Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman insist Tony Romo will be the next Dallas Cowboys quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Romo believes it, too.
Doubts about his ability to lead the Cowboys to the Promised Land prompted Romo earlier this season to declare, "This team is going to win a Super Bowl at some point."
Quarterbacks are judged by statistics and wins; they are defined by Super Bowls.
But to win the Super Bowl involves getting there. To get there involves winning in the playoffs. To win in the playoffs involves winning meaningful regular-season games.
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And that brings us to the Cowboys' winner-take-all game against the New York Giants tonight.
Romo's legacy starts now.
"This is something of a playoff game, because if we don't win, we don't get in," Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. "This is definitely a signature game for Tony."
Romo should finish 2011 with his third 4,000-yard passing season and his second 30-touchdown season, but if the Cowboys don't beat the Giants, no one will care, including Romo.
"It's about winning and losing, so that's all it's going to be about," he said.
Romo has more attempts (2,531), more completions (1,627), more yards (20,283), a better completion percentage (64.3) and more touchdowns (144) than any Cowboys quarterback after 76 starts. He has won 47 regular-season games, many of them "big" games, since taking the reins in the middle of the 2006 season.
Yet, for everything Romo has done, his critics point to his 10-16 record in December and January, including a 1-3 postseason mark.
"He's better than I ever thought about being, I know that," Aikman said. "He's got good players around him. Now, there are a lot of good teams out there. But do I think Tony Romo and this Cowboys team will win a Super Bowl; I absolutely do. Some people would take that and say well, 'Yeah, as a former quarterback for the organization, of course, he's going to say that.' But I believe it, and it could even happen this year."
Eli Manning, Romo's counterpart today, got the monkey -- and the fans -- off his back in the 2007 season when he led the Giants to a Super Bowl XLII victory over the previously undefeated Patriots. The Giants' four playoff victories that season included a divisional-round triumph over Romo and the Cowboys.
"That changed the whole perception of Eli, no matter what he does now. They go back to, 'He took them to a Super Bowl,'" Staubach said. "Tony Romo is one of the truly great competitors. He's right up there with [Tom] Brady, [Aaron] Rodgers and [Drew] Brees. I think Tony Romo is a winner, and I think he definitely can take a team to a championship. But you've got to get into the playoffs. We really haven't been in the playoffs enough. We need to get in there, and let Tony show what he can do. Until that happens, people will be second-guessing.
"But I think Romo is not the problem; I think he's the solution. We have a quarterback who can get it done."
Romo has had two late-game meltdowns this season. He had two fourth-quarter turnovers in the season opener against the New York Jets as the Cowboys lost a 14-point lead, and he threw three second-half interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns -- as Dallas blew a 24-point, second-half lead against the Detroit Lions.
But since that Detroit game, which came two weeks after Romo fractured a rib and punctured a lung, the Cowboys' nine-year veteran has thrown 22 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The Cowboys, though, are only 6-5 in the past 11 games.
"He's been consistently real solid since the Detroit game," Wilson said. "I think he tried to do too much early on. We've got a young team. I think he was trying to carry too much of the burden. I think there had to be a trust factor that had to be established, because we were playing with so many young guys. That got him into a little bit of trouble.
"I also think the rib injury was a lot more significant than he let on. It was really bothering him. Now, does that make up for some of the decisions? Not necessarily. But it did bother him, more than people know."
There is "no one" owner Jerry Jones would rather have for today's game than Romo, who has four game-winning drives this season and 15 for his career. Romo has the highest career fourth-quarter passer rating among active quarterbacks at 101.8. He has a 63.1 career completion percentage in the fourth quarter, with 43 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
But being No. 1 on Super Bowl Sunday is all that matters, and Romo's bid to get his team there starts now.
"Tony's played great. He's unbelievable," Aikman said. "But for as good as he's played, nobody's really talked about him nationally. I think the reason is because they look back and see the games they lost, whether it's the season opener or the Detroit game or when they lost in December. It's like, 'OK, well, here we go again.'
"I think this is a chance for him to show what I already know, and I think what most Cowboy fans already know: He is having a great year, and he's a great player. ... I think he's going to play outstanding."