- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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This week's "Hot Button" debate was about which coach/quarterback combination in the NFL has the most to prove in 2011, and the spotlight is on two Texas teams. John Clayton picks Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub in Houston, while Ashley Fox says it's Jason Garrett and Tony Romo in Dallas:
Garrett will need Romo to be crisp, decisive, and clutch. He will need him to execute the offense, lead by example and make plays. Garrett will need Romo to put up the kind of numbers he did in 2009, when he threw for more than 4,400 yards and had 26 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions.
And Garrett will need Romo to not only get the Cowboys into the playoffs, but to win, because if he does not, Jones might be looking for more than a new quarterback.
Now, a number of you have written to me in the mailbag and on the chats and expressed a point of view similar to Ashley's -- that Romo either is or should be under pressure to win this season, and that if he doesn't the Cowboys will or should be looking to replace him. Those who have written to me on this know that I disagree with Ashley's point of view and believe that Romo ranks among the very least of the Cowboys' problems. He was, as she points out, brilliant in the clutch in 2009. And while he threw a few too many interceptions early in 2010, his overall numbers were good before his season-ending injury, and the offense wasn't the reason for Dallas' 1-7 start.
I think the pressure in Dallas is on the defensive side of the ball, where the front office must first fill holes in the secondary and either re-sign or replace the defensive ends. Only one team in the whole league -- the Denver Broncos -- gave up more points in 2010 than did the Dallas Cowboys. When you're giving up 27.3 points per game, you'd have a hard time scoring enough points to win with Vince Lombardi at head coach and Johnny Unitas at quarterback.
It's entirely possible that Romo could have a career year, a la Eli Manning in 2009, and the Cowboys don't contend for a playoff spot because the defense is so bad. And if that's the case, sure, Garrett will feel some of the heat. But if the pressure is on anybody in Dallas it's on Rob Ryan, the new defensive coordinator, to fix the mess that was left at his feet. Funny, you could write that exact same sentence about John's pick, the Texans, and their new defensive coordinator ... Wade Phillips. These things have a way of coming full-circle, don't they?