Stretching the Field: How much longer can Cowboys go on with Romo?

Being the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys used to be an influential job, ranking with Hollywood film stars and millionaire philanthropists.

But the luster of the once-coveted craft has been buffed down to a dullness that would make Gary Hogeboom and Babe Laufenberg seem imposing under center.

Ok, it may have gone too far with the last two quarterback references, but Tony Romo's performance so far this season and in the past has been more spotty than a case of chicken pox on a 10-year-old. He has more talent than at least 20 other starting quarterbacks and for some reason hasn't displayed it, save a Week 1 victory over the New York Giants.

Is it because of the offensive line? His receivers? Head coach Jason Garrett? Opulent owner Jerry Jones? Jones is a manipulator, so to speak, when it comes to running his team and perhaps Romo's strings are wound so tight it makes it difficult to control. However, Jones isn't hidden to the audience and makes his presence felt at any time possible.

Romo has all the tools needed to be a successful quarterback: a strong arm, pin-point accuracy, interaction with beautiful women, and so on. Nobody even heard of Romo when he came out of Eastern Illinois except those familiar with the Walter Payton Award, which he captured in 2002 as the nation's top player in Division 1-AA, which is now known as the FCS (

Besides the late Steve McNair and Brian Westbrook, Romo is arguably one of the most decorated to achieve the honor. And unfortunately, it's only by a slim margin because of his unsuccessful professional endeavors. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has just one playoff win in his career and the Cowboys have reached the postseason only four times since the undrafted Romo joined the team back in 2003.

Some say his career totals of 154 touchdown passes to 80 interceptions is pretty good, others would disagree. Take former Washington Redskins legend and Super Bowl champion (XVII) Joe Theismann for example. On Sportsnet 590 The Fan, Theismann said, "Sooner or later we have to come to the realization that Tony isn't a very good quarterback."

Theismann added, "Just because he wears a star on his helmet -- we all think that people who are Dallas Cowboys, 'Oh they're wonderful and ooh they're terrific, ooh they're the next Roger Staubach' or whatever the heck they want to say -- they're full of bologna."

Remember, Theismann did play for the rival Redskins and they hated Dallas. But he does bring up a persuasive point. Romo's never going to be Staubach or Troy Aikman. That's obvious. He makes too many mistakes and at some point Jones or maybe a general manager, if one is ever appointed, has to pull the plug on this project and build for the future via the draft or free agency. Heck, Donovan McNabb is still out there. Seriously, though, every quarterback misses throws and wide-open players in the end zone, but it has happened way too often with Romo.

Some fans still have nightmares of that botched field goal in an NFC Wild Card game at Seattle on Jan. 6, 2007, when Romo fumbled the snap as the holder.

Last Monday's ugly 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears pushed Romo's head further up the guillotine, as he threw five interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns. He failed to extend drives and get the ball in his receivers' hands.

"I have to do my job," Romo said afterward. "That's your objective in the National Football League. The No. 1 factor is taking care of the football. We have to do better in a lot of phases, but it starts with me."

Does Romo really understand it starts with him? Probably. Will his latest flop on national television inspire him to prove all of the arm-chair quarterbacks wrong? You know he will certainly try. Romo will not be perfect every time he buckles his chin strap, and sooner or later Dallas brass is going to have to step in if the torture continues.

Cowboys backup QB Kyle Orton probably wouldn't mind getting a shot, and has played hero before with Chicago and Denver.

A once-dominant force in the latter stages of a game, Romo needs to discover that magic displayed a year ago, when he passed for 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Reverting back to 2007 would put less fog on Jones' eyewear, as Romo recorded 36 TD strikes to 19 picks in a 13-3 campaign. That year was marred by a controversial picture that surfaced in Cabo San Lucas and later brought Terrell Owens to tears (

Romo is making Cowboys fans around the globe shed tears, too, and the bye week couldn't have come at a more opportune time to regroup. Tune in Sunday, Oct. 14, against Baltimore to see if tissues will be a necessity.