Football is the ultimate team game, where players have widely different skills and responsibilities. Eleven men have to execute their assignments for a play to succeed, and one breakdown can often disrupt everything.
But it is also true that no NFL team is going to go any further than the quarterback is able to take them. For the Dallas Cowboys, that means Tony Romo has to step up. If the team hopes to get anywhere this season, it needs him to have a great year. And it needs him to lead.
It sounds like he is more than ready. In a video interview on ESPN Dallas, he talks about some of the things going on with the team. A couple of things jumped out at me. First, he showed that he is not just the leader of the offense, but also taking the reins as the man heading up the whole team.
A great defense gives you a great opportunity.
He is happy with what Rob Ryan and the team are doing. I like the perspective he has, and the realization that he cannot do this on his own. Although he is entering his tenth season, this sounds like a more mature player than I can recall. He has grown steadily through his career, but this year you can feel a comfort with who he is and what he is expected to do. And his praise for what Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and the rest of the staff have done in taking care of the other side of the line of scrimmage is part of that.
More on this video and other things Romo has been saying after the jump.
While last season had some obvious disappointments, Romo's view of it is focused on how to build from it. In particular, he got into a couple of games that brought a lot of criticism for him personally.
He doesn't sugar coat them too much, however.
In the long run, they're gonna be very beneficial. In the short term, they suck.
This video was just part of what he had to say. In other comments from the article associated with it, he delves a little further into how the team as a whole is trying to move forward from the 2011 season.
"I think you use the negative things that happen from the year before -- and from other years, too -- to spur you to do the things you need to do to take the next step," Romo said. "At the same token, the excitement level is there for the season because of the players we have on the team, some of the new additions and the amount of work and new stuff that we're doing this year. And that's exciting to me."
While, as noted in the report, this is the time for optimism to flow unbridled all over the NFL, Romo also notes how different this year is from the last. He is another voice from the Cowboys talking about how the team has made some significant improvement this offseason. And he has been speaking out with some regularity about a lot of things, including his support of beleaguered wide receiver Dez Bryant. As Archie put it in his recent take on Dez and how Tony has stepped up for him,
There is a lot of talk about how Tony Romo "lacks leadership", but I really believe that Romo is a great teammate who possesses the leadership qualities you want in a quarterback.
While all of us know that the lack-of-leadership and choker memes will not die until the Cowboys slay them in the post-season, those of us who watch the Cowboys closely and pay attention to what happens on the field see that Romo is indeed performing at a high level. He played as well as he ever has, if not better, in the last half of the 2011 season. That year saw a great deal of problems with injuries, which may be partially attributable to the lack of an organized conditioning program during the lockout (which, to borrow a term from Tony, sucked). The always analytical OCC dove into the numbers, and found that seven Cowboys were reported at various times during the season with hamstring injuries for 27 total games, and completely out for 23. And these were not just minor role players. Miles Austin, Mike Jenkins and Felix Jones were among the players hobbled during the season, and even the Phillip Tanner injury had a significant impact, since he was unable to fill in for DeMarco Murray after the latter's broken ankle.
So the burst of optimism from Tony Romo looks to be more than just wishful thinking. He may have many more of his weapons intact for more games this year, and that could lead to some very good things. This Cowboys team is coming into the season as a very different bunch than last year, not just in terms of personnel, but also in terms of outlook as the team is molded by Jason Garrett and his ever-present Process.
And Tony may be a big part of that change. In the wake of his standing up for Dez, Tim MacMahon at ESPN Dallas made the declaration that Romo has made his claim on the team.
There is no longer a question about whether the franchise quarterback feels comfortable in the leadership role required of his position. There should no longer be any questions about whether Romo is capable of filling that role.
Still, it will all come down to wins and losses, to the way the team carries all this alleged improvement onto the field. Tony Romo is certainly ready - although, as the original article I cited states, he is going to have to wait a little bit longer. The team has excused him from early reporting to give the other quarterbacks some extra time to work before the whole team reports and they start working on putting things together. Tony was a little disappointed, I think.
"I talked to Jason to see if I can come out here [Wednesday] but I know they want to get some of the young guys some reps," Romo said. "So we'll see what happens and what the coaching staff wants to do, but I'm ready to rock and roll."
That is my kind of music.