Romo has history with Bears, and it’s not all bad
One of the many storylines heading into Monday night’s game in Chicago involves Tony Romo’s struggles against the Bears. But I’ll never forget Romo going to Soldier Field in 2007 and basically ensuring himself the first of two enormous pay days.
Jerry Jones had decided to allow Romo to play into the final year of his contract in ’07 to see how he performed in his first full season as the starting quarterback. In late September, Romo threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-10 win at Soldier Field. The Bears had lost in the Super Bowl to the Colts the previous season. But Romo was far better than Bears starter Rex Grossman that night. Jones didn’t immediately strike a long-term deal with Romo, but that game definitely sped up the process.
“A lot of times, you don’t have a choice, so you’ve got to make a decision right there,” Jones said back then. “But we have the luxury of time. It fits [Romo], too. It lets him have a better feel for where he’s going to be.”
Even while he led the Cowboys to a great start that season, I knew Romo was becoming impatient about his contract. I mainly knew that because that’s what he was telling me at the time. But by the end of October, he and the Cowboys reached an agreement on a six-year, $67 million contract. That doesn’t seem like a monster contract now, but it was pretty impressive for a guy that had just replaced Drew Bledsoe six games into the previous season. It also seems funny now to remember the Cowboys were using Marc Bulger’s contract extension with the Rams as a guide for Romo’s contract. It didn’t take the Rams long to regret that one.
I thought back to that Bears game from 2007 because everyone else was bringing up the Cowboys’ disastrous performance against the Bears in 2012. The good news for Romo is the Bears have been dreadful on defense this season. That may have something to do with the firing of head coach Lovie Smith and one of his top defensive assistants Rod Marinelli, who now heads up the defensive line for the Cowboys. And it doesn’t help that Chicago has lost numerous players to injury this season.
You may recall the fact that Romo is 11-15 for his career in December. And that number looks a lot more unsightly when you consider that he’s 24-5 in November as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback. I could tell you how Romo’s passing numbers are pretty solid in December since 2009, but what most folks remember are those three interceptions in Washington to end the 2012 season. And oddly enough, Romo’s biggest defender remembers some of those negative numbers.
“I think it’s real and I don’t mean to be trite,” Jones said Tuesday morning on 105.3. “You can probably tie that [into] why we have had disappointments in December. It’s hard to build up in this time of the NFL. It’s hard to build up enough edge to play at that level during December, so you better be moving or having your arrow going up rather than going down.”
That’s as close as Jones will ever come to placing blame at his quarterback’s feet. Romo has no bigger fan than Jones, in part because the owner has made such a huge investment in him. Romo has exceeded all expectations as an undrafted quarterback out of Eastern Illinois. But his lack of success in do-or-die games (1-6) largely defines him at this point in his career. Maybe if he had this same career in Clevelend or Cincinnati it would be different.
“I’ve often said it is one of the biggest disappointments of my entire time to have Romo as quarterback and not be in better shape for the playoffs as we looked to his career,” Jones said Tuesday. “We need to change that. That was our goal this year, that should have been our goal this year and we’ve had some setbacks to some injuries, and every other team does too. And we got a chance to do something about it this year.”
Romo won’t be far away from where he played college football Monday. And perhaps he’ll be able to think back to that win at Soldier Field in 2007. That helped lead to generational wealth for Romo.
But now he’s looking for something more important in terms of his football legacy. And simply adding to his impressive passer rating in December since 2009 isn’t going to do the trick.