Tony Romo is the most polarizing quarterback in the NFL, partly because of the team he happens to play for, and partly because of his perceived inconsistent play. Despite Romo's shortcomings, the Cowboys are looking to lock Romo up to a long-term contract -- and it's absolutely the right thing to do.
First, an extension could help the Cowboys save cap space in 2013, and secondly, the Cowboys need Romo if they're going to win in the near future.
Romo inked his first major contract with the Cowboys in 2007, signing a six year, $67.4 million deal that brings him in silver and blue through the end of the 2013 season. Since then, Romo has played at a very high level, contrary to what seems like popular opinion.
It's true: the Cowboys have only made the playoffs twice since Romo took over as Dallas' starting quarterback -- when they went 13-3 in 2007, eventually losing to the New York Giants in the Divisional round, and in 2009, when Dallas went 11-5, defeating the Eagles in the Wild Card round before losing to the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional round.
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Since then, things haven't gone Romo's way. The Cowboys raced off to a dismal 1-5 start in 2010, Romo was injured and Wade Phillips was fired halfway through the year.
The last two seasons have showcased the Cowboys mired in mediocrity, with the team finishing 8-8 -- and losing "win-and-in" games in Week 17 in each season.
Someway, somehow, the success of the Cowboys has been pinned solely on Romo, who has been labeled a choker by Cowboys fans and the mainstream media alike, overlooking the success Romo has had since taking over as the 'Boys signal-caller.
In his last three full seasons, discounting 2010 when he made just six starts, Romo has thrown for at least 4,184 yards each year, topping out at 4,903 in 2012. Romo tied a career-high with 19 interceptions in 2012, but only threw a combined 26 in his previous 38 games.
Romo has all the regular-season numbers you can ask for: he's completed 64.7 percent of his passes during his career, thrown for over 25,000 yards and 177 touchdown passes in 93 starts, and has a career-quarterback rating of 95.6. Numbers aren't Romo's problem -- it's the perception that he's a choker, and simply doesn't make the plays when it counts.
In the 2011 de facto NFC East title game, Romo completed 29-of-37 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing an interception. Dallas lost the game 31-14 -- but the loss was not entirely Romo's fault. Romo was abused, taking six sacks in the loss, and still managed complete nearly 80 percent of his passes.
Dallas' inability to protect Romo, and the horrendous play by the Cowboys' secondary, is what led to Dallas' loss that night, and not Romo.
In 2012, Romo was at his best in the fourth quarter, when the game was within a touchdown. Romo posted a 95.5 quarterback rating in that scenario, completing 64.6 percent of his passes, while throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions.
All-world numbers? No, not quite, but very, very good numbers? Absolutely.
Romo played well this past December as well, completing 64.1 percent of his passes, averaging over eight yards per attempt, while throwing 12 touchdowns against four interceptions. By comparison, Tom Brady completed just 58.5 percent of his passes in December this year, averaged just over seven yards per attempt, and threw 10 touchdowns against five interceptions.
Trust me, I'm the last person who is going to claim that Romo is better than Brady -- he's not, and never will be. But Romo doesn't have to be better than Brady. He doesn't have to be better than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, either.
Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning both have two Super Bowl rings, and now, Joe Flacco has one. Are they better than Brady, Rodgers and Brees? No. Are Roethlisberger, Eli and Flacco better than Romo? You might be able to make an argument, but the answer is not definitely "yes."
Romo simply has to be Romo and play to the best of his abilities, and he needs to be surrounded with an offensive line that's capable of protecting him -- and that falls on Jerry Jones.
No, Romo is certainly not the problem, and he might not even be the solution. What he is, however, is a very, very talented quarterback that the Cowboys need if they're going to succeed in the near-future. Who would replace Romo if the Cowboys were to cut ties with him? Jason Campbell? Tim Tebow? Mark Sanchez? Matt Moore? A rookie from this year's underwhelming draft class?
Locking up Romo isn't a great move, it's the Cowboys' only move if they want to return to playoff glory in the next three or four years.