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Since he made his debut on Sunday night football in 2006 Tony Romo has been under intense scrutiny, the kind of scrutiny that comes hand in hand with being quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Upon taking the starting job from Drew Bledsoe, Romo’s on the field performance has been picked apart by every so-called sports expert on the planet and his personal life has been more talked about than most high end movie stars. No one has epitomized the Dallas Cowboys of the last several years more than Romo: extremely talented, at times brilliant, but maddeningly inconsistent.
The only way to quell his numerous doubters is to, in the words of the late great Al Davis, “Just win baby.”
2011 has been the perfect microcosm of the two sides of Tony Romo. Against San Francisco in Week 2, Romo broke his rib early in the game and managed to play through the first half before coming out of the game at the start of the second half with reports that he would not return.
However, at the end of the third quarter with backup Jon Kitna ineffective, Romo returned to the game and brought the Cowboys from 10 points down to tie the game and then win it in overtime. The next week against rival Washington, despite obvious confusion from his inexperienced receivers and center, Romo was able to rally the troops again to pull out another come from behind victory.
However, sandwiched between these two impressive victory are two games that exemplify why many believe Romo isn’t and never will be an elite quarterback. In the opening game of the season against the New York Jets, Romo led the Cowboys to a 24-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
When the Jets scored a touchdown Romo responded by leading the Cowboys down the field and inside the Jets 5- yard line. However on third down, Romo fumbled the ball when trying to dive into the endzone. Then after the Jets tied the game at 24, Romo threw a back-breaking interception to Darrelle Revis to put the Jets in position to win the game.
Then last week he led the Cowboys to a 27-3 lead against the Lions before letting the Lions back into the game by throwing back to back pick’s for touchdowns. Romo threw another interception to give the Lions great field position and only led the Cowboys to a single field goal in the second half in the game the Cowboys eventually lost 34-30.
One thing you can’t say about Tony Romo is that he doesn’t have the skill to win big. His numbers are extremely impressive, he currently has the fifth highest quarterback rating of all time .5 points behind a certain quarterback from New England.
After his performance against the 49ers, I don’t think there is a question that he doesn’t want to win enough or whether he lacks the heart of a champion. Many people seem to believe it is something about his mental makeup that makes Romo simply prone to choke when the pressure mounts.
In his defense, however Romo is not the first quarterback to be heavily criticized for not winning the big games. Steve Young, Peyton Manning and John Elway, all current or future Fall of Famers and Super Bowl MVPs, were tagged as players who “couldn’t win the big one” at some point in their career.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Tony Romo’s idol was Brett Favre and it may be because of this that the two have similar styles. Each one can (could) make incredible plays and boneheaded plays.
Farve is a legend but let’s not forget some of his notorious choke jobs in the playoffs. I remember were the game against Philadelphia in ’03 when he threw a critical interception to Brian Dawkins on a pass so off target it looked like a punt, and in ’09 when he threw another pick that cost Minnesota the game against New Orleans.
He’s made tons of plays like these throughout his career, but they don’t get much attention because he won a super bowl.
After not making the playoffs his first year as a starter Favre was bounced from the playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys three years in a row, but finally in his fifth year he won a Super Bowl. Romo has played three full seasons, a 10 game season and a six game season so essentially four seasons.
This means this is really his fifth full year in the NFL. And if he can put together a fifth year like Favre’s, all the question marks surrounding him will disappear.