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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach is sick and tired of hearing Tony Romo get ripped for the Dallas Cowboys' lack of success.
"If there's a bigger Romo fan in town, I don't know who it is," said Staubach, one of many former Cowboys who attended the team's open practice at AT&T Stadium and private dinner. "I want to argue with all my negative Romo fans and let them know and tell them how great this guy is."
Staubach, a longtime staunch supporter of Romo, understands that quarterbacks for the franchise who don't earn a Super Bowl ring are considered failures because of the standard he and Troy Aikman set. He firmly believes Romo is capable of leading the Cowboys to a title if he gets help. In particular, Staubach pointed out that the Cowboys must drastically improve a rushing attack that set franchise records for futility last season.
"Last year, if you looked at the Super Bowl, those guys had running backs over 1,000 yards," Staubach said. "[Romo] doesn't complain. He doesn't blame it on anybody, but he needs some help up front at times. The running game has got to be better than [31st] in the league, but Tony just does his job. He makes plays. He's got a strong arm, and he just does a lot of good things out there [that] only a few quarterbacks in the league can do.
"It's a team effort, too. I can't take credit for those great teams that I had. It was because I had a running game, I had a good offensive line, I had a lot of good things working for me. But you've got to be good yourself. Tony is a franchise quarterback."
The Cowboys have ranked among the league's top 10 in rushing offense only once during Romo's seven seasons as a starter. That was in 2009, when the Cowboys went 11-5 and recorded their lone playoff victory since 1996.
Staubach's two Super Bowl-winning teams featured dominant rushing attacks. The Cowboys ranked third in the NFL in rushing in 1971 and fourth in '77. Romo, whose improvisational playmaking style reminds Staubach of himself, ranks fifth in NFL history with a current passer rating of 95.6. However, the statistic most often cited in discussions about Romo's career is his 1-6 record in win-or-go-home games, including Week 17 losses with the NFC East title and a playoff berth at stake the past two seasons.
"It's not fair, but that's just the way it is," said Staubach, who acknowledged that Romo had a "rough one" in last season's finale, when he threw three interceptions in a loss to the Washington Redskins. "I really feel it's important to him. The most important thing for him is to win and to get that playoff level where he can win some playoff games.
"But you can't do it by yourself. It's not a one-man game. It's a team game. I think [at] that position that Dallas has a quarterback that can be a franchise quarterback. But you need other pieces, too."
[Romo] doesn't complain. He doesn't blame it on anybody, but he needs some help up front at times. The running game has got to be better than [31st] in the league, but Tony just does his job. He makes plays. He's got a strong arm, and he just does a lot of good things out there [that] only a few quarterbacks in the league that can do.” -- Roger Staubach
Staubach, who jokes that his optimistic predictions have been off before, believes this could be a breakthrough season for Romo. The Hall of Famer said he sees center Travis Frederick, a first-round pick whom Romo raved about during a sideline conversation with Staubach, as a significant upgrade for the offensive line. And Staubach said "there won't be a better receiver in the league" than Dez Bryant if he stays healthy.
"We were 8-8 with a lot of injuries, no running game, a lot of difficulties," Staubach said of the Cowboys last season. "We can be 11-5 in a second with a little luck and keeping people healthy, maybe 12-4. And I think we'd take 10-6 right now, wouldn't we? You just want to get in the playoffs."