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The 53: Best 'Backup' QB You'll Ever See


The most important part of each season may be the daily practice grind in July and August, when a team is truly built. As a countdown to this year's training camp, we celebrate the 53rd year of Cowboys football by constructing the team's all-time 53-man roster, picking one player for each season.

Not so much the 53 best players in club history, has constructed the ultimate team, filling out the depth chart and making room for contributors at every position, including special teams, while at the same time looking ahead to how this year's 53-man roster might shake out.

The series continues today with 1989 and quarterback Troy Aikman:

Name: Troy Aikman
Position: Quarterback
College: UCLA
Height/Weight: 6-4 / 220
Cowboys Tenure: 1989-2000

Why Him? Simple answer: Aikman was the ultimate winner. He retired in 2000 with 90 victories in the 1990s, the most by a quarterback in any decade in NFL history. He became the third quarterback in league history to win three Super Bowls (1992, 1993, 1995), the trio of trophies pushing the Cowboys to an all-time high of five at the time. A Ring of Honor member and a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2006, Aikman and fellow "Triplets" Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin defined a decade with their offensive prowess. Aikman himself tied or held 47 franchise records, and he elevated his play in the biggest games and moments. He led the Cowboys to 16 fourth-quarter rallies, including six in the final two minutes, and his four 300-yard playoff passing performances ranked third all-time in the league. Maybe the most impressive aspect of Aikman's remarkable career was that it didn't come easily. The top overall draft pick in 1989 slogged through a miserable 1-15 rookie season – he took weekly beatings in the pocket, and the Cowboys' lone win over rival Washington came with Steve Walsh at quarterback. But Aikman and his young teammates would eventually grow into champions together.

The Role: Let's not kid ourselves: Aikman was never a backup. After a long discussion, our panel chose Staubach's standard-setting excellence in the 1970s and selected Aikman as the No. 2 quarterback. The best in team history is a two-man debate: Staubach's improvisational flare or Aikman's steely marksmanship (61.5 career completion percentage)? There's really no wrong answer. Only a handful of franchises (49ers? Colts? Packers?) have had at least two transcendent quarterbacks. The Cowboys are one of them.

Back To The Future: Again, it's unfair to compare any quarterback's career to Troy Aikman's, and certainly not a backup on this current roster. Starter Tony Romo is constantly compared to his championship predecessors. It's the most reasonable parallel, but their skill sets are different. Romo's mobility and creativeness are probably more similar to Staubach, but for this category he compares best to Aikman in production, ability and career expectations.

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