The tweet from Dirk Nowitzki
to Tony Romo
Dear tony romo. Don't worry abt all the critics. I heard that same garbage for a long time. Keep working hard and keep improving.
DB.com has done a lot of work on subjects related to this, subjects that show parallels between the careers of Dirk and Romo.
Reflections on how the Cowboys fell to 2-2 isn't all "garbage.'' In fact, I can tell you that it's been a historically difficult few days for the Dallas Cowboys
One Cowboys standout, I am told, strutted out to his Valley Ranch parking spot recently only to learn that his Porsche was gone, something about a few missed payments on the luxury ride.
A former Cowboys standout, I am told, was attending Friday's Texas Rangers
playoff game in peace but after relentless harassment from a mob of drunkards had to be physical restrained from perpetrating a one-on-four beatdown.
And then came Sunday at Cowboys Stadium, the home team losing 34-20 to undefeated Detroit by gagging up a 27-3 second-half lead.
Ah, the poor Cowboys. Losing cars. Losing tempers. Losing games. And needing a hug from The UberMan.
Assessing blame for an unprecedented collapse (not in a half-century of Cowboys football has such a lead been lost) is a simple thing for some. They point to the maddeningly mercurial Romo, who tossed up a trio of second-half interceptions during a time when Dallas should've been able to eat clock, teach the upstart Lions a lesson, and move to 3-1.
Instead, Dallas is a .500 team (not in itself a crime, as ultimately in this NFL most every team will be in that range) searching for solutions that go beyond Romo's erratic nature.
Know that this ties the mark for the largest blown lead by a home team in NFL history. Know that this is the fifth largest lead blown in NFL history.
But also know that it takes 53 shovels to dig the Grand Canyon of blown leads. And maybe that is the fuel that motivates Dirk's tweet.
Now, does coach Jason Garrett
need to shackle Romo to prevent him from throwing Dallas out of games? Yes. The fact that two of the second-half picks were returned for defensive touchdowns (one of them by former Cowboy Bobby Carpenter
, one of Romo's best friends) created a landslide effect for Detroit, but … yes.
Garrett's stated public stance on Romo is the right one:
"Tony's been in these situations where he's made a lot of plays,'' Garrett said. "Sometimes, they can go against you. That's the nature of playing quarterback in this league. … He knows that I believe in him. Our staff believes in him. His teammates believe in him."
When it comes to spending the next two weeks (including the bye) prepping for a trip to New England? Privately, Garrett faces the tricky challenge of keeping his QB's confidence high while at the same time denying the free-wheeling QB his usual carte blanche.
Meanwhile, Jerry Jones needs to quit saying things like, "As Tony goes, we'll go.'' The owner is attempting to give Romo a verbal butt-pat. But you know, the Packers don't say that about Aaron Rodgers
. The Patriots don't say that about Tom Brady
. The Eagles don't say that about Michael Vick
How is Tony Romo more "special'' or more "central'' to his team than those guys are to theirs?
Now, to the other shovel-wielders.
Is this young offensive line capable of grinding out a win with Felix Jones
playing a more central role? It's going to have to be. Is Mat McBriar
and the punting game capable of doing its part when it comes to winning the territorial tug-o-war? It's going to have to be as well. How about if Rob Ryan's defense quits concerning itself with being "colorful'' and opts instead for bland competence?
"We'll be better from this, I know that,'' Romo said. "It's just sucks right now.''
Romo will be better than this if he is better placed in positions to succeed. Romo's gun-slinging heroics are, at this point, best-suited for trying to bring Dallas back from behind, when there is less to lose.
But again, he isn't alone in having to shoulder blame for the sort of outcome that separates a future playoff team from a non-contender. The idiocy of questioning the greatness of Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson
is a Ryan family trait; when Rob previewed this game by suggesting that the unstoppable Johnson was inferior to Dallas pass-catchers Miles Austin
and Dez Bryant
– the defensive coordinator was simply bowing to his DNA. It's the sort of entertainingly stupid statement that his brother habitually makes as the Jets boss and that their father Buddy used to make in Chicago and Philly.
"I am just glad the third best receiver on their team … was on our team," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said, reflecting on Ryan's taunt – and on the fact that Johnson finished with eight catches, 96 yards and, for the NFL record-tying fourth straight week, two touchdowns … both of those, obviously, coming in the late-going.
These Cowboys are wildly entertaining. There is no denying that. From Romo to Ryan, from out in the parking lot to in a watering hole at the Ballpark, from this end zone and then quickly to that one, this is a terribly colorful and newsworthy 2-2 team, both losses the result of late-game foibles.
It's too bad, because a little less "terribly colorful'' would likely equal a little less losing. ... and a little less need for an empathetic hug from Dirk Nowitzki.
One more thing, and I address this in my column over at FOX Sports
: Romo isn't Dirk. He's not even close. There can be empathy there, but there shouldn't be comparisons.