That moment when you realize that history is repeating itself…
That moment is happening around here. The 2016 Cowboys are already being compared to the team that lead this franchise to Super Bowl XXVII. There are similarities, but beware the differences.
The similarities seem so obvious. This team has a modern day version of the triplets. Back in ’92 Troy Aikman was in his fourth year as quarterback of America’s Team and he was a steady hand on the rudder. Steering this ship through a 13-3 regular season and a return trip to the playoffs.
Unlike Dak Prescott, Troy was not replacing an injury-plagued, aging and wildly popular veteran. But Troy was a part of a quarterback controversy. Then coach Jimmy Johnson drafted the quarterback that helped him to a National Championship in college. Steve Walsh was the second overall pick in the NFL supplemental draft of 1989. Despite the fact that most believed Jimmy Johnson favored Walsh, talent prevailed. Aikman won the job and Walsh was traded three games into the 1990 season.
The similarities between Zeke Elliott and Emmitt Smith are strong too. Zeke was the 4th pick of the draft, Emmitt was taken late in the first round. But both have a knack for hitting a hole hard, getting stronger as the game goes on and carrying the ball a lot. I remember Emmitt doubting, early in his career, that he could keep toting the rock 20-25 times a game. He did and so does Zeke and that is how the ’90s Cowboys and this team secure victories. Ground out the clock at the end, keep the ball away from the other team and keep your own defense fresh.
Michael Irvin had more personality than Dez Bryant. But Dez has more talent than Michael. Michael was supremely talented but it was his work ethic that put him over the top. Dez has been a man among boys on virtually every field he has ever stepped on to.
The modern day triplets are supported by the best offensive line in football and you can make the case that it is not as good at that ’90s line. Larry Allen joined a line that had Nate Newton, Mark Stepnsoki, Mark Tuinei and Erik Williams. Allen is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Williams might have been the best of that bunch until a car accident altered his career path. That line was the basis for all of the offensive success achieved by the triplets. Sound familiar?
Another similarity is the no name defense; not a single Cowboy defender made the Pro-Bowl after the ’92 season. However, this is where the biggest difference lies. That team was anchored by future Hall of Famer Charles Haley who Jerry Jones praised saying, “We couldn’t even spell Super Bowl around here until we got Charles Haley.”
Lead by the then mercurial Haley, the Cowboys Defense was No. 1 in the league allowing only 4,278 yards and holding opponents to a paltry 243 points. Ken Norton Jr. was a rock at linebacker and Robert Jones was defensive rookie of the year. That defense didn’t just keep the offense off the field, it created big plays. Between them, Haley, Jim Jeffcoat and Tony Tolbert had 24.5 sacks.
In the Rose Bowl that January evening the defense forced a Super Bowl record nine turnovers. Bills quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Frank Reich threw four interceptions and this young defense recovered five fumbles.
That to me is the biggest difference between these two teams. Like the ’92 squad this one has the offense to compete with the best in the NFL, but do they have that defender who can help them spell S-u-p-e-r B-o-w-l?