When Eli Manning was selected to the Pro Bowl over Cam Newton, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford, it started a great debate. But no one is doubting the choice any longer. He is the only quarterback left standing among the top six selected by the players, coaches and fans for the annual all-star game. (Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were the top-two selections, with Newton the first alternate, Romo the second and Stafford the third.)
For all of Manning's faults, he has won big games with big plays. He is 6-3 in the postseason and has a chance of doing what his older, more polished brother has never been able to do -- win a second Super Bowl. Romo, of course, has never been to a Super Bowl. He has, in fact, won only one playoff game.
But ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback himself, thinks Romo has what it takes. Dilfer just isn't sure the Cowboys do.
"I think Eli has definitely gotten more help from his friends, meaning his teammates, than Tony got this year, but Eli has also done an incredible job of weathering some early‑season storms and playing his best quarterback when the Giants have needed him to," Dilfer said on a conference in reference to a question I asked about Romo. "I think Tony can learn a lot from kind of how Eli handled the early years, and I think Tony has. I think Eli's just steady, calm composure, his not getting caught up in the hype, has really allowed him to ascend into ‑‑ I guess the term we use now is an elite group of quarterbacks. Tony has greatness in him. I think when you talk to other people that really play the quarterback position, and I see it, as well, there's a few guys that really have incredible greatness in them, and Tony is one of them.
"I think the issue here is he needs more help from his teammates. I think they are not nearly as talented as people say they are, from 1 to 53, I'm talking about the total roster. I don't think there's as much order and structure in the organization as the Giants have and the teams that have the elite quarterbacks have. I think the only thing that's keeping Tony from ascending into the upper echelon of quarterbacks is his team, is the help from his friends and his teammates, and I think once that all comes together, you're going to see the fullness of Tony's greatness come out."
Romo had what his coach, Jason Garrett, called his best season yet. Romo had a career-best 102.5 passer rating and threw 31 touchdowns. But Romo's critics won't let him forget the second-half turnovers he had against the Jets and the Lions that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
"Tony Romo is someone who on a week‑to‑week basis you just don't know who you're going to get, and until that consistency establishes itself, you're going to have problems," said ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, a former Patriots linebacker.
But Bruschi said until the Cowboys can improve their defense, they're not going to be a contender.
"I look over on the defensive side of the ball, and Rob Ryan needs more time with these defensive players, because his system is complex, his system is multiple, and for every shift, for every motion, there's going to be an adjustment," Bruschi said. "And this defense just didn't grasp the complexities of his scheme, especially towards the end of the season.
"I played under Rob. He was a linebackers coach in New England, and I know what this system is, and unless you have players that are ‑‑ you need intelligent players who are ready to make those adjustments, pre‑ and post‑snap, making adjustments on the fly. That defense has to be the strength of that team. That's the way Rob wants it to be, and until those players, especially at the linebacker and secondary level, grasp that scheme and embrace it for what it is, you just can't ‑‑ we do what we do. It's not that type of system, and if you're that type of player, you're not going to succeed in it. You have to be ready to be multiple, be smart and make adjustments on the fly."
-- Charean Williams