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Tony Romo's impact is imperative

9/9/2011 - NFL Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys + more

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo has accumulated some gaudy stats as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

For the most part, they're irrelevant.

"I'm not into statistics," he said. "It's about winning and losing the game."

Of course, the only stat anyone wants to discuss when it comes to the 31-year-old Romo is his one playoff win in four-plus seasons as a starter.

We know that's not nearly good enough in a city that uses Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman as its standard for quarterbacks.

The one thing Romo must do, if the Cowboys are going to win more than eight games in this rebuilding season, is make his teammates better. The league's elite quarterbacks elevate the play of those around them.

Tom Brady does it. Peyton Manning, too. So do Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Romo should play his best football this season because his mental acumen and physical skills are in perfect sync.

And he has the skill players in tight end Jason Witten, receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and running back Felix Jones to have one of the best offenses in the league -- even with all the question marks on the offensive line.

Romo can make his teammates better by continuing his growth as a leader, especially with an offensive line that will feature will two rookies -- left guard Bill Nagy and right tackle Tyron Smith -- and a second-year center, Phil Costa, with one career start.

At times, Romo will need to cuss them out. Other times, they'll need to pat on the butt accompanied by a word of encouragement.

It's not enough to complete a pass to Bryant or Austin, Romo needs to hit them in stride, so they can gain yards after the catch.

"There are a lot of little things that go into playing the position," he said. "I think it just gets better over time."

Two seasons ago, Romo was still too busy perfecting his game to make his teammates better. Last season was such a disaster from start to finish, the team really never had a chance.

"He's grown technically as a player, and all the while he's done it without losing Tony Romo," Garrett said. "We like Tony Romo and what he brings to the table, but he needed to be refined and it's been a process we've gone through with him.

"His understanding of the game and leadership and what it means to be quarterback of an NFL team is better, but he has a long way to go."

Romo should also have a comfort level in Jason Garrett's offense since he's entering his fifth season in it. The game has slowed down for him, and he knows where he should go with the ball on every play based on the play and the coverage.

"He sees the offense. he sees the defense, he sees their relationship to each other really well," Garrett said. "The best quarterbacks I've been around, the best quarterbacks I've seen have great vision.

"His growth comes from understanding our scheme. Their scheme and how our scheme fits on top of their scheme and how he can be quicker and more decisive going the right place with the football.

For the first time in a long time, few expectations exist for the Cowboys. There's no talk about the Super Bowl, and most fans have conceded the NFC East title to Philadelphia.

Most fans appreciate Romo, but there's a large faction who believe the Cowboys will never win a Super Bowl with him as their quarterback.

"Every year you play the game, you feel the urgency to win that season and be the best you can be," Romo said. "If you're just going to show up on Sunday and feel that urgency, then you've already lost.

"It's easy to go to work on Sunday. It's about all those other days. Guys that enjoy competing and trying to get better usually have long careers and do some of the things they set out to do."

He's talking about rings, not numbers.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.