Tony Romo stepped into the fire one blustery autumn night three years ago, quite fittingly on Monday night football and quite fittingly against the New York Giants; he has remained, ever since.
Romo has been criticized for myriad things, both on and off the field, ranging from reasonable (his penchant for ill-timed gun-slinging) to patently ridiculous (his choice of girlfriend, his golf game).
I would venture to guess that there is more in the unreasonable column, but that’s just me. It doesn’t change the fact that, when Troy Aikman said that he didn’t think Romo completely understood what it meant to be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, he was right, at least to some degree.
Romo has, in the past, expressed a juvenility with respect to the media and the fans that will ineluctably lead to the scathing criticisms that have come his way.
Football is a game, true., it's not as serious as life and death. But teary-eyed Cowboys fans don’t want to hear that after they’ve seen their team whipped like curs in front of a national audience, regardless of its validity.
That (I believe) is the basis of Aikman’s remarks, Romo’s inability to play the media game.
But something seems to have changed in the months since that 44-6 beating in Philadelphia. Romo seems more confident in his role, and his remarks smack of encouragement for fans—not only because they signal a shift in on-field philosophy, but a shift in Romo as well—maturation, I’ll call it.
This (air quotations) maturation has led to such tidbits as: "For me, the big thing has been when somebody else makes a mistake, you don't compound it with a mistake of your own."
As well as: I think that this team is taking it seriously as they hold the ball and they're running with it as well. We've put a very big emphasis on that this off-season."
These remarks smack of a quarterback who is focused on leading, rather than play-making. Of course, Romo is a good playmaker; but this gunslinger mentality can also get you into a considerable amount of trouble, as the Cowboys discovered in 2008.
Dallas, if we are to believe what we’ve heard out of the OTAs and now mini-camp, are primed to abandon the hit-or-miss offense that they’ve employed, to their own peril over the last two years.
If this does in fact happen, Dallas will be a lot more boring to watch in 2009—but they’ll also be a whole lot better—a whole lot more consistent and a whole lot less vulnerable to the turnover.
And Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, seems ready to drive the bus.
“Highlight reels don't win championships,” he said. “The boring plays win championships.”
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