Friday, November 09, 2007

Joined In Time

Good news and bad news for the upcoming weekend...

The good news is that I will be working Saturday and Sunday for a small midtown ad agency that needs the expert assistance of a leading freelance proofreader to help them through a project. (Apparently they couldn't find that person so they settled for me.) The bad news is that it looks like I'm gonna miss the big clash between the Cowboys and Giants set for 4:00pm Sunday, with first place and bragging rights on the line.

Ironically, almost exactly a year ago (11/12/06), I missed the Cowboys' win over Arizona on another Sunday afternoon when I also had to work, only that day I had a catering gig instead of a proofreading project.That game was notable as it marked QB Tony Romo's first career 300-yard passing performance, and we can trace his current status as one of the NFL's bright young stars to those first few games.

In fact, the 27-10 win over the Cardinals on that day was only Romo's third start at that point, all road games (at Carolina, Washington and Arizona). He went 2-1 in those games en route to starting his career 5-1, and his star has only risen steadily since then.

The 27-year-old Romo now has 18 starts under his belt, and has led Dallas to a 13-5 record in those games. He has thrown for over 300 yards in 8 of those games, an incredible percentage in such a small sampling. And I doubt too many QBs in NFL history threw 35 TDs in their first 18 starts.

To put his great start in perspective, Hall of Famer Troy Aikman played 12 seasons and threw for over 300 yards a franchise-best 13 times. But Romo has a long, long way to go if he's ever gonna come within spitting distance of Brett Favre; the Green Bay legend has come back with a vengeance this year after last season's disappointment, surpassing 300 yards 5 times this year already after only 3 such games in 2006, and he will likely add a few more 300-yard games to his career tally of 52!

Obviously, Romo's mannerisms, joy for the game, and gunslinger mentality remind many of Favre -- the QB he grew up idolizing -- but to me the touch on his passes and cool pocket presence bear more of a resemblance to 49er great Joe Montana. But I'm sure any Cowboys fan would take a hybrid combination of the two in a heartbeat.


NFL.com has an interesting poll question on their Website this morning, asking fans: "Which player would you most like to have to be the cornerstone of your franchise?" Listed are:

Tom Brady
Adrian Peterson
LaDainian Tomlinson
Peyton Manning
Tony Romo
The very fact that Romo is even listed among such upper-echelon talent says a lot about how far the undrafted QB from Division 1-AA Eastern Illinois has come in such a short time. Brady, as you would expect, leads the voting at 36%, followed by Manning (24), Peterson (20), fresh off his dismantling of the all-time NFL rushing record, then Romo (12) and LT (6). Brady was himself only a 6th-round pick back in 2000, and despite 3 Super Bowl wins and years of dating supermodels, is still only 30 years old. Peyton Manning is in his 10th season now, and the 31-year-old shows few signs of slowing down. In fact, the case can be made that a QB's prime years are often his early to mid-30s.

Now, obviously I'm speaking as a severely biased Cowboys fan, but age considerations aside, right now there are only 2 QBs I would swap straight up for Romo -- Brady and Manning. Two other top-flight QBs -- the Saints' Drew Brees and Bengals' Carson Palmer -- would also merit serious consideration. The only factor eliminating Favre, having a terrific 2007 season, is his advanced age. Otherwise, based on intangibles like upside potential and leadership as well as more black-and-white elements like statistical performance, Dallas fans should thank their lucky Blue Star that things worked themselves out precisely as they did.

And let's not overlook the decisive role one Bill Parcells played in not only taking a chance on the longshot Romo in 2003, but seeing enough of him in 2004, 2005 and 2006 to keep Romo on the roster through the QB carousel that saw Quincy Carter, Vinnie Testaverde, Drew Henson and Chad Hutchinson spinning around the position as starters after Aikman called it quits. Remember, it wasn't enough to keep Romo hidden on the Practice Squad, where any other team had a chance to claim him, but Parcells wisely kept him on the 53-man roster through most of his four seasons as Cowboys' head coach. It's that confluence of sheer luck, good timing and business sense that leads to a Tony Romo ending up on one team versus another, or making it in the league at all.

More than half a century ago, a certain Pittsburgh-born QB was drafted in the late rounds by his hometown Steelers in 1955 but was cut before the season began. The unheralded QB had a good but not great college career, splitting time as a senior with another player while passing for only 527 yards. His release from the Steelers forced him to take a construction job to support his wife and young child, but on weekends he played semipro football for $6 a game.

The next
season he was offered a tryout by the Baltimore Colts. He made the team as a backup QB, and a broken leg suffered by the starter in the 4th game forced him into action against the Bears. He completed his first pass -- but it was to the other team and returned for a TD. He botched the next play too, a fumbled handoff that was recovered by Chicago en route to a 58-27 rout of the Colts.

But the QB improved over the course of the year, leading the Colts to upset wins over Cleveland and Green Bay. And while he threw for 9 just TDs on the year, a scoring pass in the season finale would begin a string of 47 straight games with at least one TD pass -- an NFL record that still stands despite the wide open, pass-happy game pro football would become. He also would become the first NFL QB to throw for over 40,000 yards in a career.

That QB, of course, was the legendary Johnny Unitas, which just shows how destiny, fate and fortune interact in the National Football League -- still the greatest sport ever devised in the history of mankind.

2 comments:

jimithegreek said...

Giants made more stupid mistakes and the defense sucked it up! looks like 2 best NFC teams Dallas & Green Bay.

Wardens World said...

Brother Jim, my favorite Giants Fan! I only caught the last few minutes of the game. That was anyone's game really, a few plays here or there. Now you guys got a tough stretch with some road games coming up. We'll see what Eli is made of here.