Who's most important?
Tony tops list
Because Calvin Watkins is a fan of the New York Yankees, I'll paraphrase Reggie Jackson: Tony Romo is the straw that stirs the Dallas Cowboys' drink.
But Romo is the correct answer.
Without Romo, the Cowboys are a sub-.500 team (and I'll let the wise guys out there remind me that the Cowboys are 9-13 in Romo's past 22 starts). The Cowboys are not a playoff contender without Romo, and I say that believing Kyle Orton is a terrific addition as this team's backup quarterback.
Orton would be a solid fill-in, but this offense would change dramatically.
Romo can do things that few quarterbacks in this league can do. He can win games on his own. He's not a bus driver.
Yes, sometimes that can hurt, which is what happened last year against Detroit. I'll excuse the loss to the New York Jets in last year's season opener, in a way, because on Romo's fourth-quarter fumble near the goal line he was doing the correct thing by not forcing a throw. The defensive lineman made a good play in poking the ball free for a fumble. The interception by Darrelle Revis later in the fourth quarter came on a poor throw.
But think of all the times Romo has had to bail out the offense with his improvisation over the years. While the offensive line play has been in the crosshairs for the past few years, it might be time to look at the blocking scheme that has led Romo to run for his life at times, especially when they face teams that bring pressure (cough, cough New York Giants; cough, cough Philadelphia). Maybe Bill Callahan changes some of that this year.
Yet Romo has come through more than he has not come through, given his regular-season record. You can make the argument that Romo might be one of the NFL's underrated players for what he means to the Cowboys.
Romo can make the wide receivers better. Romo can make the running game better.
Without Romo, the wide receivers are not allowed to extend plays. Without Romo, defenses would be able to stack the line against Murray.
This is a big year for the Cowboys. They've made the playoffs once in the past four years, twice missing on the regular-season's final weekend.
But without Romo, their most important player, they would have next to no chance of making the postseason in 2012.
Must be Miles
Once again, it's not a negative against Romo or even DeMarco Murray, the talented running back who needs to prove to the franchise he's a 1,000-yard rusher, but Austin has to produce for the Cowboys to succeed.
He's a 1,000-yard receiver and a man who threatens defenses with his speed and ability to break from defenders for yards after catch.
Last season, Laurent Robinson became Romo's go-to guy when defenses took Austin and Dez Bryant out of the game. Austin took himself out of games with his health, too. He battled hamstring issues most of the season, limiting his ability to push defenders out of his way with his speed and physicality.
The Cowboys need Austin.
Bryant is a talent. But he's just an outside receiver right now.
The Cowboys rely on him to play outside and in the slot. He's a dual threat who scares defenders to back off in a variety of ways.
Austin isn't the fastest receiver in the game, or even on the Cowboys, but he's one of the strongest. Austin's lower body helps him get free from defenders when he runs those slant routes to the middle of the field.
Austin is still fast enough to stretch the defense. Remember the Kansas City game a few years ago, when Austin beat the defense down the sideline for a game-winning touchdown in overtime?
Romo trusts Austin like no other receiver on this team. Austin is a proven Pro Bowl receiver who can make plays in a variety of ways.
Jerry Jones said a few years ago he likes a Romo-friendly offense, and making sure Austin is still around is a positive thing.
Austin is the Cowboys' best receiver. While they have Bryant and a bunch of unproven players behind him, Austin is getting ready for another expected big season.
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