• Image about Super Bowl Xlv
The Philadelphia Eagles vs. the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, in 2005.
photographs by Manny Rodriguez
SUPER BOWL XXX
(Jan. 28, 1996)
Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Super Bowl XXX was Aikman’s third in four seasons — and, ultimately, his last. He led the Dallas offense on three short touchdown-scoring drives, finishing the game with 209 passing yards and one touchdown.

That first Super Bowl was unbelievable. The second one, which came the following year, was a little different. I’d been knocked out the week before in the NFC Championship Game and spent the night in the hospital. To this day, I have no recollection of having played in that game. Just complete amnesia. The Super Bowl itself? I remember the game and playing in it, but it’s not quite as vivid as some of the others. Today, the doctors wouldn’t have let me play.

So when I got back two years later, I thought, “I’m going to completely take this in and remember everything about this experience.” I remember the small things, like listening to the music played over the PA. It was a beautiful day, but what ultimately made it great was that we won the game.

The difference this time was that we had a new coach — Barry [Switzer] instead of Jimmy. For the players, I don’t think anything was all that different: We wanted to win, and we wanted to win for the right reasons. It was only different for [owner Jerry Jones] and Barry, really. The way in which Jerry and Jimmy parted, there aren’t many examples in the history of sports where a coach wins back-to-back world championships and then, outside of a decision to retire, is no longer the coach. Whoever is responsible for that will be debated for a long time, I guess. The reality of it is, for whatever reasons, those two guys didn’t get along.

So here you have an organization that had won back-to-back world championships and the head coach is no longer there. There was a lot of pressure on Jerry and some extra incentive for him. I think it eliminated a lot of the pressure after we were able to win that Super Bowl with Barry, not that it justified the decisions that were made two years earlier. But at least Jerry was able to win another title and do it without Jimmy as a head coach.

I don’t think anyone ever took playing in the Super Bowl for granted. I know I certainly didn’t. Having said that, after we won our third championship, I never thought for a moment that it was the last time I’d be playing in the Super Bowl. Had we done things a little differently as an organization, there were more to be had.

I anticipated that we’d be back. I think Jerry felt the same way. Everybody did. I’m surprised that it didn’t happen for us — but on the other hand, I’m not. As an organization, we let some things get away from us that had allowed us to be successful during those years. Still, we did more than most. There are so many other teams that had a lot of talent that didn’t win one Super Bowl, let alone three. So I’m proud of what we were able to do. There will always be a part of me that thinks we could have done more, but we’ll never know for certain.

  • Image about Super Bowl Xlv
Cowboys Stadium’s row 1, seat 1
photographs by Manny Rodriguez
SUPER BOWL XXXIX
(Feb. 6, 2005)
New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21
Aikman retired following the 2000 season, leaving the game having thrown for 32,942 yards and 165 touchdowns, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 5, 2006. He proved a quick study as an analyst, joining Fox in 2001 and advancing into its lead announcing crew a year later.

The only times I’ve missed playing have been when I’ve broadcast playoff games. I remember going down on the field before the game between the Patriots and Eagles, then coming up and saying to [broadcast partner Joe Buck], “Boy, I’d give anything to suit up today.” Because that’s why you play, for days like this.

But it was still exciting to be there, because it was new for me. I had some anxiousness just like I did as a player. It’s the same thought process: You want to have your best performance on the biggest stage. What I tried to remember is that it’s the same thing I do every week. It’s still me and Joe, a camera guy and the same people working in the booth. Nothing really changes. But when you know you’ve got 180 million people watching, it tends to get your attention.

The big difference is that it’s a long day. We typically get to the stadium three hours before kickoff and kind of do our own thing, then the game begins and off we go. With the Super Bowl, there’s a ton of airtime. Invariably, we’re asked to weigh in at various times. You have to pace yourself. Otherwise, you get to the second half of the game and you’re just absolutely exhausted. It helped that the game was close. If it’s not a good game, that’s when you earn your money, as Joe always tells me. We were fortunate.