Is Tony Romo any good?
You can look at the 2007 Dallas Cowboys a lot of different ways, but when it comes right down to it, that's really the only thing that matters. Is he a legitimate Pro Bowler or a half-season flash in the pan? Will he make the leap in his first full year as a starter, or does the fact that this will be his fifth season in the NFL mean he's closer to his ceiling than people realize?
Most importantly, will he ever be able to convince Carrie Underwood to eat a friggin' sandwich? Seriously, I hear there's plenty of free food in those luxury boxes. If she's going to keep hanging out there, she might as well hit the buffet.
It's certainly possible to make some noise in the playoffs without a great quarterback. The Chargers, Ravens and Bears all did well last year with some variation of the "caretaker" quarterback. Unfortunately for Dallas, they're not trotting out LaDanian Tomlinson or the Baltimore or Chicago defenses every week. Nor do they get to play their divisional games in the cozy confines of the Big Ten-level NFC North.
(Tomorrow's blog: how I defend classifying Rex Grossman as a caretaker quarterback when he inspires hilariously not-safe-for-work posts like this. Could be tricky.)
Everyone knows the Tony Romo story by now, but just a recap in case you stuck your fingers in your ears every time Joe Buck and Troy Aikman started talking about him last year like I might have:
- Played his college ball at 1-AA Eastern Illinois University. Wins the Walter Payton award as the nation best 1-AA player the year after Brian Westbrook does.
- Undrafted but signs with the Cowboys as a free agent.
- Rides the pine for three years under the patient tutelage of Sean Payton and the not-so-patient tutelage of Bill Parcells. Was Kevin Kolb before Kevin Kolb was Kevin Kolb, only if Kevin Kolb hadn't been drafted in the second round rather than Paul Posluszny.
- Almost gets traded to the Saints before last season -- depending upon whom you believe -- but Jerry Jones' asking price is too high.
- Finally gets his chance to start in 2006 after Parcells spends 10 minutes reaming out Drew Bledsoe for yet another terrible performance before realizing he's actually talking to this guy.
- Plays great the first six games and makes the Pro Bowl in the most premature coronation in modern sports history. Also inspires the best fake blog ever.
- Plays somewhat less great the final five games as Dallas limps to a wild card berth after looking like a team that was sure to win the NFC East. Manages to lose the last game of the season to the Detroit Lions, despite throwing for 321 yard and two touchdowns. Has three turnovers that don't help.
- The Hold That Wasn't Held.
In the midst of that, Romo endured a pretty significant beatdown from the Eagles defense, which sacked him three times and forced his worst performance of the year.
(Take a minute and savor that link. Trust me, it's worth it. I felt all warm again after reading that recap.)
Romo has looked fine during the preseason. The folks in Dallas got a little excited after he completed 10 of 11 pass attempts in the first game, but the egg he laid against Denver somewhat cooled their ardor.
The one thing I'm always most careful about in this blog is writing stuff about other teams that makes it sound like I know what I'm talking about when I discuss them. I can't stand when national writers recycle the same half-dozen talking points about the Eagles, so heaven knows I don't want to do that here. I'm not a Tony Romo expert. I've probably watched him play as many times as you have. I really don't feel like I know him as a player yet.
But I think he's going to have problems this year. First of all, the book's out on him. Any quarterback can take the league by surprise for a couple of games, but once they figure out what your weaknesses are, watch out.
The second problem for Romo is that he doesn't take care of the football. That botched hold last year was really just a symptom of a larger problem. Did you know that Romo fumbled 11 times in his 12 starts last year? The Cowboys recovered all but three of them, but still, that's a lot.
Romo also threw nine interceptions last year, including eight in his last five regular season games. That's inching in to Rex Grossman territory. If Romo doesn't start taking care of the football, he's going to get benched and Dallas fans are going to be insufferable over the next decade as every single one of them claims he "would have drafted Brady Quinn" no questions asked.
But the biggest problem I have with Romo is captured in this video. Take a look at his mechanics on these throws from the Houston preseason game:
(Gratuitous use of video alert -- the same point could have been made by simply writing, "His mechanics seem kind of crappy.")
It's not like those plays are all deal-breakers, but you have to wonder about a guy who plays like that. Brett Favre got away with that stuff for years, but once the natural talent began to slip a bit, it really caught up to him. Romo might not be that talented in the first place.
As for the rest of the Dallas team, I leave you with one final thought. If Bill Parcells had really, truly believed this was a Super Bowl team, would he have walked away?
Like I said before, I don't consider myself to be an expert on the Cowboys.
But Bill is.