NFC East: Vinny Testaverde
In 2007, they made a very similar move.
Was he truly a franchise quarterback? Would a new coaching staff see him the same way the previous coaching staff saw him? Would there be any aftereffects from the bobbled snap in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks?
The Cowboys had searched forever, it seemed, for Troy Aikman’s successor. They tried Quincy Carter. They tried baseball players, such as Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson. They tried veterans, such as Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.
In 10 games, Romo threw for 2,903 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He went to the Pro Bowl.
He was also in the final year of his contract. Would the Cowboys make him a mega-offer with such a short track record?
Staring at the Cowboys as they were about make the 22nd pick in the '07 draft was Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Nobody expected him to be there. He was the Cowboys’ highest-rated quarterback. Forgetting what we know now, he had the stamp of approval from Charlie Weis, a coach who worked with Tom Brady. Quinn put up some strong numbers.
On the clock, the Cowboys traded out of the first round when they secured the Browns' second-round choice in 2007 and their first-rounder in 2008. Eventually they moved back into the first round in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to take Anthony Spencer with the 26th pick.
The Cowboys affirmed their love for Romo. Seven games into the 2007 season, they signed him to a six-year, $67.5 million deal that included $30 million guaranteed.
About 14 months ago, the Cowboys reaffirmed their love for Romo with a six-year, $108 million extension that included $55 million.
Like in 2007, he faces some questions in 2014. Some are football-related. He has not led the Cowboys to the playoffs since 2009. He has a 25-28 record since the beginning of the 2010 season. There are a lot of questions about his health because he is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year. He turned 34 last month.
But just like seven years ago, Jerry Jones backed Romo once again.
“I think that Tony has everything to do with this decision,” Jones said of Dallas' selecting OT Zack Martin over Manziel. “We have a big commitment to Tony. We feel that anything we look at at quarterback would be down the road and in the future in the development of that quarterback. If you look at the difficult dynamic, giving up this player [Martin] that really enhances what we can do on offense and what Tony can do for the future, just on a pretty quick consideration [taking Manziel] didn’t make sense. That was the driving force behind it.”
The 2001 second-roound pick -- the 53rd player taken -- had a substantial fear of success.
That's why he figured out a way to get released in training camp less than a year after leading the Cowboys to a 10-6 record and their first playoff berth since 1999.
"I became pretty close with Quincy personally, and this kid had a lot of good qualities," Parcells said. "He was smart. He understood it. But I just couldn’t save his ass. I really couldn’t.
"You just didn’t have the time. There he is, he got his team in the playoffs, he’s the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, he’s playing good, he’s improving, he can get out of trouble, he’s pretty smart, he can make almost every throw -- and it’s just, some people just can’t fight the pressure to succeed.
"They just can’t fight it. It’s too much on them once the bar gets up a little bit. It’s too much. I don’t know all the problems or the demons exactly, but that’s what eventually took him down."
Carter started three games for the New York Jets in 2004 and never played another NFL down.
Tony Romo was an undrafted free agent on the 2004 Cowboys, hoping to prove he belonged in the NFL. Forty-one-year-old Vinny Testeverde, who started 15 games, and Drew Henson were also on the roster for the Cowboys, who finished 6-10.
Less than three seasons later, Romo started his first game for the Cowboys. Now, he's one of the league's best quarterbacks.
Parcells wasn't surprised Romo received an opportunity to play.
"There were a couple of guys there that I knew I was going to have trouble counting on," Parcells said. "Henson because of his newness and he didn’t seem to be able to sort things out and Quincy because of, you know ... "
CANTON, Ohio – Bill Parcells was extremely hard on his quarterbacks when he was a head coach.
He would have mostly one-sided arguments with Phil Simms, Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde over the years when something would go wrong and even when things would go right.
At the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Friday, Parcells, who will be inducted Saturday, was asked which quarterback he coached that he would want forever and Tony Romo was mentioned.
“Well, what do you want them for?” said Parcells, who coached the Cowboys from 2003-06. “If you want them for fighting it out, just fight it out to death -- Phil Simms. You want them for, OK, just passing the ball, you want to make this 100 percent passing, picturesque and classic, then I have to have Vinny Testaverde. Now if you want to play the modern game and you got to be elusive and get away from then, you give me Tony Romo.”
Parcells took to Romo quickly after signing him as an undrafted rookie, but he didn’t have Romo throw a pass in a regular-season game until 2006. Romo started 10 games in what turned out to be Parcells’ final season, going 6-4 and directing the Cowboys to the playoffs.
Over the years, they have stayed in touch mostly by telephone and Romo, like Jason Witten, can still hear Parcells in the back of his mind when he’s on the field.
“Bill is a big influence on me,” Romo said. “He taught me a lot about the game and the approach. He had some great wisdom in a lot of areas. It wasn’t just to manage the team. It was about people. It was about his ability to know little things you might be thinking or might be going on in your head. I think he’s pretty gifted at that.”
So, in an attempt to get this question answered for you, I reached out to Monday Night Football producer Jay Rothman, who was happy to explain that they collect more than five hours of tape for each of these shows and must, of course, cut that down to the most compelling possible 22 or 23 minutes (to account for the commercials). Additionally, they've made 10 of these this year, with 10 different quarterbacks. The Luck and Griffin ones were just the first two to air. They don't want each of them to feel exactly the same.
"In the case of RG3, he had such a great personality, the stuff he was giving us was compelling," Rothman said. "Each of the shows has its own personality and feel, and I think at the end of the RG3 one, fans got a sense of what the kid was all about. In the body of the storytelling, you get a sense of the kid -- his personality, his smarts, all of that."
The important thing to remember is that Griffin was put through the same X-and-O paces by Gruden as Luck was. That stuff just didn't make it on-air. But if you really want to see it, you will get your chance.
Rothman told me that Gruden occasionally brings in a guest when he feels it's appropriate to the subject, and he invited former NFL quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 pick) Vinny Testaverde in for the chalkboard portion of his time with Griffin. The producers are in the process of editing that portion of the session -- Griffin being grilled on Xs and Os by Gruden and Testaverde -- to air on a future edition of "NFL Live." So at some point in the future (I'll try my best to let you know when), you will be able to see that portion of Griffin's time with Gruden, if you're hungry for more.
Also, I'm going to take this chance to plug our programming some more. The Griffin show airs three more times this weekend and 29 more times total over the next month and a half. This is the full schedule of Gruden's QB camp programming, which will also feature eight more quarterbacks before it's all said and done. I'm enjoying them very much, and I hope you will too.
We're No. 1: The starting quarterbacks in the game will be New York's Eli Manning, who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in 2004, and San Francisco's Alex Smith, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Draft. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the second time in history that two No. 1 overall picks have faced each other in a conference championship, the first being the John Elway-Vinny Testaverde matchup in the 1998 AFC Championship Game.
Experience: This will be the 13th conference championship game for the 49ers, which is the third-most for any team. The Steelers have appeared in 15 and the Cowboys 14. It's the fifth conference championship game for the Giants, who are 4-0 all-time in this round, having won the NFC Championship Game in 1986, 1990, 2000 and 2007. They won the Super Bowl in all but one of those years -- 2000, when they lost to the Ravens.
Bay Area Blues: The Giants are 3-11 in San Francisco since 1980. That counts regular-season and playoff games. The 49ers are 19-8 all-time in home playoff games. A victory Sunday would tie them with the Steelers for the most home playoff wins of all time. But Manning got his fourth career playoff road win Sunday, tying him for the most ever by a quarterback. And Tom Coughlin got his sixth career playoff road win Sunday, which puts him one behind Tom Landry for the all-time record by a head coach.
Familiar foe: This is the eighth time the Giants and 49ers have met in the playoffs. That ties it with Giants-Bears and Cowboys-Rams as the most common playoff matchup of all time.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Friday that Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff injured his right knee during Thursday's practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. Ratliff didn't practice Friday while undergoing treatments on his knee.
But a team source told me earlier this afternoon that he'd be "shocked" if Ratliff wasn't on the field Sunday. Phillips wasn't quite as strong with his prognosis.
"There is slight swelling," Phillips said. "We did an MRI. We think it's something that will get better. How quickly is the question."
Other than outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, I think Ratliff is the Cowboys' most important defender. He's a high-energy player who has five tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 10 quarterback pressures. During the Bill Parcells era, a player not practicing on Friday almost certainly meant he'd miss the game Sunday. The only exception I can recall is Vinny Testaverde replacing Drew Henson on Thanksgiving. But Phillips has been more willing to rest players Friday and then allow them to play two days later.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
It's been several years since I've spoken to former Cowboys second-round draft choice Antonio Bryant, so I made the drive out to Valley Ranch on Wednesday to visit with him via conference call. I was covering the team that fateful summer of 2004, when Bryant became upset with Bill Parcells and tossed a sweaty jersey onto the coach's head. Parcells didn't immediately release the wide receiver, but he eventually traded him to the Cleveland Browns for Quincy Morgan.
"I know that at the end of the day he probably felt like, 'I saved that guy's career,'" Bryant said Wednesday. "I can give him some credit. I've always had a hard head. Hard heads have to bump into walls sometimes. It's just a matter of, are you going to go knock into the wall again?"
Here's what Parcells had to say about the jersey incident five years ago: "This is not my first bout."
On Wednesday, Bryant sounded excited about the prospect of playing with Byron Leftwich. He said he hasn't played with a quarterback who can throw it that far downfield since Vinny Testaverde was in Dallas.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Just in from our Stories We Never Imagined In A Million Years department, former Cowboys and Jets quarterback Quincy Carter worked out for the Miami Dolphins on Thursday. The story was broken by Michael Irvin on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Dallas and it was confirmed by Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano on Thursday.
"This isn't going to change," Sparano said. "We're just going to keep flipping over stones and bringing in a lot of people. It's probably not going to change for two or three years."
So are we to believe that Carter was brought in for a ceremonial workout by Bill Parcells? Sort of a slap on the butt for conquering (at least for the time being) the demons that sent his career spiraling into oblivion. Honestly, I've never met this Bill the Redeemer character. He's definitely sentimental at times, but once you let him down -- especially in such spectacular fashion -- he's done with you.
I would bet all the money left in my Bank of America savings account ($27) that the Dolphins aren't going to sign Carter. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee are desperately trying to figure out what they have in second-year quarterback John Beck and rookie Chad Henne. To bring in a man whose only recent experience was with the Kansas City Brigade is a reach. And if they are considering signing him, it speaks volumes about their current quarterbacks.
I was sitting in the front row of Parcells' news conference four years ago when he and owner Jerry Jones announced that Carter had been released. It was a stunning turn of events after Carter had helped lead the team to a playoff appearance following three consecutive 5-11 seasons. When a reporter asked whether Parcells would consider bringing Carter back someday, he said yes. I just thought he was being gracious at the time.
Earlier Thursday, a high-ranking member of the organization told me the Cowboys actually considered bringing Carter back a few weeks after he'd been cut in 2004. Vinny Testaverde became the starter that season and was backed up by Drew Henson and a kid named Tony Romo -- in that exact order.
If Carter had remained with the team, the legend of Romo may have never been born. My South Florida crew has gone underground on this topic, but I'll gather a few more details while I'm driving to Los Angeles tonight.
General manager Jeff Ireland, Sparano, Lee and of course Parcells were all around on Aug. 6, 2004, the day Carter answered his hotel-room door at 6:30 a.m. and was summoned to meet with Parcells and Jones.
He woke up reserve running back Aveion Cason to say goodbye and then he left training camp for good. I recall the Dallas Morning News' Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Irwin Thompson driving 80 miles to track down a photograph that a random fan took of Carter as he left the Oxnard campus.
The last I heard from Carter, he was being bailed out of jail by an afternoon radio show in Dallas following another marijuana arrest. In the past year, he spent time in a drug rehab program run by former Cowboys linebacker Hollywood Henderson.
I was pretty surprised -- and pleased -- to hear about Carter signing with an Arena League team, but I was absolutely stunned to hear about his workout Thursday.
I just spent a few minutes talking to Tony Romo about the topic and he was genuinely happy to hear that Carter had the opportunity. He also said it didn't surprise him that much that Parcells would take a look at Carter.