NFL

Engel: Choke artist or future champ? Don't be so quick to judge Romo

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9)
Maybe Cowboys QB Tony Romo is a choker. Maybe he isn't.
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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining FOXSports.com. Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

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In a league where almost every variable has been accounted for, spliced and dissected and debated and game planned for, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo remains somewhat of a mystery.

He’s a choker.

Until final drives like he had Sunday in The Meadowlands.

Then he’s a Troy and Roger incarnate.

Until the next time he loses.

This crazy train we ride with him from declaring him a Hall of Famer to calling for Kyle Orton and back again, convinced he’ll win two Super Bowls to unsure if he’ll ever win another playoff game, love, hate, disappointment, hope is insane. And I finally decided what drives people most crazy about Romo, why he’s prone to such analyst mood swings: He defies the instant analysis that we love in this society.

And Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, bless his little general-managing heart, understood this better than anybody. This is why Jerry gave him Flacco-Rodgers-Brady money this offseason. Jones recognized the story of this quarterback is still very much to be determined.

That and Romo, as flawed as he may sometimes look, is pretty damn good. A good hunk of teams would kill to be “saddled” with a Romo. The time, of course, has come where more is expected.

We have reached the juncture in Romo’s trajectory where game-winning drives in November do not change the conversation about him. For Romosexuals, a self-identifying phrase adopted by those who still believe in this kid, this is proof of what he is capable of, how unfair the criticism has been and what is still possible. The game-winning drive against The NYG holds no such import for those who long ago determined Romo had peaked.

For starters, this latest wizardry came in November.

And against a Giants team that indeed was a paper lion.

There is always an asterisk now, a reason why what we just saw has little to no bearing on what is to come. This is the joy of being Romo, of surviving this long without a championship, NFC or otherwise, of getting the benefit of the doubt, of staying while coaches and coordinators and too many receivers to count have been scapegoated and jettisoned.

Even Romo has come to understand, and stated for the record, that nothing short of a Super Bowl will change his Cowboys legacy. There is unlikely to be even Danny White grudging respect for him, not now, not after this many disappointments. He has to win a Super Bowl. This is where we are and, even I a firm believer Romo’s championship is coming, recognize there will be no convincing those who do not until his fingerprints are actually on the Lombardi.

What I cannot grasp is why so many insist on deciding this question now, in November, with five years remaining on his deal, with so much undetermined. He may again fail in December (although his numbers say the failure is less his and more of the team variety). He may fail in the playoffs. He may never win. And if this happens, history will judge him accordingly.

This is less about Romo and our narrative about him, as I have seen a lot this a.m. This is more about how we do everything, starting with politics and Washington and trickling down to every segment of life. We form opinions based on what we believe to be true then funnel every bit of information into backing up these opinions.

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Look at Obamacare, and I have no idea if this is a good idea or destined to fail underneath the weight of its own idiocy. But Republicans were declaring it a failure before it started, and again a week in and still now. This is what we do, rush to judgment without all of the facts and thereby fail to let things play out to their conclusion. We do this with ideas and business plans, with friends and frenemies, with ourselves and with our quarterbacks. We do this all of the time in some weird contest to be the first one to declare something a failure, or ourselves right, or somebody else wrong.

Maybe, Romo is a choker.

Or maybe, he is a Super Bowl winner.

All we know is we do not know. He is TBD, and all Sunday did was give me hope that I may be right about this kid after all.

Tagged: Cowboys, Tony Romo

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