An Ode to Tony Romo: the NFL’s Tragic Hero


Tony Romo announced his retirement today, and I will miss the tragic hero of the ongoing saga that is the National Football League.

I won’t remember him for the fumbled snap (I think most fans probably don’t even remember that moment anymore), or for the trip to Cabo that doomed an entire franchise, or the over told story from Andrew Brandt about how after the draft someone in the Packers front office asked if anyone wanted to take a flyer on a local kid, and everyone said no. Nope, what I’ll remember is sitting in my living room week 5 of the 2013 season, watching him go blow for blow with Peyton Manning as the Cowboys battled the Broncos.

It was a late afternoon game, and it’s one of the few times in recent history that I can remember turning away from the RedZone to watch an actual game in real time. With bated breath, I, and America, watched as Tony carved up the Bronco’s defense making precision play after precision play, demonstrating the skill and talent that his stats support and what kept him and the Cowboys in the national conversation as contenders during his tenure. And then, as always befalls the cursed hero of Greek tragedies or the works of Shakespeare, the gamed ended exactly how every viewer, fan in attendance, Phil and Jim, the entire Cowboys organization and every member of the Broncos defense,  all knew it would…a soul crushing interception.

Like Brett Favre, but without the Super Bowl victory, MVP’s or protection of the community owned Packers, Romo would capture your heart, and break it moments later. Truthfully, his interceptions weren’t as frequent as his legend makes it out to be, but that’s how we’ll all remember him – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

What will go overlooked, and what Tony Romo will never get credit for, is what he did for the Cowboys. Without Romo, the Cowboys would be the Jets of the NFC. If you think they wouldn’t be the constant topic of conversation in the media, you must be new here. The Cowboys would have been a clown car, on fire, in a dumpster. A never ending soap opera of “this is the one” quarterback’s, riding the pendulum of “players coaches” (you think Rob Ryan’s stint as DC was fun? Bring on Head Coach Rex!) and hardline, no-nonsense x’s and o’s FOOTBAWL men. It’s easy to rewrite history now that they have Dak and Zeek and appear to have their proverbial s**t together, but it wasn’t long ago that Jerry Jones was being held captive in a closet to prevent him from drafting Johnny Manziel.

Tony Romo provided a sense of calm for the Cowboys. He was the yin, to Jones yang. The water to his fire. He handled the scrutiny of being the Cowboys QB (whatever that means) with class, you rarely heard him step out of line. He dealt with T.O. (“that’s my Quarterback “, he was told he would never win a Super Bowl because he wore his hat backwards (insert picture of Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and the patron saint of QB’s Brady wearing backwards hats at Super Bowl media day), he was the original “be a quarterback that’s a celebrity, not a celebrity that’s a quarterback”, and the “he just doesn’t get it” guy. And yet he never held out, he always showed up, he had God only knows how much Toradol shot into his back and his collar bone and his knees and who knows what else, and he held the clipboard and didn’t get caught secreting smiling when Rodgers completed that pass to Cook in the NFC Championship Game to end the Cowboys seasons last year. Perhaps it was in that moment that he knew he would retire as he realized the conversation in the morning would not be “Did Tony lose the game because he spiked the ball/threw the pick/missed the throw/looked to the right/looked to the left/didn’t talk loud enough/didn’t talk quiet enough/insert other insane HOT TAKE you want here”.

Tony Romo retiring leaves a void in the NFL cast. Gone is the perpetual scapegoat, gone is the all-American should be great, but just can’t get there QB. Gone is the person you secretly root for, and who when you say their name, everyone has a clear image of a man slumped over,  pick thrown, back literally broken as he hobbles to the line of scrimmage for one last play; tragically always so close, and not blessed enough to get the big one.

So with that, goodbye Tony. Enjoy your golfing, and your kids, and your life post-football. I wish you the best as you enter the broadcast booth.

Farewell sweet prince – it’s been a wild ride on the Romo-coaster.

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