The minute Tony Romo stepped off the field against the Lions, you knew the questions were once again going to be asked of Jason Garrett after another crushing defeat to a team the Cowboys had a double-digit lead on in the fourth quarter.
No position takes more heat in a defeat or gets more praise when things go well than quarterback. It’s something that all quarterbacks understand, at all levels. It’s a position where you can play with brilliance for 58 minutes then wilt under the glare of blinding pressure in the final two minutes.
Mistakes are part of the game. Bad decisions are just as important as the good ones. Quarterbacks prepare all week to avoid mistakes, because their mistakes and decisions directly affect the outcome of the game, good or bad.
I know that Tony Romo understands this in thought, but there is something that we scouts saw in him many years ago coming out of Eastern Illinois. Romo is not a robot quarterback. You can’t program him to play. He plays on feel, determination and guts.
I remember the days before he was Tony Romo, starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He was the player who ran the offensive scout team against the first-team defense, trying to win every single play. There were plenty of days where I saw the crazy throws to practice squad receivers like he was throwing the ball to Michael Irvin or Drew Pearson while trying to lead a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl.
I remember when Romo called a quarterback sneak in a preseason game against the Raiders with no timeouts and little or no time on the clock. If he didn't score, the Cowboys would lose, and then he'd have to explain to Bill Parcells why he did what he did. Romo wasn’t thinking about having to deal with Parcells; he was thinking about how he was going to win that game. That Romo is the same one now trying to make a play to win the game.
You would be hard pressed to find any NFL scout who would be critical of Romo’s ability or skill as a quarterback, but you would find plenty who would tell you that he often makes too many critical decisions during a game that costs his team an opportunity to win. But in that same breath, those scouts will marvel at the guts it took to make that throw with a little window to work with.
Garrett is in a tough situation. He can’t continue to allow Romo to make mistakes that cost his team victories, but he can’t suppress his ability to make throws like he did on third-and-21 in the Redskins game.
It’s a true balancing act with Romo. He isn’t a by-the-book quarterback. Like I said before, he plays the game on feel.
He has tremendous confidence that his teammates will make plays for him. He had confidence that Laurent Robinson was going to get inside on that slant. He saw Jason Witten one-on-one with an inside linebacker with separation running down the field with no safety help. He also had confidence that Doug Free wasn't going to allow Kyle Vanden Bosch inside on the rush and Kyle Kosier was going to hold Ndamukong Suh for the split second so he could set his feet and deliver the ball to Witten down the field.
By no means am I trying to make excuses for Romo's decisions. All I am trying to do is point out that this is something he has always done. To Romo it’s about making the play.
Sure, Garrett can sit down with Romo, go through the decisions and reads that he had in the game, correct what needs to be corrected and point out the successful plays. But next week, there will be another game and Romo will once again be there trying to rip the ball down the middle of the field or fit a slant to a receiver because it is what he does, and that's something Garrett can't change.