1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings: #29 Toni Fritsch
In the interests of full disclosure, it must be admitted up front that Toni Fritsch’s proper position on this countdown list was somewhat of a conundrum. The inclination while contemplating a kicker that leads the league in points scored and sets a new franchise record in successful field goals – of which included a game-winner on the road – is to place him toward the front of the pack. That he should ultimately land twenty-ninth on this list is indicative of the many struggles that plagued Fritsch throughout the course of the 1975 season.
Fritsch was thought to be a man stricken with luck at Thousand Oaks when a training camp injury to Efren Herrera ended a neck-and-neck competition between the two place-kickers, sending Herrera to injured reserve and Fritsch to a Sunday starting role. But when the regular season rolled around a few weeks later, Fritsch looked a little too mortal for comfort, as his inconsistent execution quickly developed into one of the few blights upon a fast start that had the Cowboys sitting on top of the NFC East.
Versus the Rams on opening day, Fritsch tied a team record by making four field goals in a 18-7 Dallas victory, but was also responsible for missing two others, in addition to a missed second-quarter extra-point. One week later Fritsch missed two more kicks, though the Cowboys managed to escape a feisty Cardinals squad in overtime.
Against the Giants in Week 10 at Texas Stadium, Fritsch somehow managed to bloop a 37-yard field goal so high that the ball fell short of the crossbar.
“Toni has had problems with his timing just like a golfer who gets his swing out of the groove,” said Tom Landry in early November. “Even Jack Nicklaus has problems with his golf swing on occasion.”
But things weren’t bad all the time for the 30-year old, though it must be admitted that his brightest day of the season started out as his darkest. On a gloomy afternoon at Veterans Stadium, Fritsch almost singlehandedly kicked the 4-1 Cowboys into a ten-point hole, missing from 48 and 41 yards respectively while struggling with mechanics. His one successful attempt, a 30-yarder, he watched bounce off the side of the left upright and fall through.
Were it not for a late rally by Roger Staubach and the Dallas offense, Fritsch would have been a very conspicuous goat in the Cowboys locker room.
But with three seconds remaining on the fourth quarter clock, Fritsch trotted out onto the artificial playing surface tasked with breaking a 17-17 tie. This time Fritsch kept his head down, this time his aim was true, the 42-yard kick wobbled through the uprights to spark a wild celebration on the Dallas sideline.
A week after his day in the Philadelphia sun, the former Austrian soccer player suffered a crash-landing of the worst kind in the shadow of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Against the hated Redskins, Fritsch was afforded yet another opportunity to be a hero in the waning seconds. With memories of his earlier miss from 33 yards possibly bouncing around in his head, Fritsch’s 38-yard attempt came off his foot at a precariously low trajectory, and fluttered wide left of the goal-post.
And when the Cowboys went on to fall to Washington in overtime, Fritsch had officially bought himself a bucket of grief from Cowboy fans, who littered the team’s office with disparaging letters and telephone calls, and pelted him with boos eight days later when Fritsch’s first quarter attempt versus Kansas City was blocked.
After erring on at least one kick in each of the Cowboys’ initial eight regular season games, Fritsch found the sweet spot in his kicking motion as the weather turned off cold, turning into one of the team’s steadier performers down the stretch.
Starting on Dec. 7 in St. Louis, Fritsch concluded the season on a six-game stretch that saw him connect on 8-of-9 field goal attempts to help the Cowboys clinch a Wild Card spot and make an unlikely playoff run. Included in this stretch was a season-high 13-point outing versus Los Angeles in the NFC Championship Game to help the Cowboys secure a berth in Super Bowl X.