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Dismissal from Big D

Cowboys waive concussion-plagued Aikman

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Wednesday March 07, 2001 4:34 PM
Updated: Thursday March 08, 2001 7:43 AM

  Troy Aikman Troy Aikman missed five games last season after suffering his 10th concussion in 12 years. Andy Lyons/Allsport

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys waived Troy Aikman on Wednesday, no longer convinced that the quarterback who led them to three Super Bowl titles is healthy enough to be their starter.

"We always shared a mutual respect for what was in the best interest of Troy and the Dallas Cowboys," owner Jerry Jones said. "In the end, it was in the best interest for him to have a timely opportunity to entertain all of his options.

"He'll be missed on the field at Texas Stadium. He'll always be a Dallas Cowboy and always be a very important part of this organization," Jones said.

"As far as what's in the best interest of this club long-term, the right thing was done," Aikman said in a conference call.

"My desires are to continue to play," said Aikman, who spent 12 seasons with Dallas and suffered 10 concussions. The 34-year-old couldn't say if he'd be playing in 2001 or who that team might be.

SI's Don Banks
Sources close to the Cowboys say Randall Cunningham has a great shot to return and replace Aikman on a full-time basis this season, just as he did on a part-time basis last year as Aikman's backup. Cunningham, who'll be 38 this month, met enough performance incentives in 2000 to earn unrestricted free agency as he enters his 16th NFL season.

Click here for the full story on Cunningham's possible return. 

Jones had to make the move by Thursday or else pay Aikman a $7 million bonus and extend his contract through 2007. He will still take up $10 million of Dallas' $67.4 million salary cap this season.

"This was as much a salary-cap casualty as it was anything else," Aikman said. Jones also said the salary cap was a factor in the decision.

Aikman said that if it were as simple as a health issue "a decision would have been reached long ago."

"I believe it's more to do with how do you work the pure numbers that were involved where it makes sense to not jeopardize the future of the Cowboys down the road."

"Troy's loyalty to this organization was involved. The future makeup of our team's roster was involved," Jones said.

Dallas also agreed to re-sign linebacker Dexter Coakley for $25 million for six years, with a $5.5 million signing bonus. To clear cap room, the Cowboys were expected to release veterans Erik Williams and Chad Hennings.

As much as Jones might have wanted to keep Aikman -- the first player he ever drafted -- the owner apparently decided the Cowboys couldn't prepare for the 2001 season with such a fragile, expensive quarterback.

The six-time Pro Bowler, who holds practically every Dallas passing record, sustained two concussions in 11 games last season and twice needed epidural injections to relieve back pain.

The last play of his career in Dallas ended with a concussion in the first quarter of a Dec. 10 victory over Washington. With the Cowboys deep in Redskins territory, Aikman rolled out to his right and was slammed to the turf on a crushing, leaping tackle by linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Other teams might be scared off by Aikman's past injuries, which could then prompt him to retire. However, tests done before last season showed no long-term damage from his previous concussions. The fact that his wife is pregnant with their first child apparently hasn't added to his fear of severe injury.

  "Into the Sunset" graphic Click on image for a larger view.

One possible landing spot is San Diego, where close friend Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator. The Chargers also could use Aikman to groom Michael Vick, should they make him the first pick in the upcoming draft. San Diego's starting job is open because Ryan Leaf was released last week.

Once the highest-paid player in NFL history, Aikman is coming off his worst season since the Cowboys went 1-15 his rookie year.

He was the lowest-rated starting quarterback in the NFC and threw a career-worst five interceptions against the New York Giants. Aikman also missed five games with injuries and was knocked out of three more, all in the first quarter.

Yet Aikman was looking forward to coming back in 2001 in part because he wanted a full season of throwing to speedsters Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail. Galloway suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year's opener, and Ismail was later lost to a knee injury.

Finding Aikman's replacement won't be easy. The only two quarterbacks on the roster, Anthony Wright and Clint Stoerner, are a combined 25-of-55 for 290 yards in their NFL careers, which began last season. Aikman's salary cap hit will limit Dallas in free agency and the Cowboys don't have a first-round draft pick.

The Cowboy Way
Troy Aikman's career statistics
Year  Com  Att  Yds  TD  Int 
Regular season
1989  155  293  1,749  18 
1990  226  399  2,579  11  18 
1991  237  363  2,754  11  10 
1992  302  473  3,445  23  14 
1993  271  392  3,100  15 
1994  233  361  2,676  13  12 
1995  280  432  3,304  16 
1996  296  465  3,126  12  13 
1997  292  518  3,282  19  12 
1998  187  315  2,330  12 
1999  263  442  2,964  17  12 
2000  156  262  1,632  14 
Totals   2,898   4,715   32,942   165   141  
1991  11  16  114 
1992  61  89  795 
1993  61  82  686 
1994  53  83  717 
1995  53  80  717 
1996  37  65  343 
1998  22  49  191 
1999  22  38  286 
Totals   320   502   3,849   23   17  

Aikman came to Dallas in 1989 as the top overall choice in the draft and played for head coach Jimmy Johnson. He was immediately labeled the franchise's savior and, sure enough, helped the Cowboys once again become the NFL's most loved and most loathed team.

Aikman was the triggerman in an offense that also featured running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin.

Known as the Triplets, the trio propelled Dallas to the top of the NFL three seasons after it was on the bottom. The Cowboys won an unprecedented three Super Bowls in four years, including consecutive titles in 1992-93.

Aikman became one of the best playoff quarterbacks in playoff history. He won his first seven starts and 10 of 11, finishing with a career postseason record of 11-4.

Aikman was the MVP of his first Super Bowl, a 52-17 victory against Buffalo. He later joined Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with at least three Super Bowl victories.

Records and statistics were incidental to Aikman, who liked to joke about being a horrible fantasy football quarterback.

Still, his numbers are impressive: 2,898-of-4,715 (61.5 percent) for 32,942 yards, 165 touchdowns and 141 interceptions. He was 320-of-502 (63.7 percent) for 3,849 yards, 23 TDs and 17 INTs.

A strong-armed, accurate passer, Aikman was often considered a "Robo-QB," which was mostly a compliment but sometimes a complaint.

Coaches loved his precise, fundamental style, and he was at his best when the Cowboys were loaded with young players reaching their prime. As he and the team aged and rough times hit, some fans grumbled that Aikman was too rigid and lacked the playmaking ability of someone like Brett Favre.

Since Dallas' last Super Bowl championship, the Cowboys are 39-41 in the regular season and 1-3 in the playoffs. They were 5-11 last season.

Related information
Cowboys, Aikman may be running out of time
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks about his team's decision to release Troy Aikman. (170 K)
Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman knows that he is just another victim of the salary cap. (177 K)
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