Maybe Romo's A Natural

actually did have a first life in the NFL. 

He was the unknown third-teamer. Then the second-teamer. Then the third-teamer. Then the second-teamer again. He got the chance to sit back and learn without ever having to come to the plate - his inadequacies at the time never getting exposed - for three full years. 

You know, they say the worst thing that can happen to a backup quarterback sometimes is that he gets forced to play. Then you find out why he's been the backup all those years, costing him his backup job. 

Now Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells will tell you Romo had no chance to do what he's now doing last year or two years ago, and for sure three years ago. But because he came in as a rookie free agent, because he was making only minimum, there was no rush to judgment on Romo. 

He was allowed to work - and learn - and that work with David Lee and Sean Payton, and now with Chris Palmer, certainly has paid off. 

But there was also something about Romo that caused Parcells to stick with him, to cause the Cowboys to not only issue him a two-year deal when he was but a third-year, exclusive-rights free agent - preventing him from becoming a restricted free agent in 2006 - but also tearing up the second year of that deal this summer to sign him to a two-year extension through 2007. 

Let Parcells explain: 

"I will tell you this. I have seen him in two business situations outside of football. One was on draft day. I was on the phone with him quite a bit that day - a couple of times. And he was clear thinking. He was understanding what you were saying. And he was pretty objective in his outlook. 

"He was fighting human nature because there were a couple of teams that offered him more money than we did, but he decided to go for opportunity. 

"The last thing was in the negotiations we had with him this summer. I wasn't doing the negotiations but I was privileged to the information. I saw how he behaved. I saw how he reacted. 

"I think those are positive things because I can tell under the gun he is going to be analytical, and that's good when your coach tends to be emotional under the gun." 

But why, why was someone so young, and having to make such high-level financial decisions, able to make decisions sound beyond his years? 

That's this whole Romo phenomenon. It is as if he's been here before, as if this is nothing new, save the second half of the Giants game when he was intercepted three times in that 12-7 halftime deficit he turned into a 36-22 loss. But having said that, don't forget he also completed 14 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL snaps of consequence. 

You know, looking back to 2003, there have been 59 quarterbacks drafted since Romo was eligible coming out of Eastern Illinois. Of those 59, 14 will start on Sunday, and two that would have been starting currently are on injured reserve. Twelve more don't have jobs in the NFL today. One has changed positions. And seven more are guys drafted this year, and while on either the 53-man roster or practice squad, aren't playing. 

And if you look back to the 2003 draft, 13 quarterbacks were selected. Today, only Carson Palmer and Rex Grossman are starting. Byron Leftwich and Chris Simms, two former starters, are on IR. Three guys don't have NFL jobs, including Drew Henson. Three already are on their second team. Guys such as Seneca Wallace and Kyle Boller are backups. 

Then there is undrafted Romo, the guy who sat and watched - and evidently grew - for 3½ seasons, and he has put up numbers in his first five starts that, well, are extraterrestrial, bordering on fictitious, what with that ridiculous 110.8 QB rating, and 9.20 yards per attempt, 69.4 completion percentage and that 4-1 record. 

So good, there are those of you who are scared to get suckered in. You are not alone, Parcells always working to insure his paranoia doesn't become reality. 

"I told him to Google up a star who burned brightly for a short time in this league," Parcells said of his computer instructions for Romo, who wouldn't give up the former quarterback. 

And it was after Romo became the first quarterback to defeat Peyton Manning this year when Parcells said, "Now (the

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