1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings #12 Robert Newhouse
Of the trio of running backs competing for a starting job in the Dallas Cowboys backfield, none had garnered fewer headlines through the summer months of 1975 than Robert Newhouse. Doug Dennison was being lauded for his superior physical conditioning. Charles Young received applause for his marked improvement. Newhouse, on the other hand, was the forgotten runner of the bunch, seemingly the odd man out in a battle sparked by the departure of Calvin Hill to the World Football League.
But when Charles Young went down with an injury late in the exhibition slate, it was Newhouse which head coach Tom Landry tagged as the workhorse for the beginning of the regular season. What was considered an unavoidable “trial run” at the time quickly became the Cowboys’ routine rotation, as Newhouse maintained his heavy workload for the entire campaign, leading the team with 975 rushing yards.
Before the 1975 campaign, not many followers of professional football knew very much about Robert Newhouse. To an NFL scout consumed by computer printouts, Newhouse appeared to be nothing more than the prototypical average athlete. To a fan watching him play a limited role during his first three seasons, Newhouse seemed molded perfectly to the part of a career backup. His speed was unexceptional, his first step unimpressive.
But what raw numbers failed to measure was the size of his heart. Also not taken into account was the size of Newhouse’s enormous thighs, which had been a constant source of discussion for several years at Cowboy practices. Nobody in a blue jersey relished the task of trying to bring the 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound bowling ball down to the ground.
Veteran linebacker Dave Edwards once said, “Tackling Newhouse is like tackling a shot put.” And during a 1975 meeting with the Eagles, CBS TV’s Alex Hawkins offered some on-air advice for how to tackle the bullishly strong runner, advising Philadelphia defenders, “Shoot low, men, they’re riding Shetlands.”
Newhouse enjoyed a very active opening day versus the Los Angeles Rams, leaving his imprint all over the Cowboys’ 18-7 upset victory. As a runner, he impressed the home crowd by carrying 22 times for 88 yards. His efforts as a receiver were also appreciated, as he caught three short passes from Roger Staubach for a total of 19 yards. But Newhouse’s most memorable play of the afternoon came on his first career pass, when he sailed an attempt well over the head of Staubach, who was covered well. As Landry noted after the game, the pass “was pretty good in hitting the open space.”
The following week, Newhouse set a career-high with 23 carries inside toasty Texas Stadium, accounting for 90 yards in Dallas’ 37-31 overtime conquest of St. Louis. And eight days later in Detroit on Monday Night Football, he made up for his earlier aerial misfire by completing a 46-yard halfback pass for a touchdown to Drew Pearson that helped Dallas pull away from the Lions for a 36-10 victory.
Versus Green Bay in Week 5, Newhouse scored his first touchdown of the season, his 1-yard plunge giving Dallas a 7-3 third-quarter advantage. And though Dallas eventually lost to the Packers by a 19-17 final that day, Newhouse proved to be the perfect backfield complement to newcomer Preston Pearson. Together, Newhouse and Pearson wore down the Green Bay defense in the second half, accounting for 236 total yards rushing and receiving.
A diversion of sorts came about at mid-season when Howard Cosell and the ABC crew arrived in Irving to broadcast the Cowboys’ Week 8 encounter with Kansas City. Cosell had already nettled Newhouse and his many fans in north Texas five weeks earlier when he told a national television audience from Detroit that “Newhouse is not a good running back.”
The Dallas Cowboys Weekly magazine had taken up Newhouse’ cause after the Detroit game, querying in its Cowboy Confidential column: “When does the FCC grant Robert Newhouse equal time? Really, Tex Schramm, can’t you and the other owner-managers around the league get Pete Rozelle’s attention and do something about this guy? Confidential knows Howard Cosell is where he is because of his caustic drivel and bitter bile, but there should be a limit.”
For what was very clearly a revenge game for not only Newhouse but seemingly the entire city of Dallas as well, the walls of Texas Stadium were lined with dozens of colorful signs and posters poking fun at the outspoken television personality. Newhouse added to the frenzied atmosphere with a pair of electric first-half runs, but was unable to find much of a groove overall, thanks in large part to a host of Cowboy turnovers, one of which he contributed via a second-half fumble. “I’m sorry we couldn’t get ahead so I could have run with it more,” Newhouse said after the 34-31 loss to Kansas City. “I wanted to rush for 200 yards and spike the ball in Cosell’s face.”
Robert’s season-high output came in the regular season finale against the New York Jets when he rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown to aid a 31-21 comeback victory. It was his second career 100-yard performance, and his first since 1973 when he gained 124 yards on 19 carries against St. Louis. “Robert has had a great year,” said Landry after the Jets game. “He’s been consistent and the type of runner we had to come up with this year to have a winning season. He took up the slack after we lost Hill.”