Antonio Must Stir The Drink

warned, what if he is some one-hit wonder, you know, the Norman Greenbaum or Golden Earring of the NFL?

Scary, isn't it?

Now to hear Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talk, Romo is the real deal, but let's just remember Jerry is the eternal optimist, and who can really blame him for waving blue stars over Romo's head after waiting so long to find the next franchise quarterback?

Phillips also speaks highly of Romo, but again, that's the guy he's inherited, and really, what he's seen of Romo in a game probably is all on tape or TV.

Former Cowboys offensive guru Sean Payton said before last December's meeting that "I'm a Tony Romo fan," meaning he thought when he was here Romo had the talent to play quarterback in the NFL. Then Payton and his New Orleans Saints proceeded to beat the snot out of the Cowboys, and in doing so, exposing a few concerning weaknesses in Romo's game.

And while all the right people seem convinced Romo can do the deal, although some of that might stem from shear desperation for him to do so at the most important position on an NFL team, you can't will his success. He must prove it - again - passing the NFL test of consistency, the one factor which separates Steve Pelluer from Troy Aikman.

Now then, Parcells, the guy who staked the final games of his NFL coaching career to Romo, definitely believes Romo can be successful in this league. But as always with Parcells, there was a trailing "but" he expressed during one of the last conversations we had at The Ranch before his departure.

"But he has to take care of a few things, and I've told him what they were," said Parcells, who then stopped short of saying what he told Romo.

Well here, let me guess.

One, keep your shoulder up when throwing the ball. Former quarterbacks coach David Lee worked endlessly with Romo during his three seasons behind the scenes getting him out of the habit of dropping his elbow down when throwing the football. That's a recipe for disaster (sorry, a little bit of Bill still is here) for 6-2 quarterbacks. Romo seemingly broke the habit at the outset until reverting back to some of his old habits late in the season and when under increased pocket pressure.

Two, stay with the play as long as possible. In other words, don't get happy feet back there at the first sign of danger. While fans fall in love with scrambling quarterbacks and guys who make something out of nothing, sometimes their decisions to bail make something at the expense of forfeiting the opportunity to make something bigger. No NFL quarterback has achieved success without being willing to stand in the pocket long enough to get a pass off while taking a hit in return. It's part of the job description. Improv is for comedy clubs not NFL stadiums.

Three, impulse control. What has the potential to make Romo great also has the potential to send him back to Burlington, Wis. Romo will take chances, and successful NFL quarterbacks require such chutzpah. But the chances need to be calculated. He must stay with his reads and at times check down to safer alternatives rather than trying to be super-hero marksman. That Lucky Charm won't always be riding on your shoulder as it seemed to be for Romo on some of those what's-he-doing passes he got away with early in last year's 10-game stretch.

So, while there is great optimism surrounding Romo, and really, well there should be, and you root for a guy who is trying to defy all the odds confronting short, undrafted quarterbacks from small schools, he is not out of the redwoods yet.

He's got some proving still to do.

And because of that, to me, that's why all these other good questions the Cowboys must answer correctly starting next week in San Antonio pale in comparison to the one that's probably a little unfair, putting that much pressure on one guy, but so very real:

Is Tony Romo the real deal?

If he is, watch out for the 2007 Dallas Cowboys.

If he isn't, mmm-mmm, shudder at the thought.

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