Injuries brought Tony Romo’s 13-year quarterback career with the Cowboys to an end in 2017, but it’s not as if he’s been sitting around on the couch. Instead, he’s teamed up with Jim Nantz to become one half of CBS’s broadcasting A-team for NFL games, using his impressive ability to call plays before they happen, married to an obvious enthusiasm for the game, to make things more fun and interesting for viewers.
Romo has also teamed up with Corona to launch a new campaign that will ostensibly help football fans deal with the highs and lows of the new season.
“We’re using a term, ‘Romotivation,” Romo said Tuesday. “The team did a good job with that — I thought it was catchy. It’s really about my ability to Romotivate people to get through the ups and downs of the season.”
Romo’s cure for those ups and downs? Even for Texans fans?
“People are in bad moods when their teams lose, and you know what? Use the three Cs — Couches, coolers, and Coronas.”
It might not be the cure for everything that ails the anguished football fan, but it may work for some.
With that acknowledged, I wanted to ask Romo his thoughts about each of the five first-round quarterbacks selected in the 2021 draft. This is where his quarterbacking acumen really showed up.
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Doug Farrar: Based on what you’ve seen, where are you with the passing game Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer have shown so far for Lawrence? Yes, it’s the preseason, and things got a bit more expansive against Dallas, but this looks a lot like Seattle’s passing game last season — not a lot of schemed openings. Can Lawrence transcend it if this is all there is? Tony Romo: Well, he’s a rookie, and it’s no different for most rookies. I don’t care how good you are. If you have a really good team around you, you’re going to have a better opportunity to succeed. When you’re the first pick, very seldom do you have a great team around you right away, and that’s why you’re drafted where you’re in a position to turn something around. The biggest thing for me is having an offensive line. If you have an offensive line that gives you that extra half-second, or second, or two seconds, those are game-changing things for a rookie quarterback. So, if the offensive line is not stable or performing well, it’s going to be hard for any rookie quarterback. I don’t care if you’re Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. You’ve got to remember — Peyton Manning went 3-13 [in his rookie season], and he was pretty good. That’s not an indictment of how the first year goes; he just needs to learn and continue to learn through his mistakes early on. His ceiling is very high, and I think you’ll see a lot of flashes. That’s really what I look for — seeing the flashes. His ability to get somewhere quickly and get through a progression fast, throw a ball to the sideline against tight man-to-man coverage — those are the things that separate quarterbacks. I think you’ll see that out of him, but as far as the winning and losing, we’re going to see how that plays out; if they drafted well and did a good job with everything else in the offseason.
Zach Wilson, New York Jets
(Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
DF: You’ve already gone on record as saying that Wilson can be a special quarterback – the Top 3 proclamation and Mahomes comparison obviously raised some eyebrows. Here’s my question: Is Wilson the quarterback in this draft class who reminds you most of you? Because between his ability to create shot plays out of play-action, to run boot and be functionally mobile, and to be efficient on YOLO throws, I see a lot of similarities. TR: I don’t look at it that way. I appreciate the… did you say “Yellow balls?” DF: No, “YOLO balls.” As in, “You only live once” throws. Zinging it up and hoping something happens. TR: That’s pretty impressive. I’ve never heard that term. That’s pretty good. But the idea is to not use too many of the YOLO balls over the course of your career. I think you’re trying to make it more systematic. and it took me a little while to get to that point. What I see are just rare traits. I think there are certain things he does that… when I look at things, I can see pretty quickly from a quarterback perspective things that are at a very high level, compared to the other people playing the position. He obviously has a great arm, but I think his vision — his spatial awareness — is something that’s very special. That’s one thing that I always say: If you have that, you literally can’t be a bad quarterback. Automatically. Now, if he has an arm, it’s, “Okay.” If he has good footwork, okay. The biggest thing for me is that I already know he has all this other stuff. It’s like, I think this kid loves football, and he’s passionate about it, right? If he wants to learn, at his core… nobody knows this about anybody until you’re around him every day, like their coaching staff is. But if he does, his ceiling is so high, it’s hard to describe. He has a lot of Aaron Rodgers traits as far as the calmness in the pocket and the ability to throw it. When you watch him, you’ll see that his feet are firmly planted on the ground. He’ll transfer his weight, but he’ll stay back and throw. People talk about throwing when you’re calm under duress, which is a huge trait. Really, he has the ability to throw the ball to rare spots with calm feet. Usually, you need to get momentum into it, but his ability to do it from a stationary platform, which is where Josh Allen took a huge leap last year… all of a sudden, he could stay there and read three things without moving his feet and then go “Boom!” [make the throw] right before he was going to get hit. That protects the offensive line, it makes you play slower, and it gives your receivers more time to get open. There are a lot of things on that level. I’m on record as saying that, because I believe that his ceiling is very, very high. If he loves the game and wants to learn the game, he’s only going to improve, and he’s going to improve dramatically as this thing goes along.
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
DF: You were an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois, so you know all about the narrative of a small-school guy coming into the NFL and getting overwhelmed. I didn’t see that from Lance in the preseason, but at North Dakota State, the best defense he played was Central Arkansas, and Central Arkansas gave him fits. He did show a nice ability to recover from mistakes in the preseason, but do you think he’ll struggle in the regular season when defenses deploy everything they have? TR: Well, the biggest thing is… there are multiple deeper answers within that question. No. 1 is, what offensive system are you in, right? Without telling you who’s in a good situation or not, I’ll tell you this — he’s in a good situation. DF: Yeah, that Kyle Shanahan guy is pretty good. TR: Yes, he is. And so, what happens is that it’s simpler for the quarterback. I’ve always said that if the backup quarterback can come in and complete this pass like, 95% of the time, that’s coaching. Now, if your [starting] quarterback is the only guy who can do that, that’s not coaching. That quarterback is special. Kyle Shanahan does a great job of making sure that multiple guys are in a position to succeed at the quarterback position. If [Lance] were to go in there and play, [Shanahan will] have an opportunity to utilize that and help him succeed. A lot of it is running the football. People talk about that, but the biggest thing is play-action. If you can actually get defenses to respect the run — it’s not even that you have to run it well — you just need the play-action to look like the run. In their system, they can run it seven times for 12 yards, and get three chunk plays for 70… you’re running it well then. Because you’re making it look the same, and you’re getting chunk plays, and that’s what this game is about. To me, I think he’ll be fine if he goes in there, because the system is built… I haven’t seen enough of him at this point in time to tell you what his future is, but obviously, he has a big upside. They wouldn’t have drafted him that high otherwise. DF: Shanahan uses pre-snap more often, and perhaps more effectively, than any other coach. Motion to inform, and motion to displace. How much does that help a quarterback? TR: Huge. If you’re in a system that uses it, it’s a dramatic… it’s hard to describe the difference. That was one thing I was always striving to utilize, because the league was evolving into that, and it’s relatively new over the last decade, right? There were certain teams that used it, and the Patriots were there before anybody. That’s a credit to their coaching staff and everyone over there — they were ahead of the game with that. Because they just eliminated the possibilities. Your job as a quarterback is to say, here are the possibilities. You’re looking at coverage, but if you know that it’s only this or this before the snap, you can eliminate that your eyes even have to look over here. So, that’s another tenth of a second, another half-second, and every time you can check off another quarter of a second, all of a sudden, you’re playing faster, you’re more efficient, and you’re getting to the right spot quicker. Now, you’re a better quarterback. Kyle Shanahan does that, and yes, that’s going to help, and that’s why he’s really good.
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
DF: If we were in a court of law, you could object as this is a leading question, but here goes: If you’re Matt Nagy, you know what your offensive line is, and Justin Fields was twice as efficient under pressure in the preseason as Andy Dalton was, who would you start against the Rams? TR: [Laughs]. Well, I’m not their coach, and I don’t live in hypotheticals. But I will say that they see these guys every day. I know everyone else thinks they have the answers, but one thing I’ll tell you is: These coaches see them every day. The team sees them every day. They’re going to play the guy they think can help them win this game, this week, right? Until that’s proven differently. And so, at this point, they just believe that Andy Dalton gives them the best chance to win this week, this game. As soon as they don’t think that’s gonna happen, they’ll go to the next guy. Sometimes, people think, ‘We’ve gotta save him from this” or “We’ve gotta throw him in, because he’s better.” It’s like, well, who gives us the best chance to win today? There’s a whole lot of other guys on that football team who matter, too. We don’t talk about it as much, because we think the quarterback is the end-all. But the reality is, that coach is coaching 53 guys, and he’s going, ‘Okay — we have to dress 46. How many guys are not going to play?” Then, you get into position groups, and which position groups we’re going to utilize, which formations, how to attack that weak player on the other side. Who’s our best player to put in that spot — not only to protect the quarterback, but to ask, do we have time to do this and that? Yes, no, boom boom boom. All of this goes to our quarterback. We can win with this, or we can’t. Oh, this guy’s not playing well anymore? Now, it’s the other guy’s turn. DF: What’s your impression of Fields based on what you’ve seen so far? TR: I think all these quarterbacks have very high ceilings. Now, I told you that Zach’s is rare, but you just don’t know. They’ve played in one, two, three preseason games, but I think you can see the level they can get to. These guys are all good. It’s not like, “Oh, this is a bust.” These guys can all be productive NFL quarterbacks, and I think this is the deepest the league has been [at quarterback] in a long time. I think there are 18 guys, maybe 20, where if I was a coach or a GM, I could say, “I’m good with this guy.” Usually, there’s 10, 12, 14. There are always the top two or three guys up there, who are rare, but I think there’s more guys you could win a Super Bowl with than ever before.
Mac Jones, New England Patriots
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
DF: Tom Brady is the obvious exception to this rule for all kinds of reasons — most notably that he’s maybe the best in-the-pocket mover ever and perhaps the smartest quarterback ever — but Mac Jones didn’t show much second-reaction ability in college, and I didn’t see it in the preseason except for a couple of nice throws where he moved in the pocket and made big-time throws. That said, can a non-Tom Brady quarterback succeed in today’s NFL without the ability to break the pocket and improvise when things fall apart with the original plan? TR: One of the most overrated things is the ability of someone to run. It’s a huge advantage, because you can utilize that in certain downs and situations, but the reality is, whoever sees things faster is going to be better at the end of the day. If you can see stuff fast, you don’t have to run fast. If you don’t see things fast, it’s good to be able to run fast. There are guys who can see things fast and run fast. Steve Young, right? Lamar Jackson actually sees things, and he has the ability to run fast. He can do both, and that’s a rare trait. But at its core, the position is played with your ability to process so much information so quickly and see leverage, movement… you understand in four steps that the linebacker can or can’t get here, and you start to make your decision early. Or you’re waiting to see if he got over here, right? I think Jones can do that. I think I’ve already seen that. I think I can watch a drive and tell you if he has the ability to see and have spatial awareness. Bill Belichick isn’t making a decision like that lightly. He’s not guessing. He knows this kid has the ability to do things and repeat them over and over again. And run the offense. It sounds easy to say “run the offense,” but you can run the offense better when you know the responsibilities of the defenders, and you know leverage, and you can see it quickly.
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