Back there at the turn of the century, the Valley Ranch think tank was in agreement on Troy Aikman. Sadly, his career was kaput. Troy didn’t agree, but the great ones rarely know when to say when.
In something akin to a career eulogy, the Aikman praise flowed and so did the tears as the Cowboys said good-bye. Later, when Aikman finally agreed to call it quits, The Iceman himself even cracked. Troy cried at his farewell media conference.
Watching that so-long scene that day at Texas Stadium, front office football staffer Larry Lacewell wandered over to a reporter, who happened to be me, and in a wistful tone said:
"Well, we are now officially one of those teams wandering through the quarterback wasteland of the NFL. With Troy, we didn’t have to think about it or worry about it.
"But we are now going to run into clubs out there who have been wandering for 10 years, and still haven’t found a quarterback. It’s a vast wasteland."
And so it was.
Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, Drew Bledsoe …
Six seasons later, Tony Romo emerged.
Like him or not, Tony led the Cowboys out of the vast wasteland. And whatever your beef with Romo, you are a football idiot if you disagree he’s a top 10 QB in a league where there’s 32 of them.
But speaking of that dreaded wasteland …
Did we have another team make an emergence this week? Did a long, long trek through the wasteland come to an end?
Better yet, would it suddenly be wise to start taking the Washington Redskins much more seriously in the NFC East?
A nice young man from Copperas Cove, Texas, turned the NFL upside down over the weekend. If you were watching ESPN on Sunday night, SportsCenter was on fire with RG3 testimonials.
One game. One NFL start, and this one a mere few months removed from the Baylor campus, yet Robert Griffin stole the Week One show in the league.
Griffin even out-Peytoned Peyton Manning in the national headlines.
As good as Manning was in his Denver debut, as good as the 49ers’ defense was against Green Bay, as good as Romo was against the Giants, the rookie quarterback for the Redskins knocked ’em all off the shelf.
Having had an up close and personal look at RG3 in his Baylor days, and particularly last season, we all could lie and say we weren’t surprised. But nobody saw this coming. Not as a rookie starting and starring in the tough road environment of New Orleans against a Saints crowd and team jacked to the roof.
But when a quarterback pops like RG3 popped, perception and perspective goes radically nuts. Along the Potomac this week, it’s nuts. RG3 fever has consumed Redskins Nation.
A friend who lives in Washington and is a devout ’Skins’ backer, was telling me a story this week about the most-hated contingent of fandom in his universe: that would be the CowSheep.
All along the Eastern seaboard, the Cowboys have a massive fan base, from the New York area, down through Philly and certainly around D.C.
“I remember,” said my friend, “watching a Sunday night game in Carolina a few years ago , and Romo, who had come out of nowhere, was great. I’m thinking, “Oh …spit. They’ve finally found a quarterback.”
“Well, on Monday, I’m talking to Cowboys’ fans, and all I heard from them was, ‘Oh …spit. The Redskins have finally found a quarterback.’ I was hoping I’d live long enough to hear a Cowboys’ fan have to say that.”
It’s been awhile, for sure.
The Redskins do have two playoff wins since 1996, compared to one for the Cowboys.
But they never had an Aikman, and going back to the Aikman era, the wasteland of D.C. quarterbacks is so bleak it makes the Cowboys of the early 2000s appear almost stable.
Cary Conklin, Heath Shuler, Gus Frerotte, Trent Green, Brad Johnson (who was OK in Washington, but washed up here), Tony Banks, Jeff George, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Todd Collins, Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb and, lately, Rex Grossman.
The good names in that bunch were on their final QB legs by the time they got to the Redskins.
In one game, however, RG3 made us all rethink everything we thought about the Redskins in the NFC East for this season. It’s a good defense, and a team that always plays close games with the Cowboys, but Romo has been better than whomever Washington was running out there at quarterback.
The doubters can claim there’s been a vast overreaction to a rookie quarterback’s first game. But nobody (that saw the game) can claim they weren’t extremely impressed with the kid from Copperas Cove.
At the moment anyway, RG3 has taken the Redskins out of that vast wasteland of the quarterback wilderness, but the Cowboys don’t see RG3 until Thanksgiving Day.
By then we will know much more. Until then, he’s definitely worth watching.
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