Tag:QB
Posted on: April 6, 2013 12:06 am
 

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: August 9, 2012 6:31 pm
 

RG3 and Decoding Shanahan

Go back to the year 1988. The Raiders are in Los Angeles, Tom Flores has been demoted upstairs by owner Al Davis and Denver assistant coach Mike Shanahan is hired by the silver & black for his first NFL head coaching job.

Now fast-forward…not too fast, just one and one-quarter seasons later. After finishing 7-9 amidst an on-going, internal clash of loyalties, a 1-3 start in ‘89 gives Davis cause to pull-the-plug on the Shanahan experiment and hand the reigns over to Raiders man Art Shell.

Not a very auspicious start to Mike’s head coaching career. But then, getting fired by Al Davis wasn’t all bad. Oddly enough, it could enhance your resume.

Well known for his hands-on style, Al’s rows with staff often put on public display traits in a coach highly-prized by GM on-lookers. Qualities like decisiveness, tenacity and just being one tough son-of-a-gun. And that’s what Mike looked like after getting the boot: a guy who could give as well as he got, and from the biggest got-guy in the NFL, Al Davis.

That’s no knock on the feisty owner. Though Al could be a thorn in your side if under his watch, for fans, excepting the City of Oakland from1982-‘94, he was a quasi-advocate, a counter-weight to the NFL’s old boy network who conduct business in golf-carts and brass-handled board rooms. And then, only Glenn Ford (Gilda), Sid Poitier (In the Heat of the Night) and Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke) were cooler than Al Davis in his early days, surveying the action from the Raiders’ sideline in those steel-rimmed sunglasses.

To Golden Gate via Colorado

Mike landed back in Denver (‘90-91) but wore out his welcome fast when he got in the middle of a Reeves - Elway rift. On the outs, he took a job with George Seifert (’92-94). Like Foxborough today, San Francisco was the place to be for coaches on the rise. As architect of 49ers’ 49-23 blowout win in SB29 (SD), Mike’s reputation grew such that he was seen around the League as a football-genius-in-the-making and then a hot commodity.

Third Time Charm

Broncos just can’t kick the Shanahan habit and this time give Mike the head coach’s office. He sticks around for awhile (‘95-08), quickly makes good on his new rep, has Denver back in the big show and this time brings home Mr. Lombardi (’98-‘99). Adding to the euphoria was the fact that Denver’s SB32 win comes against fellow West Coast disciple Mike Holmgren and his history-heavy Green Bay squad (4-1).

Happy Trails Mr. Elway

The mood on Mike starts to change after Elway rides into the sunset (SB33 / Atlanta). As he never got Denver back on top, some have argued Elway was the difference-maker in their back-to-backs. Not a crazy notion given that coaches coach and players play. But keep in mind: 1) Dan Reeves was in the NFL for nearly 40 years, played or coached in five Super Bowls but was stymied in his three Denver visits with John under center; and 2) Shanahan guided post-Elway Denver to the post-season four times, including an AFC title game and averaged 9+ wins a season. Not too shabby.

Whether or not Mike Shanahan is a football genius in league with Paul Brown, Bill Walsh or Bill Belichick is debatable. At the very least he did have something special working at Mile High in the late 90s, special enough to someday get a bust in Canton.

Resurrecting Legacies

Question now is, does Shanahan still have the Midas touch, that special something that garnered two Super Bowl wins? And if he does, can he impart it to his Redskins’ team?

So far, his brief DC tenure suggests no and no. Though he gets props for parting ways with the bill-of-goods that was Al Haynesworth and the plucky but past-prime Donovan McNabb, his inability to make real progress in his two seasons in Washington might be sign he no longer translates to today’s NFL player.

No big revelation then, that his ability to facilitate draft-dandy Rob Griffin’s development is key, not just to the team’s but his own future as well. The early word in summer camp is that RG3 is a talented and willing student of the NFL game. Welcome news to Skins’ fans who are parched for victory champagne since the days of Joe Gibbs & Company.

A concern is that in his eagerness to make good and satisfy antsy fans, Mike succumbs to the trendy but flawed belief that the athletic, muscled, running QB is the quick cure-all for what ails an offense and provides the surest vehicle for getting to the promised land. The tremendous impacts of mercury men Cam Newton (6-10) and Tim Tebow (8-8) on their respective teams in 2011 have only given amplification to the theory.

Mike Shanahan has coached two of the finest QBs of the past 30 years in Steve Young and John Elway. Though both had a flair for scamper (and could cite footwork as their most famous feats (SY: 50+ dash vs Vikes (‘88) / JE: copter-run in SB32)), making it a key element in their modi operandi, both were first & foremost pocket-passers who could air it out and thread the needle whenever necessary, taking to flight as only a last resort.

As impactful as Cam and Tim were, upon closer inspection it’s easy to see why many observers believe there’s a cap on just how relevant a run-QB will be over the long term.

Tebow’s 2011 flies in the face of that tiresome phrase, ‘numbers never lie.’ In science, that may be true (excepting false-positives), but in sport, numbers can tell tall tales and in TT’s case they’re less than sincere. While his pass-stats were paltry, his fire and dedication to game-plan were triggers in Denver‘s mid-season turnaround.

But eventually those flames of emotion must be fed with stout statistics. That can mean numbers that are huge (Rodgers), first-rate (Eli) or simply smart stats (A. Smith / 17-5 ratio) that show you have the skill & savvy to manage the offense and then matriculate with regularity in all conditions (Tom, Eli & Peyton).

As for Cam, he showed a terrific capability for passing but a tendency to take-off in trouble (14TDs). That’s a tell and it’s just what defenders will eventually feast upon.

Then there’s Vick, the man who started the trend. His ‘athleticism,’ as run-QBs are cast, has made him a star but destined him to title-oblivion. Besides two big PS wins (’02 GB / ‘04 STL), Mike’s tenure is defined in two words: boredom (duel careers in GA) and frustration (injury). Only now are he and his handlers starting to see the fallacy of flash-QB: “He wants to and works really hard to overcome his instinct, when a little something goes wrong, to take off (Mudd / PI / CBS / 7-27).” Old dog, new tricks: habits do die hard.  No pun intended.

So there you have it, Mr. Shanahan. You can put Rob on the pocket-passer pathway, the only road leading to the Super Bowl, help box-up his college habits and train him to work in the business of football (NFL / CFL), or, ride his athleticism to 9 or 10 victories (someday) and watch the big game every February at home on the big-screen TV.

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