5 Questions: NFL on FOX analyst Troy Aikman

BY foxsports • October 15, 2009

Every week, we will hit the hot league topics by interviewing one of our NFL on FOX game analysts.

  • This week's guest: Troy Aikman

    This weekend, which unit has the advantage, both physically and tactically: the Giants defense or the Saints offense?

    Troy: When a good defense plays a good offense, I generally side more with the defense, which may come as a surprise to most people since I was a quarterback.

    This matchup, however, is a little different than most for a few reasons. Yes, the Giants have had 11 sacks over the past two weeks against Kansas City and Oakland. But they are going to have a hard time sacking Drew Brees. Since he's been in New Orleans, he's the least-sacked quarterback per pass attempt in the league, once every 40 drop-backs. So, it'll be a tough task for the Giants to get home with Brees.

    Then you might say, "But if the Giants can get him moving, make him move his feet and hit him, that could prove just as effective as a sack." That statement is generally true about most quarterbacks, but Brees is one of those quarterbacks who is just as effective when he's moving in the pocket and having to re-set his feet as when he drops back and has time to throw.

    Secondly, we all know how effective the Saints are throwing the ball, but they are finally having success running the ball this year. They have run the ball well in each of the four games they've played.

    So, this will be a little different test for the Giants in that regard. The Saints will be the best offense they've faced all season and the best running team they've faced since Dallas in week two. The Saints have more than one way of coming at them.

    The last reason is the fact that the Saints are coming off the bye week — and I guess you could say the Giants are coming off a bye week, too, since Eli was able to rest a lot against the Raiders. That favors Sean Payton and what he's able to do creatively having two weeks to prepare for an opponent.

    Don't get me wrong, I really like the New York Giants defense and the way they have dominated the last three opponents, but for the reasons I said, I do think the Saints' offense has a slight advantage when normally I wouldn't be saying that against an outstanding defensive team.

    Who are the game's best offensive minds?

    Troy: This is not in any particular order. I would say Sean Payton. It's hard to argue with what he did in New York when he was an assistant there. I know he got a bad rap when Jim Fassel took over the play calling midway through the '02 season, but he saved Fassel's job in the early going there. And what he's done offensively in New Orleans the past four years is pretty remarkable.

    Cam Cameron was terrific when he was in San Diego and he's been outstanding the last two years in Baltimore, especially last season while bringing along a rookie quarterback. Last year, the Ravens relied more on running the ball and were very effective. But this year they are throwing more and letting Joe Flacco have a bigger role in the offense.

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    Josh McDaniels would be another. His first year as offensive coordinator was 2007 in New England when the Patriots were the No. 1 offense in the NFL and Tom Brady set a single-season record with 50 TD passes. The next year he loses Tom Brady and all he did is take a kid who hadn't played since high school and go 11-5 and finish as the league's fifth-best offense with an entirely different offensive approach from the year before. And he's doing it again in Denver this year as the Broncos currently rank 6th in the NFL.

    Norv Turner. Yes, I'm biased and I'll readily admit that. But Norv is as good a play-caller as there is in the game.

    And the last guy I would say is Tom Moore-slash-Peyton Manning. What Tom has been able to do in Indianapolis with Peyton for all these years is pretty remarkable. As we know, Peyton is a great quarterback and handles a lot during the game at the line of scrimmage and that's the reason I list them together. It would be wrong though to assume that it's all Peyton Manning. Tom Moore deserves more credit than he's probably gotten for their success.

    If you were playing today, how would you feel about losing 6-8 snaps a game to a wildcat offense?

    Troy: I'm not a big believer in the wildcat.

    There is still a debate whether it is a fad or whether it will be here a while. To be good at anything, you have to spend a fair amount of time practicing it. But to take snaps away from your base offense during the week in order to work on the wildcat, I believe is counter-productive.

    I don't know what the exact numbers are, but the wildcat has been less effective this year than it was a year ago when the Dolphins introduced it to the league in the third week of the season. My best case in point is that Indianapolis does not have a wildcat package in its offense, and for good reason. Why would you take any snaps away from Peyton Manning? I don't believe we'll be talking much about the wildcat two years from now.

    Now, some have said that the wishbone offense was a wildcat; that you could say it was a gimmick offense that lasted a while, but that's not necessarily true. Teams that ran the wishbone ran it every play. Miami is the only team where it has been truly successful, but they did it out of necessity because they couldn't effectively run the ball from their base offense — and that is my point.

    "I'm not a big believer in the wildcat."
    Troy Aikman

    The challenge in defending the wildcat is that you can't gain a 1-man advantage in the run game because someone must now account for the quarterback. I get all that but it's really not much different than when teams faced Denver's famed "stretch running play." Denver used to say, we're going to run it and if you over-commit with the back-side then we are going to run the naked bootleg off of it.

    The wildcat is a lot like Twitter right now. Everyone is doing it because they feel like it's what they're supposed to do, yet nobody really knows why they're doing it.

    There's already talk of a coaching change in Washington. Can an in-season coaching change really help?

    Troy: I've never been an advocate of making a coaching change in the middle of a season. I don't believe it gives a team the best chance to be successful.

    Typically, the interim coach is always hired from the existing staff, so why should anyone think he's the solution when undoubtedly he has been part of the problem up to that point in the year?

    What's your perspective on the controversial and very subjective rules/calls protecting QBs today? Do you think the integrity of the game is being threatened?

    Troy: I'm a little concerned about the future of the NFL. I read Michael MacCambridge's book a year ago, "America's Game," and it was a history lesson on pro football. He wrote about the missteps that baseball took and how the NFL was able to overcome baseball and become our No. 1 sport. I am worried that 10 years from now or 20 years from now, we may look back at some of the steps that we are currently taking and say, "Wow, there was a stretch in the early 2000s that really hurt football."

    What concerns me? One, is the collective bargaining agreement and what is going to happen there. Two, revenue sharing and how all that is going to play out with the owners. That part has kept so many teams competitive. I'm also concerned about the over-saturation of the game. I don't like that midway through the season we are able to watch football four days a week. That concerns me. And, lastly, the point to this question: I'm all for player safety, but I think we may be taking away some of the elements of the game that have helped make this game the great spectator sport that it has become.


    John Lynch

    If anyone feels the pain of confused defenders trying to figure out the NFL QB protections rules, it's NFL on FOX analyst John Lynch, as he said in a recent chat.

    I'm referring to the rules that have taken place for the protection of quarterbacks. And this is coming from a guy who played quarterback and who might have been able to play three or four more years longer had these rules been in place when I came into the league.

    I just feel from a fans' perspective, which is how I view the game now, that there is no consistency to the calls. I'm concerned that the elements that are so appealing to the fan are being taken out and that, ultimately, it's going to hurt the game. It's a violent game. Guys are padded and there are going to be collisions. And with that guys are going to get hurt. It's just the nature of the sport. I've always said that if you are so concerned about player safety and if you want to eliminate the big hits — now this will never happen — then the league should go back to leather helmets or just don't wear helmets. Then there won't be helmet-to-helmet contact and players won't be using their helmets as a weapon.

    But I've already seen a lot of games that have been impacted by some negligible fouls and penalties and hits on quarterbacks that haven't hurt anybody. The fans don't like it and I don't like it. The officials are in a tough position. It's hard to argue with the referees; they are simply calling the plays the way they've been instructed to do.

    I just know that getting to the quarterback is a big part of this game. Since the advent of football, anytime you talk to a coach going into the game, one of the first things he says is "We've got to get pressure on the quarterback; we've got to hit him." Today, how do you hit 'em? I don't like it.

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