Dallas Cowboys' Defense, Not Tony Romo, Should Worry Fans
Allow me to preface this article by saying that I am a staunch Tony Romo backer.
His rags-to-riches emergence on the heels of a half-dozen years of horrendous quarterback play in Dallas ranks as one of the top three or four sports stories of my lifetime.
That loss to the Giants was one of the hardest I've ever had to stomach as a Cowboys fan. The amount of points and plays left on the field boggles the mind, let alone the two or three plays that appeared to be touched by the hand of the Almighty Himself.
As brutal as last week's loss was, I can't understand the level of backlash Romo has experienced leading up to this week's game.
Did he play awful against the Giants? Absolutely.
Has any other quarterback gotten such a ridiculously negative reaction after a single bad game? Not in my recent memory.
(Side note: Romo only threw 2 interceptions in my book. I cannot consider that "Off Of Witten's Heel" play more than an incompletion, which is all he should have gotten for throwing that ball behind Witten. It doesn't seem so bad if he only threw two picks, am I right?)
To see Cowboys fans turn on Romo so quickly indicates how easily it is to forget to past. It also provides poignant social commentary on how big of a "what have you done for me lately" culture we have become in today's society of instantaneous availability of information.
While I eagerly anticipate reading through all the tired points to be made against Romo in the comments section (most notably, his late season struggles), I needed to remind the people (specifically, Cowboys fans) who forgot both just how young and just how talented Tony Romo is.
The fact that questions arose this week regarding Romo's talent and ability are simply absurd. Say what you want to about his record in December, but the fact remains that Romo's 94.2 career quarterback rating is the second-highest among active quarterbacks—and the third-highest of all time.
The fact that he has broken every single-season Cowboys passing record and holds the record for the most 300-yard games thrown by a Cowboy (despite playing in all 16 games only once in his career) should serve as a neat exclamation point to the fact that Romo can and will get it done.
I don't want to hear the "He's only good against the Bucs" arguments either. That 94.2 number spans over four seasons playing in the toughest division in football.
Bad quarterbacks play bad teams, too. Nobody would expect JaMarcus Russell to throw for 350 yards against Tampa just because they're the Bucs.
And now on to the ridiculous (yes, ridiculous) argument citing Romo's horrible record in December and lack of a playoff win—assuming you haven't yet thrown your laptop in anger.
It's true that Romo doesn't have a playoff win. How people can comfortably throw that stat around like its some deus ex machina that solidifies Romo as a bum is mind boggling.
Just like Peyton was. Just like Eli was.
Now, the Mannings are considered two of the best clutch quarterbacks in the league despite equally dismal starting playoff numbers.
Theirs is somehow an unattainable future for Romo? This season is only his third full year as a starter.
And since when did playoff records and Super Bowl wins become the last and greatest measure of a quarterback? I suppose the only things that made John Elway good were those last two Super Bowls.
Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Frank Tarkenton must then be chopped liver.
I'm not naive enough to think that playoff records should not warrant any consideration when analyzing the merit of a quarterback. Believe me, I will be the first one leading this train if we are sitting here eight years from now and Romo still doesn't have a playoff win.
What I take issue with is people using this early-career playoff record as a guaranteed predictor of Romo's future postseason failures—and how many Cowboys fans seem to be jumping on that bandwagon.
Did you all forget Romo's 35-yard scramble for a third-and-1 conversion against the Rams in 2007?
What about the ridiculous mid-sack, left-handed shovel pass against the Giants that somehow travelled 20 yards to find Tony Curtis sitting unguarded in the end zone?
The fact that he has shown unreal mental toughness time and time again should also be a reason to love Romo if you are a Cowboys fan. (He was actually able to have a career after the "Bobbled-Snap Game" and once led a last-second, game-winning drive against Buffalo after throwing five interceptions.)
You can't succeed with a talented head-case at quarterback. (Ryan Leaf once started for the Cowboys, remember?)
I challenge you to find a single Cowboys fan that, instead of Romo, would prefer Quincy Carter. Or Clint Stoerner. Or Chad Hutchinson. Or Drew Henson. Or Vinny Testaverde. Or Drew Bledsoe. (I have to stop or my head is going to explode from so much long-buried rage being conjured up at the same time.)
My point stands: Romo had an awful game and it is disturbing that he hasn't developed better ball security in more than two seasons as a starter. However, the level of ridiculously and unjustifiably negative hyperbole that permeated every Tony Romo-related story this week was patently absurd.
Cowboys haters will always find something wrong with Romo.
The level of unrest I felt from fellow Cowboys fans surrounding Romo was the real surprise.
Turnovers and all, the Cowboys offense still put up 31 points. That is a better-than-decent day of production, even if that number could have easily been in the 50's.
To call for Romo's head after arguably the worst game he's ever played as a starter is absurd. It's reacting to a statistical outlier instead of taking his whole body of work into account. (94.2, remember?)
What most worries me is that head coach Wade Philips' complete control of the Cowboys defense is supposed to do for Dallas what Rex Ryan is doing for the Jets.
The Cowboys must have been extremely confident in Philips' defensive prowess, because they felt fine letting go of five defensive starters from 2008, four of which had made Pro Bowls in the past (Greg Ellis, Chris Canty, Roy Williams, Zach Thomas).
Despite leading the league in sacks, the Cowboys defense in 2008 only had eight interceptions. By all accounts, Philips' largest point of emphasis in the offseason was the creation of turnovers.
Through two games (including one against a team that might not win a game this year), the Cowboys defense has yet to force a single turnover or sack. They have been less bothersome to receivers than a minor case of jock itch and gave Eli Manning and Byron Leftwich enough time in the pocket to compose Italian concertos.
They were absolutely gashed for over 200 yards on the ground by Tampa's Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward.
They were destroyed for over 200 yards in the air by the Giants' Steve Smith and Mario Manningham (who made Terence Newman look like 2005 Jacque Reeves on that long fade).
This is the same defense that lost the last game in Texas Stadium by giving up the two longest plays in the 40-plus-year history of the building to the Ravens.
How did they respond to that embarrassment in the final week? By giving up 44 points to the Eagles in the biggest no-show game in NFL history.
This is the same defense, minus four Pro Bowlers.
Romo has led an offense that has put up 65 points in two games. Say what you want about the turnovers, but I find that pill a lot easier to swallow than the "All Wade Philips did was focus on defense this offseason but the defense hasn't yet made a single big play" pill.
The level of underachievement by the Cowboys' defense to this point is so far above unacceptable I don't even know where to begin. But for some reason all I hear about is the travesty of Tony Romo and predictions of his guaranteed failure.
Feel free to get nitpicky with Romo tonight. He won't have a game as bad as he did last Sunday. You don't set a career passing mark of 94.2 by playing that badly consistency.
Jake Delhomme and the Panthers' offense should be the sack-and-turnover equivalent of taking candy from Jay Cut—I mean—a baby. Another complete no-show by Dallas' defense tonight should have Philips' head on the chopping block.
Not at the end of the season. Tomorrow.
The job of any defensive coordinator/head coach is to create a terrifying defense. Hats off to Philips for doing that. He forgot that your defense is supposed to terrify the other team, not your own fans.
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