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!
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.
I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.
Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.
Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.
Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.
After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.
Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.
This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.
If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.
With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.
He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.
Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?
Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys
Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.
The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.
Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.
Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.
Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.
Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.
The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.
Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.
The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.
The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.
The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.
Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history
Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.
Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.
~ ~ ~
Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.
Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.
Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.
The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.
Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.
It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.
I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.
Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.
His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.
Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.
Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.
As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.
Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.
Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
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