|If only I had gotten out early...|
I have an announcement to make. A very personal and very difficult announcement to share with all of you. I am getting a divorce. I know, it's sad and horrible. This relationship has been a very important one to me, but I finally recognize that there is no reconciliation on the horizon. It's time to move on.
Now, I have been happily married to my wife for over 3 years. Barring a sudden change of heart in which my wife realizes I'm a complete idiot and decides to murder me for being...well, me...let's just say my marriage is fine. No, the relationship I'm referring to is the incredibly turbulent love affair I've had with Tony Romo since 2006.
The 2006 Dallas Cowboys started the season with 'The Statue' (Drew Bledsoe) at QB and very little hope of contending. Despite it being Bill Parcells 4th season, the team had made very little progress in regaining the type of success the Cowboys were used to. Worse yet, we had burned through an ulcer inducing number of bad/mediocre QB's that would make even the Chicago Bears blush. An unprecedented combination of talentless youngsters (Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson) and Bingo loving senior citizens (Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe) had tried and failed to man down a position once held by the likes of Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Things were worse than horrible. They were mediocre. Totally and utterly mediocre. Not bad enough to blow it up and not good enough to go anywhere.
Then Week 5 happened. Drew Bledsoe got hurt, as Drew Bledsoe is wont to do, and a former undrafted rookie free agent from Eastern Illinois was inserted into the lineup. After winning 5 of his first 7 starts, throwing 12 TD's along the way, the Tony Romo era had officially begun.
I'm not ashamed to say that I immediately loved him. How could you not? An undrafted nobody from a crappy school in Illinois was suddenly emerging as "The Future" for America's Team. He was talented, charismatic, swashbuckling...he was everything Cowboys fans had been looking for since the day Troy Aikman suffered his 40th concussion and forgot his name.
I'm not complaining about my lot in life. I was fortunate enough to get into football around the time Troy-Emmitt-Irvin were breaking through for their first Super Bowl. I personally have witnessed my team winning 3 Super Bowls, and that's a whole heck of a lot more than most NFL fans can claim. Still, it hasn't been easy to be a Cowboys fan since that last glorious run. We've suffered through Barry Switzer, Dave Campo, devastating injuries to Aikman and Irvin, and the aforementioned QB's. Worst of all, we've suffered through Jerry Jones.
Finally though, our suffering was coming to an end. Our fortunes were turning around. Tony Romo had arrived, and we were on our way to the Super Bowl. I was excited. Those 13 INT's in his 11 starts? Inexperience. The 3 losses in the final 4 games? Don't worry, he'll learn.
January 6, 2007. Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Romo struggles through his first playoff game, but successfully avoids the big turnover and keeps his team in the game. Down 21-20, Romo takes control and drives his team down the field, setting them up with a 19 yard FG to win the game. The snap is good, the hold is...WHOOPS! Yes, we all know what happened on that play. Romo, who had been the holder for the past couple seasons, botches the biggest hold of his life, thus ending the Cowboys hopes of winning their first playoff game in around a decade.
My response? Well, let's just say it wasn't positive. Still, as a reasonable fan who works hard to develop educated opinions, I didn't hold Romo responsible. Not in the slightest. Not one bit. He was young! He was inexperienced! He shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place! Why hadn't we gone out and signed a holder when Romo took over as starter? It's not like he threw a dumb INT to end the game or anything...it was just a hold. He'll learn from it, and come back better.
Here we are 5 years later, and I'm officially done making excuses for Tony Romo. For the past 5 years, I've desperately wanted my first opinion to be true. I desperately wanted him to grow from his mistakes; to learn from them, to come back better and more focused. I desperately wanted this marriage to work out. However, after last night's spirit-crushing loss to the Jets, it seems clear that it's not going to happen. He isn't going to learn, he isn't going to get better. He is what he is, and I'm done with it.
Thus far, I haven't spent much time on last night's game. Honestly, it's really hard for me to even think about it. Romo did his typical Romo thing, looking like an All-Pro for 3 quarters before imploding in the decisive phase of the game. There are many people who would totally discount a statement like that, saying that "clutch" or "un-clutch" play doesn't exist. To an extent, I will agree. Luck and circumstance play a much larger role in "the clutch" than most people will acknowledge. But seriously, don't even try to discount Romo's penchant for late game meltdowns. It's totally undeniable. Here's some stats.
Romo's Career Stats: 64.1% Comp, 120 TD, 63 INT, 8.1 Y/A, 95.6 QB Rating, 39-22 Record
Here are his numbers when the margin of the game is 0-7 points:
Romo in close games: 63.8% Comp, 46 TD, 34 INT, 7.5 Y/A, 87.5 QB Rating
This is no joke! Romo's TD-INT ratio and QB Rating are significantly worse in close games. Worse yet, since 2006, the Cowboys are a dismal 16-20 in games decided by a TD or less. Getting even more specific, they are 6-9 in games decided by a FG or less.
That's horrible. Just horrible.
You can argue with the stats if you like, as stats can definitely be misleading. I'll give you that. Here's what you can't possibly take away from me. My fear. You can't explain away the absolute terror I feel in every tight game. You can't understand how petrified I am in every 4th quarter or how fatalistic my thoughts become when Romo takes the field for an important drive.
Here's the thing...I watch the games. I've watched nearly every Cowboy game since Romo took over, and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Romo is DEFINITELY un-clutch. His botched hold against Seattle was no fluke. It wasn't inexperience...IT WAS TONY ROMO! I could name half a dozen horrible incidents off the top of my head (Champ Bailey INT, Giants playoff loss, last night...please, let me stop now!), so don't tell me that Romo is just "un-lucky." That's crap.
Tony Romo is an exceptionally talented QB who has no excuse for not being a top 5 player in the NFL. That's a lofty statement, but anyone who's watched him for an extended period of time knows that I'm telling the truth. The biggest thing holding Romo back is Tony Romo. I don't know or understand what allows one person to excel under pressure, but I know Tony Romo doesn't have it. When the big moment comes and the spotlight shines bright, he withers away and dies...taking all my hopes and dreams with him.
Since 2006, I've been hoping and praying that Romo would become the player I desperately want him to be. My wife has repeatedly asked me why I stick by him, and I have yet to come up with a good answer. Before last night, I was deeply suffering from something similar to Battered Wife Syndrome. Despite the abuse I had received, I couldn't leave him.
No more. I'm done. I'm out. I can't take any more. I still love the Cowboys, I'm still a huge fan. I'll watch all their games, and continue to dangerously raise my blood pressure each and every Sunday. Nevertheless, Tony Romo and I are done. We are divorced. He's always going to be exactly what he is, and the Cowboys are going nowhere with him behind center. After the season, I think it's time to move on. Heck, I might be willing to go with Jon Kitna right now!
Tony, it's been a wild ride. We've had some ups for sure, but there's been far too many downs. I've stuck it out for quite some time, but I honestly can't continue. It's just too hard. I've talked to my lawyer, and we've drawn up the papers. All I need is for you to sign. Please, don't try to talk me out of it...you know this had to happen. I just can't be in this relationship any longer. From here on out, we're through.
Best of luck,
Jaded Cowboys Fan