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Romo Hangs Up His Shinebox

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    Anyone who is a fan of the film "Goodfellas" should check out the oral history of the film that GQ put together for its 20th anniversary. They got just about everyone to take part, leading to some great anecdotes about the filming and a chance to see how such a terrific movie came together.

    If you read that history on Saturday, watched the Cowboys on Sunday and then read coverage of the Cowboys on Monday, as I did, you might have found yourself making an unlikely connection between Joe Pesci (whose absence from the oral history is unfortunate) and Tony Romo. The connection comes from the scene where Pesci's character, Tommy, runs into Billy Batts, a mobster who has recently been released from prison. 

    When Batts went into prison, Tommy was at the bottom rung of the family and was a glorified slave to the more established guys. As a result, he would have to shine their shoes. His rise isn't sufficiently recognized by Batts and the old timer tells Tommy to "get your shinebox" one too many times during their meeting at a bar. That leads to Tommy killing him, a great dinner scene at Tommy's mother's house and, ultimately, Tommy's death.

    I got to thinking about that scene in relation to Romo on Monday because it was hard to find a single person mentioning Romo's performance in the win against the Texans. Here at Blue Star, we ignored the man who used to dominate every single conversation about the Cowboys in favor of discussions centered on just about every other member of the team. That's pretty shocking given how well Romo played on Sunday -- 23-of-30, 284 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions -- and how we used to analyze his every move.

    That's a pretty good sign that Romo has officially hung up his shinebox and, to continue the analogy, become a made guy in the NFL. You don't notice when he plays well anymore because it simply isn't a surprise to see Romo tear up a defense with precision passes the way it was when he started doing it consistently in 2009. Even when he plays poorly, as he did against the Bears, it has become less about Romo and more about the team around him because we all expect Romo to play well more often than not.

    There's still a downside, of course. Romo isn't going to get a bullet in the back of the head if he screws up, but the raised expectations mean that the hate will reach new levels if he should fail in a big spot the way he did earlier in his career. He's been to too many rodeos to hold his spot on the ladder for a long time. He either has to move up to become a champion or he'll slide back down to the level occupied by other established starters who don't excite anyone like Carson Palmer and Matt Hasselbeck.

    That's still better than shining shoes, obviously, but the life of a NFL quarterback isn't much more forgiving than that of a soldier in the mob.

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