- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

He didn't set all the major passing records like Dan Marino. He wasn't the top-rated quarterback as Steve Young was. He didn't go out on top a la John Elway. All Troy Aikman did was win.

Aikman, who retired yesterday after 12 NFL seasons all with the Dallas Cowboys won more often than any other quarterback of his generation. Aikman's three Super Bowl victories were as many as Elway (two), Young (one) and Marino (none) combined. Only Hall of Famers Bart Starr (five), Sid Luckman, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana (four apiece) won more titles in NFL history.

"As a quarterback, you're ultimately judged on whether you win or lose," Aikman said yesterday.

By that standard, Aikman was an all-timer, certainly worthy of the first choice in the 1989 NFL Draft. The downtrodden Cowboys had a new owner, Jerry Jones, and a new coach, Jimmy Johnson, looking for a quarterback to restore the luster to the star on their helmets. They chose the blond kid from Oklahoma via UCLA, and he went on to lead them to Super Bowl victories in 1992, 1993 and 1995. No other team has won three Super Bowls in four years.

"In 1989, the Dallas Cowboys were looking … for someone who could carry the load, who could represent everything that this organization stood for and someone who gave us hope for the future," Jones said before introducing Aikman at yesterday's emotional announcement at Texas Stadium. "That was a lot to place on the shoulders of one individual. But that was a responsibility that Troy embraced from day one, a responsibility that he never shied away from for the 12 years that he was competing on that field. He did it on the field and off the field. He was a professional in every sense of the word… . He made our team a champion again. The men around him stood taller because of tall No. 8 standing out there."

Aikman's 90 victories in the 1990s are the most by a quarterback in any decade, but his final year was almost as painful as his 0-11 debut. Aikman missed two games with a concussion and two more with a bad back. Dallas was 4-9 and Aikman was at the bottom of the NFC passer ratings before his season and career ended Dec. 10 at Texas Stadium on a jarring hit by Washington rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington. The blow gave the 34-year-old passer his 11th concussion.

"You watch [teammates retire], and you think your time will never come," a choked-up Aikman said yesterday, a little more than a month after the Cowboys waived him for salary cap reasons. "[But] my time has come. It was 12 of the best years of my life. I've been playing this game since I was 7. To all of a sudden recognize that you're not going to be doing it anymore is hard. [But] I know it's the right thing for me because of my health. The concussions and the back problems took their toll. To try to go out and play another year would have been tough. The competitor in me wanted to try. I still wanted to play, but I just can't do it anymore.

"Another reason it's the right thing to do is my family. [His wife, Rhonda, is expecting their second child in August.] If it was just me, it would be a little bit easier to try and play somewhere else. To ask them to move so I could pursue my selfish desire of playing, I didn't feel that was the right thing to do."

Aikman went on at length about his teammates, praising such perennial Pro Bowl performers as halfback Emmitt Smith, receiver Michael Irvin, tight end Jay Novacek and fullback Daryl Johnston more for their strength of character than for their talents.

"There have been a lot more teams that have been more talented, but they didn't come close to accomplishing what we were able to accomplish primarily because of our chemistry, the unselfish manner in which we played and the work ethic that we had," Aikman said. "Being part of that was really special."

So was Aikman. His retirement, coming on the heels of those of Elway in 1999 and Marino and Young last year, marked the end of an era. All but Young played for only one team.

The only active quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl other than Green Bay's sure Hall of Famer Brett Favre are St. Louis' Kurt Warner, who hasn't even started two full years, and Trent Dilfer, who is so lightly regarded that he remains unemployed more than two months after guiding Baltimore to the championship. And Favre, New England's Drew Bledsoe and Jacksonville's Mark Brunell are the only quarterbacks who have started for their teams for more than four seasons.

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