Tony Romo provided a great interview on the Ben and Skin radio show on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 21. I highly recommend you listen to the interview here. You can catch up with my first article about this interview here.
I sometimes like to envision the process of talent acquisition to that of spinning plates. When one plate begins to wobble, you run over and keep it spinning. At that moment, you notice another plate in the distance that needs your attention, and so you provide it. And sometimes you choose to keep one plate spinning until it's just about to topple over while you place your focus elsewhere and then slide in at the last moment to prevent it from crashing to the floor.
Whether or not you believe Jerry Jones and the front office have done a good job keeping those plates from falling is certainly up for debate. But what I think is less debatable is that since the appointment of Jason Garrett to head coach, this team has adhered more closely to a coherent longer-term plan. It may be a plan that some disagree with, and one that's taking a lot longer to come to fruition than we'd prefer, but it is a plan nonetheless.
That plan is to build a foundation along the trenches, beginning with the offensive line. With the addition of Zack Martin, the Cowboys have now used three of their last four first round picks on the offensive line. That's a significant amount of resources to spend on a single area of the team. So how does this benefit Dallas? Tony Romo answers this question near the end of his interview.
B&S: Give us your, sort of, Tony Romo dark horse, who is somebody that's going to step through and break through this year for the cowboys? It could be on defense or offense but someone that's really gonna get his shine on in the upcoming season that's gonna make a big step towards getting this team where everybody wants it to be.
Romo: Yeah, I think it's easy to sometimes to pick out the people who have the ball in their hand. Where I look at it a little bit more is the guy who goes against a pro bowl player at guard and neutralizes him where he only gets one or two pressures in that football game instead of nine. Where nine different times you're gonna throw the ball earlier than you want to. That's the guy who makes the difference. That's really the game in a nutshell.
Notice that Tony doesn't name anyone specifically, but given the fact that he's speaking about a guard, the implication is that he my be referring to Zack Martin and by extension, the entire offensive line. For Tony, and for many of us as well, the game is won or lost up front. By having an offensive line that provides quality protection and running lanes, one's skill players, such as Dez Bryant and Demarco Murray, are able to flourish on the field.
Tony elaborates further and uses this past Superbowl as an example:
You watch that Superbowl and the guy that had the best season maybe in the history of our sport just had to play faster. He had to physically play a full second faster, half a second faster than he had to play all season long, and I think it just makes the game, no matter who you are and what level, it takes the people around you and those guys that give you that extra second or go make that play, that's the difference between winning and losing. Having one or two extra of those guys. It goes such a long way to being better.
Romo completes his answer to the above question by highlighting a member of the defensive line that he and many of us here anticipate to be a great asset to this team:
And obviously I know our defense was ranked lower last year at the end of the year, but I think, through a number of people, we're gonna be a better team on that side of the ball. I know just some of the guys that people just don't necessarily know I think are gonna be very, very good football players. I think Tyrone Crawford is gonna be a guy that'll be shocking to a lot of people. And I think if we'd have had him last year it would've been a very different defensive unit we would've had…I think he's the guy that stands out to me as the first guy that's gonna be very, very difficult to deal with for offenses.
With an upgraded offensive line, the 2014 Dallas Cowboys hope to unleash an offense as explosive as the one seven years ago when the team finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. One can find many parallels between the 2007 team and this one and make the argument that our skill players are better now than they were then. If the offensive line plays like many of us hope, then last year's shaky defense may find a way to thrive and supplement what Tony hopes to have this year.
As a bonus, I've included Romo's response to a couple questions that help to highlight why I'm such a fan of his. Because this article is much longer than I anticipated, I've cut his response short to the second question:
B&S: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the quarterback of another team with a number one defense? Or just a different scheme away from the spotlight of the Cowboys. Have you ever just looked out the window and just wondered: "Hmmm, I wonder if that would be nice?"
Romo: I don't know that that would be enjoyable…You kind of put your heart and your body and your competitive nature on the line. Let's say before I signed this last contract, you go out and say: 'You know what, I'm gonna go out to this other team and do this.' And let's just pretend it was Seattle a year ago. You go out there, you win a championship. Well, congratulations. You went and you picked a spot and won a championship there, it was set up with a lot of pieces and blah, blah, blah, blah, and then you go back and live in Dallas. And I don't know that that would, congratulations, a bunch of people in Seattle like you. It's about the team you grew up with, you started off with. That is your team. You put everything into it and the joy comes from accomplishing it with so many people and the fans and the state and I'm gonna be here for good. I would rather fight till the end and give everything I had and leave it out there for the Dallas Cowboys than go somewhere else and do something special for halfway, a little, just a couple years. It just doesn't seem that that would be enjoyable at all to me.
B&S: What's your relationship like with Dirk?
Romo: Dirk's great. I've texted with Dirk a few times, talked to him a couple times. And it's just a supportive affair where you just kind of get to a point and you feel like you really root for someone because of what they've gone through. His career, it's amazing when you look back. You forget how much struggle he had to go through before he became just a guy that was obviously as respected as anyone in the game.