Jerry Jones talked about his Cowboys on a local radio station today, and when Jerry Jones does that he usually becomes a mouthpiece for the delusion of America’s Team.
Not this time though. No, this time he did quite the opposite, and he likely did it on purpose to dump a chilly bucket of water on the raging inferno around his quarterback.
Jones said the Cowboys will rise and fall with Tony Romo for the next “six or seven years” which contractually is impossible because Romo’s current deal expires in 2013, and our rough arithmetic indicates that’s only two years from now. We get the point though–Jones is confident in Romo, he’s always been confident in Romo, and the Cowboys are willing to flounder or flourish with him under center.
That’s just wonderful, and no one should doubt Romo’s skill in a broad sense. He’s only one year removed from a season in which he had 4,483 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions. Romo’s overall ability is fine and he’s a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, although I wouldn’t recommend saying that deep in the heart of Texas right about now.
In fact, if you’re one of the few people in Texas who isn’t a Cowboys fan, avoid any discussion of Romo and/or Jones entirely. A single word can drill deep into the ear of the listener, which is why this quote from Jones during his appearance on KRLD-FM earlier today is generating confusion, and likely anger (via ESPN Dallas):
“This may draw a little criticism, but I thought Tony played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play. You can make a big case that the way he played for three quarters was how we got there at the end and looked like for sure we were going to get the win. But he played outstanding.”
The word in question is the very last one. Jones is correct in saying that Romo played well for three quarters Sunday night during Dallas’ soul-crushing 27-24 loss to the Jets. During those three efficient quarters he had two touchdowns and 230 passing yards. The Cowboys were leading 24-10 after an early fourth quarter touchdown, and then the debacle slowly began. Romo had an interception, and fumbled three yards away from New York’s end zone, paving the way for history and the Cowboys’ first loss while leading by 14 in the fourth quarter.
So “outstanding” doesn’t seem to be the appropriate adjective here, but it’s not the word that has me wondering how Jones sleeps at night while wearing those massive horse blinders. The problem lies in the perception–or at least Jones’ perception–that Romo is effective when it matters most, and when he’s been given the opportunity to win the game.
There’s another quote from Jones’ radio interview that isn’t getting quite as much attention, and this time the word “command” is bothersome:
“He has outstanding command of the game. He is very involved in what we do on offense. When you got somebody that can master it you got something special. He is close. Don’t drop Romo, he’s going to be our ticket.”
Prior to his season-ending injury last year in Week 7 against the Giants, Romo faced five situations in which his team trailed by 10 points or less with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Throw in Sunday’s mess that ended with an interception, and his results in those situations aren’t outstanding or commanding. They reflect a lack of poise under pressure.
In those six opportunities, the only drive that led to points was a field goal in Week 2 against the Bears last year, points that were settled for when the Cowboys’ offense stalled while trailing by 10 with just over a minute remaining. The rest? A punt, a fumble, and an interception.