Aikman, Young: Who will be '90s super QB?


First off, let's put a proper slant on Sunday's conference championship games being played in San Francisco and Miami: They're just two more football games, that's all.

You want proof of it, quickly and without diving for a reference book, name the NFC and AFC matchups that led to last year's Super Bowl. Chances are you'll have an easier time remembering what you ate at wherever it was you watched the Super Bowl.

But, with the quarterback of the '70s (Terry Bradshaw) back in the studio trying to make himself understood, and the quarterback of the '80s (Joe Montana) up to his ankles in mud in Candlestick Park, it's likely the quarterback of the '90s will be crowned after the 49ers-Cowboys bash.

This might not seem like such a big deal now, but think for a moment how important this designation becomes. King Quarterback becomes almost as big as the game itself.

Think back: Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman; Otto Graham and Bobby Layne; John Unitas, Y.A. Tittle and Bart Starr; Joe Namath, Bob Griese and Roger Staubach; Bradshaw; Montana. Did we forget anyone?

Sure, there have been other great ones -- Norm Van Brocklin, Fran Tarkenton, Len Dawson, Sonny Jurgensen, etc. -- but more and more these days we ascribe greatness to the winner of the big game, the possessor of the big contract, the guy with visibility and the thickest endorsement and investment portfolios.

Strange that in a team game, which has expanded from 11 players to a couple of dozen, an individual can still command such a huge percentage of the attention. And the same can be said in reverse, too. See Mark Rypien, Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham.

Meanwhile, as Steve Young and Troy Aikman step forward and present their wares to succeed Montana, leading their teams to multi-championships, the guys in the AFC title game have far better credentials, but. . .

True, Dan Marino has been a pass master for years, but the Dolphins have made it to just one Super Bowl during his 10-year career and they ended up getting zapped by San Francisco, 38-16. Since 1985, Miami has been around just once to take part in postseason play.

For more years than his knees want to recall, Jim Kelly has been among the top three or four at the position. Still, he's nearly set in the mold of a guy who could get his team to the big game only to lose. John Elway and Tarkenton are charter members of the club.

The nature of quarterbacking is that if you get protection you can complete your passes. And if the team has linemen who can run block and a capable rusher, so much the better.

Add to these ingredients a defense that doesn't require an offense to score a ton of points to win and, voila, a hotshot quarterback is born.

He probably won't have to perform on the scale of a Bradshaw or a Montana because, like them, he will have a deep, well-balanced team at his disposal.

It may be a tad early, but the guess here is it will be Aikman, who four years ago was the 22-year-old rookie signal-caller of a 1-15 team that had gone 3-13 the year before.

In 1989, the former UCLA quarterback was the second-leading rusher for Dallas, certainly not by design, as coach Jimmy Johnson still wasn't sure who his man would be: Troy or a lad Johnson brought with him from the college ranks, Steve Walsh.

As has been the case with most of the decisions made by the man with the sculpted hair the last few seasons, Johnson went with the right guy.

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