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.
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credit: Clara Bow / wc.cc / “Wings” / 1927
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.