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Why the 2009 Season Was So Important for the Cowboys and Tony Romo

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Over the next few weeks, this blog will examine the current state of the Dallas Cowboys roster. We'll be searching for answers about free-agency and the draft; what are Dallas' absolute needs (ahem, FG kicker) and nice-to-haves. Fortunately, there's one position we'll have no problem with, and it just happens to be the most important one on the field.

Cowboys fans everywhere can be thankful for Tony Romo.

At minimum, you need a competent QB in the NFL or your team is going nowhere. Only on the exceptional occasions can a mediocre QB reach the pinnacle in the league and hoist the Lombardi. A dominant defense and a punishing running game can do the trick, but it's only the exception that proves the rule. You need a play-maker at QB to be a dominant team in the NFL, and the Cowboys have one. Before you lose the plot and say Dallas isn't a dominant team and that Romo hasn't won anything "big" yet, I say "yet" is the key. He may or may not reach those heights the fanbase wants, but we at least know he has the ability to do it.

When you look across the NFL landscape, it's littered with teams that are desperate for a QB, or have big questions mark. The Rams, Bills, Raiders, Browns, Redskins, Panthers - that's just a sample. And it's not just bad teams, look at some playoff teams: the Vikings and the Cardinals both could have issues at QB depending on how events unfold.

Certain games stick out as landmarks in Tony Romo's NFL journey so far. His first start against the Panthers when he took his team on the road and posted a convincing win. The heart-breaker playoff game in Seattle, the amazing comeback against the Bills after he had put the Cowboys in a big hole. There are others.

But in time, perhaps the most important game in Tony Romo's career will be the Week 2 loss in 2009 to the New York Giants. The Cowboys spent most of the game knocking the Giants around the field, only to have Romo's three interceptions snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Romo has already declared that he had an epiphany after the game. For whatever reason, he finally realized what was missing from his game - ball security. Critics may joke it took long enough - and I might agree - but it finally happened.

Romo threw nine interceptions in all of 2009. Three came on that day against New York. The rest of the year, he never again had a multi-interception game. He put together a three-game, and a four-game, streak without throwing one. Previous to this year, Romo had 81 TDs and 46 INTs. That's .57 INTs per TD. This season, he had 26 TDs and 9 INTs, that's .35 INTs per TD. He went from throwing roughly 2 TDs per INT, to 3 TDs per INT.

Previous to this season, Romo had demonstrated almost all of the key ingredients you need in QB. He can make any throw, he generally throws an accurate ball that puts his receivers in a position to rack up YAC stats. He's mobile, can throw on the run, and he has the uncanny knack for making a big play out of potential disaster. He was missing two big ones though, ball security and leadership.

In 2009, he just might have conquered the last two.

Romo on the loss to the Giants in Week 2:

"When we lost the Giant game (on Sept. 20), I felt like I was a major reason why," Romo said. "I needed to improve, and committed myself to taking better care of the football."

From Pro Bowl interviews yesterday, Romo on interceptions:

Part of it is throwing the ball more accurately when you are under duress. That was something I had to teach myself, too. Find a way to be more accurate when there are people around you. You have to practice those throws. Everybody can practice dropping back and throwing the football. That is what you do. You don't practice having people around your body in funny positions, still trying to be accurate.

Romo on leadership:

It's like the sophomore kid in high school who's the quarterback, and there's a lot of older kids. It's hard to tell them what to do when they've been through the fire, through these games, and they know the process, whereas you're just learning. With me, it's no different than becoming that junior and senior. You're able to grab ahold of the offensive team and let people know what you expect.

One thing we do know, Romo will be the starting QB in Dallas in 2010. It feels good not to worry about the position.

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The Cowboys are enjoying themselves at the Pro Bowl.

Romo speaks about practicing with Miles Austin on Thursday.

"He's just fun to be around. He works hard," Romo said on NFL Network. "Even here I can get on him a little bit - 'Let's go, turn it up a notch.' We're having a good time, but we're also trying to get better too when we're out here."

Meanwhile, Mike Jenkins is enjoying his Pro Bowl experience, especially sharing it with Terence Newman.

"You look on the other side of the field, you see another star," Jenkins told NFL Network. "I can't even explain how I feel. T-New, when I came in he took me under his wing, taught me everything. He could've just left me out there hanging. He came in and did a great job and as ya'll can see, I had a great year this year and we're going to keep it going."

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Wade Phillips explains why Dat Nguyen left the organization.

Phillips said he wanted Nguyen to stay and had even recommended that he get a new contract. But Nguyen, who was a quality control coach and helped out with linebackers, wanted an opportunity to be a position coach.

"He wanted to try to move up," Phillips said. "He didn’t feel he could do that quick enough at our place. We obviously wanted him back. He did a great job for us. I think he is a really good coach."