Dallas Cowboys: Larry Bird

Tony Romo firmly believes that he has a bright future as the franchise quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

He declared during an interview on 105.3 The Fan that he'll come back from his second back surgery in less than a year "a better player than I've ever been." He expressed confidence that he'll hold up for the duration of the six-year, $108 million deal he signed last offseason.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/James D. SmithIf it were simply a matter of toughness, Tony Romo would most certainly fulfill his goal of playing out the duration of his contract.
"There's no question in my mind, not only am I going to be able to make it through 16 games, I'll make it through another five years," Romo said during his appearance Wednesday on the "Ben and Skin Show."

"Some people have issues just based on their body alignment and degenerative things, but none of those are my issues. Mine is just something small and I just got hit at the wrong time and that's part of what happened. If you play football long enough, you're going to have something."

If it's about toughness, Romo will be right about his future. After all, he's the guy who has led the Cowboys to comeback wins while playing with a punctured lung and fractured ribs on one occasion and a herniated disk in his back on another.

Too bad toughness will have little to do with Romo's longevity.

Few stood in the pocket and took hits as fearlessly as Troy Aikman, but back problems forced him to retire at 34, Romo's age now. Larry Bird's toughness was part of his legend, but the NBA great's bad back forced him to hang up his sneakers at 35.

The Cowboys have addressed what they can control regarding Romo's future under center extending another five years. They've invested first-round picks in offensive linemen in three of the last four drafts, meaning Romo should be protected as well as he's ever been. By all accounts, Romo has attacked rehab with passion and a purpose. And the Cowboys make sure Romo gets the best medical care possible.


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Of course, Dr. Drew Dossett also operated on Texas Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison's back. Now, Harrison's career is in jeopardy after further complications with his back, and he doesn't even have to deal with complicated blitzes or 300-pound defensive linemen driving him into the turf.

For Romo to have a chance to accomplish his goal of leading the Cowboys to a Super Bowl, he must believe with every fiber of his being that his best football is ahead of him. But his prediction of playing five more years is based purely on hope, not the gloomy reality of the history of great athletes with back problems.

That's not to say Romo's plan is impossible. Peyton Manning just had a record-shattering season at age 37, a couple of years removed from multiple neck surgeries.

But Romo's health in the future is far from a guarantee, no matter what he says or how hard he works. The Cowboys can hope for the best with Romo, but they better be prepared to deal with the worst.

Tony Romo with Larry Bird-like ability

October, 15, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Josh Wilson thought he had a clean shot on Tony Romo.

He was left with nothing.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback shook free from the blitzing Washington Redskins cornerback, got settled and found wide receiver Terrance Williams in the corner of the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown pass in the 31-16 win.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Tony Romo
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTony Romo got away from Washington's Josh Wilson before finding Terrance Williams in the end zone.
Romo has escaped from trouble so many times that it almost seems routine. He has spun away from defensive ends coming from his blindside. He has eluded linebackers up the middle. He has even shook off his own offensive lineman (Montrae Holland). On Sunday he broke free from a cornerback right in his face.

“I think that the No. 1 trait for Tony Romo as a quarterback is instincts,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s got a great feel for the game. He sees a lot of different things. He’s got a great feel for people around him, and he’s got just kind of this funny way of getting away from people. And not only does he get away from them, but quickly to have your eyes down the field to make that kind of a throw under that kind of duress, was an exceptional play.”

It was that “funny way of getting away from people,” comment that drew attention. At 6-2, 236 pounds, Romo is not the flashy, elusive quarterbacks who flourishes in today’s game, like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick.

His athleticism is an underappreciated part of his game. But quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have a subtle way of side-stepping defenders even if they are not blessed with the greatest physical talents (aside from their right arms, of course).

“I think you can be an elusive guy without being overly skilled, overly impressed from a motor skills standpoint -- guys who run fast and jump high and have this rare quickness,” Garrett said. “There have been some great athletes through the years who kind of get away from people. The great Larry Bird seemed to get away from people for a long time, right?”