That sweet smell in the air is college football. We’ve officially made it.
Burgers are on the grill, queso is on the table, and a football is in the air. Football season in general is a sight for sore eyes after a long offseason filled with basketball, baseball, and a game of chess or two.
One week from today will be Dallas Cowboys Football Eve which means that in exactly 8 days the ‘Boys hit the field for real. As per usual around these parts we’re continuing our Countdown To Kickoff series with the Greatest 8 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 8 For The Dallas Cowboys:
- Troy Aikman^, QB
- Buzz Sawyer, P
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
When you draft a quarterback with the number one overall pick, there is an expectation of him – bring our franchise to glory.
Glory is defined in many ways. Obviously the hope is that your number one pick has a career filled with personal achievements: Pro Bowls, passing titles, maybe even a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. More than anything though, the hope is that as a franchise’s number one overall pick you can bring them a Super Bowl victory.
In the Super Bowl era there have been, including 2015’s Jameis Winston, 21 quarterbacks have been taken first overall. 3 of them are currently in the Hall of Fame, but are there any guesses as to how many of them won a Super Bowl for their franchise? Anyone? Bueller? 5.
To be fair, Jim Plunkett (taken first overall in 1971) would eventually lead the Raiders to victory in Super Bowls XV and XVIII, but the New England Patriots were the ones who drafted him. The five quarterbacks are: Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and the Greatest 8 in Dallas Cowboys History.
After an illustrious high school career in Henryetta, Oklahoma Troy Aikman had a few options. The New York Mets offered him a contract to play baseball, and even though the University of Miami’s Jimmy Johnson recruited him to play there it only made sense for Troy Aikman to play collegiately at the University of Oklahoma for Barry Switzer.
During his first season as starter for the Sooners Troy played well. Victories over Minnesota, Kansas State, and Texas set up a showdown against the Miami Hurricanes and Jimmy Johnson.
The late Jerome Brown, then Hurricane and future Philadelphia Eagle, broke Troy Aikman’s ankle… making him lost for the season. The Sooners would go on to win the National Championship under new quarterback Jamelle Holieway, and Aikman was looking to transfer.
Even though Jimmy Johnson once again tried to lure Aikman to Miami, Troy headed to the west coast and after a redshirt year began play for the UCLA Bruins. After two successful seasons, Troy was the apple of the NFL eye. He was thought to be the first overall pick in the 1989 Draft… the pick belonging to Jimmy Johnson and the Dallas Cowboys.
Troy And The Cowboys
The third time is the charm, right? Jimmy Johnson finally got his quarterback when the Dallas Cowboys selected Troy Aikman number one overall in 1989.
As is usually the case for rookie quarterbacks that first year was tough. 1,749 yards, 9 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and an 0-11 record to be specific.
After getting more adjusted to the NFL game in 1990, Troy took off in 1991 and began a streak of 6 consecutive Pro Bowls. The Cowboys as a team experienced their own success and even won a playoff game. The stage was set for 1992.
1992: The Birth Of A Dynasty
In 1992 Troy Aikman threw for 3,445 yards and 23 touchdowns, marks that would be his career highs. He led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, which gave them a first round bye in the playoffs. After a divisional round win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Aikman and the Cowboys had to get past the team of the 80s to get to Super Bowl XXVII – the San Francisco 49ers.
Troy was magnificent in the contest throwing for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns. With a narrow lead late in the fourth quarter, the Dallas Cowboys had the ball. Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner asked Jimmy Johnson if he wanted to throw or run on the all-important series. Jimmy Johnson responded, “I want to score.”
The call was 896 F Flat. It called for one wide receiver to run a post route (where Michael Irvin had been all day) and one to run a curl route (this was Alvin Harper’s job). Throughout the day the 49ers had never given Troy a chance to throw to the post (the deeper route) so he would check the ball down to the lower spot at the curl route.
With the game on the line every big-time receiver wants the ball. So when Troy called “896 F Flat” Michael Irvin went over to the curl route. He was not taking any chances letting Alvin Harper make this play with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.
Upon getting to the line of scrimmage Aikman noticed that the 49ers were showing blitz – which indicated that the ball should go to the post route. The ball had to be placed perfectly. When the 49ers blitzed, Alvin Harper would have a chance to cut into the middle of the field… with open field in front of him.
Troy hiked the ball and delivered it squarely between the numbers, hitting Alvin in full stride as he sprinted on downfield to help set up the Cowboys game-clinching score. A throw of that magnitude, of that precision, with that much on the line could have only been executed by Troy Aikman.
The Dallas Cowboys would go on to win Super Bowl XXVII by a score of 52-17. This 50-burger was fueled by Troy Aikman’s 4 touchdowns, making him the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The following year Troy Aikman was arguably the most precise passer in the NFL with 3,100 yards, 15 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a league-leading 69.1 completion percentage. Once again the Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl and were now back-to-back Champions of the World.
In 1994 the Dallas Cowboys coaching regime changed from Jimmy Johnson to Troy Aikman’s former Sooners coach, Barry Switzer. The season ended in heartbreak at Candlestick Park, but the resilient Cowboys battled back in 1995.
Troy’s high-level accuracy continued when he was only intercepted 1.6% of the times that he attempted to throw a pass, a category in which he led the league.
The Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX giving them World Championships in three out of four years… a dynasty.
Troy Aikman was one third of the greatest trio in NFL History. While he was an outstanding, and Hall of Fame, quarterback… his talents were made greater with the likes of Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith as his two primary offensive weapons.
Aikman could drop back and pass to Irvin or hand off to Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher, and command a game like no other. This nucleus was a large reason why the Dallas Cowboys were able to sustain their dynasty in the 1990s, and it was led by quarterback Troy Aikman.
#8: Troy Aikman
The career resume of Troy Aikman includes:
- 6-Time Pro Bowl Selection (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996)
- 3-Time Super Bowl Champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)
- Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Winner (1996)
- 94 Career Wins (1st in Dallas Cowboys History among quarterbacks)
- 2,898 Completions (1st in Dallas Cowboys History)
- 32,942 Passing Yards (2nd in Dallas Cowboys History)
- 165 Passing Touchdowns (2nd in Dallas Cowboys History)
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Class of 2005
- Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2006
Troy Aikman has continued his football life as he has moved from behind the center up to the broadcast booth. He serves as the lead analyst for Fox’s lead broadcast team, partnered up with Joe Buck. He has served on the call for four Super Bowls (XXXIX, XLII, XLV, and XLVIII) since becoming the lead analyst in 2005.
The pressures of being a number one overall pick can be daunting, the expectations are even larger. It takes an incredible person to handle it all with such resolve. Troy Aikman didn’t just handle these pressures - he exceeded them. He delivered 3 Super Bowls to the Dallas Cowboys, re-establishing them as one of the NFL's premiere franchises, and earning him a spot in the hearts of Cowboys fans forever.
With a multitude of achievements already to his name, allow us to add one more. Troy Aikman is the Greatest 8 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 7 in Dallas Cowboys History is!
What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?
For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.
Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?
As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.
Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.
Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.
But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.
Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.
Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.
After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.
It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
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