Yesterday, due to a lack of anything substantive to discuss, the NFL network turned to a well that never runs dry — bashing Tony Romo. I suppose it began innocently enough with Kurt Warner — the only one in this that’s worth listening to by the way — saying that he felt Tony was a top ten quarterback in the league. He added that he believes Tony has the ability to win a Super Bowl. Naturally, many writers and talking heads were quick to counter with the same generic arguments we hear about Romo every year. He’s not vocal enough. He can’t win in the playoffs. He doesn’t take care of the football. Frankly, it’s all a bunch of hogwash.
The signal caller in Dallas will always face a heightened level of scrutiny. It just comes with the job. But, it’s ridiculous how negatively Romo is portrayed. Essentially the guy has played four full seasons in the NFL. In that time frame, he’s led the ‘Boys to the playoffs three times, made three Pro-Bowls, won two NFC East titles, and broken several team passing records. He has started just sixty-one games in his career and is already on the verge of being one of the fifty most valuable Cowboys ever (Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value Ratings). It’s a bit asinine to ignore these things because of four playoff games — one of which he dominated.
It is extremely premature to decide that Romo can’t perform in the playoffs. For one, he doesn’t have enough of a track record. But, more than that, he receives too much blame for the Cowboys’ recent playoff losses.
His first playoff defeat was the infamous fumbled field goal attempt game. There’s no need to rehash the details. We all remember. However, what’s so frequently forgotten is that Romo drove them down the field and put them in position to win that game. Also, it seems silly to knock his abilities as a quarterback based on something that had nothing to do with him playing quarterback. He shouldn’t have been holding in the first place. That fumbled snap was as much Bill Parcells’ fault as it was Romo’s.
In 2007, Tony was one of the ten most valuable players in the league. He put together one of the finest passing seasons we have ever seen in Dallas. Without a doubt, he was one of the best three players on a team that won thirteen games. Yet, all anyone remembers is the loss to the Giants in the playoffs, a loss that was more the team’s fault than Tony’s. Certainly, he struggled that day, but he was let down in a big way by his offensive line. Anyone that watched that game surely remembers how much duress he was under. His lone interception was on their last offensive play of the game and was the product of him having no choice but to force a throw on fourth down. Just like in the Seattle game the year before, Romo had put them in position for a shot at the win.
Then there is the Minnesota game of 2009. Are we really going to say that one was Tony’s fault? That loss was a systematic failure, something that carried over into the first eight games of last season. The Cowboys’ offensive line was beyond awful that day. Tony might as well have been playing with trash cans blocking for him. The defense also failed to show up. They failed as a team, just as they did in 2007.
The list of quarterbacks that have been declared unable to win the big one is pretty significant. Immediately, John Elway and Peyton Manning come to mind. It took both of those guys a lot longer than four and a half seasons to finally win a championship. Also, I think it goes without saying that Dan Marino didn’t have that much success in the playoffs, yet he’s viewed as one the greatest to ever play the position.
Ideally, all this heat on Romo will eventually die down, but that’s unlikely. For one, he’s an easy target. Anytime a media outlet needs to generate some attention, they can always turn to a discussion on the Cowboys’ polarizing quarterback. Right or wrong, his laid back persona and desire to date attractive blonde celebrities makes the target on his back even bigger. If Tony wants to truly move past the criticism, he’s going to need a ring.
My hope for Romo is that he follows the path of another Dallas superstar — Dirk Nowitzki. In case you’ve forgotten Dirk was labeled too soft to win it all. Obviously, he shook that tag this year and now he’s being celebrated as one of the greatest ever. All it takes is one.