IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spent 12 years in the NFL as a quarterback. He knows what a quarterback is supposed to look like.
When Garrett looks at a quarterback, he is not caught up in the height or weight. He’s not caught up in the hand size. He’s not caught up in arm strength, but accuracy matters a lot. All of those things matter to a degree.
But the biggest "must" for a quarterback is what Tony Romo demonstrates on a weekly basis.
What separates Romo from a lot of quarterbacks is how he can create when things break down. Garrett has constantly remarked on Romo’s ability to spin away from trouble and get his eyes downfield to make a throw.
In the season-opening win against the New York Giants in 2015, the shotgun snap on the final play was low and ended up on the ground. Romo calmly picked the ball up, set his feet and found Jason Witten for the game-winning touchdown pass.
Romo has talked at length about his vision and being able to process information quickly even under duress.
“One of the things we talk about as a must for that position is instinct and feel for the game,” Garrett said. “Great quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes. I’m not so sure I’ve ever seen a great quarterback who wasn’t instinctive in some way. You can ask what the manifestation of instinct is. It’s just a guy who has a feel for the game, a feel for competing, a feel for people around him, a way to kind of function and help his team move the ball, score points and win games.”
The Cowboys worked out Dak Prescott on Monday. They worked out Paxton Lynch on Wednesday. Cardale Jones will be among the Ohio State players the Cowobys work out on Friday. The Cowboys spent a week with Carson Wentz at the Senior Bowl coaching him and will meet with him again. They are also expected to work out Jared Goff. More will likely be on the list.
While there is a value to a pro day, Garrett said the private workouts give the team a chance to get to know the player more.
“Our coaches will go out and spend time doing individual workouts throughout the month of March and have a chance to get their hands on these guys, see them in a classroom setting, give them some information, take them out on the field see how they respond to hard coaching,” Garrett said. “… We’ve had a chance to see some of those guys at the Senior Bowl, we had a chance to see some of those guys at the combine, but again, the more chance you have to get exposed to these guys the better the evaluation is going to be.”
But learning about the instincts comes from playing the game.
Romo is great in the pocket when things are perfect. He can be even better when things aren’t perfect when instincts take over.
Those instincts have carried him from an undrafted quarterback out of Eastern Illinois in 2003 to being one of the very best in the NFL.
Along the way he has tightened up his throwing motion, adjusted his footwork. But the moxie Bill Parcells spoke about in 2003 remains his most important trait.
As Garrett and the coaches put the quarterbacks through these private workouts over the next few weeks, they will be searching for a little bit of Romo.
“All the great quarterbacks have that and it manifests itself a lot of different ways,” Garrett said, “but it’s something you really have to look for, you have to look for the evidence of that.”