Drew Brees won a Super Bowl and got paid, Joe Flacco won a Super Bowl and got paid, and Aaron Rodgers was just recently given a five year, $110 million extension – setting the bar for him to make the most money in a single season of any player in NFL history at $24.5 million. A quick look at recent Super Bowl history and the common denominator with those three quarterbacks are Super Bowl rings. Then there is Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback of the last seven seasons, who has won one playoff game since taking over for Drew Bledsoe at halftime of a Monday Night game at Texas Stadium against the New York Giants in 2006. One playoff game in seven years and Jerry Jones decided to break the bank for Romo, giving him a $108 million extension that will keep him in Dallas until he’s 39 years old – or more simply put, until he retires.
To be clear, this is not an indictment on Romo. He is the best option for the Cowboys going forward, a guy who the Cowboys would certainly rather have at this point over the Kevin Kolbs of the world – or any other average quarterback that was on the free agent market this offseason. Romo does have the fifth best quarterback rating in NFL history at 95.6, and he does have a win percentage 57.3% as the starting quarterback. Rather, this is an indictment on Jones. Giving your marquee quarterback a hefty contract when he’s proven absolutely worthy of it is one thing, but it’s another thing to do it when he hasn’t proven he can come up big in big moments, when it matters.
Leading the Cowboys is no small task, and it comes with lofty expectations. Those expectations are magnified tenfold when you consider the national exposure the Cowboys receive. Accompanying the expectations is unrelenting pressure. Roger Staubach handled it well, winning three Super Bowls in the 1970s. Troy Aikman guided the Cowboys to three more in the 90s. In between those two greats was Danny White, a guy who was able to win games, but never able to bring his team over the hump. Naturally, parallels have been drawn with Romo as the guy who put up great stats, but couldn’t deliver a Super Bowl.
The pressure that Romo faces entering this season is arguably the most he has faced in his seven years as Cowboys starter, for no reason other than the deal he signed last month. Jones has long been a believer in Romo, feeling that he can be the one to produce the kind of success that Staubach and Aikman did and bring the Lombardi trophy back to one of the NFL’s most decorated franchises. Jones feels that the key to the Cowboys’ success is Romo putting in “Peyton Manning type time” in preparing for the season, and perhaps that was the reason for a rather offensively minded draft.
The Cowboys traded back into the first round to #31, selecting Wisconsin center Travis Frederick (whom many feel they could have drafted in the second or third round), took San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar in the third round, Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams in the fourth round, and Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle in round six – all to help out Romo and the offense. By trading back with their initial first round pick, they bypassed players like Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, who would have been an ideal fit in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defense, as well as North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and Louisiana State safety Eric Reid. The emphasis on offense in the draft, surrounding Romo with more talent at the skill positions and helping solidify the interior of the offensive line, are moves that are without question Romo friendly.
However, Jerry Jones could be overlooking the biggest fact of all – that a $108 million contract coupled with more offensive firepower creates more pressure for a guy to do what fellow Cowboy DeMarcus Ware said when asked about the contract; it’s time for Romo to put up or shut up.