Given that Jerry Tubbs and Lee Roy Jordan held the starting middle linebacker job for a combined 17 seasons, the Cowboys didn’t have a need to place “Help Wanted” signs around Dallas.
Their eventual successor, however, did arrive in 1975 when the team drafted Arizona State’s Bob Breunig in the third round.
“I was slotted to be a first-round choice and was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t picked until the third round,” said Breunig. “The Chargers told me they were going to draft me in the first round and didn’t. Atlanta called and said, ‘Stay ready and keep the phone clear because we’re going to draft you in the second round.’ That passed and they didn’t.
“And then Gil Brandt called and said, ‘Hey, we picked you in the third round.’ I wondered why they had waited so long because of what I was told, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it made me wonder if I would have been a first-round draft choice, if I would have been all arrogant or uppity about it. Instead, it instilled in me that I’ve got to work here. This isn’t going to be easy. They cut guys like me. So it really gave me a great sense of a big challenge.”
With Jordan as a teammate and Tubbs as his position coach, Breunig couldn’t have faced the challenge with two better mentors.
“When you come in as a rookie and you’ve got a guy like Jordan who is in his 12th year and had already been to a couple of Super Bowls and several Pro Bowls, it’s a big difference,” said Breunig, who spent his first season as strongside linebacker Dave Edwards’ backup while also playing on special teams. “You really have a lot of respect for those level of guys. He was the defensive leader when I came in, and he was very gracious to help and encourage.
“Jerry Tubbs cut his teeth and helped build that Flex defense as the first middle linebacker and field captain. And then Lee Roy took it to a whole other level, along with the team and the coaches. It was the whole system. And by the time I got there, it had 15, 16 years worth of work. I inherited a lot of tried and true principles, philosophies and processes.
“And I had Jerry Tubbs and Lee Roy there to show me how to do it. To be under the tutelage of a great, great man of faith and experience and character, integrity … what a privilege.”
Breunig replaced Edwards in the starting lineup in 1976 and made a favorable impression on his tutor.
“I knew Bob was a very competitive player,” Jordan said. “One who knew what was going on every time he was asked a question. There was no doubt in his mind he had the right answer, and he certainly led that way for the team the first year or two when he was a young player playing the outside linebacker, which was not his natural position.”
No, it wasn’t. Breunig, who had played middle linebacker since his junior high school days, moved back to the position when Jordan retired following the 1976 season. Eventually.
“They drafted Randy White as the next middle linebacker [in 1975] and when Lee Roy retired we had a couple of spring minicamps and Randy was at middle linebacker,” said Breunig. “[Tom] Landry walked over to us one day and said, ‘Bob, you move to the middle. And Randy, you move over to strongside.’ That’s how it happened. We never changed except Randy went into training camp and they moved him to defensive tackle, and the rest is history there. He’d found his spot and Thomas Henderson took over at strongside linebacker.
“I loved calling defenses. I loved thinking about it. I loved being depended on for the coordination of the defense. I loved being in the middle of things. I think that they sensed that and it worked out OK.”
Indeed. Breunig spent 10 seasons with the Cowboys, playing in six NFC Championship Games and three Super Bowls. The three-time Pro Bowler respects his place in the team’s history.
“It was such a privilege to have played at that time, at that place,” Breunig said. “Landry, I have so much to say about him. I spent 10 years, as many of us did, and I was the on-field quarterback and team captain for a number of years and very close to him, but I’m not sure anybody’s captured him in writing yet.
“So what am I proud of? I think that I was so fortunate to be a part of a great system with great teammates, great leadership.”
Breunig and his wife, Mary, make their home in Dallas. They have four adult children and two grandchildren. He began his post-playing career while he was still playing.
“I went to work with Roger Staubach and eventually found my way into real estate development. Roger and I were together for 12 years. He was building what was known as the Staubach Company, and we had another company that was separate. In 1990, I bought Roger’s interest out and labeled it Breunig Commercial. I bought and owned real estate around Texas, meaning commercial buildings, apartment buildings, retail buildings and so forth.
“I still have a number of business and real estate interests as an investor owner, but now I’m mostly retired and do a lot of work at my church. I work with men’s groups and stay busy with ministry-related stuff here in town and really enjoy that.”