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Romo Rising: Why Has Sports Media Suddenly Fallen In Love With The Cowboys' Quarterback?

Just last year, the expectation was that Tony Romo would eventually fall apart. He didn't, and at long last, almost everyone who covers the NFL is starting to acknowledge that he may be one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It may be a fleeting thing, but for the moment, there is a very real appreciation of the talents of one Antonio Ramiro Romo. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who of course usually goes by just Tony Romo, has long been labeled in the national sports media as a choker. December was literally the winter of his discontent because he lost those all important stretch games. And if the team should stumble into the playoffs, he was expected to crumble under the pressure. This rankled many who watched the team closely, including most of us here at Blogging The Boys. We had seen him fighting through injury and poor play around him to try and lift up this team. We felt it should have long been obvious that he was not the problem for Dallas, but to a large extent was one of the main reasons they won many of the games they did. Still, the prevailing view of him by people with a more superficial grasp of the Cowboys can be summed up by this.

Yet, suddenly that has all changed. Going into this season, there was a great deal more respect afforded Romo. He was discussed in many places as a top ten quarterback, and many had him in or flirting with the top five. But since the opening week victory over the New York Giants, there has been an absolute torrent of praise for him, as you may have noticed in the Saturday morning news post. He has been lauded by Forbes. Peter King was stunned by his level of preparation and effort to improve himself. Chip Kelly used the word "elite" to describe him. ESPN's Trent Dilfer considers him part of the "Mount Rushmore" of quarterbacks. The ultimate authority for low information NFL fans everywhere, Madden NFL, has declared him "clutch". Even Bleacher Report concurred on his "clutchness", proclaiming him better at it than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady.

To quote our own One.Cool.Customer, "It's like the lights are going on across the NFL all of a sudden."

None of this suddenly unearthed understanding of the high level of Romo's game is news to many who frequent BTB, of course. It is just the abruptness of the scramble to get about his bandwagon that surprises. It is nice to think that this is a final succumbing to the weight of the statistics, the 28 game winning drives in his career, the 25 comeback victories, or the superb December he had last season. But it probably isn't. This is mostly a case study in how opinions are formed nowadays, based on highlights (or lowlights) of memorable games and the knee-jerk reactions of writers and talking heads on major sports news outlets.

Romo's undeserved bad reputation started with a play that Cowboys fans loathe, the infamous fumbled field goal attempt against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs following the 2006 season. That was the season when Romo became the starter for the Cowboys, an undrafted free agent stepping in for veteran Drew Bledsoe, and playing better than anyone outside the Dallas organization could have imagined he would. But the stunning turnaround when he couldn't handle a slick ball became seared in everyone's minds. For Cowboys fans, it is a tragic memory. For most fans of the NFL, it became the most important data point defining Romo. And everyone saw it, because it was in the playoffs.

There would be a few other notable meltdowns, such as the 2011 loss to the Detroit Lions where a Bobby Carpenter pick-six of Romo turned the tide. These always seemed to come in games that were nationally covered (a common occurrence for the Cowboys, a perennial ratings draw) and just fortified the belief that Romo would always make a bad play in big games. Last year's drive into the playoffs and the wildcard round victory over those same Lions would start to erode the belief, but it was again one play in a nationally televised game that would finally shatter the meme.

It was the winning touchdown pass. Romo had already done enough to prove how very good he is during that wild fourth quarter, but that last play was the big blow, and ironically, it started the same way that the image of Romo the choker did: He fumbled the snap (although is was a bad snap). The ball hit the ground, and for Cowboys fans everywhere, our hearts leaped into out throats as visions of disaster on the brink of triumph flashed before us.

But Romo calmly reached down, gathered the ball up, and quickly surveyed the field behind the protection of that superb offensive line. Jason Witten was open, and you know how that ended. Touchdown, Dan Bailey extra point, ballgame. After the game, Cole Beasley would speak with just a touch of awe about how Romo had been calmly telling everyone before the final drive that they were going to go out and win the game. He backed his words up in spectacular fashion. The NFL world was watching the Sunday night game, which was another ratings monster for NBC, and they finally saw Romo the winner on full display. The contrast with Eli Manning's confused handling of the goal line situation that gifted the Cowboys with enough time to move calmly down the field for the game winner did not hurt.

So suddenly Romo is the NFL media darling of the moment. It is not for the right reasons, but at least everyone has come to the right conclusion. Romo is playing the best football of his career, and on a level with the best quarterbacks in the league. It took an overly dramatic play to drive the point home. That is just the nature of things in this era of hot takes and instant analysis.

We must remember that the perch he is on is precarious. All quarterbacks, no matter how good, make mistakes. At the wrong moment, they can spell defeat. If Tony Romo has one of those in an important game, that old "choker" label will probably be dusted off and waved about. But for now, he is getting some long overdue recognition. If he stays healthy, he has a cast around him that can lift him up, instead of the other way around. There are challenges with the injuries from the Giants game, but the Cowboys have a lot of character that can help them overcome those. Jerry Jones has said that the biggest disappointment of his ownership of the Cowboys would be failing to win a Super Bowl with Romo as his quarterback If he can achieve that, then perhaps the undeserved labels will finally die forever.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB


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