IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo is in trouble.
The Dallas Cowboys can deny it all they want, but their quarterback is regressing.
Romo saved the Cowboys' season in 2006 when he took over for an aging Drew Bledsoe. It was the right decision by then-coach Bill Parcells, and Romo would emerge from that season to develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
But the 2012 version of Romo is a mess. He's got nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. You can blame some of the picks on his receivers not fighting for the ball or running bad routes, or even on Romo forcing the action when his team is behind. Only one other quarterback, the Kansas City Chiefs' Matt Cassel, has more total turnovers (16) than Romo's 15.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Romo has thrown an NFL-high six interceptions under duress. He threw three interceptions under duress the previous three seasons combined.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said it best: Turnovers are a team thing, but the man holding the ball after it is snapped is most responsible.
If the Cowboys are going to salvage their season, Romo has to get it together.
It's a hard job, especially when you're the quarterback of the Cowboys. Danny White was booed several times in his career, and he led the Cowboys to three NFC title games. Troy Aikman, a Hall of Famer, was also booed -- and he's got three Super Bowl rings. Jerry Jones said a few weeks ago on his radio show that Don Meredith didn't get enough respect as the quarterback of the Cowboys in the 1960s.
We get it. The gig is tough.
But the current quarterback is regressing, right?
"I think if you look at the turnovers this year, I think that's been the biggest issue for him and for our football team," Garrett said. "Like I said, turnovers are a team thing. You look at every one of them, and I can go through an explanation of why they happened. Tony's certainly a part of that. But I think if you look at his play outside of that, I think he's played pretty well. I think he's showed last year a marked improvement in taking care of the football."
The last play of the second game against the New York Giants this season is an example of Romo not giving his team a chance. He fired a pass out of the reach of every receiver in the end zone as time expired.
He's got to make a throw so somebody can catch it. A few plays before from the Giants' 37, he made a great throw to Dez Bryant, who made a wonderful catch in the end zone. But his fingers landed out of bounds, negating the potential game-winning score.
It drives you batty.
Romo is a good quarterback. Garrett, a man who backed up Aikman, can improve his game. Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson and his 69 NFL starts should help, too.
You could say it's hard to duplicate what Romo did in 2011, when he threw for 4,184 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. It was a season in which he compiled his highest quarterback rating -- 102.5.
You could say he follows up seasons of 4,000 yards poorly.
In 2007, his first full season as a starter, he threw for 4,211 with a career-high 36 touchdowns. But in 2008, he threw for 3,448 and watched his team miss the postseason. In 2009, Romo threw for a career-high 4,483 yards. The next season, he played only six games because he broke his collarbone as the Cowboys missed the playoffs.
The Cowboys and Romo need to fix it starting Sunday night in Atlanta.
"Talking about our quarterback, Tony Romo, he threw a lot of interceptions early on in his career," said Garrett of Romo's 46 interceptions in his first three seasons as the full-time starter. "And I think if you look at his statistics over the course of a few seasons, he's had a number of seasons where he has thrown three times as many touchdowns as interceptions.
"Certainly, the first seven games of this season have not been good in that area. He's certainly responsible for it, but other parts of our team are responsible for it too. We simply have to get better at it."