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The Hater’s Goodbye to Tony Romo

Arguing for Romo as the Cowboys’ best-ever QB isn’t nearly as fun as shouting about his failures.

Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys waves to the fans after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017  Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“This is the way your career ends. Not with a bang but with an Adam Schefter tweet at 6:35 a.m.”

—T.S. Eliot

On April 4, 2017, we woke up to the news that Antonio Ramiro Romo, statistically the greatest quarterback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, was done. In a shocking turn of events that no one could have predicted, the 10-year starting quarterback for one of the NFL’s flagship franchises turned in his pads. For a CBS blazer. A CBS blazer that he pried from the cold, relentless grip of Phil Simms’ dead hands in some poetic, circle of life shit. Romo’s NFL career ended in the same way his broadcasting career will begin: The novice with zero experience will supplant the veteran who never saw it coming.

Sorry, Phil. When it’s your turn, it’s your turn.

A well-known Canadian-Jamaican-British-Houstonian poet once said, “They scream out my failures and whisper my accomplishments.”

That line should be inscribed on the plaque under Romo’s bust in Canton.

Yes, Romo is a Hall of Famer. To think otherwise is absurd. I mentioned he was statistically the best quarterback in Cowboys history in the opening paragraph because I know the Aikman crowd would chime in with “RANGZZZ.” The MOST touchdowns Aikman ever threw in a season is 23. The FEWEST touchdowns Romo ever threw in a season where he started 13 or more games was 26. Romo also owns just about every Cowboys passing record worth noting. He is flat out the best quarterback to ever wear a Cowboys uniform. Period.

The aforementioned accolades of Romo’s tend to get whispered. Let’s get to the stuff that’s fun to scream about, though. Some of the failures that Romo has never been able to shake free from. We’ll run through a few:

Wild Card game: SEA vs DAL (Jan. 6, 2007)

There’s nothing to be said about this botched hold play that hasn’t been said already. Something of note, however. The second-string quarterback usually holds the snap on extra points to keep defenses honest and prepared for the fake. Romo started the season on the second string. He moved up the depth chart to starter in Week 8. Jon Kitna should have been holding snaps for 10 weeks by this point. Romo wasn’t even supposed to be out there. Poor guy can’t ever catch a break.

Divisional playoff game: NYG vs DAL (Jan. 13, 2008)

Dallas went 13-4 and secured a Wild Card bye. This game came down to Dallas having the ball on the Giants’ 23 while trailing, 21-17. Romo threw a 4-yard completion to Jason Witten, two incompletions, and the game-clinching interception to R.W. McQuarters. There’s not a single soul on the planet who even knows what the hell R.W. even stands for. Not even R.W. McQuarters himself.

Week 17: DAL vs PHI (Dec. 28, 2008)

A win-and-you’re-in game. For all the marbles. Season, division title, and a playoff spot were all on the line. Romo went 21-of-39 for 183 yards and put up a 55.8 passer rating. Longest pass of the game was from Witten to Owens and to this very day I still don’t think that was a drawn up play. Dallas got its ass WHUPPED. 44-6.

Divisional playoff game: DAL vs MIN (Jan. 17, 2010)

Favre-led Vikes steamroll the Cowboys 34-3 and for the second season in a row, Dallas gets sent home with Romo failing to lead his offense to a touchdown or hit 200 yards passing.

Week 17: DAL vs NYG (Jan. 1, 2012)

Win-and-you’re-in game for the division title and a playoff spot. Dallas loses. 31-14.

Week 17: DAL vs WAS (Dec. 30, 2012)

Win-and-you’re-in game for the division title and a playoff spot (stop me if you’ve heard this one before.) Romo goes 20-of-37 for 218 yards and two TDs. He also throws three INTs, including the game-clinching pick late in the fourth quarter.

Divisional playoff game: DAL vs GB (Jan. 12, 2015)

Dez caught it. Or not. This one is on the refs and the rulebook, but of course Romo throws the most controversial incompletion in NFL playoff history. Some guys have all the luck.

To be clear, Romo came through far more than he blew it. It just so happens that he blew quite a few games where Dallas’ season was on the line. However, it’s a new regime in Dallas now, and even the most diehard Romo supporters will begrudgingly admit that they prefer the measured, risk-averse style of Dak Prescott and his 23:4 TD to INT ratio to Romo’s heart attack-inducing, Favre-esque relapses. The highs might not be as high with Dak as they were with Romo, but the ride is much smoother. Romo was a rollercoaster. Dak is a Cadillac.

We’re peculiar about who we give passes to and who we decide will permanently bear the blame, no matter the circumstances. There’s usually no rhyme or reason on why or how we dole out these designations. Some people are Ferris Bueller. Others are Meg Griffin. That’s just the way shit goes.

Unfortunately for Romo, he drew the shitty end of this deal. However, Romo is no hapless victim here. Throwing the season-ending pick in a home playoff game to a division rival cornerback who has a name like a Secretary of State in the Rutherford B. Hayes administration will linger longer in peoples’ memories than pulling off a 2011 Week 12 game-winning drive against the Dolphins.

Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is the single most scrutinized position in all of sports. No matter how loud the whispers of Romo’s success become, they will never drown out the screams of his failures, even in retrospect. This may seem unfair. It might appear that Romo caught a raw deal. It may seem as if Romo doesn’t deserve this legacy. But as a well-known head of security and transportation for a grassroots Baltimore pharmaceutical corporation once eloquently stated, “Deserve got nothing to do with it.”

Sorry, Tony. When it’s your turn, it’s your turn.