Being the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys has to be considered one of the most pressure-packed jobs in the entire professional sports world. "America's Team," as they became to be known under Tom Landry in the early 1970s, have had their fair share of great quarterbacks.
It all started with Roger Staubach, who led the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances and two world championships. The former Heisman Trophy Award Winner at Navy quickly became the darling of a Cowboys' fanbase enthralled by years of success.
Once Staubach called it quits following the 1979 season, the Cowboys' starting quarterback duties fell into the hands of Danny White, who was seemingly pegged to replace the Staubach years before.
White, despite consistent success, never lived up to the expectations of Staubach and drew the ire of the fans. It seemed he was compared to the former quarterback at every turn in his six full seasons as the Cowboys starter. White took Dallas to multiple NFC Championship Games, but never got to the Super Bowl during his time as the starter. He will forever just be remembered as the man who took snaps following Staubach, and was the leader of a team that saw the Cowboys' first dynasty come to an end.
One year after Landry was forced out by, then new owner Jerry Jones, Dallas went out and drafted Troy Aikman with the first overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft. Despite early struggles, Aikman ended up leading Dallas to three Super Bowl Championships.
While seven seasons passed between Aikman's retirement and Tony Romo's first start in Dallas, the latter will always be compared to the former. Romo just hasn't lived up to the high standards that the Cowboys fans have rightfully set for their quarterbacks.
Compared to the quarterbacks that were under center in Dallas between Aikman and Romo, the former might actually seem like an All-World quarterback. Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson. Really?
However, the minute you start comparing a quarterback to other marginal players at that position and not to the standard-bearer, there should be some question as to whether he is the long-term answer. This is the situation that Romo finds himself in right now.
Dallas has only won one playoff game under Romo and has only made the postseason three times in six seasons that he has been their starting quarterback. As one of the most passionate fanbases in the entire sports world, those who bleed silver and white are simply not going to put up with mediocrity, and mediocrity is the term that has best defined Romo's tenure in Dallas.
Romo does possess a 50-35 record as the starting quarterback in Dallas, which is the fourth best in franchise history, even ahead of Don Meredith. Cowboys' fans will point to his 1-3 postseason record and the fact that he is just 11-16 in his last 27 starts.
I don't care what franchise in the NFL you quarterback, a .393 winning percentage over the course of even two seasons just isn't sustainable. This is only magnified when you are the quarterback for a franchise that has eight NFC championships and five Super Bowl titles under its belt.
At a time when every mistake is under a microscope due to the advent of social media as a phenomenon, a quarterback in Dallas just cannot afford to be average. Over the course of his last 27 starts, Romo hasn't even been that...At least in terms of wins and losses.
Could he get Benched?
This is definitely an interesting thought. Dallas it taking on a strong Baltimore Ravens team on the road this afternoon. What happens if the Cowboys offense implodes and Romo throws multiple interceptions?
Another disastrous performance by the former Pro Bowl quarterback coming on the heels of a five-interception game against the Chicago Bears would force Jason Garrett and company into actually thinking about benching Romo in lieu of Kyle Orton, who is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
In order for that conversation to be held at mute, Romo doesn't just need to lead Dallas to a win, he needs to do so in an impressive manner. I am not talking about throwing a couple interceptions and a couple touchdowns. No, Romo needs to have one of his better games of the last two seasons in order to fully maintain the confidence of the coaching staff, and even that might not do it. He simply cannot play average football while leading what appears to be an average team against a superior opponent on the road.
Jerry Jones and company broke off contract talks with Romo the day before he was picked five times against Chicago. While we have no idea what that indicates, its seems to tell us a story of a franchise and quarterback that are far apart in terms of finances. In short, it isn't a lock that Romo will play his remaining NFL days in Dallas.
Remember, this is a franchise that is used to success and championships, not mediocrity. At some point it becomes apparent that a certain player will not be able to lead your franchise to where you want to be. While one game against a solid opponent on the road won't define Romo's tenure in Dallas, it could go a long with in deciding when it ends.
It is important to note that there are a ton of solid quarterback options in the 2013 NFL draft. Geno Smith and Matt Barkley come to mind first. In fact, Tyler Wilson, from Jones' alma-mater of Arkansas, could be seen as a solid option as well.
See, the NFL is such a fickle game. We couldn't blame Romo for the Cowboys' lack of success last season, but it seems he needs to take a fair share of the blame in 2012. You simply cannot afford to continue giving the ball away and making mistakes on the offensive side of the ball if you want to keep your starting quarterback job.
No NFL player is immune from being benched unless they have proven themselves in crunch time and during the postseason. Romo has not given us indication that he can get it done in January. Now it appears that he is struggling through the early part of the season. If this continues it won't matter how bad Romo and the Cowboys have performed late in the season, they won't be in the race when that point comes. As a result, Romo might see his tenure in Dallas come to an end.
He needs to lead Dallas to an impressive win against the Ravens in Baltimore in order to quiet the skeptics. More importantly, he needs to do this in order to regain the confidence of his coaching staff and the Cowboys organization.