SAN DIEGO -- Tony Romo and Scott Linehan have spent a lot of time together since Linehan was named the Dallas Cowboys' passing game coordinator in the offseason, but the fruits of their relationship will be determined by on-field success.
With Romo not playing in Thursday night's preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, Romo and Linehan will have to wait until the Aug. 15 preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens to break out their game day communication.
Linehan has called in plays to Romo via walkie-talkie in training camp practices, but that is largely off a pre-determined script. The calls open up more on game day when coach and player don't know what they will see from the opposing defense.
When Romo has not practice to try to preserve his surgically-repaired back, the quarterback has been next to Linehan when Brandon Weeden has operated the offense.
"Tony gets all the reps mentally," Linehan said. "He's in my back pocket and you're coaching him through it. Vets, they're accustomed to doing that."
"Scott is a really gifted play-caller," Romo said. "He has a great mind for the game. We will talk for hours sometimes. We can talk ten minutes and nine minutes [and] we are going over stuff and one minute touch on something that someone learns and maybe we will take something that helps the whole thing. It's small but it's huge to us and I think that is a great connection."
Romo has had three different play callers in his time as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, starting with Tony Sparano in 2006. Jason Garrett called them from 2007-12 and Bill Callahan called them last season.
The offense has been the same since 2007 but Linehan has brought some changes, paring down the verbiage of the plays to streamline the process a little more.
"He's tuned in to why you call a play, what you call a play for and he understands the answer if you don't get what you're calling the play for," Linehan said. "That's valuable time."
During a red zone period in practice last week they spoke about what should have happened because of a look the defense gave and what did not happen. Romo called out the change in a route combination as Linehan was saying it.
The what-if game they play is not Football 101.
"It's high level," Linehan said. "He knows the game. You can't help but know the game. He's been very well coached throughout his career. First of all he's got a wealth of knowledge that you can't replace. He's prepared for any situation really. There's not a whole lot of things he hasn't seen. So the whole idea is getting to see that in person and then you're like, 'Oh, yeah, I can see why he would've don't that.' He's got a great mind, but a great knack for the game in making things work. Let's say a guy is coming free on a rush, he knows what to do. He's got a plan for where the ball is going to go. That's just experience."