Cowboys vs. Seahawks: Tony Romo's Legacy Won't Be Defined by the Bobble

Peter MatarazzoContributor ISeptember 15, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys runs with the ball on his way to throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree #85 in the second quarter as he his chased by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants during the 2012 NFL season opener at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Every Cowboys fan has viewed the picture a thousand times. Tony Romo is sitting on the turf clutching his facemask in a catatonic state of disbelief as Al Johnson consoles him. I still get upset every time I think about the bigger picture had the Cowboys emerged victorious in that game.

A date in the NFC Championship game? A possible Super Bowl run? There's no point living in the past, but that event has sparked an endless barrage of scrutiny that still follows Romo to this day.

Heading into Week 2, Romo and the Cowboys return to the scene of the crime looking not only to win, but to somewhat erase a memory.

For Romo, it was one play in a season that saw him replace an ineffective Drew Bledsoe, rise to fame as the Cowboys' new quarterback under Bill Parcells and lead this team to the playoffs. As an undrafted player who sat behind multiple quarterbacks for three seasons, Romo had finally gotten his shot to prove the doubters wrong.

Unfortunately for Romo, it was one play in a game with huge Super Bowl implications and one that many believe would've catapulted his team to the ultimate prize. But nobody has a crystal ball and the what-if and could-have-been scenarios don't really bear any weight right now.

It's all speculation, and remember, Seattle was going to get the ball back with roughly a minute left, so winning was no sure bet.

Is that one single play going to be the defining moment of Romo's already great career?

No way, no chance. In fact, the scrutiny Romo has had to endure because of that play, the criticism that he is a choke artist, is downright unwarranted. I doubt that Pittsburgh QB Neil O'Donnell got the same amount of criticism for throwing two interceptions to Larry Brown in the Cowboys' last Super Bowl win.

Romo will still make the occasional play that leaves you scratching your head. But, to a certain extent, any quarterback has to have the ability to be themselves and play to their strengths. When you watch Michael Vick throw four interceptions, every analyst will break down how it happened and how it should be corrected, but it doesn't come with the same type of criticism Romo gets.

Is Romo a choke artist because Jerry Jones cleaned house on the offensive line last season and left Romo trying to catch Phil Costa's snaps and running for his life? The same critics that will answer yes to that question are the ones who won't acknowledge his performance on opening night.

And why? The answer is simple. Because it's Romo, the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and at some point in the season, the wheels have to come off.

In the eyes of the media, that scenario makes for good theater. Unfortunately, that's how he is perceived. His other identity as a quarterback who threw for more than 4,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and had a 102 QB rating playing for a team that had a duct-tape offensive line and no defense last season is largely ignored.

Romo and the Cowboys return to Seattle on Sunday for the first time since that wild-card loss in 2006.  Despite Romo's three appearances in the Pro Bowl, franchise records for passing yards and touchdown passes in a season, two NFC East titles and a playoff win in 2009, that bobbled snap still sticks out in the minds of many.

The Cowboys visit to Seattle will probably cause a media stir as questions and pictures of the bobble are sure to resurface quite frequently. Romo is probably tired of addressing the issue, but there's not much he can do to avoid the topic.

Deep down, based on the type of competitor he is, you have to believe that he uses it all as fuel.

That one play will live forever. From L.P. Ladouceur's snap, to the ball sliding through Romo's fingers, to Martin Gramatica's disbelief as he approached the kick, that play has had tremendous ramifications in the years that followed.

Had Romo been able to get a first down or touchdown before being tackled from behind, the conversation would've been different. 

Much has changed for the Cowboys since that play. We've seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the uglier since 2006. We've also seen coaching changes, philosophy changes and roster changes. But what we've also seen is the maturation of a quarterback who deserves to be noticed for how much he's grown, what he's done for this franchise and where he will take this team.

What ultimately will be Romo's legacy? That remains to be seen. But we already know this. Romo is among the league's best quarterbacks, he gives the Cowboys their best chance to win and his best performances are ahead of him.

The bobble will always hover over Romo, but it won't define his legacy. He will only get better in spite of it.