When the news stories start to run out, journalist turn to a sure-fire crutch, "The List" of something. July has been the month of lists, and Scouts, Inc. via ESPN is adding to it by rating all 32 teams at every position, starting with the QB spot. In a move sure to rile the Romo faithful, the Cowboys rank #14. In truth, though, the rating is supposed to evaluate the entire QB depth chart on every team. So it’s actually a ranking of Romo, Brad Johnson, and Matt Baker, who they’ve deemed the likely #3 QB. That’s another story in itself - the Cowboys #3 QB - but I’ll leave that for another time, like training camp.
But if you look at the rankings, the criterion is obviously heavily slanted toward the starting QB. That’s as it should be; even if Tom Brady had the worst backup QB situation in the league, the Patriots QB depth chart would still have to rate near the top, because Brady is that good.
I think Romo deserves to be a little higher up in the rankings, but it doesn’t really bother me that he isn’t. It’s been said over and over, but Romo has only started 11 games, and he is 6-5 as a starter. Sure, I can see the potential, and everyone else can see it too, but the fact is he needs to prove his worth this season by getting that won/loss record up. It’s all about winning in the NFL, and the QB bears the brunt of that responsibility more than any other player, fairly or not. So Romo needs to win, and rectify the thing he is most known for, The Bobble, by wining in the playoffs. (OK, maybe he’s known more for dating Carrie Underwood, but I’m referring to the football world, not the population at large).
If Romo wins big this year, next year, come July, you’ll be reading lists with Romo up at the top.
So what is Scouts, Inc. take on Tony Romo – and the other Cowboys QB’s?
14. Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo had a storybook season in 2006, going 5-1 in his first six starts and giving the Cowboys great production at the position. But he struggled down the stretch, throwing too many interceptions and fumbling too many times while the Cowboys finished 1-4 in his final five games. The coaches are hoping that the Romo they saw early in the season is the one they get in 2007. He has excellent physical skills as a passer and his mobility allows him to make plays with his feet. However, he must do a better job of playing under control, being patient and not turning the ball over. Aging Brad Johnson will be the backup and mentor to Romo. Although his physical skills are limited, he still knows how to read a defense and get the ball to the right place. Young Matt Baker will be the No. 3 QB, and although he has good developmental skills, he's a long way from the field.
I think that’s reasonable. I’ve made my stand on Tony Romo before but I’ll reiterate my opinion now.
Tony Romo showed last year that he has all the skills needed to succeed as an NFL QB. He’s got a quick release; he has a great sense of the rush and the mobility to move around to avoid it, and he can throw on the run. Sometimes it seemed that he was more comfortable throwing when he was on the move, but he did enough to prove he can throw from the pocket. But he’s going to need to make that a staple of his game, because in the timing offense, throwing from a stationary point in the pocket is essential. He also has that one thing that all QB’s need, leadership ability. It manifests itself in different forms in different QB’s, but for consistent success, a QB has to have it and Romo does.
On the other side of the equation is experience. Romo has to show he’s not a flash in the pan. I just need to see him win over the course of a whole season before I’m totally sold. This isn’t about what I think he can do, because I think he’s going to be great, but about what I see. It’s not about his ability, it’s simply about empirical evidence from a big enough sample. He also needs to be more careful with the football, he showed a penchant for losing it over the last stretch of games, and he needs to tighten that up. He also has to conquer the adjustments defenses are making to him; teams were trying to pinch him in the pocket and not allow him to get outside and throw on the move at the end of the year. They were also trying to mix their coverages and jump certain routes to make him go to other options.
That’s where I’m at on Tony Romo. I believe in Romo, I think he’s going to be the man for a while. But I just want to see a little more evidence before I’m absolutely convinced. And yes, I get the idea that Romo’s struggles last year coincided with the struggles of the whole team, especially the defense. But that doesn’t absolve him of blame in the struggle, he was right there with the rest of the team making mistakes. As I’ve also said, this doesn’t take anything away from Romo as a player, I would expect nothing less from a young QB, almost all of them have bad stretches. It’s just the growing process.