Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

01/18/2010

Troy Aikman Game Manager During the Cowboys’ Super Bowl Runs

Many fans love to point out that Troy Aikman was a game manager QB for the Dallas Cowboys throughout the 1990’s, especially during their Super Bowl runs from 1992 through 1995 when the team largely relied on RB Emmitt Smith and a great defense. Let’s parse through his game logs though to see if we can get a more accurate picture, including his postseason performances.

1992 NFL Season
Troy would throw for a career high 23 TD during this season on 473 pass attempts in total, along with 3445 yards.

– Troy would throw for more than 230 yards in 9 games during the season, and have 3 other games where he would throw for 216, 214, and 214 yards.
– Troy would throw for at least 2 TD in 8 games during the season, winning all of them except a 20-17 loss to Washington in Week 14
– Troy had 4 games where he threw for less than 200 yards but struggled in 3 of them, despite Dallas going 4-0 as a team. He would throw 3 TD vs. 5 INT in those 4 games, with Week 16 culminating in a 10 of 20 for 78 yards performance at home against Chicago.

Against Philadelphia in the playoffs, Troy would go 15 of 25 for 200 yards and 2 TD. He would also run for 13 yards. Against San Francisco, he would go 24 of 34 for 322 yards with 2 TD. His 2nd TD would ice the game for Dallas, giving them the 30-20 win. In the route of Buffalo in the Super Bowl, Troy would go 22 of 30 for 273 yards and 4 TD, while running for 28 more yards. He would throw 2 TD passes that would extend the Cowboys lead from 14-10 to 28-10.

1993 NFL Season
Troy would throw for only 15 TD but on 392 attempts and still throw for 3100 yards during the regular season.

– Troy would start the year off by throwing for 267, 297, 281, 317, 245, and 243 yards before recording just 2 games over 200 yards in the latter half of the season. During the early stretch, the Cowboys would start off with a 4-2 record and Troy would have 5 TD against 2 INT.
– Against San Francisco, Troy’s TD pass would push the Cowboys to a 23-17 lead before a FG would ice the game.

The playoffs would again reflect Troy’s role during the season. Against Green Bay, he would go 28 of 37 for 302 yards with 3 TD and 2 INT. His 3 TD would push the Cowboys from being down 3-0 up to a 24-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. Against San Francisco, Troy played caretaker and was 14 of 18 for 177 yards with 2 TD. His 2 TD, however, would essentially ice the game as they gave Dallas a 28-7 lead at halftime. In the Super Bowl against Buffalo, Troy would go 19 of 27 for 207 yards with 1 INT and largely let Emmitt Smith wear down the Bills.

1994 NFL Season
Troy would throw just 361 passes for 2676 yards and 13 TD against 12 INT while seeing his role fluctuate for the second straight season.

– Troy again started the season off hot, with 4 of his first 5 games throwing for over 200 yards. The Cowboys would go 4-1 over that stretch while Troy would have 6 TD vs. 3 INT. Troy would finish the season with 7 games over 200 yards.
– Troy got sparse attempts in 3 different games that largely hurt his overall season totals. He had 5 attempts against Arizona (with 1 TD), 13 attempts against Washington, and 11 attempts against the Giants at the end of the season. Take those games out and Troy would have 12 TD in only 11 full games.
– Troy again wouldn’t put up stats but his TD passes would occur at critical times. Against Philadelphia, 2 straight TD passes would push the Cowboys lead from 7-7 to 21-7 at the start of the 4th quarter.

In the playoffs, Troy would be leaned on heavily. Against Green Bay, he would go 23 of 30 for 337 yards with 2 TD against 1 INT. His 2nd TD pass would largely ice the game, pushing the Cowboys lead to 28-9 entering the 4th quarter. In a famous game against San Francisco, Troy would struggle throughout going 30 of 53 for 380 yards with 2 TD but also throw 3 INT. His final TD would pull the lead to 38-28, the final score.

1995 NFL Season
Under Barry Switzer, Troy’s reigns would be freed once again and he would respond by throwing for 3304 yards and 16 TD on 432 pass attempts.

– Troy would have 10 games over 200 yards and 5 games with more than 245 yards passing.
– Once again, Troy would have his usual hot start before settling down in the second half. In 6 games, not including his injured appearance against Washington, he would throw for over 200 yards in every game except a 196 performance at home against Denver. He would throw 7 TD against just 1 INT in that stretch. He would throw for 228, 196, 246, 251, 316, and 222 yards in that run.
– Troy would have 2 games where he amassed 9 total pass attempts. Take those out and he has a more impressive 16 TD in only 14 games, throwing for 2 TD in 5 of them.
– Troy’s TD passes would again force teams to play catch up, allowing the Cowboys to grind the game out. Against Denver, his 2nd TD pushed the lead to 21-7 in the 3rd quarter. Against Green Bay, his 2nd TD would push the lead to 24-3 in the 3rd quarter. Against Atlanta on the road, his 2 straight TD passes would bring the Cowboys back from 10-7 up to a 21-10 lead in the 3rd quarter. His 2nd TD pass against Kansas City would push the lead to 21-6 in the 3rd quarter.

Once again, in the playoffs Troy would show his efficiency and passing ability. Against Philadelphia, he was 17 of 24 for 253 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. His lone TD pass would really ice the game, giving the Cowboys a 30-3 lead in the 4th quarter. Against Green Bay, he would go 21 of 33 for 255 yards and 2 TD. Despite being down 27-24, he’d help Dallas on 2 TD drives culminating in an Emmitt Smith 5 yard TD run and a 16 yard TD run. In the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh, he again played caretaker going 15 of 23 for 209 yards and 1 TD. His lone TD pass would give the Cowboys an early 10-0 lead in the 1st quarter.

From 1992 through 1995 did Troy play game manager? Somewhat but a large percent of the games were usually blowouts by the 3rd quarter, allowing the Dallas Cowboys to grind the ball out with Emmitt Smith. Troy’s “game managing” came in the form of icing games and putting the proverbial dagger through an opponent’s heart with a key TD pass that would allow the Cowboys the space to start grinding games to a close.

Troy also displayed evidence that he was somewhat limited in the second half of seasons, particularly starting in 1992 when the Cowboys would make their first Super Bowl appearance. If he had been given the keys off his hot start during an entire season, I’m fairly certain that Troy could have thrown for 3,500+ yards and 25 TD. Troy would throw for 23 TD on 473 attempts in 1992 and 19 TD on 518 attempts in 1997. Compare those attempt totals to guys like Brett Favre – 471 and 513 with 18 TD and 35 TD in those seasons or Steve Young – 402 and 356 attempts with 25 TD and 19 TD.

Troy’s garnered the game manager label much like Tom Brady earlier in his career and Ben Roethlisberger earlier in his career. He’d put up the yardage numbers but wasn’t asked to throw a lot of his TD passes at the goal line and thus was not getting 20 or more TD passes a season. Troy’s numbers in most of his playoff outings and SB appearances prove that he could throw for yardage and TDs when he was asked to but more often than not, he wasn’t leaned on because Dallas did have Emmitt Smith on those teams.

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