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Not fixing Tony Romo, tweaking him

10/4/2011

IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys’ dilemma is not “fixing” Tony Romo. It is “tweaking” Tony Romo.

Since he has been the playcaller for the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett has had to find a balance between Romo the gunslinger and Romo the robot. He does not want to take away what makes Romo great and turn him into a manager of the game.

Quarterbacks can’t manage games and be truly successful. They have to make plays on their own at times to win games unless you have an otherworldly defense. The Cowboys don’t have that.

But they don’t need it, either.

Garrett has to take away some of the freedom Romo has on offense until he can trust him again. This is not about taking away the check-with-me options depending on the defensive front or the “smoke” throws when corners are backed off and the safety is in the box.

He has to treat Romo the way he treated Jon Kitna last year and point out to Romo the Cowboys scored at least 26 points in Kitna’s seven starts.

Kitna did it behind an offensive line that was not playing great and led to the release of three starters this year. He did it with a running back (Marion Barber) who struggled and was cut. He did it with a wide receiver (Roy Williams) who struggled and was cut. In three games he did it without Dez Bryant.

Kitna trusted what was in front of him and had a stretch of five games with a completion percentage of at least 67.6. And he was not a robot.

Do you know who that Kitna was? It was the 2009 version of Romo.

After a three-interception game to open Cowboys Stadium against the New York Giants, Romo promised to be better, and he was. He did not have a multiple-pick game the rest of the season. He threw a career-low nine picks and the Cowboys went 11-5 and won a playoff game.

Sunday’s game against Detroit marked the sixth time Romo has attempted at least 47 passes in a game. The Cowboys are 1-5 when he throws it so much. That he threw 47 passes in a game in which the Cowboys had a 24-point third-quarter lead is confusing, especially with how the Cowboys were running the ball.

But that’s another debate for another time.

Garrett does not need to put the shackles on Romo. In ’09, Romo threw the ball a career-high 550 times for a career-high 4,483 yards. The ball was in Romo’s hands a lot and the decisions were his, but Garrett can help him by either changing Romo’s progressions or changing the depth of Romo’s drops to call for shorter, quicker throws.

Once Romo trusts the system, then Garrett can trust him again.