Twelve wins later, and everybody at Valley Ranch is a genius, up to and including the owner.
The spoils of a 12-4 regular season with an NFC East title are not only the ability to wear it snug like a glove for a while, it essentially buys everybody another year. The GM is on a one-year rollover extension until the sun crashes into the Earth, not too dissimilar from the deal Jon Daniels enjoys with the Texas Rangers.
Whatever happens in these playoffs, the Cowboys are winners...but one. Mr. Tony Romo, it’s Your Legacy on Line 1. You can pick up now.
No one on the Dallas Cowboys, or really in this entire FW/d region, is “burdened” by his past more than Antonio Ramiro Romo. No one on this team, with the possible exception of the head coach, has reversed more negative perceptions and trends this season than Romo. He is a legit NFL MVP candidate, and played the best ball of his life despite a back that only Earl Campbell would envy. Romo is now the player the Cowboys desperately believed in when they suffocated him with cash in ’07 and ’13.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Yet no one on this team, or this town, still wears “The Danny White Failure Crown” more than Romo. Dirk Nowitzki used to wear it, too. The crown is reserved for the best, is totally unwanted, completely unfair and can only be removed with a title.
Despite this season where Romo has been equal to or better than Brady, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Manning (the older one) and Brees, he finds himself back in the spot that has haunted him since high school. No QB in these NFL playoffs needs a few wins right now more than our own Mr. Romo, who now fully realizes the rarity of this opportunity and that time is no longer in abundance.
Romo’s struggle in the playoffs is not just a Cowboys thing. Between Burlington High School, Eastern Illinois University and the Dallas Cowboys, Romo is 3-7 in the playoffs. Two of those wins came in high school. One came with the Cowboys, in the wild-card round against the Eagles in 2009. This blah record is not all the fault of the quarterback, but it is a big part of his legacy. That 3-7 record can act like an eraser.
Romo has done so much this season. Now, he has an opportunity to change the part of his legacy that has dogged guys like White, Dan Marino and others. Yes, it is wonderful to have more money than you can count, invites to the White House Press Corps dinners, lots of wins and lots of NFL years, but nothing makes people love you more than winning in the playoffs.
White, who reached three consecutive NFC title games after Roger Staubach retired, wore this “Failure Crown” until his retirement. It only took 20 years for people to appreciate White’s talents and legacy: He was quite good, but his timing was off. Don Meredith was a brilliant player, and NFL MVP, who never won it all.
A lot of people never knew, or have forgotten, that Captain Roger himself was clobbered with this crown. Dirk was beaten over the head with it until he outplayed LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.
As professorial and glib as Romo can come across, don’t believe for a minute this 3-7 career playoff record doesn’t bother him. No one who takes the needle, plays with broken ribs, a punctured lung and a bad back is doing this just because he cares about dutifully punching a time card.
It would only be too appropriate that this would be the season Romo would pass this crown off to someone else (cough-cough — Yu Darvish — cough-cough). Romo has been brilliant this season despite the obvious physical limitations from those back surgeries last year.
He also fully realizes these teams, these seasons and these opportunities are not to be taken for granted. Not with a franchise that has not had consecutive 10-win seasons since the mid-’90s. Romo will be 35 in April, and we all know that his age combined with his back make his shelf life only shorter.
The good news for Romo is that he has the team, the time and, now, the opportunity to rid himself of the one thing that has dogged him since he was a pimple-faced teenager in Burlington, Wis.
Romo, it’s been a few years but your Legacy is calling again. Pick it up, and get rid of that stupid crown.
Follow Mac Engel on
The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697