Usually, doing one of these game ball posts after a Dallas Cowboys loss is a chore. Fortunately, that has not happened much this season. And in the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, it is a true no-brainer. But it is still hard, because this one truly, truly hurts to write.
This game ball is for Tony Romo, who saw his first game action of the season in the loss. It was only one drive, but it was vintage Romo, featuring a third and long conversion, excellent command on the field, superb ball placement, and what could well be his last touchdown pass ever as quarterback of the Cowboys. And while he arguably had one of the better performances of the game (although several defensive players also showed that their side of the ball is ready for the playoffs), this game ball is more a sad farewell to one of the greatest players to ever don the Star, despite him never getting to lead the team to the promised land.
There are those who will probably argue the point, but the truth of the matter is that for most of the seasons Romo played for the Cowboys, the rest of the team was not good enough for him. Only in 2014 did he have the offensive weapons around him to have a shot at success, and an unfortunate fumble, a dismal pass rush, and a certain obscure call on a pass to Dez Bryant in Green Bay kept him from leading the team to the conference championship game. Injuries completely derailed him in 2015, and then once again he was sidelined in preseason during 2016. But this time, he would see the wunderkind that is Dak Prescott take over the team and lead them to great success. That led to the difficult decision by the coaching staff to make Romo the backup. It was a justified but also totally undeserved way for Romo’s career to end. Yet even as he saw a team that had been constructed for him to take on a playoff run thrive without his efforts on the field, he handled things with incredible grace and composure. You see more of a person’s character in hardship than in success, and all that we saw from Romo was the very best you can ever hope for.
He became the starter for the Cowboys with a bang, but a terribly unfortunate fumbled field goal attempt in Seattle forever stained that season, and left a reputation that he never fully shook. He was labeled by the unthinking as a choker, despite so many games where he brought the team back to win. People remembered some badly timed interceptions, and discounted the many more superb performances he had on the field. Now, it appears all but certain that he will seek to finish his career with another team - and that is as sad a thing as can be imagined. Romo should have played his entire career as a Cowboy. It is not his fault that he will likely not.
There are no stats quoted here, because this is more about emotion than anything, and I will confess that watching him lead that last regular season drive was as painful as it was thrilling. For just a few minutes, we had the best version of Romo, and it leaves us to wonder just what would have happened if his back had not been injured yet again against the same Seahawks team that saw his distorted reputation founded. It will be a question that will linger for a long time, but will probably be overshadowed over time by the incredible story that this season has already been for Dallas. But we should never forget just what a skilled quarterback and tireless competitor Romo was - and still is.
Let us wish him well, wherever his final years take him. And, barring an emergency in the playoffs, it is fitting that the last image of him on the field for Dallas is throwing that score to Terrance Williams. He deserved to go out with that.
Thank you, Tony. You were the best.