Whenever I think about “monkeys on the backs” of players, my mind always drifts over to former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young. Now a Hall of Famer and Super Bowl winner, Young was in a very similar position to Romo. Playing in the shadow of legend Joe Montana, Young was also criticized for his inability to win “the big one”. Although there seems to be a much bigger spotlight on Romo’s mistakes, he also plays in the shadows of legends Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman in Dallas.
Ironically, it was the Dallas Cowboys of the early nineties that denied Young that success, defeating the 49ers twice in the row in the playoffs. But once Young finally held up the Lombardi Trophy, all was forgiven…and forgotten. Young even asked a teammate on the sidelines to remove that “monkey off his back” after his lone Super Bowl victory. Although he never acknowledged it, Young knew all too well what the rumors were and was glad to be rid of them.
Here’s what Young told ESPN last year about Romo:
“Tony has greatness in him. I think when you talk to other people that really play the quarterback position, and I see it as well, there’s a few guys that really have incredible greatness in them, and Tony is one of them. I think the issue here is he needs more help from his teammates. I think they are not nearly as talented as people say they are, from 1 to 53. I’m talking about the total roster. I don’t think there’s as much order and structure in the organization as the Giants have and the teams that have the elite quarterbacks have. I think the only thing that’s keeping Tony from ascending into the upper echelon of quarterbacks is his team, is the help from his friends and his teammates, and I think once that all comes together, you’re going to see the fullness of Tony’s greatness come out.”
Obviously, that is starting to happen in Dallas. The team seems to be on the rise and, at least on Sunday, Romo’s greatness did emerge. But until he proves otherwise, Tony is always going to have a negative label attached to his play. And it’s not just because some fans and the media simply hate him. It’s because his poor past play has earned it.