IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo doesn't think he's an average quarterback, and he doesn't think he's the quarterback of an average team.
The Cowboys' record the last few years might state otherwise, but when Romo signed his contract to become a Cowboy for the rest of his career, he did it with the belief that the team isn't far from where he hopes it can be.
"We were 8-8 the last couple of years," Romo said. "That doesn't sit well with me. I don't think I'm an 8-8 quarterback. I don't think this organization is comfortable being 8-8. We're going to do everything we can as coaches, players and in this building to change that."
Romo could have played out his contract this season before making a decision on where to sign in the offseason. But he didn't want it to get to that point.
He said he felt like the team had started something years ago and never achieved that goal. Romo, along with the other veteran Cowboys, has gone through the ups of an 11-5 season, the downs of a 6-10 season and back-to-back 8-8 seasons the last four years. He didn't want to leave the organization before generating more success.
"I wanted to end my career here with the Dallas Cowboys and achieve what we started," Romo said. "Now, it's obviously been some good times and some times that we've had some rough spots obviously. In a lot of ways I know that this team is continuing to get better and using those experiences to be better, and it's going to be good.
"I love the organization. I love the fans, and there's a goal that I set out to do and I'm going to exhaust everything in my bones to make sure that the fans and the coaches and the players here and everyone get to realize what we set out to do, and that would be very disheartening to walk away without that and go somewhere. That's not a part of what I'm about or what I would want to do."
Romo said he's constantly evaluating himself and his leadership role and how he can help the football team. He said communication becomes essential, which may have something to do with his apparent increased role this year in game planning.
He sidestepped most questions about how the conversation came about to increase his role, but he did say that his six-year experience as a starter should help more in game planning than it did early in his career.
"If anything, it's through your experiences and going through the fire a little bit and having the understanding of the years behind you to allow you to speak more confidently and be more understanding of what you might like or things of that nature," Romo said.
He understands the comments owner/general manager Jerry Jones made about his spending "Peyton Manning-type time" in game planning, but he also said his role isn't much different than it was in the past. Romo said he's always been a gym rat and stayed close to the facility, while communicating well with coaches.
Still, he understands that his knowledge of defenses and his relationship with the coaches around him get better the more he develops as a quarterback. Now, like Manning, he'll have more of a role in helping prepare a game plan early in the week, rather than reacting to a game plan that's handed to him.
"I don't think most quarterbacks, myself included in the past, you're commanded and the stuff is given to you and you go over it and you do those things instead of working on Monday and Tuesday necessarily in that process," he said. "Me just having the communication with the coaches, it's valuable for us, and I've always had that. That's been an important aspect of any relationship with offensive coordinator and quarterback.
"I've got a great relationship with Jason (Garrett). He's got a great mind for football. The older you get, you develop that a little bit as a quarterback. If you do some good things in the past that allow you to show then you can have a little more of that. That's part of the growth that takes shape. I know the difference in the quotes sometimes get misconstrued in the sense that Jerry just knows that I'll be in there doing some of the things that I don't think you would do normally."
Romo's excited for the challenge of getting his team where he hopes it can go once he's able to get back under center.
For now, all he can do is direct his receivers and help out where he can as he sits out Organized Team Activities after undergoing minor surgery. But he doesn't expect to be out long, and he could return for mini-camp.
"If you're a competitor, if you're an athlete, it's a great, great thing to be able to challenge yourself to dig deeper, to do more and to take that next step," Romo said. "I think it's not just me. It's all the players, all the coaches. Everyone in the organization is doing that. No one is content with an 8-8 football season. That's not good enough."