that team. That if he didn't have Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith and Jay Novacek and that offensive line, he would be just another quarterback. Nothing special. It was all about his support system.
But then, when things started to fall apart, when the Cowboys began going downhill in 1997, then it was, if Aikman was any good, he'd put this team on his back.
So which is it? A quarterback is good enough to carry a team or the team carries the quarterback? You can't argue both sides of that pancake. (Parcells gone, but not forgotten.)
Then what's it been, Manning can't win the big one, but should it really be, the Colts can't win the big one? Because as I remember from last year when the Colts were eliminated by Pittsburgh, Manning's offensive line acted as if it were allergic to a blitz, and even at that, the Colts would have proceeded to overtime had Mike Vanderjagt (gone, but not forgotten, too) not kicked that ball far east.
See what I mean?
Now I don't know if people are just jealous of Peyton Manning. He seems to live the perfect life. Clean-cut kid, who wins every place he goes, just not a national championship or Super Bowl - yet. Seemingly good teammate. Stays out of jail. Do we dock him points for all that?
Or maybe it's because he's Archie's kid. They're jealous of his genes, although he says he's told his dad he's grateful for the height genes, but what happened to the speed ones? Hey, there's been other quarterbacks to have sons, and that certainly hasn't grandfathered any of them into greatness. Brian Griese and Chris Simms come to mind, but I don't think either has matched their pops' status.
So what is it?
A columnist friend of mind recently asked Archie that very same question, and he was somewhat surprised when I even brought up the topic, because he thought, being born and raised in Mississippi, he was guilty of being a tad provincial. He likes the Mannings.
"It does seem like to me that people are eager to criticize Peyton, and I think a lot of it's unfair," daddy Manning said. "I've tried to understand why, but I'm not sure I really do.
"He handles it as well as it can be handled. He doesn't even take newspapers at his house anymore. I think he got that from (brother) Eli."
The question was also posed to Cooper Manning, Peyton's older brother, a one-time budding star receiver who had a scholarship to play at Ole Miss before a rare spine condition ended his playing days before they ever really got started. He's got a theory, too, my friend said.
"My best shot at trying to understand it is to try and look at the other players in the league - who gets the good attention and the bad attention," brother Cooper said. "In Brady's case, he was a sixth-round draft pick. He's the ultimate underdog that worked. Look at Brett Favre. He's the gool, ol' country boy that everybody loves. But with Peyton, he's the No. 1 pick. He's the guy who was supposed to be good.
"The other thing I see is that Peyton has raised the bar so high for himself. I think the bulk of praise for Peyton will come when it's all over, when it's done. That's when all his accomplishments will really resonate - all the yards, all the touchdowns."
OK, that's family. But family can make sense.
To me, this all makes some sense. What doesn't make sense is Manning detractors, and I guess his two-minute drive to lead Indy to the AFC title over New England, coupled with Brady getting intercepted in the final minute, has muzzled them somewhat for the time being.
Probably until Sunday, because if the Colts don't win, certainly the loss will be Manning's fault. Regardless.
But if they do win, I'm guessing Rex Grossman gets most of that credit, if you know what I mean.
Bugs the heck out of me.