Garrison, Talbert recall the '72 Cowboys-Redskins rivalry

Posted Friday, Dec. 28, 2007  comments  Print Reprints
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Two of the biggest icons from the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry of the 1970s are Walt Garrison and Diron Talbert.

They’re the same age, born the same year, the same month, 22 days apart.

As players, Garrison (who was a “real” cowboy) and Talbert (the anti-Cowboy) played hard and represented old Cowboys-Redskins values: grit, guile and a strong dislike for the other man’s team.

OK, they hated each other.

Today, Garrison and Talbert are friends. They’re AARP card-holding, pickup truck-driving 63-year-olds with only a slightly improved attitude toward Redskins or Cowboys ... depending on which one you get on the phone first.

“I really enjoyed playing all those years at RFK [Stadium] because everybody up there hated us,” said Garrison, ex-Cowboys fullback and rodeo cowboy who lives in Argyle where he has a calf-roping pen behind his house.

Talbert, a George Allen protégé with both the Rams and Redskins, enjoys many of the same memories as Garrison. Only opposite.

“Coach Allen would liked to have played the Cowboys every week,” said Talbert, from his home just outside Houston. “And that would’ve been fine with me because it was just that kind of rivalry. You played people you didn’t like.”

No one is certain when the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry began, no more than any of us know when our fear of snakes or love of ice cream began. It just always seemed that way.

In 1972, Garrison and Talbert saw the rivalry reach a new level as the teams met three times — splitting their regular-season meetings, then playing for the NFC title on New Year’s Eve before a packed house at RFK.

Washington one-upped Dallas that afternoon 26-3, and one Redskins player even popped off about how the Cowboys would “shudder” after this one.

Billy Kilmer (two TD passes to Charley Taylor) clearly outdueled a rusty Roger Staubach (9 of 20 for 98 yards).

Sidelined virtually the entire ’72 season with an August shoulder injury, Staubach said after the game: “I’m stumped. I don’t know what was wrong. We just couldn’t run the football ... [and] so you have to try to pull it out with a pass or something else, and I didn’t do it.”

Allen, who usually celebrated victories by drinking milk, told reporters afterward that he planned to switch to champagne since it was New Year’s Eve.

Ironically, Allen died on New Year’s Eve 1990. He was 72.

Tom Landry had a chance to take his Cowboys into the locker room at halftime tied 10-10, but Calvin Hill overthrew a wide-open Garrison at the goal line ... and Toni Fritsch then missed a field goal inside the 30 (23-yard line) for the first time in his career.

The second half was all Washington.

Redskins running back Larry Brown was quoted in the Jan. 1, 1973, Star-Telegram: “Dallas is going to remember this [26-3 loss] a long time. In the off-season when somebody mentions the Washington Redskins and RFK to them, they’re going to shudder.”

Thirty-five years later, Garrison has had plenty of time to mull it over.

“I don’t think that was ever the case,” Garrison scoffed at the “shudder” quote. “I wasn’t afraid to go into RFK and play. And I don’t think Bob Lilly was. Or Lee Roy Jordan. Or Roger Staubach ...”

The ’72 Cowboys and Redskins split their regular-season meetings as they would do a total of eight times during the decade.

In fact, three weeks earlier in ’72, the defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys overpowered the Redskins 34-24 at Texas Stadium.

But what makes this rivalry so good are tough guys, not tough talk.

“I mean, a guy who’ll jump off a damn horse onto a cow ... that’s how tough Walt Garrison was,” Talbert said.

Losing the ’72 NFC Championship Game cost the Cowboys a would-be third straight trip to the Super Bowl and a chance to derail the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season, which the Redskins failed to do.

For Talbert, that’s another story.

But he remembers best about the NFC title game is how he felt when 53,129 Redskins fans broke through security, and about 15,000 of them bullrushed the players. It was a scary moment.

“The game ended with both teams at the opposite end of the field from where we had to go in,” Talbert said. “And by the time I got to the 50-yard line, I was being trampled. Fans got to us that quick.

“I remember seeing little [170-pound Redskins cornerback] Pat Fischer in front of me, flapping his arms like a banty rooster. I mean, we were all exhausted from playing the game. I couldn’t breathe. And when I finally got to the dugout [leading to the locker room], I nearly passed out.”

Garrison has different memory of the same scene.

“When you win like the Redskins did, it’s hard to get off the field,” Garrison said. “But losers don’t have that same problem. Hell, nobody wanted to talk to us. I remember fans pouring onto the field, but they formed a little passage way for the Dallas Cowboys.

“It wasn’t hard at all for us to get to the locker room after that game.”

Reader friendly: Watch the 1982 American Express Ad with Tom Landry, and find out what the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry has meant commercially.

Next week: At 5-foot-7, Eddie LeBaron was easy to overlook. But he started the lineage of Cowboys quarterbacks.

Marcia Melton of the Star-Telegram Library contributed to the research of this story.

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