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Cowboys’ Romo still same guy

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Jennifer Floyd Engel
January 5, 2010
— Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is still exactly the same guy who said that thing a year ago, you remember that thing about living a pretty good life despite losing ugly in Philly to end last season.

Of course, you do. Everybody does.


He gets asked about it almost weekly. So might as well revisit.


“If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, then I’ll have lived a pretty good life,” Romo said, somewhat embarrassingly after an embarrassing loss in Philly.


Now here is a peek behind the journalism curtain. This is the point where we usually trot out teammates to talk about how much he has changed. Or how misunderstood he was.


He did not and he was not.


Romo did not get his head right with ball, or at least not in ways you might think. The mind-set that led to that statement played a huge role in the victory against New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, which saved this season, and again Sunday in a 24-0 victory against The Hated Eagles, which won The NFC East and a playoff date with Philly at JerryWorld on Saturday.


Romo, of Burlington, Wis., is exactly the same guy who said that thing, and that is a big reason why the Cowboys are going into the playoffs blazing hot with a chance to actually win this time.


I admit I did not even understand it at the time. It sounded so very lackadaisical when everybody expected him to sound as angry and sad and frustrated as them.


“I know sometimes my nature is ...,” Romo said, making a la-la-la-la sound. “But underneath it all, during the moments of these games and acts of playing, I’m extremely competitive and extremely focused in that regard. And then I can branch off afterwards and look at it objectively.


“The process needs to be that way. As soon as it’s over, figure out why you did something poorly, learn from it and improve, and boom, move on. And if you can let that go, you can keep getting better. People who let stuff affect them going forward, that is how you are not able to continue getting better.”


Let that soak in for a second. It is genius. Really.


The athletes who get stuck in what has happened and what was said, it might sound good. But how do they really get better? What is really learned by crying fake tears and throwing sideline fits or saying life is over after a loss.


Who cares if Romo did not say what everybody wanted him to say a year ago in Philly? You know he took that game with him. You know that not because of what he said but because of the improvements in his game. He spent this offseason working on his role in what had ultimately doomed them in 2008.


His turnovers. He almost halved them this season. And when he felt a little slippage early in December, he challenged himself to be even better.


“After that Giants game, he really saw something and took full responsibility of ‘I can’t do this, where I make a good play or then I have a pick or I’m throwing it to nobody,’ ” tight end Jason Witten said. “He’s as good at making plays as anybody in the league and, with that commitment, well, just look.”


Romo was really good again Sunday, completing 24 of 34 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns.


He really has been good all December. His numbers were impressive, even though they resulted in losses to The Giants and Chargers. Ugly started to swirl. Many, myself included, were thinking another season had crashed and burned, especially with a trip to then-undefeated New Orleans looming.


December looked doomed, and Romo was collateral damage. A lot of folks, myself not included, were saying not good enough. Can’t win big games. Not the right QB.


“You have to understand. It’s not always about you,” Romo said. “When I say that it’s not always about me, I say that as much as everyone wants to make it about the QB. Some things are out of your control. Some things you can do better. When we lose, sometimes it is my fault. I needed to play better. Sometimes it’s not.”


How December started was not really his fault, but he helped pull them back. He had this smile on his face during New Orleans week, an air of confidence despite losses to New York and San Diego. He saw something.


“I’m not going to tell you,” he said. “I’ll let you guess.”


What led to the glimmer in his eyes was film, a Saints defense being covered up by that big offense, a shaky secondary and a team that was in the bottom third of the league in sacks.


He had his teammates believing, too. “We said, ‘enough is enough’ “ center Andre Gurode said.


And Romo? Did Romo saying anything?


“I know you are looking for that big speech, but he didn’t say anything spectacular,” Gurode said. “He just worked his butt off the way he has been working all year.”


The way he was last year. He has not changed.



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