It's no secret that Cowboys quarterback and Saints head coach Sean Payton are inextricably linked through history.
Like Romo, Payton had a successful college career as the quarterback for the Eastern Illinois Panthers. This might explain why Payton, serving as an assistant in Dallas in 2003, took such a liking to the undrafted kid out of his alma mater--why, very possibly, he knew who the hell Tony Romo was.
The rest is Cowboys history. Payton campaigned hard for Romo and won out. Romo came to town and, for as long as Payton was around, as an assistant and then passing game coordinator, was thoroughly trapped behind (a) Quincy Carter (b) Vinny Testaverde and (c) Drew Bledsoe.
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In 2006, Romo stepped in for Bledsoe as the Cowboys starter and hasn't looked back since. This might have never happened if Payton had his way. In 2006, Payton took over the New Orleans Saints. The Saints needed a quarterback. Romo was a back-up with, as Payton saw it, a huge upside.
Apparently, though, the Cowboys saw it too, at that point. The deal got close, but the two teams couldn't agree on terms, as Dallas saw enough promise in the green, 26 year-old quarterback to not ship him away for peanuts. The Saints, still needing a quarterback, went out and got Drew Brees.
I'll refrain from debating who got the better end of that deal.
At any rate, Payton downplayed the whole incident recently in the media. And why not? At 13-0, with Brees under center, I might not want to play a scary game of "what if?" either.
"Much was made of that," Payton said, per ProFootballTalk.com. "That was at a time when there really wasn't a lot to that. Dallas had a guy that they were going to develop and work with. I think that at the time when we got here, there was just a need for a quarterback and more than anything people were just kind of putting the dots together. There probably wasn't a whole lot to that."