Romo Silencing His Critics One Week At a Time
Few undrafted quarterbacks in NFL history have faced the type of pressure and scrutiny that Tony Romo has. When Romo burst onto the scene in 2006, he was a nobody from Eastern Illinois University who was given the task of replacing veteran Drew Bledsoe when highly touted prospect Drew Henson failed to meet expectations. He quickly became a fan favorite when he lead the team to five wins in his first six starts and eventually helped the Cowboys clinch a postseason birth. But just as quickly as the fans and media fell in love with the San Diego native, they turned on him and criticized his every move; whether that was dating Jessica Simpson or smiling too much.
The truth is, Romo’s career QB rating is higher than those of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Brett Favre. That’s not even the most impressive part though. Over the last few years, Romo has done it while playing for an inept head coach and has taken everything, including the unfair criticism, in stride. This year Romo has had to deal with not having a true number one receiver with the departure of Terrell Owens. No problem. He has made Miles Austin look like Michael Irvin and has the team tied for first place in the NFC East. Over his last three games, Romo has thrown for over 900 yards and has eight touchdowns with zero interceptions.
Still, Romo doesn’t seem to have many believers and most of his critics are probably expecting him to fall apart in the next two weeks with back to back road games against the Eagles and Packers. So how did Romo’s career get to this point? It always seems to go back to the playoff game against the Seahawks in 2006 when he misplayed a hold on a potential game-winning field goal attempt and was tackled just short of the goal-line when he tried to run it in.
Then there was the up and down relationship with Owens. Romo was blamed just as much as the sensitive star receiver even though veterans like Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb faired no better in dealing with him. It hasn’t helped that former Cowboys like Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman have been critical of Romo, both questioning his leadership ability. In the NFL it is assumed that the quarterback should be the leader of his team and because Romo is not a loud in-your-face kind of guy, he has been chastised by players and media members alike.
Other than his leadership style, the biggest knock on Romo has been his inability to win a playoff game. But in the time since he became the Comboys starter in 2006, other quarterbacks close to his age such as Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer and Jason Campbell have also been unable to lead their teams to a postseason victory and have not been subject to the same level of criticism. In the two postseason games Romo has started, the Cowboys have lost by a combined four points and in both cases lost to the teams that went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl (the Giants in 2007 and the Seahawks in 2006).
Not having T.O. around this year seems to have relaxed Romo. Wade Phillips has started to take more of the heat from the media and Romo is now playing some of his best football, even though expectations are lower than they have been in quite some time in Dallas. With two games remaining against the Eagles and contests with the Chargers, Saints and Giants still on the schedule as well, Romo will undoubtedly have to earn a third postseason birth this year. If he does, maybe he will finally start to get the respect he deserves. Probably not.