Inside the Dallas Cowboys
By BRANDON GEORGE
Dallas Morning News
Quarterback Tony Romo was responsible for two critical turnovers in Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets.
Troy Aikman recently said that Romo, 31, is in the prime of his career. But not many quarterbacks win Super Bowls after the age of 30.
Romo certainly wasn’t billed as a superstar coming out of college. He’s far exceeded expectations for an undrafted player out of Eastern Illinois.
Maybe, Romo has peaked and he’ll never be more than what he is today: one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks who consistently gives the Cowboys a chance to win and sometimes – as he did Sunday night in the season opener at the New York Jets – loses games because of poor decision-making.
What’s certain is that he’s the Cowboys’ best option and isn’t going anywhere for the next three seasons, no matter how much the fan base yearns for a changing of the guard.
“He really is a quarterback who has averaged 10 wins for every 16 games that he’s started in the NFL . He’s a winner,” owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday. “We are going to rise and fall based on what Tony Romo is about over the next several years and I’m excited about that. We’ve got somebody here that if we can get some other things together, we can have a team that puts us in position to take a shot.”
Much was made about how Romo became a better leader in the off-season by organizing and directing the team’s summer workouts during the 4½-month NFL lockout.
We’ll find out soon how much of a better leader Romo is because he has to rally the Cowboys after a gut-wrenching loss to the Jets that saw the team blow a 14-point fourth-quarter lead on national TV.
Last year, Romo couldn’t get it done. After the Cowboys lost a disappointing game in the season opener at Washington, 13-7, Romo couldn’t rally the troops. Dallas started 1-7, paving the way for coach Wade Phillips’ firing.
Romo’s decision-making has improved. Romo threw 33 interceptions in his 29 starts over the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Since then, Romo has thrown 17 interceptions in 23 starts.
But he still struggles at times with the game on the line. He’s certainly not been very good late in seasons and in the playoffs.
“I just want everyone to know how much confidence we’ve got in his ability to win ballgames for us. He’s one of the two or three best aspects that we’ve got to get where we want to go,” Jones said. “Again, we all know there’s a lot going on at that position and when you get somebody who can master it then you really have got something special. He’s close.”
Yes he is, but he may never get closer.
Q: With the condition of the secondary in tatters, and [Mike] Jenkins, [Orlando] Scandrick and [Terence] Newman all injured or coming off injury, what are the chances the Cowboys look for more depth at that position through street free agency or trade?
Alex Williams, Huntsville, Texas
GEORGE: The chances are 100 percent. In fact, the Cowboys worked out veteran cornerback Frank Walker at Valley Ranch on Tuesday morning and plan to sign him to the 53-man roster. Walker has been in the NFL for eight seasons and played for four teams. He was released by Tennessee coming out of training camp. The Cowboys could also bring up cornerback Mario Butler from their practice squad, but that’s less likely now with the signing of Walker.
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Q: Should [Tony] Romo be benched for [Jon] Kitna?
Andrew Roberts, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England
GEORGE: Wow, a Cowboys fan from England. Romo is the Cowboys’ best option. He’s certainly a far better option than Jon Kitna, who will turn 39 later this month. Romo gives the Cowboys their best chance to win. The last two full seasons Romo has been healthy, the Cowboys have won the NFC East title.
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Q: It seems we are unable to pick up any kind of short yardage, and it’s been a problem for a few seasons. Don’t you think we should be working on something that would correct this problem?
Rick Reeves, Oak Harbor, Wash.
GEORGE: Rick, you’re so right. The Cowboys have struggled picking up first downs and/or touchdowns in short-yardage situations the last few seasons. It’s a concern for the coaching staff. The Cowboys didn’t help themselves this season by going with a younger, less-physical offensive line and deciding not to carry a true fullback on the roster. Additionally, the Cowboys’ three primary running backs aren’t very physical. I’m afraid this will continue to be a problem all season. The Cowboys have no confidence that they can run the football when they need to run the football, and it shows with the team passing often in short-yardage situations.
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Q: Does Jerry Jones offer advice or give instructions to Jason Garrett during games?
John K. Chapman, Dallas
GEORGE: No, Jerry Jones doesn’t give Jason Garrett instructions during games. Garrett makes the coaching decisions from the sideline. He’s shown more and more that he’s in charge of the Cowboys’ decision-making since he took over. But there’s no doubt that Jones runs the team and gets his 2 cents in every chance he gets, but not while the game is going on.
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Q: How does the coaching staff, team and organization justify having four running backs but not having the confidence in any of them to get behind the offensive line and pound it in from the 2-yard line, and I don’t mean from the shotgun formation?
C. Ant, Washington D.C.
GEORGE: Right now, the Cowboys don’t trust their offensive line enough to play smash-mouth football. The direction they went in training camp was to go young and quicker. None of the four backs on the roster is a physical runner. They don’t have a true fullback on the roster. This is more of a problem if Tony Romo isn’t smart with the football because he’s going to be passing more in those situations during the season. Additionally, the Jets had nine players on the line in those situations Sunday and Romo saw that and went with passes instead of runs in an effort to take advantage of a numbers game.