IRVING, Texas – Nearly seven years ago exactly, Tony Romo led the Dallas Cowboys on the field in Carolina for a Sunday Night Football clash with the Panthers. Ultimately, the goal that game was to help the Cowboys get off the 3-3 mark and get a big road win.
Obviously, that will be the same goal for the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia in a matchup of 3-3 teams for the NFC East lead.
But what a difference 99 starts can make.
That game in Carolina was Romo's first-ever start in the NFL. Heading into it, he was simply the rookie free-agent quarterback who had been a backup for four seasons and was taking over for Drew Bledsoe.
Now, he's the franchise quarterback of America's Team and holds numerous passing records, but still can't shed the label of a player who fails to deliver in clutch moments and has just one playoff win under his belt.
Either way, Romo enters Sunday's game with the Eagles for his 100th career start, knowing the mindset now is much different than it was the first time around.
"You're always trying to get better," Romo said. "Start one, you're excited to prove to yourself if you can actually do this. Start 100, it's all about getting your team to where you want to go. It's a little more individual to prove to yourself. With 100, it's all about bringing the team there and winning as a team."
Overall, Romo is 58-41 as a starter, but things haven't exactly been on the rise over the last three seasons. Since 2009, when Romo led the Cowboys to the franchise's first playoff win in 13 seasons, he is just 20-24 as a starter and has yet to lead the team to a winning season, much less a playoff spot.
This year, Romo is putting up great numbers despite the team's average record. He ranks second in the NFL behind only Peyton Manning with a 108.6 passer rating. He's thrown 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions, although one of them was rather costly in a 51-48 loss to Manning and the Broncos. Romo threw for a Cowboys' record 506 yards and also tossed five touchdowns before the late-game mistake. [embedded_ad]
A lot has transpired for Romo since his first start. In fact, Romo said he'll enter Sunday's game with the Eagles worrying about things that he barely knew existed when he first got the nod against Carolina.
"It's a far different process before a game now," Romo said. "It's just what I'm looking for – what I know I need to be very sound leading up to the game to gain an advantage."
For the record, Romo led the Cowboys to a win that night in Carolina. The Panthers grabbed a 10-0 lead and Romo tossed an early interception. But he fired a touchdown strike to Jason Witten to help the Cowboys get back to 14-10 at halftime and that was the score heading into the fourth quarter.
That's when the Cowboys turned the tide, outscoring the Panthers 25-0 in the fourth to pull away for a 35-14 win. Romo went 24 of 36 for 270 yards with a touchdown and interception. And he actually led the Cowboys to five wins in his first six starts, including a four-game winning streak. Romo made the first of three Pro Bowl selections during that 2006 season. And it all started that night in Carolina.
Overall, Romo ranks third on the Cowboys' all-time list in starts, behind only Troy Aikman (165) and Roger Staubach (114). Last year, he surpassed Danny White (92) and Don Meredith (85).