What if Aikman was a Packer?

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay compares Troy Aikman, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, with Brett Favre. The Packers nearly had a chance to select Aikman in the 1988 NFL draft, but would he have been better than Favre? Ritchay offers his take:

Most of Packerland this weekend is talking and reading about Reggie White's enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The "Minister of Defense" may have been the biggest reason the Packers played in two Super Bowls in the mid-1900s, winning one. He was the best ever at his position.

Nonetheless, what would have happened if five years earlier the Packers lost to Arizona in the 1988 regular-season finale, securing the first pick of the 1989 draft?

Green Bay beat the Cardinals, dropping it to No. 2 in the draft. The Packers used that pick to select "can't-miss" tackle Tony Mandarich (gulp!). He was can't miss like Phil Mickelson was can't miss the fairway on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open.

The No.1 pick went to Dallas, which selected UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman, who's joining White in the Hall of Fame this weekend.

But what if the Packers lose that '88 finale?

They select Aikman, who teams with Sterling Sharpe to be one of the best quarterback-receiver duos until Sharpe retires in 1994. But beyond that, what else happens?

Brett Favre is never traded for, and would White have arrived in Green Bay in 1993? White always said Favre was a big reason he came to Green Bay. Nobody can answer these questions, but it's fun to think about.

Aikman would rather not think about this possibility, but looking back it's a good thing the Packers won in 1988. Aikman, as good as he was, can't hold a candle to Favre in the statistics category.

The only place Aikman has Favre beat is Super Bowl rings (3 to 1) and interceptions, albeit Super Bowl rings is pretty big. I've always contended Aikman was part of what made Dallas go, he wasn't the key. The key was running back Emmitt Smith, who held out two games one season during his illustrious career and the Cowboys went 0-2. Smith signed, the Cowboys won 12 of their next 14 games and won the Super Bowl. In addition, Smith ripped off a long TD run in his first game against the Giants.

Aikman always had a Pro Bowl running back in Smith and Michael Irvin at wide receiver, who statistically is a Hall of Famer. Also, Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek.

Favre had Sharpe for three seasons, and then the likes of Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks and Donald Driver to throw at. Good players, but not great. Also, his running backs were solid – Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens – but neither were great.

His tight ends were good in Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson.

Favre's skilled players weren't at the level Aikman's were.

Aikman was a leader and important to Dallas' success, but here's a comparison between Aikman, the QB who almost took the place of Favre in Green Bay, and Favre:

TDs: Favre, 396; Aikman, 165
INTs: Favre, 255; Aikman, 141
Yards: Favre, 53,615; Aikman, 32,924
Rating: Favre, 86.0;Aikman, 81.6

Furthermore, Favre has 139 team wins, while Aikman has less than 100.

Favre, stat-wise, blows Aikman out of the water, but what would Green Bay have been like with Aikman? The Packers would have found their QB three years earlier than they eventually did. Aikman would've made the Packers a quality team with his leadership, and maybe if he didn't have the running game to lean on, like he did in Dallas, maybe Aikman's numbers increase as he forced to throw the ball more.

Truth is, we'll never know how good Aikman could've been. We all know he's a Hall of Fame quarterback, but when people talk about Aikman at this weekend's ceremonies in Canton, they'll be talking mostly about him being part of three Super Bowl champion teams. They won't talk about his individual numbers much at all.

When Favre goes into the Hall of Fame, his statistics will be at the forefront. Outside of Dan Marino, no other QB in history can match Favre across the board. Also, he won a Super Bowl, played in two Super Bowls and he is the only player ever to win three MVP awards, let alone consecutively.

If the Packers lost that game in 1988 and picked Aikman, he would've ended the pain Packers fans experienced for around 30 years. But waiting three more years got the Packers Favre, who when it's all said and done was a better player than Aikman.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

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