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EXCERPT | Aug. 21, 1989
Battle for Troy
A rare rookie showdown for a starting QB job
The Cowboys made Troy Aikman the No. 1 pick of the 1989 draft and Steve Walsh the first pick of the supplemental draft. One game into the preseason, Austin Murphy reported from Dallas.
Is the Cowboys' quarterback competition genuine? Does Steve Walsh really have a chance to beat out fellow rookie Troy Aikman, the $11 million man? Aikman played the first half in Dallas's opener, a 20--3 victory over the Chargers, completing 8 of 11 throws, including a feathered nine-yarder to Kelvin Martin in the corner of the end zone. He kept his passes short, sweet and conservative.
Walsh completed just 2 of 8 throws but was hurt by penalties, poor field position and dropped passes. All week at practice first-year coach Jimmy Johnson had bent over backward to assure one and all that Aikman would not be handed the job. "They'll get an equal chance," he said. "Steve will start next week's game."
The curious scrutinized workouts with special intensity, like Kremlinologists studying the seating arrangements of the politburo at the opera. On the Cowboys' depth chart the No. 1 quarterback was listed as "Aikman/Walsh"—in alphabetical order, it was explained. But who practiced with the first unit? They alternated. Ahh, here was a hint: Third-string QB Babe Laufenberg was flashing signals from the sideline to Aikman. Next Walsh would flash them to Aikman. We were on to something! But then Walsh was signaling Laufenberg, then Aikman signaling Walsh. Confounded again. "It's going to be a coin flip," said Laufenberg. "I get the call if the coin lands on its edge."
Aikman, who got 11 starts to Walsh's five as Dallas went 1--15 in '89, would win three Super Bowls; Walsh would play for six teams in 11 years.
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WASTE NOT, WANT NOT
SI.com's Joe Posnanski analyzes some of baseball's most outlandish contracts:
In 2011 outfielder Vernon Wells will get paid $23 million. In 2012 he'll get $21 million. Same in 2013 and 2014. This isn't a baseball contract. This is a testament to the power of mankind to do the impossible. And it never made sense. Ever. Wells had a very good year in 2003, followed by a couple of O.K. years and a good year in 2006, at age 27. But he never got on base much (a lifetime OBP of .329) and he was inconsistent, and then ... the Blue Jays gave him this hysterical contract: seven years, $126 million.
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ON THE GO
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Photograph by PETER READ MILLER
UNDER PRESSURE Aikman, who with UCLA had been named the nation's top quarterback in 1988, was being measured against Walsh, who had just starred for Johnson at Miami.
RICHARD MEEK (RIDERS)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (MCQUEEN)
STEVE POWELL (LEWIS)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (WELLS)
JOHN IACONO (YOUPPI!)
JOHN IACONO (WASHINGTON)
TONY TRIOLO (RICHARD)
FRED VUICH (YANG)
HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES (SHRIVER)
BILL FRAKES (BUSH)