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Monday, April 1, 2013
Real pressure is on Jerry Jones

By Todd Archer
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Conventional wisdom says there's more pressure on Tony Romo now that he has signed a seven-year deal worth $119.5 million.

Wasn't he already facing a growing heap of pressure before Friday's deal was finished?

Jerry Jones
If tough times continue over the next three seasons after signing Tony Romo, then Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones will face even more heat.

It doesn't seem possible to face more pressure than what Romo has faced since, say, 2007, when the Cowboys had the NFC's best record and lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the New York Giants. Is there some sort of "This is Spinal Tap" pressure gauge where it can go to 11 instead of 10 on Romo?

There is not a more picked apart player in the NFL than Romo.

A large segment of NFL followers -- and a percentage of the Cowboys' fandom, as well -- giggled when the deal was announced. It was met with a collective, "You gave how much to a guy with one playoff win?"

At the same time, a large segment of the Cowboys' fandom -- and a percentage of NFL followers, as well -- believed the team did the right thing in keeping Romo.

Do not get fooled by the $119.5 million price tag. That's just for show. In the first three years, Romo will take home $57 million. That's where he wins -- with a $19 million average.

Over the first four years, Romo will earn $65.5 million. Romo doesn't exactly lose here, mind you, but this is where the team wins with a $16.4 million average.

There is no doubt Romo faces pressure, but it's more because of the position he plays and the team he plays it for and not so much the new contract.

If we're playing the pressure game, let's take it to 11 on owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

If the Cowboys do not win -- and that is not solely defined by Super Bowl rings -- over the next three years, then Jones will face more heat. Not that it will ever lead him to giving up his role as the general manager.

More playoff-less and insignificant seasons from the Cowboys won't hurt the team's brand, but the Romo contract will then be magnified much like poor deals for Joey Galloway, Roy Williams, Ken Hamlin, Marion Barber and Terrell Owens' second contract.

Go ahead. Add your own names to the list.

Jones has to do more for Romo besides just writing some handsome checks. Jones has to get better players around Romo, and not just at the sexy positions.

Since espousing the term "Romo friendly" a few years ago, Jones has had a funny way of showing he's … you know … Romo friendly.

He has lamented the fact the team has missed the playoffs the past two years despite Romo playing well, while not realizing he is undercutting his own work as the team's general manager.

The NFL is a quarterback league. You need one to win. But the NFL is not a quarterback-only league. You need other pieces.

For a quarterback, there is nothing more important than an offensive line. Twice, Jones has spent big in free agency to help protect the quarterback. Marco Rivera hurt his back soon after signing in 2005 and was gone in 2007. Leonard Davis came in 2007 and had two excellent years before falling off and yet he stayed through the 2010 season.

In 2011 the Cowboys cut five-time Pro Bowler Andre Gurode in favor of Phil Costa without much of a backup plan. And that came after they signed Doug Free to a four-year, $32 million deal only to see Free's play fall off last season.

The Cowboys added Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau in free agency last year with modest deals and could be in position to replace one as a starter this summer.

Jones has to be more Romo friendly by getting better offensive-line play and not hoping that an undrafted kid with a knee problem, like Ronald Leary, will become a steal.

At the NFL scouting combine, Jones said the Cowboys could get by with less effective linemen because of Romo's ability to move around. Somehow he didn't see the faulty logic in that premise. Why wouldn't he imagine what a cleaner pocket could do for an accurate thrower like Romo?

The irony of it all is that Jones is a former offensive lineman, and he has drafted just one in the first round (Tyron Smith) since taking over in 1989.

While Jones might want to sit back and say, "I've got my quarterback," his job is not done.

Far from it.