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Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Sparano knew how to keep Romo grounded

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The Beast had a chance to have breakfast with former Cowboys assistant Tony Sparano at the recent NFL owners' meeting in Dana Point, Calif. We covered several topics, but his eyes lit up when Tony Romo's name came up. Sparano, now the Dolphins head coach, was calling plays for the Cowboys when Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe six games into the 2006 season. Asked whether he knew if Romo was truly ready to be the starter at that point, Sparano had this to say:

"We knew when we put Romo in, yeah," Sparano said. "Honestly at that point with Tony, every time you put him in a game something good happened.

"We had a lot of experience with him, more than we have with our quarterback right now in Chad Henne. We had Tony a couple of years in the preseason and Tony got a lot of playing time that way. Nothing against Drew Bledsoe at the time, but you could just see where we were. We were 3-3 I believe ... and it was just the right time."

At this point, I asked Sparano if Romo's one of those players coaches needed to stay on top of in terms of limiting mistakes.

"Tony is a pretty easy guy to coach," Sparano said. "He's an intelligent guy and he really is a competitor. If you're walking down the hall with Tony Romo, he's going to try to beat you to the door. It was always easy to motivate Tony from my end."

Bill Parcells used to talk about how important it was to "coach Romo all the way through the game." Even after he exploded onto the national scene, Parcells constantly reminded him of his humble beginnings. And Sparano had his own way of keeping Romo grounded. Someone told me a story about something that happened one day in practice in '06. When Romo made a poor throw, Sparano walked up behind the huddle and wondered aloud whether the quarterback had been thinking about his girlfriend at the time, Carrie Underwood.

With Parcells and Sparano gone, there doesn't appear to be anyone at Valley Ranch willing to remind Romo that he wasn't always on the cover of People Magazine.