October 3, 2011

Mac Engel: When Dirk tweets, Cowboys fans should listen

Dirk Nowitzki should serve as Tony Romo’s role model.

Tony, you are really making it hard to defend you, but here goes...

The last time FW/d saw a gag of such painful, and historic, proportions was April 23: Game 4 of the NBA's Western Conference quarterfinals, Blazers 84, Mavs 82. The Mavs led by 23 before pulling what was then known as a "Dirk".

Then came Oct. 2, and the Great Crash at Cowboys Stadium when the home team pulled what is now called a "Romo."

To make some sense of this I called the one man in town who could relate, or come close: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.

"To put this in perspective, the Cowboys' loss Sunday was like our playoff loss in Game 4 at Portland where we blew a 23-point lead. It's painful, and there's really no other way to put it," Carlisle said. "Their challenge is that they have to wait two weeks for their next game, whereas we only had to wait two days. As we found out, the way you respond to those catastrophic moments defines your character and collective resolve as a group. Personally, I like their team and see this as an opportunity for growth."

By the NFL calendar, Romo has 28 games left to prove he can grow out of this and pull a Dirk.

If Romo continues on this path, by late December 2012 we will have enough evidence to decide this is it. He will be 32, with one year remaining on his contract.

Until then, we wait.

We wait because what happened April through June 2011 taught us that to make a decision of such gravity would be premature.

Today, Dirk Nowitzki may be the greatest hope to all despondent, irate and sick Cowboys fans. Dirk is the FW/d poster boy for patience. And Dirk may be Tony's best friend.

On Monday, Dirk sent out this tweet via his @Swish41 account: Dear tony romo. Don't worry abt all the critics. I heard that same garbage for a long time. Keep working hard and keep improving.

From the time Dirk missed that crucial free throw against Miami in 2006, vanished in the first round against Golden State in '07 to the end of the 2010-11 regular season, he was always going to be just good enough to lose. A fantastic talent, but in the end not good enough.

Then came the Portland series. And the Lakers. Then the Thunder. Then the Heat, and we all looked dumb because so often we are.

It took Dirk 13 NBA seasons before he became good enough. He was 32 when he led his team to an NBA title. It took him that long to "get it".

Because the NBA is stuck in a lockout and coaches can't talk specifically about players, Carlisle did his best to help me out with this sports analogy.

"I've seen tremendous growth in Romo over the last three years. I've been to two of their practices and several of their position meetings, and have been very impressed with his knowledge of their system. I love his skill and courage," Carlisle said. "He has an unusual resourcefulness at his position, and has earned a leadership role. He understands the responsibility and accountability that come with the position of quarterback, and is willing to take the heat when things go south.

"If you look closely at the four games, he's had some miscues, but has been very consistent in his approach. They're only four games into a 16-game regular season, so I expect Tony and their entire team to stay the course -- there's an awful long way to go."

We must wait just a bit longer to see how this plays out. We have to. We wait because imagine what would have happened had the little basketball team dealt Dirk to Minny for a couple of lottery picks.

Imagine what would have happened had we not waited. So many fun moments never occur. No NBA title. No parade. No humiliation of Bron Bron, D-Wade and The Other Guy.

Admittedly, Romo is making this wait increasingly hard, and very difficult to defend. While I do not put all of the blame on him for the collapse against the Jets, there is almost no one else to put in the Cowboys Dunk Tank after the mess against the Lions. Unless you want to throw in Jerry, just because it's fun.

Unlike the Week 1 loss in New Jersey where you could blame a blocked punt, some secondary breakdowns or poor offensive line play, Blame Island today features Romo as its most prominent resident.

The statistics from Sunday's game are so one-sided in favor of the Cowboys that it took Romo's three picks to make them all irrelevant. Time of possession, rushing yards, penalties, total yards -- all favored the Cowboys.

Give Romo this -- when he flops, he flops with flair. The guy always delivers compelling copy.

After four weeks the Cowboys are where they deserve to be: 2-2. They are 1-0 in the NFC East, and actually ahead of the "Super Bowl champion" Eagles.

The first month of the NFL regular season acts as a de facto preseason, so the fact the Cowboys are through this at .500 is OK. The cry has been this team should be 4-0, but it could just as easily be 0-4.

There are 12 games remaining this season, and another 16 next year; plenty of time for Romo to do what so many of us are sure is impossible.

Only it is possible because Dirk taught us that it is.

So we wait for Romo to quit pulling a Romo -- and pull a Dirk.

Follow Mac Engel on Twitter @MacEngelProf and The Big Mac Blog.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

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