IRVING, Texas – Without fail, it happens every summertime.
You know, about this time of year, after all the OTA practices and minicamps have been completed, during that NFL dead time before the late July start to training camp when teams are left holding their breath that one of their players won't show up on the ever-expanding police blotter we've seen over this past month with idle time at a premium for these guys.
Talkin' about the usual NFL calendar year, which includes the preseason, the regular season, the offseason and the annual pick-on-Tony-Romo-season.
After sufficiently clearing my mind a week ago standing on the Athabasca Glacier in Canada's Columbia Icefield, here is what I return to ... again, the majority instigated by national media perceptions mustered up from afar:
*Tony Romo is on the hot seat. *
*The pressure is on Tony Romo. *
Tony Romo better win this season or else ...
Or else what?
Like, he's going to get fired?
Like the Cowboys have a young, starter-in-waiting ready to take over?
The Cowboys are assured of having a top-five draft selection next spring?
The Cowboys know for sure another Andrew Luck or RGIII is waiting in the wings?
Or maybe these ultimatum delivery guys think the Cowboys can trade like Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne for hometown boy Matthew Stafford?
How utterly silly to draw such imaginary lines in the sand for opinion sake, be they unrealistic.
Because when it comes to quarterbacks, and the Cowboys found this out the hard way over the previous decade, as Bill Parcells would say, "You just don't go down to Texaco and get you one."
Most times, and go ask the previous likes of Detroit and Chicago and now Miami, Jupiter has to align with Mars to land a franchise quarterback. Think about it: How utterly fortunate the Dallas Cowboys were that Troy Aikman was finishing up at UCLA, and mostly thanks to transferring from Oklahoma out to L.A. and having to sit out a season, when the Cowboys earned the NFL Draft's first pick in 1989 by going 3-13 the previous season, Tom Landry's 29th and final as head coach.
Or must I remind you again of 2001, after the Cowboys decided to release Aikman the beginning of March without having a first-round draft choice that spring. Or, that if you didn't have the first pick in the draft to take Michael Vick as Atlanta did that year or the first pick in the second round to take Drew Brees as San Diego did that year, you just might get stuck with forcing the issue with, oh, say, a Quincy Carter at No. 22 in the second round, just the third QB taken that year. And don't laugh too hard at the choice, because here is the list of quarterbacks the Cowboys had to choose from the year they needed a quarterback: Marques Tuiasosopo, Chris Weinke, Sage Rosenfels, Jesse Palmer, Mike McMahon, A. J. Feeley, Josh Booty and Josh Heupel.
Talk about a big chill. Good grief.
And when your guy turns out to be a big, ol' knucklehead, then you get on the desperation path, bringing in every Tom, Dick and Harry, or in the Cowboys case Tony, Ryan, Clint, Chad, Drew, Vinny, Drew II and taking a wild swing with some other guy named Tony, undrafted from Eastern Illinois, and only squeezed onto the 53-man roster in 2004 because the Cowboys finally got fed up with Carter, releasing him in training camp.
Only out of sheer desperation did Parcells in the middle of the 2006 season – yep six seasons into this aimless wandering through a desolate quarterback desert in case anyone has forgotten – turn to Romo.
Jupiter finally aligned with Mars.
Tony Romo, the quarterback who never took a snap his first three seasons with the Cowboys, emerged. He won six of his first 10 NFL starts that year and then 13 of 16 the following season, for a rather remarkable 19-7 beginning to an NFL career, and this for a team sporting three winning seasons over the previous nine.
Talk about, uh, the Age of Aquarius.
And now, when the same quarterback finishes the past season ranked fourth in the NFL, behind just Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, when he throws 31 touchdowns and is intercepted just 10 times, when he completes 66.3 percent of his passes, has a QB rating of 102.5, second highest in club history, and throws for 4,184 yards, third best in club history to only his 2009 and 2007 (by 27 yards) seasons, you're telling me you're going to start delivering ultimatums? When there is no foreseeable Plan B?
Look, I understand the frustrations with last season, the Cowboys going 8-8 and losing the final game to the Giants in that winner-takes-the-East, essentially, playoff game just to get in the playoffs. Heck, they still are hacked off, too, and believe me that will be the team's battle cry beginning with the first practice of rookie training camp here on July 25, to strive for redemption in that season opener against the Giants, the now defending world champion Giants, having grown to such stellar heights from those humble Week 17 seeds.
But as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has repeatedly said – and you know ultimatum boys, he's the guy signing the check – it was a shame to waste that kind of season from your quarterback.
Now Jones didn't say this, but maybe Mrs. R needs to say, Hey, my Tony can't throw the ball and catch it too.
Or maybe, Look, Tony can't drop back and run the right route, too.
Or maybe, You know, Tony can't drop back and pass block, too, seeing he was sacked a career-high 36 times this past season.
Or maybe, Seriously, Tony can't throw all the touchdown passes (31 of 33) and run for all the touchdowns, too, seeing that his one rushing touchdown was a fifth of the team's single-season franchise-low total of five rushing TDs. Look it up. That's it, a lousy five.
Or how about this: Tony can't always put more than 30 points on the board, if you would also consider the Cowboys gave up at least 31 points in four of their eight losses.
Look, no one is saying Romo is perfect. He's not. But then none of the quarterbacks are perfect. Heck, there's been all this idle talk of Eli vs. Tony started by former Giants receiver Amani Toomer, who simply got crushed for saying Romo is better. There is no begrudging what Manning did in the playoffs and Super Bowl, but if he was so dang better, why the heck were the Giants hanging out with the Cowboys at 8-7 going into the final game of the season?
And did you realize that during the playoffs Eli Manning never needed to put up more than 21 points to win four playoff games, and if you include the final two games of the regular season, wins over the Jets and Cowboys, he could have won five of six games scoring no more than 18 points, the Giants giving up an average of 14 over those six games.
Only once did the Giants give up more than 17 points in those final six games, and that was the 20 they allowed the until-then high-flying Green Bay Packers, beating 'em, 37-20. That's it. Oh, and if you happen to be curious, the Giants had 17 rushing touchdowns this past season to the Cowboys' five.
But hey, no one said logic would ever be applied when discussing Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks ... or the Cowboys period for that matter. And Romo knows this, which is why he flashes that sheepish Huck-Finn grin when confronted with such uncomfortable ultimatum talk. He knows nothing quells the static but a Super Bowl ring, as if he's the only one on the team that has a hand in winning or losing.
Eh, life of an NFL quarterback, what can you do? No use saying anything.
Wonder if Mrs. R is learning that, too.