"If you think about where he’s at right now, he’s 10 years older than most of the players we have on the field. We think his skill level right now is very much where we hoped it would be and will be for several years to come. But what we want to use more than we ever have is the kind of thing that (ex-Cowboys quarterback Roger) Staubach contributed – input into designing a plan that helps us beat that opponent."
That announcement made big national headlines. Comparisons to Peyton Manning were drawn. Questions continued to be asked about who would be the offensive playcaller. Snarky commentators tried to outdo each other with snarky comments and tried to pass that off as journalism.
That was three months ago. Here's my question to you: Three months later, do you have any idea what Tony Romo's new role in the Cowboys offense will be this year?
Most of you reading this post are pretty hardcore Cowboys fans and have a pretty clear view of what is going on at Valley Ranch, but I'm pretty sure that almost nobody will be able to answer that question with any degree of detail or certainty.
Yet collectively, we know exactly how much Romo weighed in at this year; we know that he's been running up some mountains in the last couple of weeks to improve his conditioning; we know exactly which golf tournaments he skipped this year; we know exactly where he didn't rank in the NFLs top 100 players; we know all about his $108 million contract; we've speculated at length about the severity of the procedure done on his back; we know all this about Tony Romo, but when it comes to actual football stuff, we have no clue about Tony Romo.
Over the years, the fascination with and focus of sports journalism on stories that are at best peripherally connected to the game has led to a TMZfication of sportswriting, which culminates in "stories" that carry such titles as "Stone Cold Steve Austin says Tony Romo "sh*ts the bed" when it counts" or "Tony Romo Dissed Big Time in Cowboys-Stars Twitter Spat."
Earlier today, Les Carpenter of Yahoo published an oddly titled article ("Tony Romo's mysterious mountain run clouds QB's total control of Dallas Cowboys' offense") in which Carpenter writes about Romo's penchant for attracting some of these "superficial" storylines and how that tends to obscure some of the bigger football stories:
And that is unfortunate because the more significant story with Romo is that he is playing a bigger role than ever in the Cowboys' success or failure this season. His new involvement in the offense is real and it is substantial. You can be sure that whatever plays the team runs this fall will be plays that Romo wants.
Les Carpenter, who's been very critical of the Cowboys in the past, presents an old-school article, one that actually features some research and not just someone's opinion packaged to look like reporting - and one that features some insight into Romo's role with the offense:
What is clear is that Romo has already been more involved in the structuring of the offense this year than he has been in the past. In fact, it might be more involved than almost any quarterback anywhere.
He attended most of the coaches' offensive installation meetings this winter. In other years he might have dropped in for a few minutes but this time he sat through the bulk of the sessions offering his opinions. Eventually he gave his ideas to Wilson who then spent several days researching the concepts before cutting up tape to illustrate them. He then distributed the tape to the other offensive coaches so they could consider them.
When asked what those concepts were Wilson grinned.
It's a secret.
From the outside looking in, it looks like Tony Romo is adding plays to the Cowboys playbook, is vetting those already in it and combining that into helping design an offensive gameplan. That's a pretty substantial role, even for a quarterback. And while we probably won't know the full extent of Romo' role in the offense until the season starts - if then - we do know that Romo is excited about what the Cowboys are doing, and for Cowboys fans, that should be a good thing:
"We’re just putting together some ideas that we love," Romo said. "I feel strongly about certain things that are going to help us, I think. And I think it’s just a bunch of guys going to work every day and figuring out ways to be better as a football team. Lot of different capacities for players and coaches all the way up, so it’s exciting."