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Cowboys Midsummer Madness, Second Round: Ralph Neely vs. Troy Aikman

Round two of our Midsummer Madness tournament is wrapping up! Round two's final match-up features seven seed Ralph Neely facing off against second seed Troy Aikman. Who will advance to the Sweet Sixteen?

The final face-off of our tournament's second round is, as many of these match-ups have been, between two players from different eras: seventh-seeded Ralph Neely, the Cowboys first great offensive lineman, who mad hay in the late 1960s, wrangles Troy Aikman, the general of the great 90s teams, as well as the most gifted and accurate passer in franchise history. Thus far, the top four seeds in each regional have advanced; will Aikman join Tom Landry, Bob Hayes, and Rayfield Wright to make it a clean sweep? Read the bios and comments and hit the poll, faithful readers!

Wanna keep tabs on the state of the bracket or look ahead to future contests? All the Midsummer Madness info you could ever want can be found right here.

Star_medium

Player: Ralph Neely

Position: offensive tackle

Seed: 7

How he got here: defeated Jethro Pugh, 271-201

Essentials:

Name Years Career AV Pro Bowls All-Pro RoH HoF
Ralph Eugene Neely
1965-77
108
2
4
no
no

Bio: In 1965, the Cowboys acquired Neely from the Colts, whereupon he became an immediate starter at right tackle . Neely acquitted himself well enough to be named to the NFL all-rookie team. He remained at right tackle for five seasons, winning All-Pro laurels from 1966-'69, and then moved to the left side, allowing Rayfield Wright to man the right side. In 1970, Neely initially was installed at left guard, but then moved to tackle, where he remained for the final eightyears of his career.

At 6-6 and 265 pounds, Neely was big for an offensive lineman in his era, but he boasted great quickness for his size, a combination of traits that helped him to become a dominant player. In his thirteen year career, Neely was a four-time All-Pro, was twice named to the Pro Bowl, and was a two-time Super Bowl champion (although he sadly missed the second half of the 1971 championship season after fracturing his leg midway through). He was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1960s.

In a curious side-note, Neely was responsible for the institution of the Governor's Cup. He was drafted by the AFL's Oilers in 1965 and signed a contract with them only to send back his signing bonus when he found out that the Colts had traded him to Dallas. After several years of litigation, the Cowboys finally agreed, as part of the AFL-NFL merger, to send the Oilers first, second and two fifth round choices in the 1967 draft , to pay all of the court costs, and to start the annual pre-season game between the two teams.

Member comments:

Member Comment
repupb1ic_0f_TEXAS

Ralph Neely

Good man. Great football player

1Bullseye

Neely

A starter from day 1 that handled tough competitors for a lot of years. He was a winner.

Realist Larry

We tend to forget the offensive linemen, and they don’t really get any stats we can throw their way. But this guy locked up RT, then the position some consider 2nd or 3rd most important on a team, LT, for many years.

4 All-Pro’s, and, named to the All-Decade team! He made an impression.

Star_medium

Player: Troy Aikman

Position: quarterback

Seed: 2

How he got here: defeated Clint Murchison, 705-113

Essentials:

Name Years Career AV Pro Bowls All-Pro RoH HoF
Troy Kenneth Aikman
1989-2000
122
6
0
yes
yes

Bio: Aikman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 draft,but his status with the team was uncertain for his first few seasons in Dallas. Jimmy Johnson used a first round pick in the 1989 supplemental draft to select his University of Miami quarterback, Steve Walsh (who was traded to the Saints in 1990). That uncertaintywas erased as soon as the Cowboys hired Norv Turner to be their offensive coordinator in 1991. Although Aikman only played ten games before injuring a knee that year, he still made the first of six consecutive Pro Bowls.

In 1992, Aikman played all sixteen games, set career highs in completions (302), passing yards (3,445) and touchdown passes (23), and led the team to a 13-3 record and the first of three Super Bowl titles (Super Bowl XXVII). During the Cowboys' 1992 playoff run, Aikman was spectacular, completing nearly 70% of his passes, breaking Joe Montana's record of 83 passes without an interception, tossing eight touchdowns, and boasting a 126.4 quarterback rating. He was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII.

Aikman was known for his precision as a passer; his ability to hit receivers in stride was legendary. In 1993, he led the NFL in completion percentage, at 69.1% and, from 1991-96, never dipped below 63%. He was also a quiet but fiercely competitive leader, and set the mark as the winningest quarterback in a single decade, with 90 wins in the 1990s. On opening day, 1999, he caped off his decade of excellence by throwing for five touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, in a come-from-behind win over the Redskins. Games like this and the 1994 Championship Game were evidence that Aikman could have put up Dan Marion-like numbers had the system required that he do so. But, as he noted in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he sacrificed numbers for wins.

Aikman retired with 47 different Cowboys passing marks, including wins by a QB, pass attempts, completions, completion percentage, touchdowns, passing yards, and interception percentage. During his career he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection (1991-96), led the team to three Super Bowl victories, and was the Super Bowl XXVII MVP.  In 1996, he was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. Aikman was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2005 and elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006.

Member comments:

Member Comment
jrmysell

This is the player I've been waiting for. Troy Aikman is/was/will be my favorite Cowboy of all time.

I played QB because I grew up watching him.

redandy

Don't undersell Troy when it comes to organizational significance.

Think back to 1989 for a second. The Cowboys have experienced their first real decline. Some brash new oil man fired Tom Landry. Long time GM Schramm is gone as well, and franchise player Herschel Walker would be shipped out in the next season. You’ve got a new coach out of the college ranks who’s about as different from Landry as you could get. The franchise needs to win quick, but they also need a new face and a new leader....Enter rookie Troy Aikman.

First, Aikman has to beat out rival and former Johnson player Steve Walsh, which he does. By the end of 1990 he’s starting to win over the fanbase. The meteoric rise from there is well documented, with Aikman at the helm. Then, like many great leaders, he allows the players around him to grab fame and milestones while he focuses on keeping the team working as a unit. Then over the next few seasons, tumultuous seasons, losing coaches and players for all manner of reasons, Aikman and Emmitt Smith become the two rocks that both keep the team competitive and keep a lot of fans from tuning out a team that gets as many headlines in the tabloids as it does on the sports page. Finally, Aikman has to retire because he’s spent 10 years taking punishment from the toughest division in football, and the next headshot could mean permanent damage. Now that’s a real Cowboy.

YumaCactus

Irvin might have been "the straw that stirred the drink" but Troy was the glass that held it all together.

Alright, BTBers, which man advances to the sweet sixteen?

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