By Matthew Postins
The Dallas Cowboys paid quarterback Tony Romo handsomely with a contract extension last month. It was an extension that some didn’t agree with. Only time will tell whether the extension will be worth it for the Cowboys.
One thing that has always frustrated people that I know that question Romo’s ability and production is that he seems to get a “free pass” from the national media. When you consider he’s been the starter for more than six years and he’s led the Cowboys to just one playoff win, I have to wonder if these people have a point.
It seems those that support Romo always have an excuse at the ready:
“Well, the offensive line leaks like a sieve.”
“Well, the wide receivers aren’t running the right routes.”
“Well, they can’t run the football. If they could Romo wouldn’t have to throw so much and wouldn’t throw as many interceptions.”
This team doesn’t have much time to contend for a Super Bowl in its current configuration. In fact, The Cowboys could blow it up as early as next year, if they don’t make the playoffs and head coach Jason Garrett is fired.
Romo has no bigger supporter than owner and general manager Jerry Jones. Jones spent this draft providing Romo as much support as he could.
It wasn’t the plan, but Jones said that he could see where someone could get that impression.
“This wasn’t done just for Tony,” Jones said. “But if we can get Tony in a position to have that kind of support in the run game and give him some options to have more time to see downfield, if he can hold the ball and see them open a little longer, that’s one of his best skills.”
The first-round pick, Wisconsin center, Travis Frederick, is a player that Jones said the Cowboys want to “build their offensive line around.” Jones even said Romo called him after the selection.
“Romo called and said, ‘Thanks for giving me that extra half-second,” Jones said.
The second-round pick, tight end Gavin Escobar, will allow the Cowboys to re-boot the two-tight end sets they tried with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. The formation was never that productive, due mostly to Bennett’s inconsistency. It’s apparent the Cowboys believe Escobar is rare talent.
The first third-round pick was Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams, a receiver that is considered a vertical threat and should allow veteran wide receiver Miles Austin to operate more from the slot, where he is comfortable.
To up the ante, the Cowboys took Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle in the fifth round. Even Jones admitted that “totally” counting on DeMarco Murray this season was a ticket to another 8-8 season.
After the end of the third round, Jones admitted that he and his son, Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones, talked with Romo a few hours before the second round began. The pair asked Romo to take a look at film of three players. Two of them, Escobar and Williams, ended up being selected.
Jerry Jones made it clear that Romo looked at film for about two hours and that the team’s scouts and player evaluators had been looking at film for a year. So Romo wasn’t a tiebreaker or a trump card in determining which players the Cowboys would take.
Romo didn’t have a say, but he certainly got an opportunity to speak.
“We wanted him to spend some time looking at it (film),” Jerry Jones said. “Tony noticed the same things that Jason (Garrett) noticed and we asked him the same questions we asked Jason about the comfort level of having Escobar.”
So, at the least, Romo gave them another perspective. I don’t have that much of a problem with that, the whole Troy Aikman-David LaFleur debacle notwithstanding.
But I saw a larger perspective to this draft. In a year in which the Cowboys clearly needed to upgrade their offensive and defensive lines, they selected just one player at those two position groups. They didn’t even address the defensive line.
The Cowboys did seem to go out of their way to make Romo happy, whether Romo had asked them for more weapons or not. They took three skill position players and an offensive lineman.
There is a by-product to this that I find intriguing. If Frederick starts, he’ll likely upgrade the line. If Escobar truly develops into a first-rate No. 2 tight end, and Williams emerges as a legitimate deep threat, then Romo has a half-dozen legitimate passing weapons. Randle should upgrade the running back rotation.
What were the excuses again? He doesn’t have an offensive line? He doesn’t have reliable receivers? He doesn’t have a supportive running game?
It’s almost as if the Cowboys heard the excuses, took them to heart and crafted a draft that tries to eliminates those excuses. To be fair, some of those excuses have come straight from Jerry Jones’ mouth. Now, this draft doesn’t completely solve those problems, mind you. No single draft does. But it does lessen those excuses, especially if all four of those players become immediate contributors.
A Romo you can’t make excuses for means one of two things. Either the Cowboys get better and make the playoffs or the Cowboys remain the same old average team.
I mean, if you change the tools around Romo and you get the same old results, then, well, where does that leave you?
With only one player to blame, it would appear.