Thursday, October 10, 2013

When Tony Romo took the reigns as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys seven years ago, I was one of those fans that was leery of all of the early hoopla. Though he played very well right of the gate, he also seemed to become an off the field celebrity awfully fast, and when he started dating Carrie Underwood that season, I had an uneasy feeling that this guy might be getting a little too distracted to be at the helm of the most popular sports team in America. In Dallas, the likes of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman had set the bar pretty high for quarterbacks, and even those that did not win championships - such as Don Meredith and Danny White - played some pretty damn good football in their day.

“Put away the anointing oil,” said coach Bill Parcells back in 2006, when he sensed that some may have, quite prematurely, predicted that Romo would be the next in a long line of Cowboy greats. And that wasn’t to disrespect his quarterback. It was reality. Romo hadn’t, at that point, really proved anything yet, though one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL did now trust him to help steer his football team.

Seven years later, Cowboys fans are still waiting to use that oil. We like Tony Romo. And we know, based on everything we’ve heard and read, that he’s a good guy. He’s easy to root for. At least that’s how I feel. And we have certainly seen him light it up on the football field many times, where he has often looked just as good as anyone to ever put on a Dallas Cowboys uniform. And maybe that’s why I got a little pissed off this week when the Romo haters came out of the woodwork after Dallas’ 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos. Did Romo throw a foolish interception late in the fourth quarter, where if he simply could have gotten Dallas into field goal range, it probably would have resulted in victory? You bet. In looking at the replay, it seems as though it may have been a forced attempt into coverage, but it was also a hell of a play by the defender. Have Dallas fans – and haters – seen this before? You bet. Romo grew up watching football in Wisconsin, and he certainly has some Brett Favre gunslinger in him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

But pinning a loss on the quarterback in which his team scores 48 points and in which he passes for five touchdowns and for more than 500 yards is asinine. And though - while listening to commentary on ESPN Radio, WFAN in New York and The Ticket in Dallas - I didn’t really hear anyone that knows anything about football do that, the clowns, the clueless and the classless sure did show up on social media. Perhaps, in an attempt to distract themselves from the utter futility that their own teams have shown on the field this season (Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Steelers) they thought they’d have some fun at our quarterback’s expense.

For the record:

1. Romo threw for more yards in the game than Peyton Manning.
2. Romo threw for more touchdowns in the game than Peyton Manning.
3. Manning threw an interception, his first of the year, that led to points for Dallas. Romo threw an interception, his first of the year, that led to points for Denver. It was an even draw on that one, but because Romo’s pick came later, it was more magnified. But the fact is, not only did Romo match the performance of Manning during the game, he surpassed it. He outplayed Mr. First-Ballot-Hall-of-Famer and the guy who many are predicting might go 19-0 this year.

 And so all of the smug bullshit on social media from all of the uniformed and all of  haters has inspired me to defend Tony Romo. And truthfully, despite my initial leeriness about him seven years ago, I find that to be an easy thing to do. Here is why:
1. Some people say that Tony Romo is not a winner. The only problem with that is that his record, despite playing on a few mediocre teams in recent years, is 14 games above .500. He has taken the Cowboys to the playoffs three times. During one season, he led the team to a 13-3 record.

2. Some people say Romo can’t win the NFC East, which is usually the toughest division in football. The only problem with that is that Romo’s Cowboys have won the NFC East. Twice.
3. Some people say Romo can’t play under pressure. The only problem with that is that he has the highest fourth quarter passer rating of any quarterback in the NFL since 2000. Higher than Tom Brady. Higher than Peyton Manning. Higher than Drew Brees. Higher than Aaron Rodgers. Coming into this season, he’s had 18 fourth quarter comebacks and has led 19 game-winning drives.

4. Some people say Romo can’t win in the playoffs. The only problem with that is that he has won in the playoffs. In fact, he beat the Eagles in the playoffs. You know, those Eagles whose fans – though not all – always seem to think of themselves as so intimidating, yet their team pretty much sucks at home. Those chest-thumping idiots who quickly cower into the fetal position when met with the slightest resistance. Those drunks that have no team to embrace and no history to be proud of, so they lash out and try to be the biggest, nastiest bully on the block, yet are not aware of the fact that they do not scare anyone and they are not taken seriously by anyone. Those fools that like to see themselves as the main rival to all of the other teams in the NFC East, yet they are the only team in the division to have never won a Super Bowl in 47 years. Those clowns that long to be recognized as a peer, yet are mostly dismissed as nonsense and ignored. You know. Those people.

I certainly would not trade Tony Romo for the Eagles quarterback. Not only is Romo tougher and plays hurt – including once having played with broken ribs and a punctured lung - but I also think he’s simply a much better player. And as a person? Well, though he did not seek out the attention, Tony Romo once made off the field news by inviting a homeless man that he encountered outside a movie theater to join he and his friend at the movie.  Michael Vick once made off the field news for drowning, electrocuting and strangling dogs. He went to jail.

 I’ll take our guy.

 Of course I also noticed that some Steelers fans, some of whom have always been unusually preoccupied with the Cowboys, were also taking some shots at Romo after the Denver game. First of all, let’s just put this out there: You can’t try to be tough while waving a yellow towel. It just looks silly. I know you like to say that they are gold, but they are not. They are yellow. Second, your team sucks this year. Third, I wouldn’t trade Romo for your quarterback, either. Granted, he did get a couple of big referee gift-wrapped wins a few years back, but that dude is just way, way too creepy for me. Isn’t he the guy that made off the field headlines for actually being suspended by the NFL for allegedly raping a college student in the bathroom at a bar, and the guy who later had to settle in court with another woman after also allegedly raping her? Why yes, that’s the guy. Seedy suspensions and court settlements. Quite the ladies man you’ve got there in Pittsburgh. Though he did not seek out the attention, Tony Romo once made off the field news because he stopped his car on a dangerous and busy highway and - after countless other cars had passed them by - helped an older couple change a flat tire.
I’ll take our guy.

And let’s not forget about the legendary Brett Favre, the one who held his teams hostage every August for the last few years of his career by waffling about whether or not he still wanted to play. The one who thought the best way to go about cheating on his wife and approaching a woman that he did not even know was to text message her a photo of his penis.

Roethlisberger, Vick, Favre … yep, they’re all real poster boys for the NFL.

Again, I’ll take our guy.   

Giants fans also took some shots at Romo this week. I don’t really care about Giants fans, but I do know that when you are 0-5, you should probably just shut up. And in fairness, most of the smart ones that I know did. Same with Washington, who have their own mess to deal with and, along with Miami, might be the two most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL that were once greatly respected and of a championship caliber. I know some people like to say that about the Cowboys, but they’re a competitive team, and guys like Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware just might end up in Canton. And at least, unlike Miami, you don’t have to go back to the pre-Watergate Nixon administration to find a championship. Hell, even the Raiders played in a Super Bowl only 10 years ago.  

But I digress. This blog entry is about Tony Romo and how I continue to root for him and have faith in him. He’s a very good quarterback who is sometimes great, and as a person off the field, he's the type of player that I have no problem with my son wearing a jersey bearing his name.  He will not embarrass himself off the field, nor will he embarrass the NFL or the Dallas Cowboys.

Sometimes. I think the Dallas offense under Tony Romo’s guidance can be the most explosive of an offense as the team has ever had. And though he’s already played for three different coaches and with an array of wide receivers, and though he hasn’t had the luxury of playing for a Tom Landry or a Jimmy Johnson, nor has he been handing the ball to a Tony Dorsett or an Emmitt Smith, he keeps winning a lot of football games. I know that he hasn’t won two Super Bowls, like Staubach did, nor three, as Aikman did, and maybe when it’s all said and done, he won't win any. But I still think he might. And I know, if surrounded by enough talent and a defense that doesn’t give up 52 points, that he is quite capable of it.

I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. I stick with our guy. And as a fan, I can take any other fans' shots and shoot them right back at them with 10 times the venom, and yet also support my points with solid facts.

And with Tony Romo – a good dude and a fine football player - that’s a very easy thing to do.