Cowboys win won't silence Romo critics
His postgame departure from the locker room came on a golf cart that drove through a bevy of gawking Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
Not a bad way for Tony Romo to end one of his rougher weeks.
Romo is off the hook from public abuse — at least temporarily — following Monday night's 21-7 home victory over Carolina. He played a solid but unspectacular game, completing 22 of 33 passes for 255 yards. There were no touchdown throws but no turnovers either — a marked improvement from the previous outing that subjected Romo to the kind of scorn normally reserved for embattled Cowboys coach Wade Phillips. Eight days earlier, Romo's three interceptions were the deciding factor in a 33-31 loss to the New York Giants that ruined his team's inaugural regular-season game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
"I would say this week is going to be better than last week," Romo deadpanned while flashing a half-smile. "That's a fair assessment."
Getting a fair assessment of where Romo stands in his seven-year career isn't as easy.
After the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he feels strongly that Romo is "the quarterback that can win where we want to go." Recent history indicates otherwise.
The star on Romo's helmet has faded since his meteoric 2006 rise under then-coach Bill Parcells. Romo began his career as a starter with an 18-6 record. He is 11-8 since and has lost both of his playoff appearances. That has raised doubts about whether Romo was worth the $67 million contract extension Jones granted midway through the 2007 season.
Dr. Phil would have a blast psychoanalyzing reasons for the decline. Some will point to the Yoko Effect — i.e. Romo's ill-fated relationship with Jessica Simpson. Romo's image still hasn't recovered from his retreat with Simpson to Cabo San Lucas before Dallas' 2007 playoff loss to the New York Giants. Questions began to arise about whether Romo had his priorities in order and the drive to become a consistently great player. This perception and knocks on Romo's leadership were enhanced by his ho-hum reaction after big losses.
Like Simpson, Terrell Owens is another piece of baggage Romo has shed in 2009. But the wide receiver's stinging criticism of Romo and a misfiring Cowboys offense in 2008 left another black mark.