Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

QUICK OUT: Wherefore Art Thou Romo?

There is no question that the final interception of the 2012 season for Tony Romo was nothing but an awful decision.  He was completely fooled by the defense and threw up an easy floater for linebacker Rob Jackson to gingerly snatch out of the air ending the Cowboys’ season.  Romo added another big-game debacle to his growing resume of misery and inconsistency.  But as bitter as I was after another “win or go home” failure, I am always amazed at the reaction by many Cowboys fans.  “CUT HIM”, they scream irrationally.  Some suggest even worse treatment – things I won’t repeat here.

Look.  I’m as disappointed and frustrated as any Cowboys fan out there.  I could taste – literally taste – nothing but disappointment for the entire week after that game.  But, to suggest the Cowboys would be better off without Romo right now is just not thinking straight.  Is Tony an elite quarterback?  Well, no.  The irrefutable evidence would suggest otherwise.  Is he the best option the Cowboys have at this stage?  Well, yes, without a doubt.  But, it didn’t have to be that way.

If you want to blame someone, blame Jerry Jones and his band of ‘yes men’ for hitching their star (literally) to the likes of a guy who was undrafted and signed with the Cowboys as a free agent out of a division II college program.  Has Romo outperformed everyone’s expectations of him coming out of college?  Absolutely!  Dallas has ridden that less than perfect horse further than anyone thought they would travel.  But, can Romo take you to the promised land?  Is he the diamond in the rough Jerry thought he had scooped the rest of the league on?  No, unfortunately he’s not.

Romo is a damn fine athlete.  But, at this level, it is literally a game of inches and tenths of a second.  Being a great athlete is not enough for a successful NFL  quarterback.  It’s mental acuity.  It’s poise under pressure.  The PGA tour is littered with really, really excellent golfers.  But, they all don’t make a career of it.  Their mechanics are all perfect.  But, at that level there are so many other intangibles that go into being able to succeed.  A golf analogy seems appropriate for Romo.  He’s also a very good golfer.  But, he wouldn’t likely make it on the PGA tour long term either.

Where Jerry went wrong was to put all his team’s “eggs” in Romo’s basket.  At the first sign of promise, they signed him to a 6-year deal in 2007 for $64 million.  In hindsight that was a sizable mistake.  Not that Tony hasn’t played well enough in general – he has – even brilliantly at times.  He’s no Ryan Leaf.  He’s given us some amazing performances but he’s also mixed in some disasters and consistently falls short when it really, really matters.   He’s in that group of good, second tier quarterbacks.  The Brad Johnson-led Buccaneers proved that you can win with these kind of guys if you build a good enough team around them.  But, Jerry hasn’t.  And, meanwhile some really promising QBs have slipped to other teams while Jerry (and his monumental ego) have been repeatedly expressing confidence in “his guy”.

Had they not signed him to a long-term deal in 2007, Romo might have tested free agency at some point.  But, would that have really hurt Dallas’ long term?  Romo has led the Cowboys to a 13-3 season in 2007 that culminated in an embarrassing early exit, 9-7 in 2008, 11-5 in 2009, 6-10 in 2010, and consecutive 8-8 seasons in 2011 and 2012.  Those records aren’t all Tony’s fault, but he played a significant role in all of them except when he was injured in 2010 and only played in 6 games.

You have to ask yourself at one point which is better:  a few really bad years mired at the bottom that potentially land you a true franchise quarterback with a slew of talent around him – OR – year after year after year of mediocre, 8-8 seasons trying to turn – no disrespect intended – a sow’s ear QB into a silk purse one.  The Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts would certainly make a good case for the former strategy right now.  And, Cowboys fans are going to have to deal with the consequences of that one for a lot longer.  RGIII is the real deal and assuming he can fully recover from his knee injury, he is I fear going to cause us Cowboys fans a lot of pain over the balance of his career – unless Shanahan has forced the “golden goose” into tearing his ACL.

The Real Culprit In Dallas
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Now, the Cowboys are working feverishly to repeat the mistake once again.  Reports are that they will sign Romo to an extension during this off season instead of letting him play out the final year of his contract.  Re-signing Tony is not necessarily the mistake.  As I stated already, they don’t have any other good options at this point and they will need someone to man the wheel while they groom a replacement.  But Jerry will no doubt overpay him as a sign of “complete confidence” in his “eliteness”.  Jones appears to believe that if you pay a guy like he’s top tier, he’ll play that way.  But, it just isn’t so.  I expect to see him give Romo too much money for too many years.  Good for Tony.  I don’t begrudge the fact that he’s earned it for having to play behind patchwork offensive lines and throw to clueless receivers like Roy Williams (another brilliant Jerry move).  But, what’s the rush?

There are without a doubt teams that would sign a free agent Tony Romo.  But, he will likely get more money from Jerry than he will on the free agent market.  So, why not get a “contract year” performance out of Romo while you consider your options.  Romo is already better than a lot of the journeyman, free agent quarterbacks that will be on the market.  That isn’t the answer.  Ask Seattle and Arizona how their recent big free agent QB signings worked out.

The 2013 draft doesn’t have a robust assortment of franchise quarterbacks like 2012 did (a perfect example of sitting on our hands while we were all locked up with Tony) but there might be a Russell Wilson or two in there.  Odds are likely better with the 2014 group.  But, if we’re not careful, we will have hitched our star to Romo again and draft instead a long shot late rounder like the failed experiment with Stephen McGee.  Mock drafts are a bit of a joke at this stage, but Draftek to name one service is already projecting NC State’s QB Mike Glennon going to the Cowboys in the 5th round this year.  I’m sure he’s a fine player but the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins are not shaking in their boots about that potential pickup.  And, there are a fistful of other prospects just like that.

With all due respect, we don’t need to roll the dice and hope to find that diamond in the rough at quarterback.  We need to land the next Troy Aikman.  It took us having some awful years to land him, but oh how glorious were the rewards!  What we have now is the reincarnation of Danny White at QB.  Good, but not great enough.  I’d rather face a season or two where I knew going into each and every Sunday the Cowboys were going to invest in the future by losing.  What we have now is a team just good enough to raise your hopes before they emotionally kick you in the gonads and fall short.  It hurts.  It really, really hurts.  Like a car wreck where everything feels like it is moving in slow motion, I can see how Jerry is going to play this scenario out but everyone is powerless to stop it.  It spells a lot more disappointment I fear.  But, I’ll be here through every painful moment (shaking my head at what might have been).  Go Cowboys!

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo

  • I agree

    Keep cleaning house : Felix,M. Jenkins,Jay Rat,Austin,Free,Sensabaugh & Olgertree!

    • Todd Toombs

      Lots of dead weight on this roster no doubt!

  • Tonni Shook

    Good article, Todd, but time to move on from the Romo experiment. Throwing more money at him isn’t going to make him better.

    • Todd Toombs

      Thanks Tonni. I agree with you too. Extending Tony now makes little sense. See how he plays in his contract year. Resign him then if he shows improvement. Be grooming his ultimate replacement now regardless.

  • Alfonza Howard

    Really good article dude. Keep up the good work.

    • Todd Toombs

      Thanks Alfonza – much appreciated!

  • Mike Young

    Tired of people who know nothing about football or what it takes to win blaming Romo. This team was NEVER going to make the playoffs or win a playoff game.

    Idiots believe no superbowl = bad qb I have news for you Romo threw for almost 5000 yards with a horrible O-Line, receivers that didn’t know what routes to run most of the time and no Running game to speak of outside of a couple games.

    THAT my friends is a ELITE QB. the fact that people cant recognize that is sad.

    Romo is the best skilled QB the franchise has ever had …by a mile. That said, he has had to work with some of the worst teams that the franchise has ever fielded.

    Let that sink in. before Romo, no Dallas QB EVER threw for even 4K yards. You know why ? Because they didn’t have to in order to win games.. they could run the ball and kill the clock..they could stop an opposing offense once in a while.

    This is a BAD team that should have won 2 or 3 games..but thanks to Romo, Witten, Ware and a couple others..they FOOLED you into thinking they were a contender. Shame on you.

    • Todd Toombs

      Mike – first thanks for reading and commenting. You make some great points and I totally understand where you are coming from. I wasn’t trying to lay blame on Romo but on Jerry Jones. Romo has put up some great stats without a doubt and he has not had a great team around him thanks to Jerry. But in my opinion, stats don’t make you elite, Super Bowl wins do. Both Manning boys for example were at one time considered good but not elite until they had a championship. It takes a great athlete to put up good stats but it takes a champion to avoid the mistakes that kill your team. Too often, it is Tony that has that happen. Football is a team sport true but a QB is the core player that makes it all work or causes it all to crumble. Hang in there. Let’s hope the Cowboys can find a way to overcome Jerry and return to glory despite him!

      • Benaiah

        That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Are you going to tell me that Dan Marino or Jim Kelly or Fran Tarkenton or Dan Fouts were not elite? Come On Man… Stop being like all the other stupid writers and look at statistics. He carried a very beaten and injured Cowboys to doorstep of the playoffs without a running back for half the season. You need to look at the facts instead of going by what you feel. His turnover ratio this year would have been like last year if they weren’t playing from behind so much and if it weren’t for Dez costing him picks in the beginning of the season.

    • DW

      Finally someone hits the nail on the head. I feel as though romo is ready to take us all the way. Hopefully JJ can adress what we really need O-line and D-line this off season. Because right now romo has the best weapons he’s had since getting the starting job Witten,Dez, murry ,Hanna and the studs on D-fence if they stay healthy. Were a few players away from it my friend. Romo,Dez and murry look a little firmiliar to Troy,Irvin and emmitt and hell one even has the same jersey number.

      • Volusiagirl

        Sorry Boo I disagree!!! Dez ain’t even close to Michael, Romo should be compared to Danny White and Danny WAS wayyyyyyy better than Romo and DeMarco……love the guy but when did Emmitt EVER get hurt enough to stay out of games for weeks at a time???
        Jason Witten IS the closest thing these Cowboys have to the 90′s team! If he ain’t Big Nova (my pet name for Jay Novacek) my name ain’t Volusiagirl! The rest of the group are just imitations and not very good ones either

  • californy

    What choice do the boys have with Romo if they cut him they will have to absorb the cap hit and already add to the 19 million they will be over. If they sign him then they will only push the hit to future years. QB dont win SB, team win Super Bowls. Aikman with his 8 pro Bowl players around him in 1994 had 13 TD to 12 Interceptions. He was also a first rd draft pick also. Football is a team sport, and not one player win SB by themselves. JJ and Cowboys problem is they are putting the whole franchise future on one player and their the downfall.

    • Todd Toombs

      Totally agree – mistake was betting the farm on Romo but he clearly isn’t the only issue. Common denominator is Jerry to every problem

  • Pete Vieira

    Mike Mike never is a long time it doesn’t take a football genius to figure out that Romo for all his great stats is a choker and has not proven otherwise ,we need to bite the bullet now he will get us close only to let us down ,hes like a hot chick that wont put out, give me someone not as hot that will rock my world.For now well keep him around but first chance I get I’m getting me a no non sense qb..

  • jtt

    Another of the ill-conceived and shallow article on Romo…..many have already gutted the author’s points as to Romo’s talent level (which the author grudginly attributes but then disparages by his “big game results”… it was Romo’s fault with NYG (2), Philly, MInnesotta: yep he had a terrible game agaisnt DC) and lack of supporting cast, not too menion the four years wasted under Uncle Wade’s “players coach approach”.
    Place Romo in Pittsburgh, Ravens, Giants, Saints and Patriots and he would have as many if not more rings than ALL of those QBs (what has the great Brady done in the big games recently?)……the organization matters not only in the drafting of personnel but in their development……Jerry Jones has and will become even worse than Al Davis was in his later years specially after his recent comments and the firing of Ryan (whom i never liked and has underachieved everywhere he has been the D cooordinator, big mouth, poor results just like this brother and father) to cover up for both his ego and incompetence.

  • Truth

    Great Article but wrong on two things; 2007′s 13-3 record being Romo doing and 2, and not being part of the 2010 losing season, heck, he was had more to do with it than anyone else when you put this season under a microscope!! Which many do not do for many seasons, ridiculous but none the less…
    2007′s defense had a lot to do with such a great yr., again like the next few yrs., carrying Romo and his lead offense. Romo had bad games, losing from a offense point of view but with a stout Defensive Performance, kept opponents scoring low and giving Romo more than enough opportunities to score a hundred points, of course only averaged about 15 to 20 pts. And I just might be too kind here…
    In 2010′s season, Cowboys had the #1 Defense Overall up until the 7th week when Romo got injured. But if anyone remembers right, Romo continued to throw interceptions after interceptions, including turning it over with lost fumbles!! Even worse, he was terrible in the Passing game and couldn’t lead his team to Cowboys facility, WOW!
    In this game vs the Giants in 2010, the Dallas Defense took the ball away from Eli in Giants own territory through interceptions and fumbles. Yet….Romo could only lead Cowboys offense to 1 TD and that was only because it was gift-wrapped by Newman’s interception and return to Giants 5 yard-line. Go figure huh?!!!

  • Truth

    Same thing was said in 2010….”no offensive-line….no running game…,” ahhh-fooey!!
    When Kitna came in for the injured sorry Domo, nfll pundits were now saying the opposite. “The OL is good…the running game is good….,” but they couldn’t really put there finger on it. Some did but it wasn’t universal…
    The facts were that Kitna was a much better QB. I can’t say both to be honest. Not physical-wise, I have always said Romo etches him out here by that much… But Kitna kills him in the mental-aspect of the gamee. And fellas…that’s makes a QB better than just having the better physical skills!!
    With Kitna’s poise, “true” leadership and ‘savvyness” he was able to open up passing lanes for other WRs as well as opening up laness for the running lanes!! And remember, defenses also had to account for Kitna’s constant running when they tried to blitz him and put him under duress. It is what it is, can’t argue the facts, that’s for sure!!

  • Truth

    Romo….on any other team, would get laughed at and pummeled, literally!! Why, because for one, they wouldn’t make it “romo-friendly” that only happens in Jerry’s World…
    As Jimmy Johnson once said(not to mention all the HOFs…), “with that many interceptions…I would bench him.” No GM or HC would be stupid enough as Jerry and JG, to keep him on when it is quite obvious he has talent but in all truth, a choker, not a gamer, unclutch, etc, etc….