Aikman On RG3 + Romo-Level Lessons Learned

DALLAS -- Troy Aikman joined KTCK this week to talk about how a franchise quarterback should act. The NFL on FOX color analyst (and Hall-of-Famer) wasn't pleased with RG3 throwing his teammates under the bus. Maybe the ex-Baylor Bear could learn a thing or two about being a franchise QB from an undrafted player who didn't play for three full seasons?

Washington owner Dan Snyder, who was on the right side of Mike Ditka’s mortgage for Ricky Williams in 1999, obviously didn’t learn from Iron Mike’s mistake. Instead, he channeled him when he traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder for Baylor’s Heisman-winning quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

In the beginning, things went spectacularly for Griffin, leading the club to their first division title since 1999 and beating the rival Cowboys in the win-and-get-in game. Since then, Griffin has only won four games. Outside of his rookie season, he has as many wins as Heath Shuler.

How could this happen? RG3 is supposed to be a franchise quarterback.

Well, thank goodness (via Sean Payton’s homerism for his alma mater and Bill Parcells’ willingness) for Tony Romo, who clearly was anything but a franchise quarterback when he came to the Cowboys in 2003 undrafted and for less money than Mike Shanahan and the Broncos were going to give him.

“Sometimes for a superstar, they're so used to getting the benefit of the doubt,” Aikman said Thursday on 1310 The Ticket [KTCK-AM].

“They're so used to having so much success, in both team wise and individually, that when you get into the NFL, and you go through a tough time like this, like he has – I mean, since that rookie season, he's just not won many games as their starting quarterback.”

Romo’s humble beginnings are well-known to Cowboys fans. Undrafted out of NCAA Division II Eastern Illinois, the only thing Romo could win were accolades, like the 2002 Walter Payton Award, because the only postseason win he had was in his junior year of high school. Romo was only invited to the 2003 NFL Scouting Combine in nearby Indianapolis because he volunteered to throw balls for wide receiver prospects.

“You know, you don't want to be the guy that's looked upon as the reason they're not having any success,” said Aikman. “So, you start trying to say things that deflect some of the criticism, and I don't think, as a franchise quarterback, you can do that.

“I think, whatever the issues are, as a quarterback, you have to accept responsibility. And those in the organization that know better, they know who's not doing their job and who is doing their job. But I think publicly you have to stand up and take the bullet for all guys. And I think that's a lesson that RG3 is learning and hasn't had to learn up to this point."

Aikman is talking about Griffin because of the issues noted here. Aikman isn't talking specifically about Dallas' present QB as a better model. But I'll do that.

It seems to me that the aforementioned is a lesson Romo has learned up to this point. From 2011-12, the Cowboys offense finished in the bottom-5 in rushing touchdowns and the defense finished bottom-5 in opposing passer rating. Since 2000, teams in those categories are supposed to have losing records, yet the Cowboys somehow finished 8-8 with their final game a chance to win the division. Furthermore, no team since 2000 has finished in the bottom-5 in those categories for two-straight seasons, which the 2011-12 Cowboys did.

Dallas fans never heard a disparaging word from Romo about his teammates or coaching staff. Instead, it was the same old message about “the grind” and needing to get better each and every day.

Those in the Cowboys front office saw who was doing their jobs and who weren’t. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who blew seven fourth-quarter leads from 2011-12, was out. Joe DeCamillis, who had allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown each of the past three seasons, was gone. The offensive line was upgraded with first-round picks being used in the process. Fat contracts were trimmed down.

With the coaching staff upgraded and younger leaders arising, Romo doesn’t have to do as much, and he doesn’t have the publicly take the bullet for his teammates. It is this type of selflessness on the part of the team’s leader and the motivation on the rest of the team’s part that has Dallas 7-3 with six games to go.

Aikman knows it well because he did it. Others still need the lesson.

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