Goat Week 1, hero Week 2 and wounded warrior Week 3. It is just another season in the life of Tony Romo. From undrafted project to pop-star-dating face of the Dallas Cowboys and everything in between, Romo is one of the most polarizing figures in sports.
After six seasons, fans and analysts still do not know what to think of this guy: Is he a great quarterback that has yet to win the big one? Or is he just about the stats and fame and will never develop into a true winner?
To give Romo a fair shake, we have to start at the beginning of what has been one of the most memorable careers in the past half-decade.
The Tony Romo Story really starts in 2006. Romo replaced an ineffective Drew Bledsoe halfway through a loss to the New York Giants. Even then, the results were mixed, as Romo threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, but was also picked off three times.
From there, Romo started the final 10 games of the season. He became a celebrity nearly over night, and soon was dating a certain pop star. Romo completed over 65 percent of his passes, threw 19 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 95.1. The toast of Dallas led the Cowboys to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, and just their second appearance since 2000.
After Romo's impressive debut regular season, Dallas was poised to win their first playoff game since 1996 when the offense lined up for a game-winning chip-shot field goal. Romo, still the holder since he opened the season as the backup, dropped the snap, and a shoestring tackle stopped him just short of scrambling for a touchdown.
Little did we know the inches between hero and goat would quite often come to define him. The gaffe would open the door for any and all “Romo is a choker” comments from there on out.
Romo entered the 2007 season as the unquestioned Cowboys starter, and it was quickly apparent he was not affected by his playoff error. Romo set the league on fire, throwing for over 4,000 yards with 36 touchdowns and a 97.4 QB rating.
Romo was cemented as the Dallas Cowboys' newest superstar, and the 'Boys were Super Bowl favorites as the top seed in the NFC entering the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys were two wins from the Super Bowl, and all that stood in their way was the rival New York Giants. The G-Men had barely squeaked into the playoffs as the sixth and final seed, and were merely a road bump in Romo’s quest for glory.
After all, the ‘Boys had already handled Eli Manning and company twice that season. As fate would have it, the Giants were the team of destiny. They pulled the upset en route to up-ending the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Romo had one of his worst games of the season, completing half of his passes with one touchdown and one interception.
The next season saw Romo again be one of the league’s best statistical quarterbacks. All the Cowboys had to do was win one of their final two games, and Romo would have his chance for playoff redemption.
The Cowboys were defeated in a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and were blown out in Week 17 by the rival Philadelphia Eagles, 44-6. Romo did not play well in either game, and he was officially labeled as a late-season, big-game choker.
By now, we all had Tony Romo figured out: He was nothing but a decent quarterback with questionable heart in an offensive system that allowed him to look great against inferior opponents.
The calendar had flipped to December, and it was time for Romo and the Dallas Cowboys’ annual collapse. The ‘Boys dropped their first two games of the month, but this time, there was no way to blame Romo. He had five touchdowns and zero interceptions in the two close losses.
Romo rode the momentum of those performances to help his team win the final three games of the season and seal a spot in the playoffs. The final win saw vengeance served over the Philadelphia Eagles in a 24-0 win.
The Eagles-Cowboys rivalry was not done yet, as the teams faced off in the Divisional Round. Dallas had not won a playoff game in 13 years, and clearly, Romo was not the quarterback to get them there. Surely, the Eagles would be furious over their Week 17 egg and come back big.
Except Romo had his best playoff game to date, and the Cowboys vanquished their rivals. Romo threw for 244 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 34-14 victory.
Of course, this is Tony Romo, and with every peak has to come a valley. The next week saw Dallas get blown out 34-3. However, even the most critical Cowboys fan could not blame Romo for this one. The team was dominated in all phases, especially by the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line. Romo was sacked six times, hit 10 more and lost two fumbles. The running game did not fair any better, as they were stopped in the backfield 11 times.
The Dallas Cowboys got a taste of life without their franchise quarterback in 2010. Tony Romo only played in six games, as the team struggled to a 6-10 record.
The first two weeks of the 2011 season have been a microcosm of Romo’s career. After Week 1, he is a goat. Week 2, he is a hero. So where does the quarterback truly stand?
There is no denying Romo’s career has been a bit of rollercoaster. However, if he did not play for the Dallas Cowboys, arguably America’s most recognizable and publicized franchise outside of the New York Yankees, his highs would not seem so dizzying, and lows so crippling.
I remember another Pro Bowl quarterback that started his postseason career 0-for-3. One of those losses included a 41-0 whooping. After a couple of playoff wins, another loss saw him chuck up four interceptions. Yet another disappointment saw him have little impact in a 20-3 blowout. That quarterback’s name? Peyton Manning.
So let’s all take it easy on the week-to-week dissection of Romo’s career. The truth is this: Romo is a very good quarterback, but not elite. He is a bit of a gunslinger with a penchant for the big play. Sometimes, that big play goes for the defense.
Most of all, he is a quarterback the Dallas Cowboys can win a Super Bowl with. If he does, earlier struggles will be excused, while pundits and fans are asking a new question: Is Tony Romo the best quarterback in the league?