Catching Up with Craig Morton

Between 1965 and 1974, Craig Morton was under center for the Cowboys. Sure, Roger Staubach rode into town in 1969 but it was Morton who started for America's Team in Super Bowl V.

I loved going to Super Bowl V but we didn't really know how big things were. We went there and I remember walking out of the tunnel and there are two huge balloon caricatures of me and one was of John Unitas. I thought, ‘God, what am I doing here?' After Morton left Big D, he played several years for the Giants before landing in Denver, where he earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors in 1977 while helping lead the Broncos to Super Bowl XII.

Morton finally hung his chin strap up in 1982 and since then, has dabbled in coaching. He now works in the Athletic Development office at his alma mater, Cal. He was kind enough to give The Ranch Report a phone interview and here is that exchange:

The Ranch Report: How do you look back on your years in Dallas?
Morton: Well, I was pretty excited after getting out of school about going to Dallas. The first thing I remember is driving there and how hot it was. I remember thinking that I didn't know if I could do this deal. Then, after that it was a great place and a young city with a lot of people and things happening. My first year there, we were 7-7 and after that, we never had a losing season. Played in a lot of championship games and had a chance to be with (Tom) Landry and all those great teammates. We had some great All-American teammates come through there and some Hall of Famers, some of the greatest teammates of all-time. It was just nice to be part of it. It was nice to be part of their first Super Bowl and then their second one.

The Ranch Report: What was it like playing in two Super Bowls for two different teams?
Morton: I loved going to Super Bowl V but we didn't really know how big things were. We went there and I remember walking out of the tunnel and there are two huge balloon caricatures of me and one was of John Unitas. I thought, ‘God, what am I doing here?' I'm in the same arena that Johnny Unitas is in, my childhood hero. We had a horrible result in that game. Of course, the next year, Roger (Staubach) was playing. My Super Bowl that I played against Dallas, I was in Denver and that was in 1978. That was quite something to go to a Super Bowl again and play against your former team. They were probably the only team in football that we did not match up well against. We just weren't used to playing teams with the 4-3. We had played a lot of 3-4 teams, so it was difficult and they really made it difficult. The outcome of the game was because of their great defensive line.

The Ranch Report: What kind of impact did Coach Landry have on you?
Morton: Coach Landry was very hard to understand. He was very stoic, distant and matter of fact. As time went on, I realized what a great man and amazing man he was. When I was there, to me, he is the greatest football coach of all-time. He knew more about football and all its aspects than anyone I was ever coached by. I think all his players say the same thing, that he knew everything about defense and special teams because he coached them all. He taught me everything I know about football. I remember his funeral and how tough it was. I remember what a great man he was. He was one of those few people I've ever known when he said something, he walked the walk. He was exactly the person you talked to. I respected him and loved him for that.

The Ranch Report: How do you feel about this being the last year of Texas Stadium?
Morton: It's been so long since I've been there but when it first opened, it was the grand stadium of football. The thing I remember about Texas Stadium is the suites and all the people who could afford them, which were $50,000 at the time. When the weather was bad, it would always get on the players but the fans would be kind of dry. It was a great place. I loved the Cotton Bowl because it had natural grass but it (Texas Stadium) was the first stadium that had good AstroTurf but I loved that place. We had great memories in there.

The Ranch Report: How much did winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1977 meant to you.
Morton: Well, it meant a lot to me because I was on a team that was successful. I had been on the Giants for two and a half years and we were just so bad. There's not anybody who thought I'd ever make a comeback or be effective any more. I was probably the worst quarterback on the planet in 1976 and to come back with those things are just dreams. I don't know what it means to me except I was on a great team and wouldn't have gotten that award without them. I don't know how much I improved in one year but that award proves that teams do make a difference.

The Ranch Report: Did you like coaching in the USFL?
Morton: I loved it. I wish we could've kept that league. If the owners had been smart enough to keep it as it was, it would probably still be going. It was a good second ground for the NFL. We Had good crowds in Denver, about 50,000. So, we had a good experience, but they thought they would step right in and be better with the NFL but that just wasn't going to happen. The owners got in the way and that spoiled a good thing.

The Ranch Report: Do you think a spring football league could work with the right business model?
Morton: I don't know what the right business model is. They've tried many times. I thought that the original business model that they had in the USFL was a good one. But when they let these guys that had some money in and they talked about going after the NFL and that they couldn't stop them, that wasn't good. I don't know if it will ever work. I know they're going to try another league next year but I don't understand that deal. I don't know if it would go now. They've tried a lot of different things but I don't know if it would work. There certainly are a lot of football players and if the prices were affordable and people could get in to see their team, I guess it could work. I'm kind of conflicted about whether it could still work.

The Ranch Report: How did you end up back at Cal?
Morton: Well, for a long time now, Cal was trying to redo their stadium. Maybe about 10 years ago, I was living in Arizona at the time and some Cal people came down for the Cal/Arizona State basketball game. We played golf and they asked me if I'd ever be interested in coming back. So, three to five years later, it was a good opportunity. The AD asked me if I'd like to do this. I said yes and I love it.

The Ranch Report: Which of your former teammates are you the closest with?
Morton: I see a lot of guys. Roger (Staubach) and I have always been close. People would never believe that. (I also see) Lee Roy Jordan, Danny Reeves, Dave Manders and (Don) Meredith. I see Bob Lilly a couple of times a year. I see Jethro Pugh but it's hard because I haven't lived there for so long and everyone is so spread out.

The Ranch Report: On Sundays, do you watch the Broncos, Cowboys or neither?
Morton: Neither, I'm a college football fan now. Pro football has changed so much that there's no interest for me now. I watched the Raiders last night for a while and what a joke. If they're on, I might watch them but the Cowboys have changed so drastically that it's not anything close to like it was when we were there. The Broncos are still pretty much the same. That is still the Broncos' city. I'm anxious to see what the new stadium in Arlington is going to be like.

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