scouts and all that stuff.”

The only team to produce more Hall of Famers from the same draft class in NFL history is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster in 1974.

The Cowboys had 19 picks in 1964, and Brandt can recite scouting reports on all of them to this day. Only seven played for the club, but the Hall of Fame trio makes it Brandt’s favorite draft.

[+] EnlargeRoger Staubach
AP Photo/Tony DejakRoger Staubach led the Dallas Cowboys to five Super Bowl appearances in his Hall of Fame career.
The Cowboys’ 1975 draft became known as the "Dirty Dozen" with 12 picks making the team, led by Hall of Famer Randy White. From 1988 to 1990, the Cowboys' first-round picks were Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. All three call the Pro Football Hall of Fame home.

Drafting Renfro, Hayes and Staubach spoke to the Cowboys’ advantages over other teams in that day -- and a little bit of good fortune.

Had they not held training camp in Forest Grove, Ore., it is doubtful Brandt ever meets Renfro as a high school senior. Air Force assistant coach Pepper Rodgers was recruiting Renfro and brought him to Cowboys camp, where he met Brandt.

Brandt remained in contact through Renfro’s time at Oregon. When it came time to pick in the second round in 1964, the Cowboys held up the draft for six hours so a doctor could examine Renfro’s injured wrist. After getting the news they wanted, they picked Renfro, and Brandt was on a flight from Chicago to Portland the next day.

“I called Mel. ‘Mel, I’m coming in on United flight so and so, and I get in at 1,’ or whatever time it was, and he said, ‘OK, I’ll meet you at the airport,’” Brandt said. “I get off the plane, go down three or four steps and there’s Mel. We signed right there in the airport.

“Now the coup de grace is you had to get the contract witnessed at the time because this was during the war between the two leagues. So we’re in Portland and we’ve got to get down to Eugene, but we’ve got to get this contract witnessed, so we stop at Oregon State to get a contract for an Oregon kid witnessed.”

Renfro made the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons, six at safety and the final four at cornerback. His 52 career interceptions remain a team record, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

Like Staubach, Hayes was a future pick, but not many teams knew he was eligible. Brandt went to Florida A&M to visit with the coaches.

“I saw him in person, but he was like a third-team running back,” Brandt said. “He wasn’t a typical sprinter. He was well-defined. I mean he was a strong guy.”

He also visited Hayes’ mother in Jacksonville, Fla., at the restaurant where she worked.

“The big thing then was Pepsi Cola, 12 full ounces for a nickel too,” Brandt said, recalling the soda’s jingle at the time. “When you ate those chitlins, you drank one of those big 12-ounce Pepsis.”

With Hayes’ speed, Brandt saw a game-changing wide receiver. Hayes went on to win two gold medals in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, earning the “fastest man in the world” title, and joined the Cowboys in 1965.

[+] EnlargeHayes/Renfro
AP Photo/NFL PhotosThe Cowboys selected three future Hall of Famers in the 1964 draft, including Bob Hayes (20) and Mel Renfro.
The Cowboys took Hayes with the 88th pick in the draft, one spot before the Detroit Lions took a future Cowboys head coach in Bill Parcells. Hayes caught 46 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1965 and was named to the Pro Bowl three times in his career. Because of his speed, Hayes changed the game, forcing defenses to use zone coverages.

In 2009, Hayes was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Staubach wasn’t even sure he was eligible for the draft. Because he spent a year at the New Mexico Military Institute in 1960 before going to Annapolis, the Cowboys were able to use a future pick on Staubach.

“It was about 2 o’clock in the morning when we drafted Roger,” Brandt said. “At that part of the draft, it’s all about taking risks.”

The summer before Staubach’s Heisman Trophy season, Brandt visited the quarterback’s parents in Cincinnati. Brandt wanted to see if Staubach could get out of his five-year commitment to the Navy after graduation.

“Gil likes to tell the story about talking to my mother and she threw him out of the house. ‘Roger has an obligation to the Naval Academy,’” Staubach said. “And that was that.”

The AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs also drafted Staubach, but he chose the Cowboys because he was an NFL guy, growing up as a Cleveland Browns fan. It also helped that they agreed to pay him $500 a month and a $10,000 signing bonus in his years with the Navy.

After returning from Vietnam, Staubach was stationed in Pensacola, Fla., and took two weeks leave to go to Cowboys training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in 1967.

“That’s what made the difference, changed my life, really,” Staubach said. “I had a really good camp, and I think Coach [Tom] Landry thought I was mature enough so they possibly wouldn’t have to get a veteran quarterback.”

In 1969, Don Meredith retired unexpectedly. Craig Morton, the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 1965, would take over. Jerry Rhome, who was picked in the 13th round in 1964, was traded to Cleveland.

“We’re getting ready to leave Pensacola and then go to Thousand Oaks, and I told [his wife], ‘I’m second team and I haven’t done anything. Don’t worry,’” Staubach joked. “But if not for that year before, I think Coach Landry would’ve traded for a veteran quarterback behind Craig.”

By 1971, Staubach delivered the Cowboys their first title, winning Super Bowl VI and earning Most Valuable Player honors. The Cowboys won Super Bowl XII and appeared in five Super Bowls with Staubach, who earned the Captain Comeback nickname for his 23 late-game wins.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

Like fishing stories, scouts have famous stories about the ones that got away. As good as the ’64 draft was, Brandt knows it would have been better if they were able to get Paul Warfield and Dave Wilcox, who went on to Hall of Fame careers.

The Cowboys would have drafted Warfield in the first round but made a wink-wink trade with the Steelers for wide receiver Buddy Dial. The Steelers received the Cowboys’ pick in return, Scott Appleton, who signed with the Houston Oilers instead of the Steelers.

Dallas did not have a third-round pick in 1964 but were so confident they would land Wilcox that Brandt had scout Red Hickey with the defensive end. Instead, the San Francisco 49ers took Wilcox with the first pick of the third round.

“We could’ve had five [Hall of Famers] if it would’ve gone right for us,” Brandt said. “We could’ve had four, but we had three. And I thought that was pretty good.”

More than pretty good.
IRVING, Texas -- Roger Staubach has been a fan of Tony Romo since the beginning. He also believes Johnny Manziel will have a long career in the NFL.

But the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback does not want to see Romo and Manziel on the same team.

Manziel
Recent talk has the Cowboys interested in picking up Manziel in the first round of next week's draft, ranging from doing anything they can to get him to hoping that he would fall close to the 16th pick. On 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Monday, executive vice president Stephen Jones said any interest in Manziel is "purely speculation,” and that the team has yet to rate the quarterback position as a group.

Romo, who turned 34 last week, is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year, but he has been involved in the offseason conditioning program in the last two weeks and is expected to be ready for on-field work when Phase 2 of the offseason begins.

"I try to make people understand that if you brought Tom Brady here last year or Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, it's a team effort and you need a solid defense or you're going to be 8-8,” Staubach said. "If we had a really good defense we would've been 11-5 easily, I think. I hope (Romo) has three, four more years left in him. The people that really understand football understand how good he is but those with second opinions would be screaming for Manziel all the time.

"I think Manziel has got great instincts. I think he'll be a fine player, but I don't think you want a Manziel when you have a franchise quarterback. Jerry has paid (Romo) as a franchise. I think Tony is that. He's not the reason we're 8-8.That's my feeling.”

To Staubach, a quarterback controversy is the quickest way to hurt a team.

In 1971, coach Tom Landry had Staubach and Craig Morton alternating series before settling on Staubach, and the Cowboys went on to win their first Super Bowl.

"We probably had half of the people want Craig on the field and half of them wanted me, and even teammates might've felt the same if you polled the team early in the year when Craig and I were going back and forth,” Staubach said. "Whoever's going to be the quarterback, you need a quarterback that's the leader and the person in place. Coach, God love him, but that kind of divided the team. You don't want to divide the team on your quarterback. That would be wherever Manziel goes. He's going to get a chance to be a starter. That's what he wants. I think he deserves that. I think he's got that starting quarterback talent.”

Staubach sad for Romo; believes in Orton

December, 27, 2013
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach was "disappointed" for quarterback Tony Romo and the Cowboys that Romo was injured but expressed confidence that backup Kyle Orton can be effective in Romo's absence.

Orton
Romo
"He is the strength of Dallas. He gives us hope. Losing him is definitely a shame," Staubach said about Romo's injury, which required back surgery Friday morning. Staubach was in Fort Worth to speak at the Armed Forces Bowl kickoff luncheon. Staubach's alma mater, Navy, faces Middle Tennessee State on Monday.

Staubach went on to praise Orton, saying the backup "has a great arm" and "gets things done."

Orton will get his first start since 2011 with Romo out for the rest of the year.

"He can play football," Staubach said. "He's had some good days and bad days, but a lot of good days. I'm hoping that this Sunday night is one of his good days. He's extremely capable, especially with our offense with Dez Bryant and [Jason] Witten and DeMarco [Murray]. He's got some ammunition around him.

"I think our offensive line will be critical. They've done a good job this year. They need to do an outstanding job with Kyle in the pocket. He will be extremely effective if he has the time."

Staubach joked that he called Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and told him he wanted to back up Orton on Sunday.

"It was between me and [Jon] Kitna," Staubach said, chuckling. "I lost to Kitna. It was close, though."

Staubach has kept in communication with Romo throughout the years and admits he has plenty of admiration for him.

"I'm a big Romo fan, so I feel bad for Tony," said Staubach, who 50 seasons ago won the Heisman Trophy while leading Navy to the Cotton Bowl. "He's a tough son-of-a-gun, though. He was hurt in that game against the Redskins. That back had to be a real problem for him, yet he gutted it out and we at least have a shot at winning the East. I wish he was at quarterback, but I really feel with our offense that if Kyle gets time in the pocket, he'll be effective."

Romo was injured during last week's game and continued to play, eventually leading the Cowboys on a game-winning drive despite pain in his right leg.

The injury means Romo won't get a chance to improve upon his 0-3 mark in regular-season finales with the NFC East at stake. Dallas and Philadelphia will play for the division title Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Staubach hopes Romo recovers quickly and has many productive years left as the Cowboys' quarterback.

"I really see the things he can do out on the field and the plays he makes," Staubach said. "He isn't as lucky as I was to have the full complement of players around. It's different. It's free agency. It's a different league."

Storied pasts loom over Cowboys, Packers

December, 13, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- As the Cowboys walk to the team meeting room every day, they are met with pictures of Dallas' five Super Bowl winners. Each collage has a team photo and pictures of smiling players, coaches and executives from winning NFL championships.

At Lambeau Field, the photos from the great moments in Packers history line the wall from the tunnel to the locker room. When the stadium was renovated years ago, they took a row of old bricks and moved it to the new tunnel so players can say they walk over the same ground as the greats who played at Lambeau Field.

With a loss Sunday, though, either team will need even more help to just make the postseason.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo and Aaron Rodgers
AP Photo/David StlukaCowboys QB Tony Romo, right, and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers know the burden that comes with playing for franchises trying to recapture past glory.
Like the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys are constantly chasing ghosts from past teams.

The Packers and Cowboys have combined for 18 NFL championships (Green Bay 13, Dallas five) and nine Super Bowls (Green Bay four, Dallas five). They produced one of the NFL’s iconic games -- the Ice Bowl -- in the 1967 NFC Championship. They were coached by legends in Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi. They rekindled the rivalry in the 1990s, meeting in the playoffs from 1993 to 1995.

The current teams carry something of a burden with them because of the successful pasts.

“We always look at it as a sense of pride and energy to tap into,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “We think it’s very important to have that and recognize it and honor it, so I always refer to it as there’s pride in the bricks of Lambeau Field and it’s something we need to tap into. We talk to our current team about it and how important it is to win and represent the Green Bay Packers the right way.”

Jason Garrett does not talk about the expectations laid out from the likes of Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Mel Renfro, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. He talks about the standard those players and teams set.

“You want to be in a place where there’s a high standard for achievement,” Garrett said. “I think that’s a good thing. That brings the best out in people. What we try to do each and every day is be our best. Come to work as players and coaches and put our best foot forward and get ready for our challenges each week and again, embrace the past. That’s a good thing. ... That drives us. That’s part of what drives us to achieve, really, each and every day, and certainly each season.”

Tony Romo is constantly measured against Staubach and Aikman. Aaron Rodgers is measured against Bart Starr and Brett Favre, but he has the Super Bowl ring that Romo is still looking for, having beaten the Steelers at AT&T Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.

Rodgers has 23 teammates on the roster with a Super Bowl ring.

Romo hopes one day to have his own, so he and his teammates can have their pictures on the wall holding the Lombardi Trophy.

“You want to be a part of a storied franchise,” Romo said. “It just makes it important. You want a challenge. You want it to matter, and you want it to be important. That’s what’s great about this organization and great about our fans.”

JFK Remembered: Roger Staubach

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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Roger StaubachAP PhotoRoger Staubach reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.
The former Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback and Naval Academy Heisman Trophy winner reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

“We had a very good connection. We met him [President Kennedy] when he would go up to Nantucket. We used to train at Quonset Point and he would come up in the helicopter, and he was a Navy guy, PT 109, so I think he liked us better than Army. But he couldn’t say that. He switched sides.

"He was at the ’62 Army-Navy game. That was one game I played and it was a really great Army-Navy game for Navy, and he was there and he was going to be at the ’63 game. Obviously, the game was played on his behalf, and it was very emotional -- heck of a game actually. The Army quarterback, Rollie Stichweh, was fantastic. We’ve become good friends. Rollie and I talked about that game and what it meant to the country, just to see the servicemen and women at the game. Honoring the president at our game is what took place. That’s why it was such a big deal, the ’63 game. The family asked the game to be played on his behalf, so it was a special game.

“My mother heard I was going to be on the cover of Life that week. They destroyed most of them and brought them back and redid the whole cover. I was getting ready to go to class, a thermal dynamics class, and when I got to class, I found out he was killed. The game was supposed to be a week from that Saturday, but it was delayed another week. It was just a lot of circumstances that are related to that football game and the president’s death. It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years. Time flies.”

-- Staubach, 71, as told to ESPN.com Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and ESPNDallas.com reporter Calvin Watkins
video Jim from Albany, Ore., had no beefs with the "Greatest Coaches" ballot I submitted for the ESPN project. He did question the project itself, however.

"It seems to me that a coach becomes 'great' only after he has a 'great' quarterback," Jim wrote in the NFC West mailbag. "The coaches at the very top of the list might be exceptions, but let's look at some of the others."

The way Jim sees things, Bill Belichick struggled in Cleveland before he had Tom Brady in New England. Mike Shanahan struggled without John Elway. Mike Holmgren was considered a great coach in Green Bay, but he had Brett Favre. Tom Landry struggled after Roger Staubach retired. Tom Coughlin was fired by Jacksonville, but once he had Eli Manning, he became a great coach. Tony Dungy became great when he had Peyton Manning. Bill Walsh was innovative, of course, but he also had Joe Montana and Steve Young.

"The voting is a fun exercise and I don't mean to dismiss the importance of a coach," Jim writes. "Some are certainly much better than others and some are great, but I think people are overlooking the role that a franchise quarterback plays in how 'great' a coach is considered to be."

There is no doubt quarterbacks make a tremendous difference. Head coaches sometimes play leading roles in acquiring and developing quarterbacks. Let's take a quick run through the coaches Jim mentioned in search of added perspective:
  • Belichick: We could say the Patriots lucked into Brady in the sixth round, but Belichick was ultimately responsible for drafting him and then sticking with him after Drew Bledsoe's return to health. Also, the Patriots had an 11-5 record when Matt Cassel was their primary quarterback in 2008.
  • Shanahan: Shanahan deserves credit for getting the most from an aging Elway. The Broncos had six winning seasons, one losing season and one 8-8 season in the eight years immediately following Elway's retirement. The post-Elway Broncos went 91-69 under Shanahan overall. That works out to a .569 winning percentage in Denver after Elway. Bill Parcells was at .570 for his entire career.
  • Holmgren: Even if we give Favre credit for the Packers' success in Green Bay, we still must account for Holmgren's winning with Matt Hasselbeck and a more run-oriented offense in Seattle. Hasselbeck was a sixth-round pick in Green Bay. Holmgren traded for him and eventually won with him. Hasselbeck went to three Pro Bowls. Holmgren didn't luck into Hasselbeck. He helped develop him.
  • Landry: The Cowboys enjoyed their greatest postseason success under Landry when Staubach was the quarterback through the 1970s. However, the Cowboys were 31-10 under Landry in the three seasons before Staubach arrived. They were 21-6-1 in Staubach's first two seasons even though Staubach started only three of those games, posting a 2-1 record in his starts. Dallas went 24-8 in its first two seasons after Staubach retired. The Cowboys posted five winning records in their first six seasons of the post-Staubach era, going 61-28 over that span.
  • Coughlin: Manning wasn't all that great for much of Coughlin's early run with the Giants. Players such as Michael Strahan have credited Coughlin for adapting his gruff personal style in a manner that allowed the Giants to become a championship team. That could be entirely true, or it could be convenient narrative. We can't really know. However, although the Giants might not have won titles without Manning, we can't ignore the role their defense played in defeating Brady's Patriots following the 2007 season in particular. They didn't win disproportionately because of their quarterback.
  • Dungy: I listed Dungy 20th on my ballot because he won with two completely different types of teams. However, I also think a case can be made that the Colts should have enjoyed greater playoff success during the Peyton Manning years. Ultimately, I point to the success Tampa Bay enjoyed beginning in 1997 with a team built to some degree in Dungy's defensive image. The Buccaneers went 48-32 in their final five seasons under Dungy. That franchise was floundering previously.

I left off Walsh because Jim wasn't challenging his credentials as a great coach. Hopefully, the information above provides some context. I do think it's tough knowing to what degree a coach has facilitated his team's success. We're left to look at success over time, plus whatever contributions a coach seemed to make in terms of strategy, team building, etc.

Joe Gibbs gets credit for winning three Super Bowls with three quarterbacks, none of them Hall of Famers. It's not as if Gibbs had horrible quarterbacks, however. Joe Theismann and Mark Rypien were both two-time Pro Bowl selections. Doug Williams obviously had talent. He was a first-round draft choice, after all.

Perhaps we'll find ways in the future to better measure a coach's contributions. Right now, there's a lot we do not know beyond the results on the field.
If you've ever thought to yourself, "I wonder what it would be like to get a glimpse into the mind of 'First Take' host Skip Bayless as he agonizes over the question of whether Tony Romo will ever win a Super Bowl as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys," well, then, you're in luck. Skip's weekly column for ESPN.com is a lengthy debate between Skip's head and his heart on this very topic.

Romo
Skip concludes that the answer is "no," which is something of a departure from his long-held and oft-stated belief that Romo takes too much blame in Dallas. Along the way, he hits on a number of key issues at the heart of the perpetual Romo conundrum, including this one:
An NFL coach who loves Romo's talent and stays in touch with several Cowboys assistants told me: "That team badly needs Romo to take over as its leader. And all he really wants to be is a good soldier. Not a general. Just a very good soldier."

That's because, deep down, Romo knows he's still your basic undrafted free agent. Staubach won the Heisman. Aikman was the first pick in the draft. Romo doesn't trust he can be routinely great. He keeps waiting for someone to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he just got punked -- he isn't really a Dallas Cowboys quarterback. That's why he was so happy-go-unlucky in those first couple of seasons. He was trying to grin away the Texas-sized pressure, shrug off the voice inside telling him, "You know you don't belong here."

That voice keeps telling him he WILL self-destruct. And he does.

I think the "leader" stuff is overblown, and that it comes from people who don't ever visit the Cowboys' locker room, where Romo is looked at as a leader in all of the critical ways. But I think there's something to the idea of Romo's relationship to potential greatness. Guys who win Heisman Trophies and get picked first overall are the types of guys who have spent their whole lives crushing everyone and everything in their path -- for whom doubt was never company and therefore can't even be a memory. Romo hit more than his share of bumps and setbacks along his way to the NFL, and therefore the idea that he might possess more innate self-doubt than did his Hall of Fame predecessors is not a crazy one at all.

Where I fall short on this -- and I guess one of the reasons I was never going to make it on "First Take" -- is that I can't sit here and say Romo will never win a title with the Cowboys. Very few quarterbacks have ever filled us with certainty that they could win a Super Bowl until they actually did it. They used to say the Broncos would never win one with John Elway, that the Giants would never win one with Eli Manning. Someday, we may look back on this Romo conversation as preposterously silly.

But that's who Romo is right now. Even if you want to like him and believe in him, there are just enough reasons -- some of his own making, some not -- for doubt. And jeez, if he's lost Skip, that's a tough one.

Heisman no longer bad omen for QBs

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
10:03
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Sam Bradford/Cam NewtonUS PresswireSt. Louis' Sam Bradford, left, and Carolina's Cam Newton have helped change the thinking that a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback won't be successful in the NFL.
There was a time -- like pretty much the last 50 years -- when a Heisman Trophy wasn’t a very good thing for a quarterback to have on his résumé as he entered the NFL.

When Baylor’s Robert Griffin III gets taken early in next week’s NFL draft, he could be the latest piece in the trend of turning around the apparent curse on quarterbacks who won the Heisman. It has started to change only recently, but all of the sudden it’s looking like the trophy isn’t an anchor guaranteeing NFL mediocrity or obscurity for a quarterback.

Look back at 2010 winner Cam Newton. He was last year’s offensive rookie of the year for the Carolina Panthers and set all sorts of rookie passing (and rushing) records. There’s big hope in St. Louis that 2008 winner Sam Bradford can get back to the promise he showed as a rookie after struggling through a rough 2010 season. Then there’s 2007 winner Tim Tebow. He couldn’t throw spirals in Denver, but he won games. That at least created a market for Tebow to get traded to the New York Jets, where it remains to be seen if he’ll ever be able to win the starting job away from Mark Sanchez.

But there’s at least hope that Griffin, Newton, Bradford and Tebow can go on to have long and prosperous NFL careers. Before they came along, there were decades of evidence that suggested quarterbacks should just quit the game after winning the Heisman.

Remember Troy Smith, Eric Crouch, Danny Wuerffel, Charlie Ward and Gino Torretta? How about Ty Detmer, Andre Ware or Pat Sullivan?

They had little to no success in the NFL.

And remember Jason White?

I honestly did not at first. I had to go back and look up White, who won the trophy not all that long ago. He won it in 2003 while putting up some gaudy numbers at the University of Oklahoma. White didn’t even get drafted and quit football altogether after a short training-camp stint with the Tennessee Titans. He never even played in a regular-season NFL game.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Jerome Miron/US PresswireRobert Griffin III threw for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy last season.
Guys like White, Smith, Crouch, Wuerffel, Ward, Torretta, Detmer, Ware and Sullivan all had some things in common. In general, they were able to win the Heisman because they put up big statistics at programs where they were surrounded by elite players. They also had limitations -- usually in size, speed or arm strength -- that prevented them from being taken very seriously by NFL talent evaluators.

But those same evaluators also missed on some Heisman winners who seemed to have what the NFL wanted. Remember Matt Leinart?

He came from one of those football factories (USC), where he was surrounded by guys like Reggie Bush, but Leinart was supposed to be the one whose college success could transfer to the NFL. That’s why the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the first round. But Leinart was nothing short of a tremendous disappointment.

When he flopped, it looked like there really was something to the Heisman Curse.

Prior to Tebow, Bradford, Newton and Griffin, you’ve got to look at a list of 18 quarterbacks who won the Heisman before you find one who really made it big. You’ve got to go all the way back to Roger Staubach, who won it for Navy in 1963. He went on to have a great career for the Dallas Cowboys and earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since Staubach won the Heisman, other quarterbacks have had to settle for just getting into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Sure, there have been a few Heisman winners to come out and have some success. Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls, but his career didn’t really take off until he landed with the Raiders after mediocre stints in New England and San Francisco.

Vinny Testaverde had an extremely long NFL career and the longevity led to some impressive career statistics. But Testaverde never had the kind of career so many people imagined when he was coming out of the University of Miami and taken No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987.

Guys like Steve Spurrier and Doug Flutie bounced around and had some success. Then there’s Carson Palmer, who has had some bright moments, but still is trying to fully live up to the Heisman hype.

But Newton, Griffin, Tebow and Bradford finally might be able to put a stop to the near-half-decade drought of Heisman Trophy winners truly excelling in the NFL.

“Cam Newton is the best thing to ever happen to Robert Griffin III,’’ former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke said as we discussed this year’s crop of quarterbacks back in February. “Just like Drew Brees is the best thing to happen to [Wisconsin draft prospect Russell Wilson]. Cam showed that a big, athletic quarterback that can run can be great in the NFL. Brees showed that a guy that’s not 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 can throw for 5,000 yards in an NFL season. We all know the NFL is a copycat league. Cam’s success and Drew’s success helps the draft stock of guys like Robert and Russell.’’

Ironically, Weinke’s name is another one on that Heisman list. His story might be the most unique of all the Heisman-winning quarterbacks. Weinke enrolled at Florida State after giving up a minor-league baseball career. He won the Heisman in 2000 and seemed to have the talent of a classic drop-back passer, but the fact he would turn 29 in his rookie training camp, pushed him into the fourth round of the 2001 draft. The Carolina Panthers took him and he started under coach George Seifert as a rookie, but never could quite won over John Fox, who took over the next year.

Weinke spent the next five seasons as a backup in Carolina and finished his career in 2007 with San Francisco.

These days, Weinke has carved a niche as a quarterback guru. He is the director of football operations at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He has worked extensively with Newton and some other quarterback prospects over the past few years.

Weinke says he’s seen the game change just since his playing days ended. Like just about everyone else, he says the NFL has become more driven by quarterbacks. He says natural talent is a prerequisite for NFL success and he points to guys like Newton and Griffin, saying they could be a new prototype. And he goes back to his point about the NFL being a copycat league.

“People are always looking for what works,’’ Weinke said. “Cam obviously had a fantastic rookie season. So people look at Robert and say he can do the same thing because the skill sets are similar.’’

For Griffin, Newton and Bradford -- and perhaps even Tebow in his own way -- maybe the skill sets are so good that it no longer matters if a quarterback is lugging around a Heisman Trophy.

Final Word: Super Bowl XLVI

February, 4, 2012
2/04/12
2:00
PM ET
» Super Bowl XLVI Final Word: Patriots | Giants

Five nuggets of knowledge about Super Bowl XLVI:

Home sweet road: The New York Giants have won six straight playoff games on the road or at neutral sites dating to 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eli Manning has been the quarterback for all six of them, and his six career postseason wins away from home tie him for the record with four other quarterbacks, including the New England Patriots' Tom Brady. (The others are Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Joe Montana, so not a bad list.) Manning's ability to remain cool under all kinds of pressure has been well documented, but his record in hostile or neutral environments in postseason games offers yet another example.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireEli Manning has a 7-3 record in the postseason.
You again? Manning and Brady are the third pair of quarterbacks to face off in multiple Super Bowls. The Cowboys' Troy Aikman and the Bills' Jim Kelly met in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII. Aikman won both. The Steelers' Bradshaw faced the Cowboys' Staubach in Super Bowls X and XIII. Bradshaw won both. Brady's hoping to buck history and pull off a split with Manning, who beat him in Super Bowl XLII.

Hot at the right time: The Giants are the third team in history to reach the Super Bowl after failing to win at least 10 games in the regular season (not counting strike-shortened seasons). The previous two were the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and the 1979 Rams. Each of those teams lost its Super Bowl, so a Giants win would make them the first Super Bowl champion to enter the playoffs with fewer than 10 wins. They are also the first team to reach the Super Bowl after being outscored by their opponents in the regular season. The Giants scored 394 points and allowed 400 on their way to their 9-7 regular-season record. Those 2008 Cardinals (plus 1) and 1979 Rams (plus 14) were the teams with the worst point differential in Super Bowl history until this year.

Peyton's place: Eli Manning is playing the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where his brother Peyton Manning has established himself as an all-time great quarterback with the Colts. Peyton had a head start on Eli and has fashioned a brilliant Hall of Fame career, but little brother's playoff numbers stack up with big brother's. Peyton Manning is 9-10 all time in postseason games with a 63.1 completion percentage and a 29-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Eli Manning is 7-3 in the postseason with a completion percentage of 59.8 and a TD-INT ratio of 16-8. If Eli throws three touchdowns on Sunday, it would give him 11 touchdown passes this postseason, which would tie the record for a single postseason set by Montana in 1989 and equaled by Kurt Warner in 2008.

Tough guys: According to ESPN Stats & Information's "Next Level" stats, the pass-catchers in this game are very difficult to tackle after they catch the ball. The stat they use is "yards after contact," which differs from "yards after catch." Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's been struggling with an ankle injury since the AFC Championship Game, led the league with 290 yards after first post-catch contact. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was second with 245. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker was third with 242 yards, and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was fourth with 231.
Ben RoethlisbergerJared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBen Roethlisberger threw as many passes as New England ran plays in the Steelers' 25-17 victory.
PITTSBURGH -- After the Steelers' 25-17 victory Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger told Tom Brady that he thinks the Patriots' quarterback is the best.

Well, not today. Not for 60 minutes at Heinz Field. For the first time in his career, Roethlisberger outshined Brady in a head-to-head matchup. He did so by pulling a Brady on Brady.

Spreading out the New England defense, Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun and zipped short passes all over the field. It was a masterful performance. It was a signature one.

The Steelers are the best team in the AFC not just because they've got the best record. It's because they have the hottest quarterback in the AFC.

With Brady getting an up-close look, Roethlisberger completed 36 of 50 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns. Roethlisberger wouldn't say if this performance was more special because it came against an offense -- and quarterback -- that has set the standard for throwing the ball. His teammates know otherwise.

"Ben is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Tom Brady is quote-unquote the best quarterback in the NFL. Any time you get a chance to go against the best, it’s a great opportunity for you. You relish those opportunities. He certainly did today and played great."

Everyone talked all week about Brady's dominance over the Steelers and his 6-1 record against the reigning AFC champions. So, what's the best way to stop Brady? With a better offense and quarterback.

Brady managed only 198 yards passing, and Roethlisberger deserved some credit in containing the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player. Roethlisberger wasn't just the best offensive player at Heinz Field. He might have been the best defense.

Roethlisberger's efficient effort allowed the Steelers to convert eight of their first 10 third downs. That kept Brady on the sideline as Pittsburgh dominated time of possession (39:22 to 20:38). In fact, Roethlisberger threw as many passes (50) as the Patriots had plays.

The Steelers kept the ball by converting third downs of 11, 15 and 12 yards. Roethlisberger's only mistake was an underthrown pass over the middle on third-and-17 which led to an easy Patriots touchdown. He responded by leading a 10-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.

In total, Pittsburgh's five scoring drives went for 11, 16, 10, 14 and 11 plays.

"It's been all Tom Brady versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and looking back on the past, how he's owned the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I think everybody forgot about our offense a little bit and the things they've been doing out there," Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "I think they took that a little personal."

The Steelers faced an important stretch with back-to-back games against New England and Baltimore. In the big picture, the Steelers needed a win over the Ravens more than the Patriots because of division implications. But beating New England is of greater value to Roethlisberger.

When it comes to the quarterback debate this season, it's Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Some might even put Philip Rivers at No. 4. Roethlisberger will get pushed to the side even though he's got two rings because he often wins ugly.

If anything, Roethlisberger's performance against New England was the best way for him to state his case. The Steelers put the game in Roethlisberger's hands. Pittsburgh called for pass plays 73 percent of the time (57 of 78). When the Patriots put the game in Brady's hands, it led to Keisel stripping the ball and a safety with eight seconds left in the game.

"Does he put up the numbers that everyone wants to see that’s attractive and sexy? No," Steelers left tackle Max Starks said. "But when you look at it in the wins and loss columns, that’s the ultimate barometer that a quarterback is judged by. For us, we appreciate the heck out of him. It doesn’t really matter if other people don’t think he’s great or gets them enough fantasy points."

The win was Roethlisberger's 75th in 106 starts. He is the fourth-fastest quarterback to reach 75 victories in the Super Bowl era, following Roger Staubach (99 games), Brady (99) and Ken Stabler (105).

Roethlisberger won because he was able to adjust. He didn't have long-time target Hines Ward, who was out with an ankle injury. So, Roethlisberger leaned on Brown (nine catches for 67 yards) and Emmanuel Sanders (five catches for 70 yards).

The Patriots also took away the deep pass from the Steelers, probably because Roethlisberger had hit Mike Wallace for a pass over 40 yards in six consecutive games. He changed up his game by going over the middle to tight end Heath Miller (seven catches for 85 yards) and underneath to Wallace (seven catches for 70 yards).

How the Steelers attacked shouldn't have come as a surprise. Roethlisberger basically showed his hand during the week when he said you always want to "emulate" the No. 1 offense in the league.

The Steelers consistently spread out the Patriots' defense by emptying the backfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Roethlisberger threw both of his touchdowns out of empty-set formations and recorded nine plays that went for first downs, surpassing his previous mark of six.

"We came in with the game plan of throwing the ball," Roethlisberger said. "I felt like we did a good job of that."

Roethlisberger added, "We can be as good as we want to be. When we don't kill ourselves and stop ourselves, we can be pretty dangerous."

Roethlisberger has been extremely dangerous recently. In his past four games, he has thrown 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has produced back-t0-back 300-yard passing games (361 and 365 yards) for the second time in his career.

You don't want to face the Steelers these days, and you definitely don't want to see Roethlisberger.

"Ben’s a bad dude," Wallace said. "People overlook him because how great our defense is. This guy is a baller. Sometimes the throws might not be there because that’s not our game all the time. But if we have to, we can throw the ball with the best of them."
Examining the most crucial event in the history of every team in the division.

The most important moment in Green Bay Packers history was nearly scuttled by an unlikely source. Shortly after Vince Lombardi accepted the Packers' job as head coach/general manager in 1959, his wife was "distraught," according to historian David Maraniss.

Marie Lombardi approached New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, who owned Lombardi's contract as a Giants assistant coach. As Maraniss writes in "When Pride Still Mattered," Marie begged Mara to block her husband's move.

[+] EnlargeVince Lombardi
AP PhotoCoach Vince Lombardi (upper right) led the Packers to five championship wins in seven seasons.
Mara declined, knowing Vince was ready to be a head coach. Marie stood by her husband. And the rest, as they say, is Packers history.

Lombardi's arrival in Green Bay was your overwhelming choice as the Packers' Flash Point, and it received a higher percentage of votes (69 percent) than any individual event offered in last week's series of polls. Lombardi won his first NFL title in 1961 and collected four more before giving up the job in 1967, building an unmatched legend and painting the franchise in gold mystique for generations to come.

Some of you made impassioned arguments for Curly Lambeau's push to sell stock and make the franchise a non-profit organization in 1923, a short-term fundraising effort that embedded a structure still in operation today. "How can it not be Curly?" wrote mallow420. "If Curly doesn't save the Packers then there's no Packers to hire Lombardi."

Hadessniper allowed that "Lambeau making the Packers public is more important for the Packers, as without that there is simply no way Green Bay keeps a team." But, wrote hadessniper, "Lombardi is probably more important for the NFL as a whole. The NFL was gaining popularity, but Lombardi gave the game a legend. Without Lombardi the NFL wouldn't be what it is today."

Timarquardt was more direct: "Get back to me when someone else wins five championships in seven years. That's Lombardi's legacy and with all due credit to Curly, he did it when there was a bunch of good teams. Curly saved the franchise, obviously important, but without those Lombardi years the team never would have had the following through the dark years of the '70s and '80s to be successful."

What's fascinating to me is that Lambeau actually wanted Lombardi's job in 1959, a decade after an internal power struggle led to Lambeau's ouster. As Maraniss recounts, Lambeau flew to Green Bay during the interview process and launched a campaign to capture at least the general manager position that Lombardi ultimately filled. Dominic Olejniczak, president of the Packers board of directors, resisted the urge to hire him despite heavy public support.

The Flash Point mandate was less clear for the NFC North's other three teams. Let's sort through them in alphabetical order:

BEARS: A hero of 1985

About half of you voted for the arrival of defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, the architect of the 46 defense that led the Bears to a championship in 1985.

Buddy Ryan
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesBuddy Ryan's 46 defense formed the identity of the 1985 Super Bowl-winning Bears team.
Lewie21982 was livid and wrote: "Who are these people voting?? Are you just idiot baby boomers, hippies, or the '80s mullet crowd??? I was born in the '80s and clearly know the decision of drafting Red Grange or instituting the T-Formation was the most significant thing the Bears have ever done. The Bears have nine championships and eight of them were before Buddy Ryan, Mike Ditka, or the 46 defense ever came around!!"

I hear ya, Lewie21982. Red Grange made the Bears an early heavy hitter in pro football, and George Halas' schematic innovations led to the golden age in franchise history -- four world titles in seven years between 1940-46. But I understand where the baby boomers, hippies and mulleteers were going.

The 1985 Bears were the best team in franchise history and one of the most dominant of the NFL's post-merger era. With all due respect to Ditka and running back Walter Payton, Ryan's 46 defense was the biggest reason. It's impossible for a single moment to spawn something so impactful, and I heard a suggestion for ex-general manager Jim Finks acquiring many of that team's stars. But without Buddy Ryan, the 46 defense doesn't exist and the 1985 Bears as they were known never come to be.

LIONS: Forgetting yesteryear

The Detroit Lions' Flash Point vote got more action than any team in the division, garnering more than 53,000 votes. On that, we can agree.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Barry Sanders
JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty ImagesBarry Sanders had a Hall of Fame career but couldn't get the Lions a championship.
But did the decision to draft running back Barry Sanders have more impact than any other event in franchise history? About 60 percent of you thought so, although the comments reflected a wider disparity.

I'm not on board, and neither was j_sleik83. We agree that quarterback Bobby Layne brought the Lions what Sanders never did. J_sleik83: "Bobby Layne in combination with the Hall of Fame defensive backfield the Lions had during the entirety of the '50s IS their defining era. Barry Sanders didn't lead them to the promised land, Layne did."

I mean no disrespect to Sanders, who forged a Hall of Fame career on some otherwise undermanned teams. But with Layne behind center, the Lions won NFL titles in 1952 and 1953. He contributed to a third in 1957, and upon his subsequent departure, Layne placed a (possibly apocryphal) 50-year curse on the franchise. (For that reason, DWargs thought trading Layne away is the defining moment in franchise history: "Haven't gotten close to a championship since.")

Several of you pointed to the ownership of the Ford family as the primary reason for that dubious run. Regardless, I understand that Lions history is defined more by failure than success. But on an otherwise desultory landscape, the Lions once had a brilliant run. Bobby Layne was the single biggest reason why.

VIKINGS: Varied opinions

I did either an excellent or terrible job of choosing options for the Minnesota Vikings' Flash Point: All four possibilities received between 19 and 32 percent of the vote. Assembling the "Purple People Eaters" had the highest percentage, but its total was hardly a mandate among the 38,000 or so votes cast.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota coach Bud Grant
AP Photo/Jack ThornellBud Grant won 152 games as coach over 18 seasons.
Scanning the comments, it was clear that you agreed on only one thing: A Vikings Flash Point needed to reflect a long history of dysfunction.

Even looking beyond the obvious, Ymacdaddy offered this litany: "Herschel Walker, Metrodome [collapse], Gary Anderson, Dimitrius Underwood, too many in huddle, big-game chokers, etc. How about Darrin Nelson before Marcus Allen?"

The 1989 Walker trade, in which the Vikings ultimately gave up five players and six draft choices, received multiple mentions. So did Gary Anderson's shocking field goal miss in the 1998 NFC Championship Game. BuckeyeVikes80 is "still reeling from that 12 years later."

Dbatten1 noted Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach's Hail Mary pass to Drew "Push" Pearson in the 1975 playoffs. TampaPacMan's moment was the final play of the 2003 season, when the Vikings lost the NFC North title and a playoff berth by giving up an improbable touchdown to Arizona Cardinals receiver Nathan Poole. It was "the signature moment in a franchise history littered with failures!" wrote TampaPacMan.

If it were up to me, Bud Grant's arrival would rank as the most significant moment in Vikings history. Many of us would agree that Grant has made the single-biggest impact in this franchise's 50 years. But what do I know? I just work here.

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