Bennett's plea aside, Romo can learn something from Kitna

To Tony Romo's many critics, Jon Kitna's impressive work in the second half of last season might have opened the door for a permanent change at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

To more rational and objective observers -- Cowboys TE Martellus Bennett not included -- its greatest value was providing Romo some lessons on what he can do to make his game better.

That was how Cowboys coach Jason Garrett saw what happened after Romo suffered a broken clavicle and Kitna replaced him for the next nine games.

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"When you have a guy like Jon Kitna playing and you see how he goes about his business ... we're not asking Tony to be Jon Kitna, but if you have your eyes and ears open, you can't help but learn from a guy like that is a real professional," Garrett said during last month's NFL Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

That shining example of professionalism had been there for Romo to study before and during the entire 2009 season, Kitna's first in Dallas. It also was there before and during the first six games of last year.

But seeing it applied during meetings, practice and preseason games is far different than witnessing its benefits in preparing for and playing in games that count. Like the rest of us, Romo couldn't ignore the fact that the Cowboys went 1-5 with him starting, but were 4-5 after Kitna took over, and that there were no dramatic differences in their individual numbers.

If Romo didn't take advantage of recognizing whatever spark Kitna brought to the team, shame on him. I'm guessing he did.

Romo also doesn't feel threatened by Kitna's presence because Kitna, beyond what he did on the field in 2010, won't give him a reason to feel that way. Kitna has the perfect demeanor to be an understudy, even if Bennett mentioned in a recent radio interview that he thinks Kitna should compete for the starting job. Kitna buries his ego and is a willing and able teacher.

Data Points

Romo also is willing and able to learn.

"I think he's gotten a lot better and I think he can get a lot better," Garrett said of Romo. "One of the real good things about him is he understands that. He comes to work with that mindset of getting better individually, always looking for ways for us to get better as an offensive unit, as a football team.

"But the strides that he's made in the last four years (are) significant. When you watch him play a few years ago, he did a lot of really good things, but I just think he's at a different level now as a quarterback. He'd be the first one to tell you that."

There are times, Garrett said, when he and Romo will be watching videotape from a few years ago, and Romo will say, "Hey, that's not me. I'm a different guy now."

Expect Kitna's nine-game run last season and his continued influence to bring about even more change in Romo -- for the better.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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