Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Tony Romo.
All three Dallas Cowboy quarterbacks are talented players, but two of them have one thing that the other does not: a Super Bowl ring.
Although many tend to hold it against a player if he doesn't have a Super Bowl to his name, only 46 teams in league history have hoisted the Lombardi trophy. Whether people agree with it or not, it is possible to be a great player without winning the big one.
Dan Marino got crushed in his only Super Bowl appearance, but he's still one of the most talented quarterbacks of all time. Barry Sanders dazzled us all on the field, but he never even reached the Super Bowl.
Tony Romo is quite possibly the most-debated figure in professional football. The better question to ask now is whether or not he's really underrated.
While I disagree with ESPN personality Colin Cowherd's assessment that "Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers are basically the same guy," I do believe that if there's one quarterback that compares to Aaron Rodgers athletically, it's Romo. Cowherd clearly isn't one of the most reliable "football minds" at the network, but he's been a steady Romo supporter despite the public being largely dismissive of the Dallas quarterback.
While the number that best mirrors a quarterback's success is up for debate, Romo is coming off what was likely his best season in his career.
He set a single-season high with a QB rating of 102.5 while tossing 31 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions. To put that in perspective, eventual Super Bowl XLVI champion quarterback Eli Manning posted a regular season QB rating of 92.9 while tossing 29 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.
Romo gets the better of Manning in all three regular season statistics, but Eli got the last laugh when he hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his career.
Not that it's an earth-shattering proclamation, but in regards to the quarterback position, Super Bowls are the great equalizer. A quarterback with a ring trumps a quarterback without a ring.
However, with all due respect to Trent Dilfer, he's the exception. Dilfer simply is not Marino.
Despite not winning a Super Bowl in his first six seasons as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, my eyes and Romo's numbers both tell me he's a good quarterback.
There are plenty of good quarterbacks who haven't won Super Bowls, so a better question to measure the effectiveness of a quarterback is: If all else fails, can a team win a game on the arm of its quarterback?
Romo has shown the ability to put the team on his back—or shoulder—and carry it to victory. He's also displayed questionable decision-making that led to late-game collapses. Both the good and the bad come with Romo.
Sure, he may have a little too much "Favre" in him; for every one miraculous play, there are two or three head-scratchers. For every comeback against San Francisco despite playing with broken ribs, there's a collapse against the Jets and Lions.
Where Romo fits in among the league's best quarterbacks is up for debate. Personally, I have the top guys categorized into different stratospheres.
On top, I have Rodgers, Brady and Brees. I'd personally list them in that order, but any order between those three is a legitimate argument.
After the "big three," I think both Manning boys fit right into the next level. After winning his second Super Bowl, I think Eli is clearly among the league's elite quarterbacks. It remains to be seen whether or not Peyton can get back to his old form, but headed into last season, I would have had him in the top three or four prior to missing all of 2011 with a neck injury.
Along with the Mannings, I have a hard time not including Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger in the league's "second" top-tier of quarterbacks. Rivers was the key piece of the draft-day trade that sent Eli Manning to New York in 2004, but I think it's conceivable that the Giants would still have won a Super Bowl already if they had kept Rivers. Already appearing in three Super Bowls and winning two of them, Roethlisberger needs to be included among the top seven guys at the position.
There we have the top seven quarterbacks in football: Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Eli and Peyton Manning.
It seems that people have soured on Romo so much that merely mentioning his name gets a disgusted eye roll in response. However, after the top seven, I think a legitimate argument can be made for Romo being the "next best."
Among those in the conversation for this tier of quarterbacks are Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Michael Vick.
Some may include Joe Flacco and/or Mark Sanchez in that conversation, but please, save your breath. I don't buy it.There are a handful of guys I didn't even list that I'd take before either Flacco or Sanchez.
Being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, Romo has expectations that are higher than other quarterbacks. Although he hasn't enjoyed a similar run to Aikman in the 90s—complete with multiple Super Bowls—Romo is still among the NFL's better quarterbacks in 2012.
While it's easy to follow the trend by dismissing Romo, the guy has enough talent to be a Super Bowl champion one day.
If and when the Cowboys win a Super Bowl under Romo's lead, all harsh criticism of the quarterback will cease, and people will realize Dallas's true problems were elsewhere on the roster.
Whether you disagree with my assessment that Tony Romo is a good quarterback or whether you think that "America's Team" is located somewhere other than Dallas, this fact cannot be ignored: The Cowboys have a good quarterback.
As the NFL continues its transition to a full-out aerial assault, the quarterback position is as important as it's ever been.
Teams play the game to win championships, and there is only a select group of quarterbacks who are capable of carrying their team to the Super Bowl.
Tony Romo is one of them.
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