The namesake of the phrase coined by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t interested in helping define it.
Peyton Manning danced around questions last week about Jones’ comment of wanting Tony Romo to put in “Peyton Manning-type time on the job.”
As Manning’s Denver Broncos prepared to play Romo’s Cowboys on Sunday, Manning made it clear he wants to continue his solid standing in the “NFL Quarterback Club.”
“Look, every quarterback that is starting in this league multiple years puts in time,” Manning said in a conference call with the Cowboys media. “You just don’t keep your starting job. I feel like I do what I need to do to get ready to play. But any quarterback who is a starter year after year, I promise you they’re putting the work in at the facility on their own. Otherwise, it shows up, and you lose your job.”
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Manning, whose work ethic is legendary, told reporters this summer he took Jones’ remark as a “flattering comment.”
Romo took it that way, too.
During the NFL Draft, a month after Romo signed a six-year, $108 million contract extension, Jones said, “If Tony, for instance, would be here Monday through Saturday from 7 in the morning to 6 o’clock at night all over this place, then that’s better than the way it’s been. We’ll have more success, and Jason [Garrett] believes that. It’s certainly at quarterback but he believes it at the other positions.
“Tony is going to have more time, more presence, not only in the off-season but when the season starts. … He’s going to have more time on the job. A part of what we agreed with was extra time on the job, beyond the norm.”
Jones didn’t say it quite the way he meant it, later explaining he wasn’t criticizing Romo’s work ethic but instead empowering his quarterback. The Cowboys requested Romo become more invested in the offense.
“You can go talk to Jerry and ask him what he meant exactly, but when we communicated all the different times, it was having played the position for an extended period of time as a quarterback in the National Football League, you learn through experiences, and you understand what things can help a football team and what are more difficult,” Romo said last week.
“One of the great traits, if you watch some of the Broncos stuff, they do a great job of being aggressive and being simple. They’ve done that for a long time, and Peyton does a great job of getting them into certain things. I think you want to incorporate things like that into your offensive system.”
Romo’s increased involvement began in the off-season. He studied the offenses of Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He met with the Cowboys’ offensive coaches, giving them ideas and concepts. He viewed tape of draft prospects, including Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams, before the Cowboys’ selections.
Romo became so heavily involved during off-season workouts, when he was rehabbing from surgery to remove a cyst from his back, that teammates jokingly called him “Coach Romo.” That continued into training camp when he stopped throwing sessions with his receivers to explain routes.
The Cowboys call Romo’s bigger role a part of the natural maturation of a quarterback. Romo is in his 11th season, his eighth as the full-time starter, and Sunday marks his 102nd career start, including the postseason.
“I think Tony’s always been involved,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. “It’s just at a different level now. He has input in what goes on, and obviously into the offense as a whole, and rightfully so.
“I think a quarterback with his years and experience in the league, they should have input. They should have some things in the offense they like.”
Romo’s work week begins Monday with film study of the upcoming opponent. He takes notes, and by early Tuesday afternoon, his ideas are in the hands of quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson. Coaches have the base game plan to the quarterbacks by early Tuesday night.
Late in the week, Romo helps script the first 15 plays.
“You want your quarterback to be invested in what you are doing,” Garrett said. “You want him to like the plays that are in the plan. You want him to like the plays you are calling into his helmet so he can go play his best football.”
Romo’s time commitment hasn’t changed, the Cowboys insist, but his level of influence has.
“He’s always put in time,” Wilson said. “Now, I think maybe he’s a little bit more influential getting some of his concepts in.”
Romo ranks fourth in the league in passer rating at 105, and he has eight touchdowns and only one interception, which came on a rookie mistake by Williams. And Romo has one fumble lost. Yet, the Cowboys are only 2-2.
Romo’s yards per attempt is a career-low 6.68, and he has thrown only seven passes over 20 yards, completing three for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s played extremely solid,” Wilson said. “We’re lacking explosive plays for a myriad of reasons, sometimes the coverage takes that away and sometimes the play calls, but he’s completing 70 percent of his balls and not turning the ball over.
“I think the sting of the  interceptions last year has really carried forward this year, and he’s being a lot more protective of the ball. We feel like we’re stronger defensively. You don’t feel like you have to go out and score 40 points every week. I think that factors in as well.”
The Cowboys are sold on their quarterback. They showed that with the money they invested in him in the off-season, and now with the bigger role they’ve given him in the offense.
The phrase has changed to “Tony Romo time” at Valley Ranch.
“I have total faith in him,” Wilson said. “There’s never been a doubt about that. I think it’s very underrated what he’s accomplished in the past with not always the best pieces around him. He’s alluded it to earlier, but I was thinking the same thing, some of the other quarterbacks throughout the league now, if you’re not getting the protection, you don’t have playmakers around you, then your numbers are going to struggle a little bit.
“I think he’s been very underrated.”