Wednesday, June 10, 2009

NFLdraftdog Roster Series Part 3: Quarterbacks

NFL Team Column
By Russell Easley
Roster Series Part 3: Quarterbacks

By now I’ve heard it all. Tony Romo chokes in big games. Tony Romo makes too many costly mistakes with his Favre-esque style of play. Tony Romo doesn’t care about winning in the NFL. And the most outrageous of all to me – Romo-friendly means scaling back the offense and making it simpler in order to hide his shortcomings as an NFL quarterback.

Wow, Really ?

Here’s my rundown on the 2009 Quarterback roster of the Dallas Cowboys:

Starter – Tony Romo. There are some people on the internet who truly did see potential in Tony Romo when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. I definitely remember the threads on the Ranch Report about it. I will freely admit I was not among those who saw his playmaking potential prior to his being inserted into a game in place of Drew Bledsoe in 2006. I did catch a small glimpse of it though during the preseason that year, when he audibled a play into a QB sneak to cap off the game winning drive against the Raiders. But once he really stepped onto the field, you could just tell. Even though his very first NFL regular season pass that day was an interception, you could tell. He just had that aura about him that says even though the bad plays still exist you know for a fact he is going to turn it around and soon. Witness the Monday Night Football game against the Buffalo Bills, wherein he threw five interceptions yet still led the team to victory. With Romo you have to take the bad with the excellent and just work constantly on reducing the bad plays that result from his gunslinger / sandlot style.

As quarterback of America’s Team and beau of Jessica Simpson, Tony is always in the spotlight, and everything he says and does is constantly being dissected by the media and fans alike. So when he came to the podium after taking one heck of a beating against the Philadelphia Eagles last December, he made a comment to the effect that there are in fact things that are more important to football. I don’t have a problem with my quarterback having a healthy perspective on life, but others did not take it so kindly. It was misinterpreted to mean that Romo doesn’t care about winning. If that’s so then why does he play? Why does he engage in competititve activities in the offseason? I view it as simple anti-Cowboy rhetoric. Which brings us to the final question – what does Romo friendly mean? What does it look like?

To put it simply, it means life without such disruptive locker room cancers such as Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones. Romo is now free to guide the team to success without all the media driven negativity that a player like TO brings to a team. Good luck Buffalo. In just 3 seasons as a starter (only one as a 16 game starter) Romo already has thrown for over 10,000 yards with 81 TD’s and 46 INT’s. That’s a TD/INT ratio of almost 2:1, which should be considered pretty good by any standards. This season is going to be an interesting one for not only Tony Romo but the entire Cowboys team. Don’t be surprised if he shuts up his critics.

Backup – Jon Kitna. This is a huge upgrade over last year’s backup, which we very painfully learned you can never take for granted. Kitna brings in 3 things that are going to be valuable this year. First, should he be called upon to relieve Romo because of injury, Jon definitely has the arm to get the ball downfield. Last year the Cowboys were hurt by Brad Johnson’s inability to do anything else from the QB position but to check down to the third receiver. Brad Checkdown Johnson should be his official nickname. Second, Kitna knows and has played with new #1 receiver Roy Williams. They have a built in rapport with each other, so again, if need be, the offense should not miss Romo too terribly much where the passing game is concerned. Third, and like Brad Johnson, Kitna is a savvy vet who has been around for awhile though unlike Johnson, is willing to serve as a mentor or player-coach if you will, to Tony Romo.

In Waiting – Stephen McGee. First things first. I am a fan of the show “NCIS”, and so therefore McGee will henceforth be known to me by the nickname “Probie” as in probationary employee. McGee was drafted in the fourth round out of Texas A and M University. Although grossly miscast as an option quarterback he persevered instead of transferring, giving the team his all. Just the fact that he didn’t transfer, when he could have ended up elsewhere and as a higher draft pick says a lot to me. This kid knows what loyalty is all about, and knows it takes self-sacrifice to be a loyal person. Already in OTA’s Probie has demonstrated a strong arm and has impressed coaches.

All in all the Cowboys are pretty well set up for a few years at the quarterback position. Romo is locked down by contract for the rest of his career, Kitna still has a few good years left in the tank, and that means the talented Stephen McGee can be groomed slowly by the coaches and made into either the next starting quarterback for the Boys, or traded for a high draft pick.