On the way into work today I heard "Don't Stop Believing" and of course thought of Tony Romo, and how this song generally represents the story of his career so far. It is a song of hope and, implicitly, redemption. It reminds me of Romo's arrival from out of nowhere and his journey up to now.
We all know his story, but let's look again at how unique and special he truly is. With Kurt Warner retired, Romo is now the undisputed champion of undrafted free agent (UDFA) NFL quarterbacks. Not to belabor the obvious, but UDFA QB starters in the NFL are few and far between. Quality UDFA QB starters are even more rare. Most NFL teams have very high draft choices starting for them at this most important position. Out of the 32 NFL teams, 19 are projected to have 1st round choices starting for them in 2010 (20 if you count Denver's Tim Tebow). Most of these teams drafted these high-priced QBs, and others (like the Redskins or Chicago) traded for them. Another 4 NFL squads will have 2nd round picks starting at QB, and 2 more teams will see 3rd rounders under center. David Garrard with Jacksonville is a 4th rounder, while Tom Brady, Matt Hasselback and Matt Cassel were chosen in the 6th and 7th rounds (and even those last 3 QBs played for high-profile college programs). So for the most part, starting QBs are first day draft picks. They had productive college careers and were largely anticipated to be chosen high and expected to be NFL-calibre QBs.
Of the three teams that are expected to start UDFAs this season, two will be looking over their shoulders at relatively high-pedigreed, high draft backups - Jake Delhomme and Colt McCoy (3rd) in Cleveland, and Matt Moore and Jimmy Claussen (2nd) in Carolina. Those two rookies could even win the jobs outright in pre-season. It's entirely possible that the 2010 season will witness just one UDFA QB starting in the NFL - the Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo.
We are lucky that the Cowboys' organization found this diamond in the rough. We've talked for years now about who's responsible - was it Parcells (possibly), Jones (unlikely) or Sean Payton (probably). I don't care who gets the credit. All that matters is that the Cowboys pulled off, in the drunken words of Jones, this "miracle." The team didn't have to use a high draft pick on this highly sensitive position, with a choice that seems to be more often a failure than a success. It freed up the ability of the Cowboys to instead squander their first round picks on crappy wide receivers and undersized linebackers. But seriously folks, let's take a moment to appreciate our UDFA Division I-AA starting QB, to savor his stats and winning percentage, and to be thankful that he isn't a rapist.