Romo Stays Out Of Jeopardy

And then there was him, little ol' undrafted Tony Romo from Eastern Illinois, entering his second season after spending 16 games his rookie year inactive.

Now look at who is the last guy standing.

"But it does make me excited to know they have confidence in me," said Romo, and again, downplaying his starting status by following with, "I still think you always compete and try to come out and do what you always do. I don't have this great feeling of self-satisfaction."

All good answers. Darn good answers.

And this is what you got to like about Romo, and what would give you hope he becomes what the Cowboys have been searching for - some would say blindly - for the past six years. He's realistic, and isn't sitting here fooling himself about what he's achieved after starting a whole 10 regular-season games in the NFL.

While he has subtly chided me for labeling him that rookie free-agent quarterback in year's past and putting his odds of making it with such a humble entrance into the league at extreme, guarantee you he knows I've mentioned several times this will be a key season in his NFL starting quarterback maturation.

Another guy, well, he might take offense at that, getting all huffy, and point out, hey dude, I went to the Pro Bowl last year. What's your beef? I put up a 95.1 QB rating, went 6-4 in those four starts, and should have gone 7-3 if not for a last-second blocked field goal coupled with a phantom facemask penalty. And like, in my first playoff start, chief, if not for a first down at the two getting inexplicably nullified by instant replay, my bobbled snap on the field-goal attempt and our defense's inability to stop Seattle from gaining a first down in the final minute, I would have marched this team into Chicago for a second-round playoff game.

Yeah, take that.

Romo, though, is realistic. He's aware of the debate, and he knows the score. And folks, that's what you want in your quarterback. A delusional quarterback is a failed quarterback waiting to happen. Mark my words.

That was one of Troy Aikman's best qualities, other than his arm and work ethic. He was realistic about everything, to the point of almost raining on his own parade far too often. A little of that glass-empty Parcells in him. But whatever it takes to keep you honest with yourself.

And Aikman was always prepared. Same with Romo, the Alex Trebek of the NFL, knowing what the answer is before the question is even posed. That will keep you out of limelight double jeopardy.

Someone would ask him Saturday if he can correct what went wrong down the stretch when the Cowboys would lose three of their final four games, all at home, and then get eliminated from the playoffs, 21-20, by Seattle.

Either Romo would make a great lawyer, one of those talented extemporaneous debaters, or he spends his idle time thinking about what's about to be, and come on, nothing against those of us in my profession, but this isn't exactly like trying to predict the weather. How difficult could it be to prepare for one of these media sessions?

"No. 1," Romo said, sounding almost as if he had prepared for this, "we caught a couple of playoff teams at the time."

He spoke of the New Orleans and Philadelphia in half of those final four games, and come on, how much shame is there in losing your first playoff game? Hey, and even though the Cowboys won, but barely, those were the playoff Giants he beat, 23-20, when he was intercepted twice and needed three Martin Gramatica field goals, including a 46-yarder in the final minute, for the win.

So he's right, of the final six Cowboys opponents in 2006, four were playoff teams, although, come to think about it, the guy did beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Colts, 21-14, during that Walter Mitty start.

Ah, but Romo said, No. 1, which means he already had thought of No. 2.

"No. 2," he would say, "I set the bar pretty high with a couple of those games."

You think? Realistic, I'm telling you, because even Romo knows first-time NFL starting quarterbacks don't just come out of the box putting up four 100-plus quarterback ratings in their first seven starts, with two of them 158.3 (his first, mind you) and

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