- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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IRVING, Texas -- The sermon had been over for less than five minutes when a member of my church family sidled over and inquired about the Dallas Cowboys.
"How do you think the Cowboys are going to do this year?" he asked. "You know we need another quarterback."
Tony Romo, the dude with 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 102.5 passer rating last season, is the reason the Cowboys went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons?
Romo, who led the Cowboys to a win a week after puncturing his lung and suffering a rib cartilage injury, is the reason Las Vegas has the Cowboys winning eight games this year?
No matter where I go in Dallas-Fort Worth these days, the sentiment is the same: The Cowboys need another quarterback.
Of course, Romo's critics can't give me the name of a legitimate replacement. All they know is they're sick and tired of Romo.
They want to talk about the dropped snap in Seattle. Or the trip to Cabo in 2007. Or the raggedy performance in the 44-6 loss to Philly in 2008. And God forbid he plays in some golf pro-am.
They'll mention his 1-3 playoff record or blame him for the Cowboys' annual December swoon.
The playoff record and late swoons are legitimate criticism. The rest is poppycock.
Sorry, there's no other way to say it.
Romo ain't perfect, but too many of you have conveniently forgotten the six seasons between Troy Aikman and Romo -- when Quincy Carter, Drew Henson, Chad Hutchinson and Ryan Leaf were among those who took snaps from center for the Cowboys.
If everyone on the Cowboys' roster did their jobs as well as Romo does his, then the Cowboys would be contenders. If you can't tell Romo has matured as a player, then you choose not to see it.
And if you're serious about wanting to see the Cowboys win a Super Bowl in your lifetime, then you better hope Jerry Jones gets Romo some help. After all, we've been hearing Jerry talk about a Romo-friendly offense for years, and then Jerry the GM put him behind a raggedy offensive line the past two seasons.
We'll see because whoever starts at center and guard for the Cowboys this season will be from the Land of Misfit Offensive Linemen.
But if Jason Garrett will resist the urge to throw the ball 60 percent of the time -- 55 percent would be better -- and give it to DeMarco Murray, then Romo might be even more efficient.
More important, he might not feel like he has to be the best player on the field every game and attempt to make plays when none exist. That's usually when those game-killing gaffes occur.
Still, Romo is among the NFL's top 10 quarterbacks. Scoff if you must, but doing so qualifies you as a hater.
We're talking about a player with a 47-30 record as a starter, who was one of five quarterbacks with a +20 touchdown/interception differential last season. The others: Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (+39), New Orleans' Drew Brees (+32), New England's Tom Brady (+27) and Detroit's Matthew Stafford (+25).
Last season, Romo finished third in the NFL in completion percentage (66.3), fourth in passer rating (102.5), fifth in touchdown passes (31) and seventh in yards per attempt (8.02).
Obviously, the game is about more than numbers, but quarterbacks who can't put up numbers have no chance to lead their teams to playoff victories -- unless they're leading teams, such as Baltimore, that are built around their defenses.
Romo, entering his seventh season as a starter, has two years left on his five-year, $65 million deal. When it expires after the 2013 season, his numbers will dictate he sign a deal commensurate with the game's best quarterbacks.
This is where it gets tricky.
Jerry will give him the money, but it'll be a lot easier for Jerry to sign off on a nine-digit contract if Romo has led the Cowboys on at least one deep playoff run.
Do you realize the Cowboys haven't been to the NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season? Since then, only Dallas, Washington and Detroit haven't played in a conference championship game.
Eleven teams have played in it multiple times.
At 32, Romo hasn't started to decline yet, which should give you hope.
Maybe this is the year we'll talk about the game-winning plays Romo makes instead of his errors. Never has a good quarterback been known so much for his failures.
21hEric D. Williams
2dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo