Eagles' Reid, McNabb: Cowboys' Romo better without 'distractions'

IRVING, Texas -- Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb both see big changes in Tony Romo's leadership ability this season.

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Hmm. What might have changed from previous seasons?

"It was that hole in the dome," Reid said.

In separate conference calls with Dallas Cowboys beat writers Wednesday, Reid and McNabb both brought up Romo's growth as a quarterback and seemed to make veiled references to his improvement stemming from the absence of wide receiver Terrell Owens -- something the folks in Philadelphia understand as well as anyone.

"It's obvious (Romo) is the leader of the offense," Reid said. "Not that he wasn't before, but there were a couple of distractions there, and he doesn't have any of that (this season). He's just playing great football."

Asked specifically what those distractions might have been, Reid made his snickering reference to the architectural shift in going from Texas Stadium to Cowboys Stadium (which, by the way, has a retractable hole in the roof). When asked if McNabb grew as a leader after losing his own distractions, Reid said: "Well, we didn't have the hole in the dome."

Speaking earlier, McNabb was asked about the differences in the Cowboys this year and last year. He went straight to how Romo has asserted himself.

"It's Tony's team," McNabb said. "The good thing about playing the quarterback position, when you have the reins and you have command of the guys, and the guys are following along with everything they tell them and show them, good things can happen. You've seen in recent weeks, the team has really played well and Tony's played well as well. That's part of the difference you see on that whole ball team."

Romo is over 4,000 passing yards for the second time in his career, needing just 40 in the finale Sunday against the Eagles to break the team record he set two years ago when Owens was his prime target.

This time last year, the Cowboys were fractured as stories swirled surrounding Owens' deteriorating relationship with Romo. Dallas lost to Philadelphia 44-6 in the season finale to miss the playoffs, and Owens was cut a few months later.

Romo's improvement this season includes far fewer interceptions and the development of Miles Austin into a Pro Bowl receiver.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday he's not surprised that Romo has developed as a leader. He said it comes with age and experience; asked whether Owens' absence helped, Jones said, "Not necessarily."

"He's not the same guy he was three years ago or four years ago," Jones said of Romo. "He's better technically as a quarterback, his knowledge bank has dramatically improved, and I give (offensive coordinator) Jason Garrett credit for a lot of that as well. He's a different guy in a positive way than he was three years ago."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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