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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Updated: May 10, 3:19 PM ET
Cowboys' success depends on Romo

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- How much golf Tony Romo plays is irrelevant.

Whether he skips the Azalea Invitational in Charleston, S.C., and doesn't attempt to qualify for the HP Byron Nelson Championship or the U.S. Open shouldn't matter.

All this talk from Jerry Jones about Romo spending more time with Jason Garrett putting the game plan together doesn't matter either.

From now until the day he retires, all we care about is whether Romo plays his best football in the games that matter most.

End of story.

That's the only way he can change his narrative as a player. Winning in the postseason -- or games that get Dallas to the postseason -- is the only thing that's going to change the way Dallas Cowboys fans view him.

Sure, it's a team game and you can't be a diamond surrounded by trash and win. But Romo isn't surrounded by trash. The Cowboys have talent, and the best quarterbacks elevate the performance of those around them.

That's what New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees does. And Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. New England's Tom Brady, too.

Maybe Romo will never be as good as any of those players. There's no shame in that. But he must be better when it matters most. After all, we're talking about a player with a plus-86 touchdown/interception differential. We're discussing a player with a 95.6 passer rating, fifth all-time in the NFL.

Tony Romo
Tony Romo is 1-6 in win-and-go-home games, including a loss to the Redskins in last year's finale.

This has never been about talent. Or ability. Romo has plenty of that. We've seen it time and time again. You don't compile a 55-38 record as a starter without talent.

What we haven't seen is Romo regularly turn in the same virtuoso performances we see in the regular season in some of these win-and-go-home games.

Understand, Romo apologists will blame the Cowboys' offensive line or Jason Garrett's play selection or Patrick Crayton's third-quarter drop against the New York Giants in 2007 for the quarterback's failures. Essentially, they'll blame anyone but Romo for his 1-6 record in win-and-go-home games.

On the other side, those misguided souls who think Romo is among the NFL's worst quarterbacks will continue to bash him until the Cowboys have more than one playoff win under Romo.

Considering the teams San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and Green Bay have built, it might be difficult for Romo to win in the postseason because those teams are better.

That said, the game is about the quarterback.

Look at what Robert Griffin III did for Washington and what Andrew Luck did for Indianapolis. Look at what Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick did for Seattle and San Francisco, respectively.

Anywhere you find a good team in the NFL, you'll find a quality quarterback. You can't compete without a quarterback, as Arizona and Buffalo will attest.

All of the rules are tilted to favor the offense. Quarterbacks and receivers have never had it so good. It's so good for them, a running back wasn't drafted in the first round for the first time since 1963.

That's why the discussion inevitably returns to Romo.

In 30 December games, Romo is 13-17 with a passer rating of 89.3, considerably lower than his career rating.

In 2012, Romo was a good quarterback having a poor first two months of the season. Then he played well for a long stretch before his awful game against Washington with the NFC East title at stake. Two of his first five passes were intercepted, and his fourth-quarter interception with about three minutes left in the game ruined the comeback.

Romo apologists will point to his 18 fourth-quarter comebacks -- which is two more than Troy Aikman and three more than Roger Staubach -- and try to persuade folks that Romo's lack of big-game success has more to do with his teammates than the quarterback.

Really?

All you have to do is watch the DVDs or study the history of the game. We know Aikman and Staubach are Hall of Fame players and Romo isn't. This is not a bash Romo session; it's about reminding what the focus is and not getting distracted by the noise.

All that matters is how Romo plays in the Cowboys' biggest games. If he plays well, then Garrett will survive the season and the Cowboys will make the playoffs.

If he doesn't, change is coming to the Cowboys.

Again.