Analysis  

 

Tony Romo contract looks smart next to other QB developments

There are two kinds of teams in the NFL: those with a quarterback and those without.

The Dallas Cowboys have major, deeply embedded issues. One issue they don't have is a QB quandary. Tony Romo is a top 7-10 quarterback in the NFL. I think he's closer to seven. He was due a new contract, so the team paid him like the franchise quarterback he is. This was a very intelligent decision.

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What was Dallas going to do? Let him go? Not pay him? Fall into the constant abyss that plagues teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders -- organizations that seemingly get new quarterbacks at the same rate you change your socks? Hope and pray that the former first-rounder finally gets it, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and New York Jets are doing?

Yes, it is easy to criticize Romo for his failures in the clutch. Nobody will forget the Seattle playoff game. The interception at Washington in Week 17 was a gross season-ender. But what Romo haters refuse to talk about is the fact that the quarterback was the sole reason why the flawed, banged-up Cowboys were somehow playing for the division title in the first place.

Shhh. Don't wake up the critics. Don't tell them that Romo had the best year of his career in 2012, despite playing with a horrible offensive line, injured runners and receivers, a bad defensive coordinator and a head coach who doesn't fare well with play selection or game management. Don't tell them that Romo threw four touchdown passes and zero interceptions against the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, or remind them about how he played overall in December in crunch time. Don't you dare talk about Romo walking into MetLife Stadium and handing the New York Giants a loss in Week 1, the first time a Super Bowl champ lost the Thursday night opener, with Romo bouncing back from an early pick to have one of the best games of his career.

And please, whatever you do, don't tell them this: In 2012, Tony Romo was better than Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.

Now, before your head explodes and I become the goat of the hour in the comments section, I am talking about the regular season in 2012. Read this carefully: I think Eli and Flacco are better than Romo, most especially because of their proven brilliance in the playoffs. I would pick Eli and Flacco over Romo. But, I think it is fair to put all three in the same category of franchise quarterbacks.

You have Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. You have Drew Brees. Then there's Eli, Ben Roethlisberger, Flacco, Romo and Matt Ryan. I listed them in my order. Debate the rankings, but not the names. (I will exclude Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick from this conversation until they do it at least one more time.) That's why Dallas gets credit. That's why Dallas did the right thing.

Romo got paid because he is really good. He also carries Dallas. He understands the burden of being the face of the Cowboys, the pressure that comes with wearing a star on his helmet.

The other quarterback acquisitions of this offseason should not be overlooked. Follow what other teams have done/are doing. It makes the Cowboys look smarter. It makes Romo look even better.

Kevin Kolb was miserable for the Cardinals, so they cut him, even though they didn't have a legit replacement and traded a second-rounder and a starting player (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) to land him. The Bills signed Kolb because they are desperate after cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick, who never lived up to his contract extension. The Titans signed Fitzpatrick as insurance in case they need to go to the bullpen if Jake Locker holds them back once again. Andy Reid cut Matt Cassel, who flopped in Kansas City. Yet Minnesota promptly signed Cassel to compete with 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder.

Dizzy yet? There's more.

The Raiders listened to my advice and traded for Matt Flynn, who was last year's big free agent but never played for Seattle after getting beaten out by Russell Wilson. Oakland just finalized a deal with the Cardinals to trade Carson Palmer, who was acquired by the Raiders in the worst trade in NFL history. I'd argue it is worse than the Herschel Walker deal because Palmer actually was "retired" at the time Hue Jackson shipped two top picks for him. And Palmer's now an ex-Raider before the Bengals have even cashed in on the second pick.

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My head hurts, and we haven't even discussed the Jets' situation or the Jags actually keeping Blaine Gabbert around.

Conventional wisdom says the 2013 NFL Draft class doesn't feature a star, so you can stop looking there. Could Geno Smith be solid in the right system? Ryan Nassib? Matt Barkley? There are more questions than answers.

So, yes, Tony Romo has flaws. But he's still a big-time quarterback. And he sure as heck beats taking a spin on the wheel of mediocrity and landing in quarterback purgatory.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein

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