There’s no other job like it. Only the Presidency has more marquee.
The closest thing to a yellow jersey in North America.
It’s the Cadillac, the Stetson, the Jack Daniels of occupations.
It’s quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.
Ever since Roger Staubach laced ‘em up and ended the Cowboy curse in SB5 / ‘72 (with help from silent Duane), the Dallas QB has taken on an aura of Texas-sized proportions.
There are other prized posts in sport, heavy with cachet: there’s skipper of the Yankees; captains of the Montreal Canadiens, Brazilian soccer and Bears’ defense; gridiron gurus at Alabama, Ohio St., Michigan, ND (QB), Texas, Oklahoma and USC (QB) (Monte Kiffin must have a silver tongue or some serious dirt on somebody).
But none of ‘em, not basketball coach at UCLA, signal-caller for the Pack or a Celtics MVP can ring America’s bell like the man in the silver helmet and blue Texas star.
Tony Romo’s gotta’ pinch himself every morning to make sure it’s not all just a dream. Then he should get down on his knees to thank the fickle football gods every night for the bottomless well of faith Jerry Jones has in the young man from Wisconsin.
He’s living the dream as America’s QB, in the most fanatical of football states (Alabama & Wisconsin close behind), in America‘s favorite and richest sport.
Not exactly out on a limb last summer when I believed Wade Phillips would be gone by season’s end, I also believed Romo would have to win back his starting job in 2011.
A season-ending shoulder injury in Week 7 gave the Cowboys’ main-man a reprieve.
Since taking the reigns from an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2006, Romo’s put up impressive numbers but consistently come up short in big games. One home playoff win in ‘09 over an middling Eagles squad is small rations for a fan base (and NFL) hungry for a return to glory.
Romo’s been looking all hat and no cattle for quite some time (Sorry, Tony, can’t resist a good cowboy phrase. Others: Scars are cowboy tattoos with better stories; Don’t squat on your spurs; Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway; www.thethomasranch.com).
Quarterback play isn’t the only issue facing Dallas in 2011.
In his first full season as trail boss, Jason Garrett inherits a team long on attitude and short on chemistry.
Some organizations have low-tolerance for individualism and nip it in the bud (Giants / Bears / Packers).
Some hire enablers who try to keep the lid on it long enough to win a title. There’s the calm, methodical coach (Tomlin / Garrett / Lewis / Reid) and then the prima donnas, craving (and getting) player love but also acting as lightening-rod to take pressure off their men (Ryan / J. Johnson).
Then there are the ring-masters. They can afford to buy over-ripe lemons to turn into lemonade (Belichik), but pity the team who buy citrus that’s been all squeezed-out.
One way or another Mr. Garrett, not Mr. Ryan (yet), has gotta’ put his brand on this team.
Then there’s the D in Dallas.
Though tackling seems the lost art of the NFL, the Cowboys’ defense had a historically poor performance in 2010 (points allowed / NFL Network). Tom Landry must be spinning.
But those who can see beyond fantasy stats know that offense and defense feed off eachother in football. How much, who can say.
Football’s an emotional game. We see it time and time again where high-powered offenses match eachother score for score, all game long.
Defense is different. Rah-rah talk won‘t always cut it. Even a talented crew will lose intensity if there’s a sense of uncertainty on the offensive side. Not just failed drives but more a perceived lack of leadership, a lack of savvy in critical moments.
The ‘85 Bears defense set the modern standard. But it was QB Jim McMahon who gave that team fire. After coming off the bench in Week 3 (MNF) to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, Jim took control and the Bears never looked back. Boyish and arrogant in street cloths, once he stepped onto Soldier Field McMahon became General Patton.
More important for Dallas than landing high-priced defensive talent (Asomugha) might be the confidence that will come from knowing a Clutch Cargo Tony is under center.
Back-up Jon Kitna filled-in nicely last season when Romo went down. He can’t compete with Tony’s age and superior skill set but the wily vet has the respect of teammates and a leadership advantage. Not a long-term solution but a good transition quarterback if the Cowboys stumble outta’ the gate like in 2010.
The history of Dallas QBs has some impressive names. Roger and Troy Aikman head the list. Even those who missed the brass ring (LeBaron, Meredith, Morton, White) or only had their 15 minutes of fame (Longley) evoked a special flair.
Tony’s biggest fan is the only one that matters: Jerry Jones. But if he wants to keep living the Cowboy dream it’s time to end his dalliance with golf and devote more leisure time to football homework.
How Romo or anyone becomes a leader is anybody’s guess. It’s the nature / nurture debate. But it better happen right quick in Dallas ‘cause there’s plenty a’ hombres who’d be plum tickled to be riding point for America’s Team.
Dedication: To the people who created one of the great genres in film history, the brave cowboy. Whether it was the troubadours (Autry / Jefferies / Allen), stand-alone heroes (Cooper / Wayne / Murphy) or TV icons (Arness / Connors / Greene), it’s no wonder America got hooked.
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory (IL), my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.