Wednesday, October 9, 2013

He Giveth & He Taketh Away: The Story of Tony Romo

"That's my teammate. That's my quarterback..."-Terrell Owens

With a little less than two minutes left and facing a 2nd & 16 from inside his own 20, Tony Romo stood 86 yards away from a date with destiny. The opportunity for victory over the undefeated, Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos and the possibility of having his name etched in the annals of NFL greatness lay within his grasp. And in the end it would be fate who kept that date, destiny running off into the Texas sunset with Manning, another notch on a belt that needs none.

Such is the case when Romo has had these types of game-defining, legacy-defining situations in his hands since talking over for the Dallas Cowboys midway through the 2006 season, and it is his belt that could use a notch or two of wins of great magnitude. Instead losses of great magnitude and the questions that accompany have become part of Romo's wardrobe, and yet it is this accessory which he would like to hang up for once and all, as failing to come through when it counts most these days is so out of style.

This failure, this withering in the presence of pressure, has become the constant essence of Romo in critical situations. You don't have to be even the most knowledgable football fan to have an opinion, usually of the disparaging variety, on him. Most pedestrians know of his epic failures (That still is what the kids are calling those these days, right?) in great detail and can rattle off game after game, play upon play, moments in when he has been true to his ability to be shortcoming. Regular season games with playoff implications, playoff games with championship aspirations, whether his performance suffered for an entire game or at a crucial time and place within the game itself, you name it he has done it. Well, actually he has not. You get the point.

Those occasions could be listed here, but there is neither the time nor the space for them to be eulogized here. And, after taking stock of 
everything. After listening to the naysayers, after digesting enough anti-Romo rhetoric to make one sick and tired of digesting enough anti-Romo rhetoric it comes time to support and defend the guy who makes the possibility of winning on Sunday for the Cowboys a reality. Without running the risk of ssounding like Terrell Owens, circa 2007, "I LOVE MY QUARTERBACK! THAT'S MY QUARTERBACK!" 

If you have seen all that I have seen from #9 over time then you know whereof I speak.  If you are aware that he is the quarterback who both Bill Parcells and Sean Payton (Super Bowl winning coaches themselves) believed him to be then you know why I believe in Romo. He is the keeper of the gate; the one who holds the key to the Cowboys return to the promised land. He is my quarterback. 

Half the teams in the NFL would love to have Tony Romo at the helm of their respective teams don't let them fool you. He can play any time, any where, against any one. He's as tough as nails, cracked ribs and all. He spins out and into and out again from trouble all the time. He throws the throws that the Rogers' and the Brees' throw, although he has yet to throw his team the ultimate bone that those two quarterbacks have thrown their's by winning Lombardi trophies. He can be a wizard and a dunce (seemingly) all in one game, this recent game no exception. Truly though, which quarterback has not played that role as well at some point in their career, whether or not it was an extremely fruitful or extremely middling campaign? This is what life is for an NFL quarterback, and this is what life is like for a Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

This will always be Tony Romo's legacy until he changes it and, for every quarterback that has played the game, whether it be Steve Young trying to emerge from Joe Montana's long shadow, or John Elway trying to erase memories of earlier failures on the grandest of stages, the Super Bowl (XXI, XXII, XXIV to be exact), the script was the same for them as well. Not to compare, because Young never faltered, but only needed a chance to play, and Elway although a three-time Super Bowl loser himself, will always be remembered as a winner in Denver for aligning himself with a running back and a coach that could provide him that opportunity to change his legacy, but this is the same movie. Only difference is that Romo is in the lead role now. He gets scrutinized as much for where he plays, as for how he plays. This is how it is and how it will be until he comes through in the clutch for a change. When it's all said and done he will probably own all the passing records in Dallas Cowboys history, and that is saying a whole lot when you consider it contains heroes such as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman in it's midst. Will he have their rings; rings such as they own when all is said and done? This is the truest measure of greatness is it not? For this is it how it is for Romo. A question which remains in search of answer.

So there was Tony Romo again this past Sunday in Dallas searching for an answer. A raucous AT&T Stadium home crowd bellowing it's approval of his performance for all of the prior 58 minutes of this searingly-contested battle against a team whom most have picked to win the Super Bowl. It may not have been the playoffs, and as of right now it is a game of no importance with regards to determining making the playoffs (although every game matters immensely in this league), but the opportunity for a defining moment nonetheless awaited Romo; for him and his team, for him and his legacy.

The opportunity of passing Norm Van Brocklin's single game passing record of 554 yards and putting his name in record books amongst the greatest passers of all time would become an opportunity not be capitalized upon.* (Romo would finish with 506 yards for the game, a stellar feat no matter the outcome). The opportunity to beat a team that 16 straight opponents have laid down for, the opportunity for a win that could propel this team to heights only imagined would once again be a possibility not realized. A dream deferred if you will. This is the reality that is Tony Romo, a dream that remains beautiful till awoken. One day this dream will continue when awoken, and Romo will finally answer it. It is a dream I too share. For he is my quarterback.

* Although winning a game is more important than breaking a record, I point this out because the Cowboys were at their 14-yard line, after a sack of Romo on 1st down, and if they were to win the game whether via field goal or touchdown, they would have to at the very least reach the Broncos' 35-yard line in order to attempt a FG. This means they would have had to matriculate the ball at least 50 more yards, Romo only needed 48 more yards to tie the record. Not to say they would have attempted to gain all of those yards via the pass, but who knows. They way which Romo was passing and the manner in which Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Terrance Willaims were receiving that day who's to say they would not have broken-off another big play or two down the field to help their teammate, their quarterback?