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Cowboys Mailbag:Mark Johnston, Beaumont, TX:

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Mark Johnston, Beaumont, Texas: I know, I know, temper your enthusiasm, don't get too high or too low. That said, man, Tony Romo looked poised! Good arm strength, solid decision-making and progression-reading, even scrambling for four or five first downs to keep drives alive. If I see this two or three weeks in a row, man I'm psyched! And wouldn't it be nice for the Cowboys to have finally found that "diamond in the rough" they've been looking for and not spend a first-round pick on a quarterback. I love it when the naysayers get a mouthful of crow. Chow time, baby.

Mickey: Whatever would you mean by that? Nearly everything you said about Romo in his first full-game performance is accurate, except one thing, and this is an example of how we do tend to get carried away. He scrambled out of the pocket for two first downs, not four or five. Come on, the guy only ran four times. Yes, you bet, developing a quarterback without spending an arm and a leg, in both the draft and against the salary cap, would be a huge boost to this organization after six years of searching. And about all this crow-eating everyone is so fired up about. Now I'm sure you guys predicting greatness for Romo certainly wouldn't have rolled those same dice with Clint Stoerner or Chad Hutchinson or Quincy Carter or Drew Henson, now would you have? Guess I need to save some of these e-mails since I know you all keep track of what I write.

Zip Brazeal, Perrin, Texas: I would like to see what each of the Cowboys' starting quarterbacks did in their first starts over the years. With all the excitement over Romo's first start, I thought it would be good to compare him to other starting quarterbacks for the franchise.

Mickey: Well, made reference to this earlier in the week, pointing out that the quarterbacks making their first Cowboys starts, as well as NFL starts, to win were Roger Staubach, Clint Longley, Danny White (played previously in WFL), Glenn Carano, Gary Hogeboom, Kevin Sweeney (strike game), Jason Garrett, Clint Stoerner, Drew Henson and now Tony Romo. As for the ones making their first NFL starts, as well as Cowboys starts, to lose were Don Meredith, Jerry Rhome, Craig Morton, Steve Pelluer, Reggie Collier, Troy Aikman, Steve Walsh, Anthony Wright, Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson.

Charlie Jones, Austin, Texas: I just recently started listening to your Ranch Reports, and I have to question your objectiveness. Have you always been a Cowboys apologist? Always "toe the company line?" Also, please don't act like you were ever behind Tony Romo . . . you have always been speculative of his abilities.

Mickey: You're very perceptive, and why wouldn't I have been skeptical of Romo's abilities? What would I have seen, other than his start against Seattle in the preseason, to allow me to believe he could do what he did against Carolina? And if I was such an apologist, and toe the company line, why in the world would I not have immediately christened Romo as the next coming of Roger Staubach since that was the move made by Bill Parcells? You contradict your own indictment.

Mitch Phillips, Charlotte, N.C.: What you and other people have to keep in mind about Romo is that he lacks game experience, and that is huge! It has taken Eli Manning three years to now just get comfortable. It took John Elway four! To say he is not a rookie, well he really is in a lot of ways. You can't replace game experience! I hope Bill Parcells, you and others will give this guy a fair shake!

Mickey: I have kept that in mind, that's why I didn't expect as much as we got from Romo in that first game. But you better understand, since the Cowboys only have a minimal financial investment in Romo, he had better develop into a legitimate NFL starter sooner than four years. In fact, he might better do it in four weeks. Romo is pretty smart. He realizes after being groomed in the background for 3½ seasons, this club is not going to give him another three seasons starting to prove he can do this. Sure, as Parcells says, it's going to be a "little less than perfect," but if he is too far below that line, he won't be around for another chance. Or if he is, there will be legitimate guys breathing down his neck, believe me.

Bruce Wright, Amarillo, Texas: At the risk of being called a "Romophobe," I still need to see a lot from this kid. I remember that Danny White was supposed to be the next big quarterback after Roger Staubach. That did not happen, and White had more skills than Romo. I also would like to enter the "No Game Film" theory! Romo will do well for a few more games, mainly because no one has game film on him. Preseason doesn't count because no one game-plans for preseason. I will reserve my judgment on this kid until we face a team that has enough film on him to exploit his weaknesses.

Mickey: So that would be, maybe Indianapolis or Tampa Bay? You make a good point. While Carolina was able to see Romo in that preseason game against Seattle, there wasn't much more. And it's not so much they have to see how he reacts to game plans as it is just detecting his weaknesses. I'm guessing he does have some, though after reading my e-mails this week, I'm really not sure what they would be or why in the world Parcells has waited this long to unleash Romo on the NFL. I'm thinking these games through Thanksgiving will be very telling about Romo, if he can continue to do what he did against Carolina without making the damning mistakes he made against the Giants.

Mike Richetts, Birmingham, Ala.: Thought you wrote a pretty good little article about Romo but you just couldn't help yourself throwing in that bit about almost going 11-5 last year except for missing two field goals. I ask then, why did the Cowboys spend $2.5 million on a kicker and keep the same ol' quarterback that couldn't get us win without having to rely on a kicker? Your pathetic love for Drew Bledsoe is mind-boggling.

Mickey: Why, because I am skeptical about Romo puts me in "love" with Bledsoe? Hey, I'm just looking at the options before me, that's all, and to me a 14-year veteran who has thrown for 44,000 yards seems to be a better one than the guy who had yet to throw for one. Call me crazy. And duh, the Cowboys spent that much on the kicker because they didn't want to miss those two field goals again. So you're saying if you're a good quarterback, then you never have to rely on a kicker to win games? Hmmm, Tom Brady must be the dregs since his kicker needed to settle two Super Bowl victories. You guys, give me a break.

Cockrell Keith, Dayton, Ohio: How did you have so little faith in Romo, yet you thought Chad Hutchinson was OK? If you can't see that Romo is a gamer then you don't know talent at all. His quick release makes all the difference in the world. It establishes rhythm in the offense, and once these playmakers have rhythm then they will shine. Quincy Carter (knucklehead) had the same thing and Parcells got them in the playoffs. Is it any wonder that statues (Bledsoe, no need to be mean-spirited) and Vinny put up decent numbers but against good teams, no rhythm and nothing but sacks and interceptions. Romo will throw interceptions but under pressure he will allow playmakers to make plays.

Mickey: Sorry, I was always a slow learner in school and my comprehension rate was a tad challenged. I agree with what you say about Romo's release and your deal about rhythm. We'll see if it continues. As for Hutchinson, yeah, I thought Hutchinson was the best the Cowboys had at the time, but then there wasn't much to choose from during those days, right? At least he threw a spiral and knew how to hold the football and wasn't a bad night away from suspension.

Dan Gagen, Brick, N.J.: Now that it's Tony's job to lose, too many people seem to think he's replacing some "bum" at quarterback in Bledsoe. I was excited watching Tony's first game, but would like people reminded of the person that he's replacing. This isn't just some journeyman quarterback. Drew Bledsoe has some actual Hall of Fame-worthy credentials as a 14-year starting quarterback. If Tony got hurt, I still believe this team can go far with Bledsoe. All of the preseason hype had nothing to do with Romo, but with Bledsoe leading this team.

Mickey: Wonder how in the world that happened, huh? I mean, didn't *

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