Heading into Sunday's showdown, many people (including myself) viewed the Dallas Cowboys as the favorites to win the NFC. The Vikings were cold, the Saints were cold, and the Cowboys were hot. You couldn't look at the Cowboys and not see a little bit of the 2006 Colts in them.
It seemed as though the most important piece to the puzzle, Tony Romo, had finally gained some late season swagger, but by the beginning of the 4th quarter on Sunday, we realized Romo was still Romo.
The NFL always needs it's goat; the guy who "can't win the big one" who "brings his team down" and "doesn't show up" in the "big spot." These cliches have become part of every mediocre sports talk radio hosts vernacular, and now they're going to be written in Tony Romo's obituary if he doesn't turn it around.
Peyton and Eli got their rings. McNabb has become an afterthought, and Tomlinson is a running back. To Romo's defense, those four players are a lot more talented than him; They were all top five picks while Romo was undrafted, still none of those players are Cowboy's, although the media certainly put pressure on them to win.
Earlier in the season I spoke openly with Cowboys fans about why the team couldn't win a Super Bowl with Romo. The difference between Romo and Eli is that you'd take Romo for the 50 minutes of every NFL game four times out of five, but you'd take Eli for the final ten minutes five times out of five; in other words, Eli may not put up the stats or highlight reel plays that Romo does, but without a doubt he plays better in the "big spot." And say what you will about Manning, but he's developed into the undeniable leader of his team. I'm not sure if the Cowboys have a leader outside of the guy signing the paychecks.
Entering today's game I honestly trusted Tony Romo more than I trusted Brett Favre. It had nothing to do with momentum, and everything to do with the fact that we've seen Favre blow it countless times this decade. I didn't care about Favre "never beating the Cowboys in the playoffs," because there's a big difference between the Cowboys of 2009 and the Cowboys of the mid 1990's. What I didn't like was the match up of the Cowboys defensive line versus Favre.
I was wrong. Dead wrong. The Cowboys defensive line was average at best when it came to rushing the passer on Sunday. The Vikings on the other hand, also known as the team I said looked mediocre against every team besides the Packers, dominated the Cowboys (all be it depleted) offensive line. Favre didn't over quarterback. Favre played like the "efficient" quarterback who let's his defense do the dirty work; the type of player that helped Tom Brady win three bowls.
Romo on the other hand? If there's one thing we know about Tony Romo it's that you can force him into awful decisions easier than you can force any other Pro Bowl level quarterback into mildly bad decisions. Four years into his tenure as Cowboys starter, seven years into his career as a pro, Tony Romo still gets his fix pretending to be Brett Favre. 19 years into his career, and 18 years as a starter, Brett Favre is now getting his fix pretending to be Phil Simms. If Favre pretends to be Simms again next week, we may see him in Miami for the Super Bowl.
As for Romo, I'm not sure he'll ever get the hint. Peyton Manning didn't win a Super Bowl until he stopped trying to put up out-of-this-world numbers. Tom Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl since he's tried to become Peyton Manning. Brett Favre's only Super Bowl win came from a balanced offense with a great defensense, and conservative offensive play calling. In other words, Romo needs to look towards his successful peers: Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and even Joe Flacco. All four of those quarterbacks have tremendous tools, all were first round draft picks and four to five star pro prospects. All protect the football. All have more Simms in them, than they do Fouts.
It's time for Tony Romo to join that fraternity. After all, Fouts may be in the Hall of Fame, but Simms has a ring, and remains far more relevant (almost) twenty years past their playing days.