The first article I ever wrote for Bleacher Report that got substantial notice argued Tony Romo was the most overrated player in the National Football League. While judged at the time I wrote it, I still think the statement is absolutely true. However, perception of the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback came crashing down around him in the ensuing months, so the truth had a brief shelf life.
The shine came off the dimple, so to speak, almost instantaneously. Bad performance followed bad performance in Big D's biggest games and then there was the whole Jessica Simpson fiasco.
Almost as easily as it had become bloated, Romo's reputation was so thoroughly shredded that—if we're being brutally honest—several of the scrapes and dings were unwarranted.
Such is life as the focal point of "America's Team."
Incidentally, San Francisco must not be a part of America because the 'Pokes are most assuredly not our team. In fact, they're not even our most hated team (hello, Los Angeles Dodgers), so take that.
Since I pride myself on being as objective and fair as my fanaticism will allow, I thought I'd take this brief window of opportunity to acknowledge that Romo has taken his game to a new dimension.
Consequently, it's time for his reputation to make the jump as well.
So, for this briefest of moments, Tony Romo deserves every single glowing thing that's being written and said about him this Sunday morning. Oh, but it will be fleeting.
You can already see the media giving itself over to the momentum of a good ol' fashion big market firestorm. Michael Irvin is triumphantly preening away on the NFL Network and, somewhere, Deion Sanders is practicing his smuggest smile in a mirror.
Jerry Jones won't stand for too much more of that—he's gonna do his best to get this baby blown right outta proportion. Here's his warm-up:
"When you have a quarterback who plays like Tony, you’ll find yourself getting into the playoffs when you had a little bit of an uphill climb to do it. You’ll find yourself winning the first game and you’ll find yourself thinking you’ve got a chance to win the next one."
I'm gonna let that one stand on its own (de)merits.
I guess I could give the man a break. He is...67?!? He's only 67? Holy lord, I thought he had to be in his 80s. Whoa, that dude must have had some hard living in his past. Oops, I'm digressing again.
Can you tell I'm having a hard time being complimentary about Tony Romo and the Cowboys?
Unfortunately for me, they've earned it and there's no doubt about it.
Love 'em or hate 'em—and I'm obviously not a fan—Romo led his starry side through one absurd gauntlet of a finish.
The scheduling gods did him no favors by throwing a roadie against the division-rival New York Giants, the scalding San Diego Chargers, a roadie against the undefeated New Orleans Saints, and a roadie against the division-rival Washington Redskins—though woeful in 2009-10—onto Dallas' schedule in the month of December. For good measure, the 'Boys had a Week 17 finale with the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Granted, the finale was at home in the new palace, but regardless, the Eagles were one of the hottest teams in the League coming into the game. On top of everything else, the Eagles game would decide the NFC East champion.
In other words, the Cowboys—a franchise that had struggled badly at finishing seasons—faced a horrendously brutal slate to end the campaign. They did so with a signal-caller whose history was pockmarked with disasters on the biggest stages.
Furthermore, it got off to an awful start as Dallas ate losses against the G-Men and Bolts.
The silver lining that would blossom into the current jubilation was Mr. Romo. The QB showed well in defeat, going a combined 60-for-85 for 641 yards, five touchdowns, and no turnovers. More impressive than the stats was the relative calm that held in Dallas despite what had the beginnings of a very awkward situation.
Yet another December collapse (perish the thought).
Alas, the 'Pokes righted the ship by handing the Saints their first loss, and in the Superdome, no less. As Warren Sapp will tell you, it's not easy playing once they sprinkle that powder on you in the Big Easy.
Then came the shutout in Washington. Then the big D in Big D hung another bagel, this time on Philly. All the while, Romo kept humming along—he wasn't perfect, but he was damn fine and plenty good enough.
To snuff out any last wisp of doubt, Tony Romo and the 'Boys obliterated the Eagles in the NFC Wild Card round. The man under center posted 244 yards, two scores, no turnovers, and only one "dear God what are you thinking?" moment while securing the Cowboys' first postseason victory since the discovery of fire (according to my sources).
And this was the third victory over Philly in 2009-10.
Beating one opponent three times in the NFL is no simple thing because that adversary is, by definition, a rival. You can bet your last cent that no rival will take two consecutive whoopings lightly so that third victory is gonna be "tough."
This makes the fact that the Cowboys followed a 24-0 laugher at the Eagles' expense with a 34-14 obliteration of the same squad one week later very troubling.
Mix in the growing brilliance of Tony Romo and we've got a four-alarm emergency brewing.
Where is Terrell Owens when you need him?