Tony Romo: Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

Matt SavopoulosCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2008

I love Tony Romo.

I really do. Mostly, I love the fact that he wins football games for the Dallas Cowboys. But I also think Tony does things the right way. He's always smiling, quick with a joke, and never seems to take himself too seriously. And when he plays football, you know he's having a good time.

Watching Peyton Manning step under center, you get the feeling he'd have the exact same facial expression in the dentist's chair. Tony looks like he's playing backyard football—happy-go-lucky, with that "aw, shucks" grin and one chinstrap dangling in the wind.

That said, Tony Romo needs to cut the crap and get the Cowboys over the hump and into the Super Bowl.

In 2006, he stepped in to replace Drew Bledsoe and shocked everybody—absolutely everybody—by reeling off the victories and leading the Cowboys to the playoffs. He even made the Pro Bowl on the virtue of his first eight games, to the chagrin of many.

And then he entered the playoffs. Now, Romo was far from bad in that game: 17-for-29 for 189 yards and a score.

Not exactly lighting the world on fire, but he had no turnovers and gave his team a chance to win the game. And then came his infamous bobble.

OK, so everybody makes mistakes. The Cowboys were still a young team, and most people thought they'd be back better than ever and mentally stronger from their mishaps in the postseason.

It certainly looked that way for the first 13 weeks of the year, as Romo put up monstrous numbers and looked like an elite NFL quarterback.

But then the wheels started to fall off.

Dallas lost two of their last three, ensuring that they entered the playoffs with absolutely no momentum. Mr. Romo got caught vacationing with celebutante Jessica Simpson just a week after he had been thoroughly outplayed by Todd Collins (TODD COLLINS!?) in a loss to the hated Redskins in the season finale.

And then, for the second straight year, Romo failed to get his team through their first playoff game. I give full marks to the Giants in that game, as they played fantastic football, but every Dallas fan knows that the Cowboys should have won that game.

In the first playoff game in Texas Stadium in over a decade, against a divisional rival that they had conquered twice in the regular season, Dallas choked. There's no other way to put it. They gagged.

I wouldn't say that Romo was the reason Dallas lost, but he certainly didn't help their cause. 18-of-36 for 201 yards and a score to match one crucial interception.

The numbers weren't bad, but they weren't good enough to win the game for Dallas. That's what elite quarterbacks do—they do just enough to win the game. And too many times, after the Dallas defense got a big stop, we saw Romo and his cohorts trotting off after a three-and-out.

Romo's already living the dream: quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys, dating the starlets, and rolling in a fat contract extension courtesy of Jerry Jones. But now it's time to get serious and show that he's the real deal. At the helm of a Dallas team with arguably the most offensive talent in the league, now's the time.

No more excuses. He's had the time to grow, he's tasted the atmosphere of the playoff games, and he's gone through the grind of a full regular season.

Anything less than a deep run in the playoffs will cement Romo's fledgling reputation as a playoff gag artist.

So before you take that actress out to dinner, Tony, before you play that celebrity golf tournament, make sure you take care of your business between the chalk lines. Don't get distracted.

All eyes are on you—and it's your shoulders that the blame will fall on if there's another playoff blunder in Big D.