An epic battle in Washington, D.C. Two foes, long rivals in the annals of the National Football League, go head to head on the last day of the year to determine who reigns as NFC East Champions and who falls into 2012 obscurity. A cold and clear night in Ron Jon Stadium solidified Robert Griffin the Third (forever known as RGIII) as a winner, and placed undrafted Tony Romo as a gigantic loser.
Now, simply looking at this opening paragraph, one would think there is a huge body of work from each quarterback from which to draw such a dramatic conclusion. In today’s social media-based reality, one win or loss can doom a player, team or coach into a less than ideal nickname, meme or stereotype based on nothing more than the mood or snapshot of a single well-placed zinger.
Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are the product of the media, and the team’s owner would have it no other way. Romo does not go out of his way to be a public figure, and indeed is somewhat vanilla and boring in this era of end-zone dances and Victor Cruz-type silly flamboyance. Jason Garrett, the head coach, is about as exciting as Bill Belichick after taking a few shots of NyQuil and chasing it with a few double bourbons. DeMarcus Ware? The sack machine of the defense carries himself like a gentle giant, honoring the grit of his opponents more than his God-given gift of attacking the quarterback.
The Washington Redskins went from a joke in arguably the NFL’s toughest division to champions of the NFC East by savvy drafting and a focused game plan. Robert Griffin the Third’s skill doesn’t lie in his passing ability, nor his devastating footwork in planned or unplanned open field runs. The much maligned Kyle Shanahan, accused of being the benefactor of nepotism from his head coach father, learned to adapt his offense to RGIII rather than make the tried and true mistake of forcing an athlete to conform to a system to which they are less likely to succeed.
There is no better example of this type of narrow vision than in Carolina for the first half of the season, where Cam Newton was the square peg being forced into a round hole. This adaptation to the players and talent around him is what has made RGIII successful. Conversely, it is the lack of adaptation and seeming pig-headedness that has led the Dallas Cowboys to mediocrity.
The quarterback of the Cowboys is one of those positions that offers little in the way of reward, but much in the way of ruin. The position requires an acceptance of the title head of “America’s Team,” and all benefits and defects that accompany that title. From day one, you are the face of the team, thus you ARE the owner Jerry Jones by proxy. This fact is not lost on anyone, despite the spin and well-coiffed "interviews" on sports networks.
An RGIII campaign in Dallas would be quite different. Griffin would be locked into the offensive philosophy of Garrett, which seemingly hasn’t changed in years despite vast offensive line, running back and wide receiver changes. In Dallas, Jerry demands the head coach also be the offensive coordinator. Despite Jason Garrett being overwhelmed (and some would argue humiliated with some choices), Jones maintains Jason Garrett is the best person on the planet to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl win.
Think about that for a minute. Any owner would obviously seek out in their opinion the absolute best football mind and motivator to lead their team to victory. Of everyone available, Jones chose Jason Garrett as that leader. Two years into his guidance and philosophical imprint, Garrett’s leadership has only demonstrated clock mismanagement, a fundamental lack of awareness and woeful drafting for the future.
To counter the limp, vanilla head coach, Jones has employed Rob Ryan to run the youth-oriented defense. Football fans identify Ryan by his boisterous nature and hair, not by his defensive successes. Should any of those traits be sought after for defensive coordinator jobs, Ryan would be a shoo-in.
As it stands, Ryan’s tenure in Dallas has blossomed with boring, resulting in mediocrity and player confusion. The defense is laughable at creating turnovers and, over the last half of the season, has given up more yards per game than any other team. The defensive “guru” has taken his middle of the road results and applied them to a new generation. The Redskins have arguably less talent but are achieving more results.
This latest failure of the Cowboys in yet another pivotal game is not surprising to anyone who has watched the team with interest over the years. A decade of miserable drafting, coupled with coaching moves designed to complement an owner and clueless general manager rather than facilitate grit and success. Romo is merely a product of the Cowboys' machine, impulsive and stubborn to the point of failure.
Like Jerry Jones, this team is incapable of adapting on-the-fly, rather is stuck mired in a tired philosophy annoyingly aware of its position with flashes of competence, yet doomed to fall back into hopeful exhaustion year after year.