IRVING -- By most generally accepted standards, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is having a horrible season.
With 15 turnovers -- a league-high 13 interceptions and two fumbles -- he has seemingly regressed from last season's career-best touchdown-to-interception ratio of 31-10 to the reckless "Tony Oh No" ways of his younger years.
But if you listen to the talk coming out of the Cowboys' Valley Ranch headquarters, the spin is quite different and decidedly more Romo-friendly.
Coach Jason Garrett readily acknowledges that turnovers are the single-biggest reason for the team's 3-4 record heading into Sunday's must-win game against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons (7-0).
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Yet, he said the problem is much bigger and deeper than Romo, while going into great detail on how his maligned quarterback is still making good decisions with the football and a great majority of the interceptions this season were because of poor routes or breakdowns in other areas.
Garrett pointed out that the first two of his four interceptions in the 29-24 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday were because of a bad route by Dez Bryant and failure to make a play on the ball by Miles Austin. The other two were great plays by the Giants' defense rather than bad ones by Romo, Garrett said.
Likewise, vice president Stephen Jones said his confidence in Romo remains very high -- so much so that he remains focused on signing the 10-year veteran to a contract extension to ensure that he retires as a member of the Cowboys.
Jones has begun preliminary negotiations with Romo's representatives in hopes of getting a new deal done before his contract expires at the end of next season.
"We still feel that way," Jones said. "We've got a lot of confidence in Tony. Tony has a lot of confidence in himself. He is going to be fine. He is not the problem."
Jones said Romo is over-scrutinized because of the high-profile nature of the position in Dallas and the championship quarterbacks before him, such as Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.
Jones said Romo has pulled out of bad stretches before and will again, and evoked comparisons to Super Bowl champion quarterbacks John Elway and Brett Favre, who had disappointing turns early in their careers.
"I think he is going to get better," Jones said. "There are a lot of quarterbacks it doesn't happen right way for them as far as winning championships and that type of thing. You don't have to look any further than some of the Hall of Famers like Elway and Favre. It came late in their careers. They had some of the same issues that Tony has had. They had some really great games and some tough ones in terms of turning it over and that type of thing. It's all part of the process. There's a lot of expectations. He welcomes that. He will thrive."
Romo certainly appreciates the support and confidence of Garrett and the Cowboys' front office.
He also wants it clear that he knows quarterbacks are judged off wins and losses and no one feels worse about the Cowboys' 3-4 start.
"The game comes down to winning and losing," Romo said. "When we lose, I am always accountable. You are playing the quarterback position; I'm accountable for the football game. That's part of playing the position. No matter what anybody says, it eats at you. No one thinks about the game or grinds over plays more than I do."
Romo readily accepts that the turnovers go on his ledger.
"I think when you are younger a lot more [interceptions, bad decisions] were definitely [my fault]," Romo said. "Ultimately, all interceptions fall on the guy who lets go of the ball. It's on your record. Everyone needs to have an appreciation for the ball. It matters what everybody does. We have to do a lot of things better. They are correctable mistakes."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.