The disconnect between popular opinion of Tony Romo and the reality of the way the Dallas Cowboys feel about their quarterback is significant. People find all kinds of reasons to jump on Romo whenever they can, and one of the most common questions I get about the Cowboys is whether they'll make a change at quarterback if this season (or last season, or next season) doesn't go well. The answer is no, because the Cowboys are completely committed to Romo as their quarterback. And as Jean-Jacques Taylor writes on ESPNDallas.com, that commitment likely will soon take the form of an extremely lucrative contract extension somewhere in the neighborhood of the one Drew Brees just signed with the Saints:
Romo is signed through 2016, but the final three years of his deal will void after the 2013 season. In pro sports, contracts are about leverage and timing. Based on what we know right now, Romo has all the leverage. The Cowboys' quarterback of the future isn't on the current roster -- no matter how much you might respect Kyle Orton -- and Romo seems to be entering his prime as a player. The 32-year-old passed for 4,184 yards with 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 102.5 passer rating in 2011.
If Brees just signed a five-year, $100 million deal that guarantees him $40 million in his first season and $60 million in the first three seasons, it's fair to assume Romo is going to get 60 percent to 70 percent of that guaranteed cash -- even if the Cowboys don't win a playoff game for the 17th time in 18 seasons. And if the Cowboys somehow advance to the NFC Championship Game or beyond, Romo's total deal will surpass Brees' contract because he'll get a six- or seven-year contract.
A lot of "ifs" in there, and that doesn't even include the biggest one, which is "if he stays healthy." But that applies to every player in the league, so for the sake of this argument let's assume he does. The fact is that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett love Romo. They correctly believe he's not the root of the problems they've had the past couple of years and have been at work trying to fix the defense and the offensive line, which were. Fans don't like Romo because of his poor playoff record, one botched field-goal snap in an incredibly crucial spot years ago and the fact that he threw some games away last year with bad-decision interceptions. But in the grand scheme of things, Romo is a great player who's delivered more good fourth quarters than bad ones, and the Cowboys have every reason to believe they can win with him at quarterback.
Until they do, Romo will always attract doubters. That's the way of the public-perception world in 2012, and in many respects it's as it should be. But whenever Cowboys fans complain about Romo, it's important they remember that the people who make the decisions about the way the team is run feel very positively about him. And that he's not going anywhere.