From the time I started playing football at eight years old until my career ended in college, it’s been a time-honored tradition to reward great plays with a small sticker that is placed somewhere on your helmet.
Tremendous defensive plays or vicious hits have always been awarded a skull and crossbones sticker. Great offensive plays or TDs were given either a small football sticker or a star.
And this brings me to the Dallas Cowboys.
Growing up in the shadow of the Cowboys, I’ve followed the team most of my life. I’ve seen the lows of the 1-15 team and the highs of the great Super Bowl teams of the '90s.
Now, I’m not here to debate who is a better QB, Aikman or Romo. Nor am I here to compare the current Cowboys to the '90s Cowboys with Aikman, Irvin, Smith, and a FB named Moose.
But I am here to pose one simple question: Does Tony Romo really deserve the star on his helmet?
We all know Romo stands in the long line of those trying to fill the void of an iconic QB. It's an unenviable task at best. Few replacements have been able to fill the shoes of the previous icon.
Dallas has had eight starting QBs since Aikman retired in 2000.
Babe Laufenberg couldn’t make lightning appear "at will," like Dan Fouts did in San Diego.
Jay Fiedler could not have stayed afloat as a Dolphin, even if he wore those arm floats my son used in the warm confines of the pee-infested kiddie pool. Marino was just too prolific of a passer.
Aaron Rodgers, who has a size-14 foot, the same as Favre, will never fill those shoes, even with a Dr. Scholl's insert.
In fact, Steve Young is the only QB to follow a previous Hall of Famer into the Hall of Fame. The rest of the followers were just...well, followers.
In Aikman's first 38 games, he threw for 7,082 yards. So far, Romo has amassed 8,803 passing yards in four fewer games. Give Tony a star.
Aikman had Jimmy Johnson, a real football coach; Romo has Wade Phillips, the second best bobble-head coach next to whoever lands the Raiders' gig. Another star to Tony.
Romo has thrown 69 TDs in those 32 games. Aikman tossed a mere 31, even if you add the 1992 Super Bowl season where Aikman threw for 23, which only brings his total to 54. Give Romo another star.
Aikman won the Super Bowl; that deserves a star. He also won Super Bowl MVP—what the hell, make that two stars.
If you add it up, Romo has accumulated more stars in fewer games with a far less talented group of coaches and players around him.
However, in the end, it seems to be the intangibles that make the difference. No, not Carrie Underwood or Jessica Simpson. Rather the ability to complete those throws in the final minutes that lock up a win.
Having that pocket presence so as not to take a sack at the most inopportune time. The ability to take care of the football and not make a sloppy throw leading to an INT. Or, most notably, not fumbling the hold on a kick that would've won your team the game. Those type of intangibles.
But now Romo is out for four weeks with a broken pinky finger on his throwing hand. Someone remind Romo that the old school icons, like Ronnie Lot, cut his pinky off and played the next week.
That’s what it means to be an icon. It's about a willingness to do the things that others wouldn’t normally do. While Romo won the “battle of the stars” against Aikman in this article, I don’t know if he deserves to put the sticker on his helmet just yet.