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Q&A: Troy Aikman sizes up the Super Bowl, and more

Lead NFL analyst for Fox and a three-time winner of the title game as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys offers an insight on the matchup between the New York Giants and New England Patriots, and his take on the football program at UCLA, his alma mater.

January 29, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Former Cowboys quarterback and NFL analyst Troy Aikman chats with Saints Coach Sean Payton before a game earlier this month in New Orleans.
Former Cowboys quarterback and NFL analyst Troy Aikman chats with Saints… (Bill Haber / Associated…)

Troy Aikman's season as Fox's lead NFL analyst closed Jan. 22 with the NFC championship game won by the New York Giants over the San Francisco 49ers in overtime.

Aikman, 45, has effectively taken over John Madden's spot on the football broadcast scene, dropping the coach's sound effects and inserting smart, concise insight based on his dozen years in the league and three Super Bowl titles as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys who pored over game plans and had unique access to owner Jerry Jones' personnel decision making.

NBC is televising Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday between the Giants and the New England Patriots in Indianapolis, but Aikman offers an insight on the game and more.

We watched from the San Francisco press box as the Giants showed their character last week. They'll win the Super Bowl, too, don't they?

"Do they? I like the Giants, but I'm not in the business of predicting games. I've seen the Giants down the stretch and I like how they're doing the things now we all thought they'd do. [Quarterback] Eli [Manning] is playing great. The Patriots' offense always seems to play well. Their defense has had a lot of problems, but takeaways have helped them and Bill Belichick is a hard guy to bet against. The fact New England is in this game speaks highest of [quarterback] Tom [Brady]. But the Giants are playing with a lot of confidence and when they played earlier this year — we called that game — the Giants were overlooked and won. This game has a completely different backdrop. The Giants deserve equal billing."

It's easy to discount what Manning does because of who his brother is, he even surprised some when he told a questioner before the season started that he was elite. What do we not appreciate enough about him?

"The best thing I can say about him is that he plays his best in the toughest games. And he doesn't miss games. This is a guy you can rely on. The fact someone felt it was acceptable to ask him if he was elite before the season. … I don't think anyone would be compelled to ask him that question again today."

You know what it's like to have won three Super Bowls. How fiercely do you believe Brady wants to join Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with a fourth?

"Fiercely, but I think the fourth is just the next step to him. He's focused on that one, and a fifth. I didn't lose one. To not win one, like what happened to him last time [in 2008 versus the Giants] is disheartening and I'm sure he's still thinking how he's got a chance to win more than anyone in the game's history."

Do you regret not playing longer, seeking your fourth?

"I wish I would've played longer. I could've. I was dealing with a degenerative back condition in my last season that surgery couldn't help. I had planned to continue to play and thought I was going to San Diego to play for Norv Turner [then the team's offensive coordinator], but I got a call they were going to take [Doug] Flutie instead. Then I almost came back for another team a few more years later and started training, but the team got nervous and was afraid to pull the trigger. The steep decline in Dallas at the end was very disappointing to me. I know we would've been competitive for a long time if Jimmy [Johnson] had stuck around, but he was not Belichick. He wanted to do other things, go down to Florida. I do look back on that."

How'd you transition from being at the top of playing the game to broadcasting it?

"Brevity is an important element. I don't talk down to fans. I don't get too into the Xs and O's. Someone once told me, 'Pretend you're watching the game with an 8-year-old boy,' but I don't do only that because there's coaches, housewives in that room with the 8-year-old boy, too. Playing the game, we had every play discussed, constructive criticism was important. Here, you're on your own, so I watch every game I do over again and ask myself what do I do to make the next one better?"

How would you fix UCLA?

"Some of my best years were spent in Westwood, with great friends, and the reason those years are so memorable is because we won. There's no reason UCLA should not be a top-20 team each year. I know the academic requirements are difficult, but their biggest problem has been not getting a top quarterback. It would seem to me if you scoured the country, you could find a top quarterback who'd want to throw the ball around in Southern California for four years."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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