Sometime this offseason Tony Romo will be offered a long term contract by the Dallas Cowboys and in some ways it makes sense for him to sign it. The Cowboys discovered Tony Romo (more accurately Sean Payton discovered Tony Romo) and finishing your career where you started it for top notch pay is usually a no-brainer for any athlete. But in the case of Tony Romo I have come to the conclusion that he should reject any offer the Cowboys make and test the waters of free agency. At least half the teams in the NFL would jump at the chance to get Romo’s services and it may be the best thing for him as well.
When Romo first came to the Cowboys (or when he first fell in their lap) he represented a bright and promising future for a team that had many bleak years before him. The Cowboys never drafted a good quarterback when Troy Aikman was here because frankly they didn’t need one. When they did finally lose Aikman and Jerry Jones was placed in charge of drafting a new quarterback he spent a second round pick on Quincy Carter, a three year starter out of Georgia who was considered a fourth or fifth round talent by most experts. Carter was inconsistent amassing a 16-15 record with the Cowboys and leading them to one playoff game against the Panthers. In 2004 he was released because of a substance abuse issue. Jones also acquired Drew Henson and Chad Hutchison as quarterbacks both of whom failed to make any impact on the team.
When Romo came into the Giants game in 2006 after Bledsoe got injured he showed some inconsistency but also some talent ( a trend that has defined his career). Romo threw three TD’s and three picks but rallied the team to almost win. Romo played well enough to get the Cowboys into the playoffs that season but infamously lost to the Seahawks on a bobbled snap.
Since that time Romo’s career has been very solid, and in some ways spectacular. Romo is 53-37 as a starter for Dallas completing 65% of his passes for just under 25,000 yards 165 TD’s and 87 picks. He has made the probowl three times and got his team to the playoffs three times. going 1-3 in those games. It is easy to blame Romo for the Cowboys failures in big games, especially in the playoffs but Romo is not responsible for all of the teams failures. The Cowboys have allowed 76 points in their three playoff losses, and in case you think Romo has been a turnover machine he hasn’t. Romo has thrown just two picks in four playoff games, and lost two fumbles. In truth if you look at Ben Roethlibergers overall playoff numbers they aren’t much better than Romo’s and contemporaries like Phillip Rivers and Matt Ryan have equally bad playoff numbers. Even Eli Manning has been poor in the playoffs until last season’s miraculous title run (he wasn’t that good during their 07 season, just look up the numbers.)
All of this is not to excuse Romo’s poor play at times. Romo has had some legendary bad games. His Monday nighter against the Bills in 07 saw him throw five picks ( a game they won by the way). This year we have seen him throw five picks against the Bears and four against the Giants. But even these numbers point to a quarterback who is trying to do too much. When Romo is bad he is really bad but bad quarterback play is often a symptom of other inconsistency’s. When an offensive line can’t block a quarterback has to get rid of the ball quicker and bad throws are usually the result. If you think the Cowboys O-line problems are exaggerated understand that the Cowboys haven’t had a single pro-bowler on their offensive line since Andre Gurode left two years ago. And I don’t just mean they haven’t been pro-bowlers here, but no lineman has been a prowbowler anywhere, at any time. This year the Cowboys are on their third center and have started five different backups. When you have receivers that are injured or undisciplined quarterbacks can not build good timing with them. Dez Bryant repeatedly runs the wrong routes and can not run slants or post routes with any inconsistency. The Cowboys have limited Bryant’s routes to quick outs and fades so that he can use his size to the outside as an advantage, but they refuse to run intermediate routes with him because they don’t know where he will end up. Miles Austin, who was once a promising young receiver has always been plagued with injuries, usually to the hamstring, quads area. Every years he misses all of preseason and is in and out of the lineup three or four times a years with various ailments. Romo can not build a report with him because he is never healthy. Lastly a quarterback must have a good running game in order to be consistent and the Cowboys sorely lack in that area. DeMarco Murray missed five games last year with an injury and has already missed five this year. The Dallas Cowboys have the lowest rushing yards of any team this year at just over 800 yards. They finished 16th or worse in every year Romo has been a starter with one exception. In 2009 they finished 7th. That was also the year Romo won his first and only playoff game and made his last pro bowl.
If Romo were to go to another team I think it would be a great move for him. Romo is hated by a large segment of fans and players ( he was recently voted the third most overrated player in the NFL by other players) and I can’t help but think a lot of this has to do with the team he plays for. The Cowboys are hated by many people, mostly because of their past success and the media’s infatuation with them, and Romo is the most visible target. Romo also does not have the luxury of having a bad game that people don’t watch. The Cowboys are on national television 8 or 9 times a year, and even when they aren’t their games are talked about nationally.
In another market Romo would not be as high profile and not as hated. There would be less expectations of him, and his quarterback play alone would speak for him. It took Joe Montana leaving the 49ers for Steve Young to prove himself. It took Drew Brees leaving the Chargers to prove himself, and it took Steve Nash leaving the Mavericks to win two MVP’s. History has proven that good players also need a good system and the right circumstances to succeed.
Romo is a good players but he is not in a good system, and he will never be given any credit in Dallas unless he wins a Superbowl, something that isn’t likely to happen with this team. In another city Romo could wipe the slate clean and I think things would improve for him. Sometimes a great player has to leave in order for people to appreciate him. For Romo that time is now. Not unlike Batman in the Dark Knight Rises, Romo has to realize he doesn’t owe these people anymore. When the Cowboys reach out to him this off-season Romo should just say no. Don’t worry. We’ll understand.
Jack K. Brewster