This is an article from the Jan. 23, 2012 issue
STILL THAWING NFL ANALYST
The former UCLA and Dallas Cowboys QB braved the cold in Green Bay for the Giants' 37--20 win over the Packers and will broadcast the NFC title game on Fox this Sunday.
DAN PATRICK:How come when Fox showed you and Joe Buck during breaks in the action in Green Bay, you were wearing gloves and he wasn't?
TROY AIKMAN: That's what happens when you live in St. Louis—they're accustomed to colder temperatures than down here in Dallas.
DP:Eli Manning's no longer Peyton's little brother, is he?
TA: No, he's not. All season long the topic was, Is he an elite quarterback? What I found interesting wasn't how Eli answered the question, but that the interviewer thought that it was O.K. to ask it. If you asked Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, it wouldn't have even warranted a response. The way Eli's played this year, with not a lot of help until recently, he's put that to bed.
DP:Alex Smith has been in the league since 2005. Why is he succeeding now?
TA: When I talked with Alex when the 49ers played the Giants in Week 10, I asked him the same question. He said it's about football now. [The team] is not getting a motivational speech every day of the week. Jim Harbaugh has made it about football.
DP:When did tight ends like Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski become pass-catching weapons instead of blockers?
TA: When I was playing, there were two guys like that—Dallas's Jay Novacek and San Francisco's Brent Jones. I remember going into the 1997 draft, and we had lost Novacek [to a back injury]. Jerry Jones said we needed to get another Jay Novacek. I said I was all for it, but they're just not around. We wound up drafting David LaFleur in the first round [after] the Chiefs drafted Tony Gonzalez. All of a sudden these guys with basketball backgrounds became very prominent in the NFL. Now virtually every good offense has a guy like that.
DP:Has anyone used tight ends more creatively than Bill Belichick?
TA: That is the brilliance of Belichick. The Patriots have changed their identity a lot of times. They were all about running the ball and playing defense early in Brady's career. Then they became this three-, four-receiver offense with big plays. Then they redefine themselves with these tight ends.
DP:What grade would you give Tim Tebow for the season?
TA: I would give him an A, even if critics say he has to improve his passing. He's never going to be John Elway or Aaron Rodgers. For what he is, he played as well as he could play.
DP:But how much upside is there with Tebow?
TA: I was asked a lot of questions [about Tebow] when he was coming into the draft. I like Tim. If I were picking a quarterback, Tim Tebow would not be the guy, but there is a place for him on my team. I love that he said, I'll play anywhere. The problem is, his greatest strength is his leadership skill. He had [the Broncos] believing. I think that gets taken away from him if he's not the quarterback.
DP:Are you going to keep the gloves off during the NFC Championship Game?
TA: I won't need 'em in San Francisco.
NBC's Tony Dungy was surprised Green Bay tried an onside kick in the second quarter against New York. "If I'm on the Giants' sideline," Dungy told me, "I'm saying they don't have confidence in their defense." ... Andy Dalton won't win Rookie of the Year, but he deserves recognition, according to coach Marvin Lewis, who thinks his QB's personality helped make the Bengals' playoff run possible: "That's a huge strength of Andy's—his ability to lead and motivate." ... NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi thinks QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be the top two picks in the draft, but neither will land in St. Louis, at No. 2. "The Rams will hold an auction," Lombardi said. "Cleveland, Miami and Washington are desperate for a quarterback." ... Barry Larkin said he could barely answer the phone when he got the call that he was voted into the Hall of Fame on Jan. 10: "You know that dream [where] you can't get away from that monster because you're moving in slow motion? That's how I felt."