Monday, October 30, 2006

Okay, I admit it. I didn't expect Dallas to win like that. Without saying I told you so - especially since it's just his first start - I will remind you that I have been a believer in Tony Romo for sometime. Although I was tempered a bit after watching him perform last week, I still felt that he could win in this league.

Now, I won't go as far as John Madden, who said he reminded him of the great Joe Montana. Maybe he has some Montana in him, but there was nobody like Montana. As much as I hate to admit it (especially since Roger Staubach was always my hero), and I really do hate to say it, but Joe Montana was the greatest quarterback I ever saw play the game.

Is Romo the next Staubach?

Heck, I just hope he's not the next Quincy Carter/Chad Hutchinson/Tony Banks/Clint Stoerner/Ryan Leaf/Vinnie Testaverde/Drew Henson/Drew Bledsoe.

For historical purposes, I can relate this nugget:

After 7 games into the 1971 season, then-Cowboys coach Tom Landry faced a similar situation. He had Craig Morton, the proven veteran who had led them to the Super Bowl the year before. But Morton had no flash to him and the team simply played like it. At the halfway point of the season, the team was 4-3 (back then, the season was only 14 games) and two full games behind the hated Redskins. With the prospect of losing the season, Landry turned to unproven quarterback Roger Staubach. While Staubach did win the Heisman Trophy 7 years earlier, he spent 4 of those years in the U.S. Navy and the other three on the bench behind Don Meredith and Morton.

What happened next was amazing. Not only did Staubach light a fire beneath the team, he won every game he started and led the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl win. Staubach, or course, had what future head coach Jimmy Johnson called, "it." The same "it" that Johnson felt Troy Aikman had, that fellow rookie Steve Walsh didn't.

Now, I'm not trying to crown Tony Romo the next Staubach or Aikman. But Bill Parcells felt all along, ever since he came to Dallas, that Romo was the best QB he had. His only concern was how he would preform in a real game situation. It certainly didn't hurt that Romo exceeded expectations in every preseason game he played. But again, here was a guy who went undrafted and unwanted by every other team. While the Cowboy QB carousel went round and round, Romo Stuck around.

2 Years ago, the whole town was ablaze with the idea that Drew Henson was the next Aikman. Parcells was often ridiculed for not playing the $3.5 million QB. So, on Thanksgiving day, Parcells showed the rest of us mortals exactly why Henson was a back-up. Although he led the Cowboys to a first-half touchdown, the heavily favored Cowboys barely tied an awful Chicago Bears team 7-7. At halftime, Parcells yanked the kid and inserted the seasoned Vinny Testaverde, who led the team to a 21-7 win. That was it for the Drew Henson experiment.

Much to every one's surprise - except Parcells, and perhaps Romo's - Henson was beaten out by Romo and placed on the third-string. While Romo excelled during the pre-season, Henson played himself to the bench and was released one year later.

Romo, who at times was listed as the #5 quarterback, became the only backup to Drew Bledsoe. This past preseason, Romo clearly outplayed Bledsoe, but Drew was big Bill's guy. However, when former Cowboy offensive coordinator Sean Payton was named the Head Coach in New Orleans, he called Parcells and asked if he could trade for him. Payton know what Dallas had and he felt Romo could be the QB for them. When Parcells said no - and gave Romo a nice bonus - Payton went after Drew Brees instead. That says a lot about what Romo was/is worth.

Even then, Parcells felt that Bledsoe was just the guy to lead his team. But after a few games that exposed Bledsoe's weaknesses, the press and the fans started to chant for the kid from Easter Illinois.

Historically, the best job in America has been the job of Cowboy's backup QB. Even when Staubach was leading the Cowboys to Super Bowls, the fans would call for Danny White. When White became starter after Staubach's retirement, suddenly everyone wanted Glenn Carano, then Gary Hogeboom.

Now, everyone loved Romo. This time however, Parcells wasn't interested in showing the fans up. This time, Parcells knew exactly what he was doing. And last Monday night, in front of a huge TV audience, Parcells did what no one thought he would do - bench Bledsoe at halftime.

Was he trying to teach the team a lesson? After all, they were only 5 points down and had just come so close to taking the lead. Was he trying to send a message to Bledsoe? By embarrassing him? Game six is not the time to get on your QB's bad side. Was he saying it was time to call the season over? After all, he and Jerry Jones had been very vocal that for the Cowboys to succeed, they needed Bledsoe.

No. Parcells knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that Bledsoe would crumble under the pressure and that Romo could only succeed in the situation. He knew that should Romo falter, nothing was lost. He knew what he had in Bledsoe, so he could always go back to him and say he was just trying to provide a spark.

But big Bill also knew that Romo has that "it" factor. He has that extra something that the best QB's have. That "it" factor is what sets Romo apart. Players with that "it" factor do not allow themselves to lose. Oh sure, they may not win every time. But to Bledsoe, losing is part of the game. To Bledsoe, it matters not whether he wins or loses. Sure, he'd prefer to win. But if he doesn't he still gets up in the morning unscathed.

Not Romo. Romo is the kind of QB - like Staubach before him - that would line up as a linebacker if it helped the team win. Other QB's like him are his idol, Brett Favre, Tom Brady, and yes, even Joe Montana.

Now, of course, there have been many a QB who had "it", but weren't successful. Dave Kreig comes to mind. So does Rich Gannon and Steve DeBerg.

Maybe Romo can do it and maybe he can't. He certainly has shown he can - at least for one game, that is. And for this Dallas Cowboys fan, who has been spoiled with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and a record 8 Super Bowls, I expect nothing less.

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