Troy Aikman has nothing against Dak Prescott and, in fact, expects him to “play pretty well” for the Dallas Cowboys in place of the injured Tony Romo, starting Sunday against the Giants.
Still, the former Dallas quarterback and current Fox analyst has been surprised by the level of confidence he senses among Cowboys fans, whose team was 1-11 without Romo in 2015.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve got my finger on the pulse here in Dallas,” said Aikman, who still lives in the area, “but basically what I hear and what I’m reading and watching on TV around town is there’s not the sky-is-falling attitude about Romo going down.
“And that’s crazy, because this team was terrible last year without him. People are really excited about the kid and looking forward to watching him play. Is it unrealistic? I don’t know. But he played so well in the preseason that he’s kind of captured the city a little bit.
“Crazy as that sounds, people are excited to see what he can do. I think there’s a feeling that, well, how much more is Romo going to be able to go? Maybe this is the guy they’re going to be watching the next 10 years. I haven’t met him yet. I meet him on Friday. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard good things about him, a very mature, meticulous guy.
“I think there are some learning curves certainly in the NFL, but I’ve just seen too many guys come in and have success at the level you never would have expected at one time. So, yeah, he’s going to have some bumps in the road, more than most quarterbacks because he’s a rookie. I mean, all quarterbacks have them. But he will have a few more than most quarterbacks in general. But I expect him to play pretty well.”
While Prescott has no NFL starts, his counterpart Sunday, Eli Manning, has 183 of them in a row in the regular season, a feat that has Aikman duly impressed.
“I think being able to play, that to me is the greatest thing that you can say about a player,” Aikman said. “People ask me all the time about [former running back] Emmitt [Smith]. ‘Hey, what made Emmitt so great?’ You can go into a lot of things, but my number one thing, what made Emmitt great, is that he was there every week.
“That’s why he’s the all-time leading rusher, because he obviously played at a high level, but he did it week in and week out. So when you as a teammate know you can count on that guy to always be in the lineup, I mean, that’s a great comfort.
“I don’t know that it’s taken for granted with the staff, but for the coaching staff and the organization to know that, hey, Eli Manning is going to be here week in and week out is impressive and it goes beyond just being tough. People say, well, Brett Favre was really tough, or [another] guy was really tough.
“I get it. But there are a lot of tough guys out there that miss games. There are injuries that you just simply can’t play through. To have a streak like that you are playing through some ailments. There’s no way Eli has gone out there without them. There’s probably a lot of injuries we don’t know about where he got out there and he’s played.
“It’s probably what I respect most, whether it’s Eli or anyone else who’s put together a long streak like that, because I know you have to battle through a lot. You have to be fortunate, too.”