What kind of season can we expect from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in 2011? A big one. I know what you’re thinking; ‘Yeah, whatever. All Cowboys writers say that every year.’ You have good reason to think that way. However, this year will be Romo’s best to date. Why? Well, let’s consider the factors.
Romo has been scrutinized and made fun of to the point that his injury last season was more of a relief than anything else. Romo was virtually forgotten after he broke his collarbone during a Monday night loss to the New York Giants in Week 7.
The season had to go on and the Cowboys saw lots of change after that. Wade Phillips was fired and Jason Garrett was promoted to interim head coach. The Cowboys finished the 2010 season 5-3 after starting 1-7 and backup quarterback Jon Kitna had an inspirational half season at the helm.
The Cowboys’ three losses under Garrett came by a combined seven points. In Kitna’s seven games as the starter under Garrett (third-stringer Stephen McGee started Week 17), the Cowboys averaged 31 points per game, the most in the NFL. Even with all the turmoil, the Cowboys still had the second-highest scoring offense in the league over the entire season.
Dallas did all that without Romo, for the most part. Even though the Cowboys lost six of Romo’s seven games, he still had a career-high 69.5 completion percentage in those games. Oh, and the Romo-to-Miles Austin connection was mind-blowing. In the Cowboys’ first two games of 2010 (both losses), Romo completed 20 passes to Austin for 288 yards and a touchdown.
Then Phillips went to a more conservative passing attack, using Austin underneath more than downfield. Although it did result in one Dallas victory, it also led to Phillips’ firing. At the pace Romo and Austin were going, Austin would have recorded over 150 catches and over 2,000 receiving yards, both NFL records. The quarterback-receiver combo that put up the current record in those two categories won three Super Bowls.
Like the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki, Romo has had enough. He’s tired of hearing about the botched snap on the field goal in the 2006 playoffs. We can’t haggle him anymore about his celebrity girlfriends; he recently married Candice Crawford, a former television reporter in Dallas. He’s sick of people saying he can’t win the big one. To be fair, I’ve been driving that bandwagon for some time now. There comes a time in an athlete’s career when he or she grows tired of being “Next Year’s Champs.”
Nowitzki put up with that for 13 seasons until a couple of weeks ago when he won his first NBA championship. Truthfully, he wasn’t good enough to win the title until this season. Somehow he rose to a much higher level of elite athlete this year and got over the hump. He finally had all the tools he needed; he had a defensive presence in center Tyson Chandler to compliment his offensive onslaught. Nowitzki improved defensively himself, which really elevated the Mavericks to the title.
Romo is even more primed for a title heading this season than Nowitzki was this past year. Like his NBA counterpart, Romo has a new coach that knows how to win. Romo has a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan that will allow Garrett to be more aggressive with the offensive play-calling.
In addition to Austin, Romo will have a healthy Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and a slew of good running backs to set off some serious offensive fireworks. That’s not to mention the newest and most needed addition on the offensive line, first-round draft pick Tyron Smith.
Oh, we almost forgot the Cowboys’ less difficult schedule this year. Last season, the Cowboys had the third-toughest schedule in the NFL with every division champ and three of the last four Super Bowl participants. This year, the Cowboys have a much easier road to the postseason.
Four of the 13 teams on the Cowboys’ schedule are among the top 10 friendliest in the NFL to quarterbacks. One of those is the Washington Redskins, who the Cowboys play twice, so that makes five games against teams that rank in the top 10 in allowing yards and touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Those four teams are the Redskins, New York Jests, Detroit Lions, and Seattle Seahawks.
For the rest of the schedule, the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and New York Giants are in the bottom half of the league in defending the pass. That means that 11 of the Cowboys’ 16 games will be against teams will relatively weak pass defenses when yards and touchdowns are combined.
The 13 teams on the Cowboys’ schedule allowed an average of 3,570 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns last season. Romo has never failed to throw for 4,000 yards in a full season since he entered the NFL. He has also never thrown for less than 26 touchdowns in a full season.
Yes, Romo is definitely primed to have a breakout year and, more importantly, a winning season for the Cowboys.