Walsh won 23 of 24 games for Johnson at Miami over the last two seasons. Still, his first reaction to the news that his college coach had selected him in the supplemental draft was "Why?"
Probably because Jones and Johnson—known collectively as JJ—wanted to turn a fast profit on him. They hoped to win back their 1990 first-round pick and skim a defensive starter or two in the bargain. The Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins. Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers all expressed serious interest, but no deal could be struck.
Thus, in a season full of the unfamiliar—no Tom Landry, Gil Brandt, Tex Schramm or Danny White, all of whom were nudged out—Dallas fans will draw comfort from a familiar custom: a quarterback controversy. The Cowboys did not invent the quarterback controversy, but they have perfected it. In the early '60s it was local boy Don Meredith versus Eddie LeBaron, the weather-beaten former Redskin. After Meredith vanquished LeBaron, Meredith was vanquished by Craig Morton. Next came a duel between Morton and Roger Staubach in the early '70s. Once Staubach prevailed, there was a lull in the action until 1984, when Danny White and Gary Hogeboom went toe-to-toe.
The principals in this year's quarterback showdown, like most of those in the past, have behaved with dignity. "It's not like we hate each other," says Walsh. "But you sure want to do better than the other guy at all times."
After missing a week of camp while his agents pounded out a four-year, $4.1 million contract, Walsh had a rough couple of practices, but then he started clicking. In an intrasquad scrimmage on his fourth day in camp, he converted 7 of 8 passes for 58 yards. In a scrimmage against the Chargers three days later, after Aikman failed to put the team in the end zone, Walsh marched the offense 74 yards for a TD, throwing six completions in six attempts.
In that scrimmage, one play in particular had people talking. On third and long, Charger free safety Vencie Glenn cheated in, hiding behind linebacker Billy Ray Smith. Glenn blitzed and was immediately in Walsh's face. Coolly, as if he had been born for such emergencies, Walsh flicked a rope to Martin for a 14-yard gain.
Walsh's teammates looked at him a little differently after that. Johnson and the six assistants he brought with him from Miami did not. "All Steve did just then was what Steve has done for the last two years," said offensive line coach Tony Wise, who had also coached the line at Miami. "I don't understand why people are surprised."
The differences between Aikman and Walsh are pithily summed up by quarterback coach Jerry Rhome, who was the Chargers' offensive coordinator last year: "If you sat down to build an NFL quarterback, Troy is what you'd come up with. He's 6'3", 220, great arm strength—everything's perfect. And Steve—I like his mind."
Not that Aikman is dense, or Walsh ungainly on his feet. "Watch," says Walsh. "I'll be typecast as the smart one, and he'll be typecast as the one with all the athletic ability. I happen to be a decent athlete, and Troy happens to be pretty bright."
Indeed, Aikman's ability to digest the Cowboys' Manhattan telephone directory-sized playbook—actually it's a hodgepodge of six different playbooks assembled by Dallas's new coaches—is a testament to his brainpower. Nonetheless, at 6'3", 195 pounds, Walsh looks more like an intramural quarterback than a pro. He makes up for his lack of speed (4.9 in the 40) and his average arm strength with superlative anticipation and touch.