From the bow of his boat in Key West, Fla., Tex Schramm can see far off into the distance, but it's hard to make out distinct shapes . . . like which year was which when the Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl?
"To tell you the truth, the Cowboys-Steelers games, they all sort of blend together with me," he said.
It's understandable. As general manager of the Cowboys during their rise to prominence, Schramm presided over a franchise that took five trips to the Super Bowl in nine years and won twice. But two of the defeats came at the hands of the Steelers, including Super Bowl X, a 21-17 decision for Pittsburgh at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
The Cowboys would lose again to the Steelers three years later, but in Schramm's mind, the 1976 game signaled the start of a turning point in Dallas history. It was at just about that time that the Cowboys started changing the way they did business, Schramm said.
"You know, from reading some of the comments of the 49er players the last week or so, I know exactly what they are going through," Schramm said. "I remember someone saying to me after we lost that Super Bowl game to the Steelers, 'Well, next year is going to be better.' Well, heck. That's kind of like winning the Super Bowl is the only thing that counts and anything else is a total failure.
"We got caught up in that kind of thinking. It started costing us. We started thinking only about the Super Bowl when we were drafting guys, like, 'Well, can this guy win the Super Bowl for us?' As a result, we started stretching too far in the draft. We got players with great physical ability, but who hadn't, you know, done it yet."
With Franco Harris running for 82 yards, Terry Bradshaw passing for a pair of touchdowns and Lynn Swann catching four passes for 161 yards, the game belonged to the Steelers. But so did much of the decade, and Schramm wasn't all that surprised.
"I don't think there's ever been a team with better players in history," Schramm said.
* 1976 AT MIAMI
Dallas 7 3 0 7 -- 17 Pittsburgh 7 0 0 14 -- 21
Dal--D. Pearson 29 pass from Stabauch (Fritsch kick)
Pit--Grossman 7 pass from Bradshaw (Gerela kick)
Dal--FG Fritsch 36
Pit--Safety, Harrison blocked Hoopes' punt through end zone
Pit--FG Gerela 36
Pit--FG Gerela 18
Pit--Swann 64 pass from Bradshaw (kick failed)
Dal--P. Howard 34 pass from Staubach (Fritsch kick)
Winning Coach--Chuck Noll