Tag:NFL 2013-14
Posted on: April 6, 2013 12:06 am
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Tony Romo, Cowboys "It" Man?

Vince Lombardi is famous for saying “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Point in fact, it wasn’t one of his proudest moments.

For starters, the legendary Packers’ coach borrowed the line from adorable & talented child actress Sherry Jackson. She uttered the famous words sitting next to the lovely Donna Reed in the John Wayne movie “Trouble Along the Way (‘53): “Like Steve says (her Dad), winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

And then there’s the other thing. The line doesn’t exactly make sense. If victory is the “only thing,” that’s “everything” too, right? Right.

What bothered Vince was the wrong impression it gave people. It made him sound like a narrow-minded, boob-head who couldn’t appreciate the reality of sport, which is: a team can play with heart, play smart and still come-up-short. The effort oughta’ count for something and in reality Vince knew as much.

And in the ‘come-up-short’ department not many NFL’ers have a bigger office with a nicer view and supportive staff than Mr. Tony Romo.

To the surprise of few (count chatty teammate DeMarcus Ware among that tiny group (Sirius XM / 4-4)), Tone came-up-big last Friday when he signed a contract extension which might, depending on health and term triggers, keep him in Big D the rest of his playing career (6Y, $108M, $40M-Gtd (CBS / JK / “Romo“ / 3-29)).

It’s an un-godly sum of money in a sinfully rich game for a quarterback who’s led his team to but one playoff win (‘09) since taking the Cowboy reigns in ‘06, a win quickly forgotten when the following week Dallas got dismantled by the Favre Vikes, 34-3.

To say TR doesn’t deserve such a deal ignores his skill-set and the healthy state of the NFL, meaning, Jerry Jones can afford it. Romo’s put up some terrific tallies in his seven seasons as a starter and has that even-keel persona that keeps coaches & owners happy.

But there are problems.

First off, when you’re America‘s Team, the NFL’s marquee operation, anything less than on-going, title-contention should be unacceptable. It should be.

Second: Tony Romo just doesn’t have it.

And what is “it?” Well, it ain’t what Clara Bow had (‘27).

And it’s not leadership, not by itself, anyway. Romo’s a leader, no doubt on that point. With numbers that have him on pace to best HOF’er Dan Fouts, and three post-season / Pro Bowl appearances in his seven years as a starter, Tony clearly has a director’s skill.

And you don’t need a ring to have “it,” either, though, having one of what’ve become the most grotesquely over-stated pieces of symbolic jewelry on the planet will necessarily vest recipients with all the rights & privileges accorded Super Bowl stars, including “it.”

Men like Fran Tarkenton, Craig Morton, Warren Moon (5 GC), Dan Marino, Y.A. Tittle, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts, Jake Plummer, Ken Anderson, Doug Flutie (3) and Drew Bledsoe, all came up short in the biggest games of their NFL careers but always left fans believing one more title-run was possible as long as they laced ‘em up and strode out onto that field.

All proof that how you lose, does matter.

Simply put, “it” is an athlete’s passion for winning.

And it’s that passion, a fire in the belly that somehow enables or energizes these quarterbacks in marshaling those skills they need in the big game to lead their men to the promised land.

Sound corny? Not if that’s your man under center.

The pro-Romo camp might say something like this: ‘What else was Dallas gonna’ do, cut Tony? Where would that leave the Cowboys? It’s been slim pickens for quarterback-seekers in 2013 (free-agency & draft) and Tone still gives the Boys their best chance to win.’

True enough. It’s been a seller’s market for QBs of late.

But standard-bearer clubs ought never settle for ‘good enough’ and Romo’s just not cuttin’ the mustard, or, as they say in the Lone Star State: ‘That dog won’t hunt.’

Because you can’t always draft a Troy Aikman or pick-up a known commodity like Peyton Manning, sometimes you just gotta’ roll the dice on an unknown or unproven.

Conduct yourself like a professional for nine seasons and Jerry Jones will take care of you. That’s fine. But Jones’ responsibility goes well beyond Tony Romo. He owes a duty, like every owner, to his fandom, and in his team’s case that runs coast-to-coast.

And Jerry’s coming dangerously close to breach.

It’s his $1.3B Cowboys Stadium (‘09) and its high-falutin hosting-capacity (‘14 Final 4 / ‘15 FBS?) that’s become Jones’ crowning achievement, his pride & joy while he appears content to live off past glories (’92-93, ’95). And keeping Tony on board helps keep the lid on things. Tone may not win you a title but he will keep you outta’ the pishadoo.

So what’s done is done. Romo’s gonna’ be ridin’ point in Arlington for a few more drives and as of this writing no serious plan in the works for a Cowboys' quarterback competition this summer.

If there’s one sport where a less-than-great team can grab the victor’s laurel, it’s the NFL: win your division (NFC East no biggie (NYG rates)), get a RD1 bye and you’re just three little ol’ wins away from hoisting hardware. A veritable EZ-Pass post-season highway.

And if someone can get Jerry’s attention away from stadium scheduling, just long enough to wheel & deal a tighter Dallas D and fashion a reliable run-game, Tone just might bag that Lombardi trophy. Stranger things have happened. Who besides the Ravens thought Joe Flacco was gonna’ hoist last February?

One thing Tony might keep in mind when living on the links this off-season: “Winning isn’t everything” but ring-holders always get the best tee times and that means at least two strokes off your score. Think about it, Tone.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Posted on: March 13, 2013 1:39 pm
 

Friendship Fleeting in NFL Flux

Losing your best friend has always been tough, whether you’re eight or ninety-eight.

They write songs about it and plenty of ’em: See; “Popcrush.com.” I’m not embarrassed to say I knew not one of PC’s top-ten “best friend” songs until the last one on the list (#1): The Jackson 5, “I’ll Be There” (’71). Funny thing is, that’s ‘bout time I lost a best friend.

I must’ve been around seven or eight.  Typical age for your first shocker?

I think it was summer and I’m walking home. I get to my 'girlfriend' Carolyn’s house (first girl I’d kissed) and she’s on her porch with another neighborhood friend, Erik. She calls me over and drops the bomb: “Steve,” she says, “Erik’s gonna’ be my boyfriend now.”

Erik was a major doofus who’d earlier stolen my baseball cards so I wasn’t too surprised he was involved, but Carolyn’s betrayal, that threw me for a loss. Backstabbers & gossips are the culprits when buddies suddenly go bust but you’ve still gotta’ earn your friends. Maybe Erik put a knife in my back or maybe I’d just been neglectful and Carolyn wanted to rattle my cage, hoping I’d protest. But I never the saw point.

The point here being, losing a friend can be a big hurt.

In the NFL it’s never as personal as my tiny tale but the consequences can be weighty.

No friendship in football carries more weight than the symbiosis between a quarterback and his favorite receiver. And the big guys in the trenches who protect their field general? They’re good friends too, but that ain’t this.

I can’t recall a time in recent memory when this many highly productive QB / top-target relationships were coming asunder or subject of serious separation speculation.

The short list:

Wes Welker (Patriots and Tom Brady): 9 yrs. (‘04); Sure-handed, high-volume possession receiver of an exceptional quarterback, recovered nicely from recent a knee bang but beginning to grow fangs (age) and expects / deserves small king’s ransom.

Victor Cruz (NY Giants and Eli Manning): 3 yrs. (‘10); Young, speedy, confident deep threat for terrific QB whose early results impress but saw average (12.7 / 18.7) & yards (1092 / 1536) drop-off considerably in ‘12. Exchange-rate (1-RD) makes Victor costly.

Greg Jennings (Packers and Aaron Rodgers): 7 yrs. (‘06); Another trophy-receiver for star QB who was building HOF resume when injury hit in ‘11 (MCL / groin). Questions remain on recovery after long rehab which temper marketability.

Percy Harvin (now Seahawks, formerly Vikings (Chris Ponder)): 4 yrs. (‘09);

Mike Wallace (now Dolphins, formerly Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger)): 4 yrs. (‘09);

Anquan Boldin (now 49ers, formerly Ravens (Joe Flacco)): 10 yrs. (‘03).

Goodbyes began in earnest Monday when talented but troubled Harvin and salary-cap cut Boldin were both sent Northwest. Vikes appear the better for their trade: 1) calmer locker-room with hot Harvin history; 2) more money available to cover (cut vet Winfield, signed OL Loadholt); 3) got better compensation and 4) Ponder was coping without Percy Electric who missed half of ‘12 (9G / 62 REC / 677 YD) while Flacco relied heavily on AB (380 YD / 4 TD) in Ravens ‘13 post-season run. But Baltimore has an established QB and their 2nd Lombardi.

From player perspective I’m happier if I’m Percy. Everyone wants to win but everyone wants to play, too. If I haul in passes for a living (or run for that matter) I’m not happy sacrificing touches & stats for a ball-hog, run-QB like Col. Kaepernick or RG3. Russ Wilson rabbits too but appears, at this stage anyway, to have a better appreciation for developing the necessary pocket presence and should distribute accordingly.

From team perspectives, much hinges on Harvin’s play-time, compromised in Minnesota due to migraines and other maladies. Stress is a major factor in headaches and pricey Percy has heaped a lotta’ pressure on himself in forcing the trade. One key will be Pete Carroll’s ability to manage emotions, something he’s been quite adept at doing in the past.

Tuesday saw prize pick-up Mike “60 Minutes” Wallace (That’s not Chris Berman IP, is it?) part company with Big Ben and land in Miami where QB Ryan Tannehill played admirably in his rookie campaign on a 7-9 team that some report (CBS (PBP) 2-11) will consider going ‘pistol / no-read-run option.’ I’m sure Ryan is thrilled at the prospect of putting his head & knees at higher-risk. Ugh. As for Mike, at least the money’s great, right?

With free agency in full-swing and draft day on the horizon, NFL wheelers & dealers are moving fast & furious in keeping, cutting loose & casting far for new talent. There will be some painful farewells, joyous exits and hopeful, high anticipation for the new arrivals.

And for those QBs suffering from separation anxiety, remember this kindergarten lesson that never grows old: lose a friend, make another, try to keep 'em happy (and always watch your back).

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com