If you've ever thought to yourself, "I wonder what it would be like to get a glimpse into the mind of 'First Take' host Skip Bayless as he agonizes over the question of whether Tony Romo will ever win a Super Bowl as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys," well, then, you're in luck. Skip's weekly column for ESPN.com is a lengthy debate between Skip's head and his heart on this very topic.
Skip concludes that the answer is "no," which is something of a departure from his long-held and oft-stated belief that Romo takes too much blame in Dallas. Along the way, he hits on a number of key issues at the heart of the perpetual Romo conundrum, including this one:
An NFL coach who loves Romo's talent and stays in touch with several Cowboys assistants told me: "That team badly needs Romo to take over as its leader. And all he really wants to be is a good soldier. Not a general. Just a very good soldier."
That's because, deep down, Romo knows he's still your basic undrafted free agent. Staubach won the Heisman. Aikman was the first pick in the draft. Romo doesn't trust he can be routinely great. He keeps waiting for someone to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he just got punked -- he isn't really a Dallas Cowboys quarterback. That's why he was so happy-go-unlucky in those first couple of seasons. He was trying to grin away the Texas-sized pressure, shrug off the voice inside telling him, "You know you don't belong here."
That voice keeps telling him he WILL self-destruct. And he does.
I think the "leader" stuff is overblown, and that it comes from people who don't ever visit the Cowboys' locker room, where Romo is looked at as a leader in all of the critical ways. But I think there's something to the idea of Romo's relationship to potential greatness. Guys who win Heisman Trophies and get picked first overall are the types of guys who have spent their whole lives crushing everyone and everything in their path -- for whom doubt was never company and therefore can't even be a memory. Romo hit more than his share of bumps and setbacks along his way to the NFL, and therefore the idea that he might possess more innate self-doubt than did his Hall of Fame predecessors is not a crazy one at all.
Where I fall short on this -- and I guess one of the reasons I was never going to make it on "First Take" -- is that I can't sit here and say Romo will never win a title with the Cowboys. Very few quarterbacks have ever filled us with certainty that they could win a Super Bowl until they actually did it. They used to say the Broncos would never win one with John Elway, that the Giants would never win one with Eli Manning. Someday, we may look back on this Romo conversation as preposterously silly.
But that's who Romo is right now. Even if you want to like him and believe in him, there are just enough reasons -- some of his own making, some not -- for doubt. And jeez, if he's lost Skip, that's a tough one.