Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys fans take photos of the team
Cowboys fans and NFL commentators alike were quick to point out the irony in Dallas’ last second win over the Giants on Sunday. Tony Romo, supposedly the most un-clutch QB in the league, came through and set up a last second field goal in what was widely touted as a must-win game. How, they asked, can a man fairly be considered a choker when he has 11 game-winning drives since 2011 (most in the NFL) and one of the highest 4th quarter passer ratings of all time (102.5)?
The man himself has the answer:
"It’s absolutely fair…The game’s about winning. When you’re done playing, they’re going to ask one question: How many championships did he win?"
That quote comes from a new ESPN The Magazine article out this week entitled The Burden of Being Romo. Coincidentally (?), Sports Illustrated is running a cover article about Romo as well which will be published Dec. 2nd. The articles are similar in more than their release date. Both make it clear that Romo has one goal as the Cowboys Quarterback: winning the Super Bowl.
The ESPN article is a great read and excellently contrasts Romo’s career accomplishments with his mistakes. It calls out the Denver game from earlier this year as a microcosm of his career. Tony followed “the most impressive tear of the NFL season, obliterating Denver’s secondary en route to four passing touchdowns in 15 minutes” with “One mistake at the worst moment. The narrative lives on.”
However, what matters in life are not the mistakes you make. It’s what you learn from them. As I wrote in a previous article, Romo has that correct mentality. About the Denver game he says:
"I have to figure how to be better the next time I get into that situation…My dad taught me at an early age that you’ve always got to look at yourself. If it’s not happening, it’s on you to change it."
While the Sports Illustrated article is not available to read yet, the author, S.L. Price, has a video preview on the SI site where he talks about the article. In the video he is asked whether Romo cares about his detractors. His answer:
"He absolutely understands that whether he likes it or not, it’s on him, and until he wins he’s going to be judged this way and that’s the way he goes. And he’s at peace with that."
He also mentions Romo’s pursuit of “greatness”:
"One of the more interesting things about Romo is there’s this sort of idea of him nationally that has stuck with him ever since the Jesicca Simpson days as, you know, the King of Cabo and, you know this guy who doesn’t need to care, doesn’t care as much as he should about football. And Romo is the first to raise the idea of greatness. You know, he’s the one who really thinks this (is the) character building period of his career, he’s happy to take it, he wants to go through it. He pulls the line from League of Their Own and says ‘If it wasn’t tough it wouldn’t be worth it and anybody would be able to do it’. He wants to go through this grinder because he thinks it gonna put him on a level of greatness if he finally can achieve it.”"
That, right there, is the greatness of Romo. He doesn’t think he’s great. Tony went from anonymous undrafted rookie to being the face of America’s Team and signing a contract worth $100 million. And he isn’t satisfied. That is a rare mentality.
And he understands his detractors. He’s on some serious zen-level enlightenment here. He would never publicly say that they are wrong (even though you know it eats at someone with a competitive nature like his). Romo understands there are no excuses for losing. So he keeps grinding. The 300yd games don’t matter. The touchdown don’t matter. The highlights scrambles don’t matter. And neither do the game-losing interceptions.
All he cares about are championships.