BANKS calm, confident about replacing Aikman

Tuesday, July 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (AP) _ The new starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys wears No. 3 and has diamond studs in both ears. He's lost 11 more games than he's won and he's never completed a pass in a playoff game.

Tony Banks is no Troy Aikman. The Dallas Cowboys aren't expecting him to be.

``We asked Troy on a number of occasions to win the football game for us. We're not asking our quarterbacks to do that now,'' coach Dave Campo said. ``They're going to manage games, do what they do best and get the ball to the guys that have a chance to win games for us.''

Banks is the first player other than Aikman to go into training camp as Dallas' starting quarterback since Steve Pelleur in 1988.

But making fans forget Aikman isn't even on Banks' radar. At 28, going into his sixth season and third team, his biggest concern is to finally establish himself as an NFL quarterback.

``I think I've got one year left, maybe, with the potential label,'' Banks said, smiling. ``I'm almost past my limit.''

Banks was a second-round pick by St. Louis in 1996 and became the starter right away. He lasted two more years, but wasn't consistent enough, so he was traded to Baltimore.

While the Rams were on their way to winning the Super Bowl, Banks got off to a good start with the Ravens, going 6-4 and throwing a career-best 17 touchdown passes. He remained the starter going into last season, but lost the job to Trent Dilfer in October.

Dilfer remained in charge all the way to a Super Bowl title. Banks threw only five more passes all season.

This offseason, the Cowboys were the only team offering Banks a chance to step in as a starter, so he accepted an offer of $500,000 for one year, with no signing bonus _ and the onus of replacing Aikman.

``I know there's a lot of tradition and legend there with Troy, but I'd rather come in after a guy like Troy and expectations are high than come in after a guy who didn't do anything and have no expectations,'' Banks said.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Banks is more mobile than Aikman and has the arm strength to zing the ball downfield and let speedy receivers Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail run under it.

Banks isn't as accurate on the short- and medium-range timing passes that were Aikman's specialty. He's also been fumble-prone and has thrown nearly as many interceptions (58) as touchdowns (61).

``The offenses I've been in before have had a lot more freedom to audible,'' he said. ``Basically this is call-the-play-and-run-it. That makes it a little easier.''

The Cowboys aren't looking to Banks as their long-term answer at quarterback, especially not with owner Jerry Jones already putting that tag on top draft pick Quincy Carter. Dallas also likes Anthony Wright, who broke into the NFL in the final four games of last season.

But there's no question Banks is the starter. How he handles this third chance will determine where he's playing next year and for how much.

``A one-year deal doesn't mean I'm retiring after this season. I've got to sign another deal some time,'' he said. ``I don't know what the money situation here is, and it's not really under my control or any of my business.

``All my efforts are to try to play as well as I can this year, get us some wins, do some good things and then let the chips fall where they may.''