Clearly, Tony Romo spoke from the heart Tuesday.
In a five-minute address in front of the media at team headquarters in Frisco, Romo’s message was personal. Insightful. Emotional.
And in many ways, it was dramatic and unprecedented, even for the franchise that wrote the script on NFL drama, the Dallas Cowboys.
But as the hackneyed expression says, Romo could have handled this one of two ways.
The right way is the way he did it Tuesday, baring his soul with words he had carefully chosen.
The other way would have been with Tony kicking and screaming, waving his X-rays to show that he is healthy, swearing all the way to the bench how unfair this whole thing is.
And either way, rightly or wrongly, it wouldn’t have changed anything. Romo would still be on the bench this coming Sunday. Owner Jones and the coaches have made their decision.
That doesn’t diminish in any way what the quarterback did Tuesday. It took courage to stand in front of national TV cameras to describe his inability to get on the field this season as, “It’s a dark place, probably the darkest it’s ever been.”
As Romo is all too well aware, however, he is 36 years old and knows there is unfinished business here, even after 10 seasons of being the starting quarterback.
“Seasons are fleeting,” Romo said. “Games become more precious. Chances for success diminish.
“Your potential successor has arrived. Injured two years in a row and now in your mid-30s. The press is whispering. Everyone has doubts.
“You almost feel like an outsider.”
Some may debate Romo’s timing. A week earlier, before the trip to play a desperate Steelers team, might have done wonders for rookie Dak Prescott’s confidence.
But Prescott, as it turned out again, didn’t need it.
“I think you all know something magical is happening to our team,” Romo properly noted.
“I’m not going to allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction.”
Thus, on a Tuesday afternoon, nine games into the magical season, nearly 12 weeks after he was injured in Seattle, Romo formally abdicated his throne as starting quarterback of the Cowboys.
It’s a throne that he treasured, no doubt, and Romo fully embraced the red carpet that came with it, as no Cowboys quarterback before him had.
That was part of the problem. To an increasingly skeptical Cowboys fandom, Romo was viewed as a paper superstar — more stats than substance. He had more celebrity girlfriends than playoff victories.
As Prescott kept winning, Romo’s instincts about being an outsider rang truer and truer.
Think about this. Before Tuesday’s humble speech, what would the stadium reaction have been to Romo suddenly entering the game in place of Prescott? Howls of disapproval might well have drowned out the cheers.
When he does get to play now, for whatever reason, Romo has assured that he will be greeted with loving applause.
Clearly, judging from his words Tuesday, he wants to play. Soon. And if not here, then maybe elsewhere. The Denver Broncos have followed that “mature quarterback” path before.
But that’s a discussion best left for the NFL off-season.
For now, for this team, a fresh new face has worked magic in this 8-1 season.
And Tuesday, Romo as well, by making himself disappear.