IRVING, Texas -Troy Aikman wasn't just being polite in the things he said about Tony Romo. There is some truth in what he said. Romo is a better player in this era than Aikman was in his.
However, we've not seen Romo rise to the heights that Aikman proved capable of reaching, especially in the biggest games.
I don't know if Romo will ever win a Super Bowl - the odds are against him and anyone else. Romo will never be "greatest" Cowboys quarterback. Greatest implies not only statistical success and regular season winning, but also championships. Pretty hard to envision Romo winning two or three Super Bowls at this point. It's a dream just to think he could get one.
But Aikman didn't say Romo was greater. He said he was better. And in that simple statement, taken to mean nothing more than a direct comparison of the two players' abilities, Aikman might've been correct.
When defending Romo to the people who would have the Cowboys trade him for Tim Tebow or some other flavor of the month, I always lean pretty hard on his status as the second highest-rated quarterback in history. It's relative, of course, because the passing game always evolves. But we can compare Romo to the other quarterbacks of his era, and Aikman to the other QBs of his era.
Don't get me wrong. I recognize Aikman's supreme talent, leadership ability and overall greatness. But statistically speaking, he didn't compare as favorably to his contemporaries as Romo does to the guys playing these days. Only one quarterback has a higher rating than Romo - Aaron Rodgers.
Aikman's career quarterback rating is 81.6, just below Danny White's, actually. Want to know some of the guys who played at least one season concurrent to Aikman that had higher passer ratings in their career?
How about Bernie Kosar, Neil O'Donnell, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Steve McNair, Mark Brunell, Jim Kelly, Rich Gannon, Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre, Trent Green, Dan Marino, Jeff Garcia, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Joe Montana, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Steve Young.
Now, Aikman's best season rating-wise was 1993, when he posted a 99.0, behind only Young. Romo's best season was this past year, when he had a 102.5, but that was less than three other players.
If Aikman played today, his rating would be higher, no doubt. And if he were on a team that didn't have the NFL's all-time leading rusher, he would've been throwing more. Of course, that offensive line helped Aikman plenty, and he had a Hall of Fame wide receiver to throw to in Michael Irvin.
He was more accurate than Romo, and had a stronger arm, but as Aikman said, Romo's play-making ability is superior.
Ask yourself this in all honesty: If Romo were the quarterback of the 1990s Cowboys, would they have won three Super Bowls? And if Aikman were the Cowboys' quarterback today, would they have won one yet?
I don't know the answer to that. Aikman's career rating in playoff games was 88.3, while Romo's is just 80.8, despite the more expansive passing game.
Pretty sure I know what the consensus is going to be here, but tell me what you think. Is Romo a better player now than Aikman was?
Remember, that's better, not greater.