by Nathan Rush
It’s time for the Dallas Cowboys to look in the mirror and be honest: Tony Romo is the problem.
Life was simpler when Jessica Simpson was the jersey-chasing scapegoat in Dallas. Or when Wade Phillips was on the sideline wearing a look of confused disappointment — like someone just told him the iPhone 5 won’t be out until next summer. Unfortunately for Cowboy Nation, there are no obvious fall guys to blame this time.
Sure, Romo is easy to root for. He wears his hat backwards, does a great Brett Favre impression and inspired a Carrie Underwood song. And he’s quick to apologize, take the blame and promise to get better after a loss.
He’ll even play hurt, saying there’s “only 16 days a year you’re called upon to do your job” and he doesn’t want to miss any of them due to injury. But let’s get real, Tony Romo is the reason the Cowboys only play 16 games and not the 19 or 20 that Super Bowl contenders play.
Romo carries a 3–7 record over his last 10 games — with four games coming in 2011 and six contests before his season-ending collarbone fracture of ’10. During that time, Romo has thrown for 2,878 yards, 18 TDs and 12 INTs, while taking 14 sacks. Mediocre, but not terrible numbers.
But in the fourth quarter of close games — in which the Boys are either leading or trailing by seven or fewer points — Romo has been terrible, throwing a combined two TDs and five INTs while also losing one fumble at the goal line and completing just 58.8 percent of his passes over the past two seasons.
But who cares about winning or split-stats? Certainly not Jerry Jones.
“There’s no issue about faith in Romo in any place in this organization, period. Any place. There’s no issue regarding Tony,” said the Cowboys owner, general manager and No. 1 fan. “The most important thing, the very individual — Tony Romo — that we are criticizing this week gives us our very best chance to have a championship.”
Failure to acknowledge a problem doesn’t eliminate it.
However, Jones isn’t the only one quick to share an opinion on the Romo roller-coaster ride that has taken place this year — peaking when the Cowboys’ signal-caller was viewed as a hero after reportedly playing with fractured ribs and a punctured lung in a 27–24 comeback win at San Francisco in Week 2, and crashing down following a 34–30 meltdown loss to Detroit, a game in which Romo through pick-sixes on consecutive second-half possessions en route to losing a 24-point lead.
“I don’t understand this guy. Just when you want to believe in him, heroic effort, came back against San Francisco, they said punctured lung and everything,” said current NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders, a Hall of Famer who won Super Bowl XXX as an All-Pro cornerback for the Cowboys.
“We praised him. We said, ‘Yeah, he’s that leader. He’s their guy.’ And then you come and do this. What are you thinking? …
“Statistically he’s great. But you can’t trust him.”
Redskins rival Chris Cooley chimed in on the LaVar and Dukes Show earlier this week with a critique worthy of a cage fight.
“It’s amazing, amazing to watch him choke like that. I’m just saying, I’m up 24 points in the third quarter, if I’m the head coach, I feel like I could probably just take a knee for the rest of the game, punt it away and there’s no way that Detroit’s gonna drive on you that many times,” said Cooley, whose Skins lost to the Boys 18–16 in Week 3, by the way.
“The only way you’re gonna give up that many points is turnovers, right? It’s hilarious to watch him throw pick-sixes, too, back-to-back. I loved it.”
Even those trying to stand up for Romo are becoming victims of collateral damage. Dallas Mavericks 7-foot uberstar and 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki tweeted his support for all to see.
“Dear tony romo. Don’t worry abt all the critics. I heard the same garbage for a long time. Keep working hard and keep improving.”
But Nowitzki’s personal comparison was quickly shot down by legendary Cowboys receiver and Super Bowl XII champ Drew Pearson, who ripped into both Romo and Dirk on local KESN-FM’s Ben & Skin Show.
“Hey Dirk, this is football, this ain’t basketball. This is a real game where a lot of emotions play a lot more heavily into what you’re doing out there as a professional. I respect Dirk, there’s no question, and I know where he’s coming from because he has sustained the criticism and now the criticism has stopped because they won an NBA championship,” Pearson ranted.
“What he should be telling Tony is if you want to stop the criticism, quit making those kinds of mistakes and lead your team to a championship.”
Clearly, the Cowboys’ Romo-mentum is in an uncontrollable downward spiral — teaming division rivals with Hall of Fame, Super Bowl-winning former Cowboys in a unified front against Dallas’ reigning world champion and the $1.3 billion landlord of Cowboys Stadium.
And this time, it’s not as easy as asking Jessica or Wade to stop coming to games. This time, it’s all on Tony.
“However we go, we go with Tony,” Jones told ESPN Dallas. “As Tony goes, we’ll go.”