Not long into Tony Romo's first season as the Cowboys' starting quarterback, I remember trying to find ways to describe what we were seeing on the field.
And the one thing that I came up with early on, was that he plays quarterback like a point guard.
The way he called out plays, put people in position both before and during the play and then the way he could feel pressure when he couldn't see it, and his ability to make something out of nothing.
There was a play in 2007 when he just flipped the ball underhand to Jason Witten when he was about to get hit.
So, I guess, it was only fitting that Romo's final professional game in Dallas had him donning a Mavericks jersey and shorts as an honorary member of the NBA franchise.
I know there are some purists out there who had a problem with what the Mavericks did on Tuesday night. And I'm sure there would've been many more voicing their opinions had he actually got in the game.
Honestly, I wanted to see him play. I don't think it would've ruined the game.
If these basketball purists want to get upset about anything, find a way to get these guys who make $20 million a year to play more games, or at least figure out the hack-a-shaq situations. Nobody wants to see 40 free throws in a quarter.
But really, it didn't matter if Romo actually played in the game or not.
What the Dallas Mavericks did on Tuesday was something he never saw enough in his time in Dallas.
He was appreciated.
That's it. Just a simple appreciation for what he did for the Cowboys, and choosing to ignore the things he never did.
Mark Cuban didn't care if Romo won a Super Bowl or not. He doesn't probably care about his two playoff wins and coming up short in other big games with the playoffs on the line.
He probably saw Romo in a similar light to Dirk Nowitzki. And yeah, you can come back and say "Dirk won a championship!" That's true, he did find a way to win it.
But I can promise you, Cuban probably wouldn't have loved his superstar any less if he hadn't.
To me, there's something special about being the face of the franchise, especially one like the Cowboys.
That's why I will argue all day long about Romo being the third-best quarterback in Cowboys history. Yeah, I've heard of Meredith and Danny White. Man, I used to be Danny White in the backyard growing up. He was one of my favorites.
But he wasn't better than Romo. I really don't care how many NFC Championship Games White played in. I know he lost all of them.
But that was a different time. What I judge things on is – who did more for their teams? White took over Staubach and the team ultimately went in the wrong direction.
Romo took over a team and the arrow pointed upward.
When you're a fan of a team that has featured Staubach and Aikman, I understand that it's hard to not judge the quarterback by his playoff success.
For that, Romo has no shot of being compared to them, even though he owns most of the passing records.
But his true value, to me, was measured in the 2015 season – the one he only played in four games. That's when we saw what this team really was without him. That's when I realized that many of those 8-8 teams could've been 5-11 seasons if he wasn't on the field.
Sure, he might have lost a few games. But he saved the Cowboys a lot more.
I truly never understood why Romo got such a bad rap, especially from the national media and fans. I'm sure it all started with the botched snap in Seattle.
But since then, it was just nothing but misperceptions.
By the end of his career, he was labeled as a guy who couldn't stay healthy. What was forgotten was just all tough he was, playing through punctured lungs, broken fingers, herniated disks, and oftentimes, at a high level.
[embeddedad0]He was called a choke-artist after the loss in Seattle. In reality, he'll go down as one of the best fourth-quarter players in NFL history. Romo engineered 25 fourth-quarter comebacks. Aikman and Staubach had 31 between them.
Now Romo's lack of postseason success always comes up – as it should for all quarterbacks. There's no way around it. The Cowboys didn't win enough games when Romo was the starter, either losing in the playoffs, or the elimination game in Week 17 to get there. But as of right now, are we sure that was a Romo problem? While it's only been one season, it doesn't seem like the Cowboys, as a team, have fixed that problem just yet.
When I think of Romo, I'll always see the most competitive person I've ever covered with the Cowboys – and it wasn't always on the football field.
Whether he was a teammate of mine in a recreational flag football team back in 2004, or the time I served as an emergency caddie for him during a U.S. Open qualifying golf tournament (which he advanced to the next round with absolutely no help from me) or watching him try to out-guess the names of bands that were playing on the radio during a bus ride in Denver, Romo just always wanted to win.
That's why he didn't spike the ball during that 2004 preseason game in Oakland, when the smart thing to do was stop the clock and get the right play-call for a game-winning TD. Instead, Romo just hiked the ball and snuck it in for the go-ahead score.
That's why he didn't just sit out the rest of the 49ers game in 2011 with the punctured lung.
That's why he didn't fall on the ball against the Rams in 2007, instead picking it up for the best 4-yard gain in club history.
That's why he liked to play golf in the summer in competitive tournaments. It wasn't that he was ignoring football. He just wanted to compete at the highest level he could.
Romo didn't always win. But he always wanted to compete.
That's what the Mavericks saw in Tony Romo. They appreciated him. I certainly wish more fans and critics would've done the same.