|ESPN.com: ESPNDallas||[Print without images]|
IRVING, Texas -- For all his gaudy statistics and memorable moments, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has rarely played his best football when it mattered most in the National Football League.
His failures are well-documented, the most recent occurring in December, when he threw three interceptions in a 28-18 season-ending loss to the Washington Redskins.
Now, the Romo apologists always find 100 reasons why Romo is blameless for whatever goes wrong with the Cowboys.They need to shut up. Right now.
It's silly the way they blame the offensive line or receivers for every interception. It's never Romo held the ball too long. Or Romo made a poor throw. Or a bad decision.
Even Jerry Jones has become an apologist, saying Jason Garrett and the coaching staff must use Romo better. He wants more creativity.
How about this: The next time Dez Bryant makes a great catch in the end zone, don't credit Romo for the touchdown pass because Bryant did all of the work.
See how silly that sounds?
Understand, Romo hasn't commissioned his legion of apologists to speak on his behalf. He hasn't always understood that winning trumps every record he owns; but he does now.
You can tell by the way he reacts after games. Or during a rare, private chat.
The big-money contract -- six years, $108 million, with $55 million guaranteed -- he agreed to Friday means Jerry thinks Romo gives the Cowboys the best opportunity to become a championship team again.
Perhaps now the Romo apologists will actually allow the quarterback to be held accountable for what he does -- good or bad -- on the field.
With big-time money comes big-time responsibility.
Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman have established a legacy that makes us compare every quarterback who wears a blue star on the side of his helmet with the best this franchise has ever seen.
Those guys played their best in the biggest games. Staubach was captain comeback, a man with a penchant for doing the impossible.
As long as time remained on the clock, you figured Staubach would find a way to win the game ... and you were shocked when he didn't.
Aikman played with a precision few others could match. He won 10 of his first 12 playoff games, including three Super Bowls. Nine times he had a passer rating of more than 100 in the postseason.
Romo remains defined by his failure.
The botched hold. The 44-6 loss to Philadelphia. The season-ending losses to the New York Giants and the Redskins the past two seasons.
He's 1-6 in win-or-go-home games. And he has just one playoff win in seven seasons as a starter. He has never posted consecutive 10-win seasons. And he's just 17-21 as a starter since 2010.
But we've also seen Romo make spectacular plays and throws. He led the Cowboys on five fourth-quarter comebacks last season. No other quarterback had more.
Yet the main thing we remember from last season is Romo making a poor decision on first down that resulted in a game-killing interception against the Redskins.
"This football team that we have is a good team and with all the people we have coming back and the things we are doing behind the scenes," Romo said in a statement. "It will make us a very difficult ball club to beat. I am excited that ownership and the organization believes in me to get this job done.
"Our goal is the Super Bowl and I am determined and honored to be the guy in this position to help our team do that."
Romo doesn't have to win a Super Bowl to change his narrative, but he must have some playoff success. By the time his contract ends, Jerry will have paid him more than $150 million. He expects more than one playoff win, as he should.
The Cowboys, Redskins and Detroit Lions are the only teams that haven't played in an NFC Championship Game since 1997. Most teams have made multiple appearances.
This franchise has always been about the quarterback, from "Dandy" Don Meredith to Staubach to Danny White to Aikman to Romo.
We know how the story ended for the others. If Romo ever plays his best football in the season's biggest games, the Romo apologists won't have to spend all their time defending him.
They can just stand and clap.