There are any number of polarizing figures in sports today: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Tebow, Michael Vick, Roger Goodell, the NHL commissioner who deserves to be punched in the face ... any number.
But none of them, at least for the moment, have a chance to totally revamp their image in a single moment the way one polarizing figure does this weekend. That figure is Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.
One game can change Romo's image of a pretty boy with the million dollar arm and nickel cranium into something better. Beat the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys make the playoffs, and his image can be transformed. Lose, and it stays the same. Lose, and that rep might get worse.
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This is how Romo is viewed now: as a soft player who can put up at times mind-boggling numbers during the regular season but at some point chokes. That choke job normally happens late in the year and usually in the biggest of games or moments. The fact the Cowboys with Romo as quarterback have been playoff-challenged and late-season gag champs isn't all on Romo. But much of it is.
Early in the year, we see Romo beat the best teams in the sport. Late in the season, when the Cowboys need him at his best, the team loses. This has been the Romo two-step. You can put it to music.
Now comes the opportunity of a career. He faces one of the NFL's darlings in Robert Griffin III, who is becoming one of the poster QBs for how to perform gracefully under pressure on and off the field.
If Romo beats a hot Washington team and quarterback, it could go a long way to change how Romo is viewed. Sure, it'll be just one big win, but it would be huge, and Dallas would be one of those teams no one wants to play in the postseason.
Romo is 3-1 in December. He's playing some of his best football but we've seen him play great football in spots before. We've rarely seen him have a moment like this. Big game. Playoffs at stake. And he wins.
Do that and Romo can change so much. It all starts now.
2. Another quarterback who might be auditioning of sorts is Michael Vick. If he gets the start this week against the Giants he is, league sources say, basically trying out for the Jets. This is serious. They do really want him and it's not a mild interest.
3. One last word on what was effectively a Tim Tebow mutiny. A source close to the situation explained that Tebow didn't say directly to coach Rex Ryan that he would no longer play in the wildcat after learning he was being passed over for Greg McElroy. But this fact was definitely conveyed to the Jets from a member of the Tebow camp -- with Tebow's knowledge -- to the Jets.
Tebow is a good human being. There's no question about that, but there's also no question this was blatant insubordination. It doesn't matter if Tebow later came to his senses and told Ryan he would do whatever the team needed. It was too late.
If almost any other player had pulled a stunt like this, they'd be pilloried by fans. The same should happen to Tebow.
4. Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis on the Bengals players saying that the torch has been passed from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati after the Bengals eliminated the Steelers from the playoffs on Sunday: "If that's how they want to focus on it, you can do whatever you want when you win. When you win, you can make everything rainbows and pots of gold."
5. There is, indeed, no question that the Steelers look old. Especially on offense.
6a. Champ of the week: Santa. A fat man still nimble enough to fit down a chimney. Props, big fella.
6b. Chump of the week: Tebow. Not even close.
6c. Tweet of the week: "Santa throw a pick yet?" -- Jorge Garza
7. All of the offensive passing, receiving and sack records will be broken within a decade. That's because the rules to protect offensive players will get stricter, and since there will be more passing there will be more opportunities to produce sacks.
There is one record that may last decades longer: Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record. Adrian Peterson's assault on it is a fluke. Nothing against Peterson -- practically a Hall of Famer already -- but it's unlikely he or any other runner will approach the mark again.
Peterson is close because he's great but also because Christian Ponder has been terrible (I nonetheless remain the lone rider on the Ponder bandwagon). So Peterson became the sole source of offense on the Vikings. Notice how last week, when Ponder was better, Peterson's numbers were reduced. It's just far easier in a league set up for passing attacks to, well, pass. Running the football is very 20th century and you will see less and less of it as time goes on. Thus Dickerson's record will be safe for some time.
Jerry Rice's records are a different matter. So is Michael Strahan's.
8. There's a belief forming in league circles (an erroneous one, I think) that the Houston Texans are a mentally soft, front-running team that can't take a good punch to the mouth.
9. While the Green Bay Packers, these league officials believe, are the exact opposite.
10. I'm told the Tom Brady tongue lashing given to his teammates after their lackluster performance on Sunday -- first reported by the Boston Globe -- was far worse than generally known. This is why Brady is a champion. There is no relaxing.