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Silver Star
Tim Layden
December 11, 2006
In two months, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has gone from a buried backup to the NFL's best-rated passer and its brightest new light
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December 11, 2006

Silver Star

In two months, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has gone from a buried backup to the NFL's best-rated passer and its brightest new light

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And now that Romo is the starter, the highest-rated quarterback in the league ... Parcells has ratcheted up the abuse.

"You're not Johnny Unitas yet, Romo!"

"You're not Joe Montana!"

"Oh, I get it, you're a celebrity quarterback now."

Says Romo, "Ninety-five percent of it is just needling, and it's hilarious. I get along with Bill because we're both competitive. We both want the same thing."

ACT V: The Leader

Romo's first start came on a Sunday night, Oct. 29, against the Panthers, six days after his relief appearance against the Giants. For five days he'd prepared for Carolina while stewing about his three-pick effort against New York. "He was totally distraught for two or three days," says Brewer. "He'd been thinking, If I just get a chance, I'll totally kill it, and now he's embarrassed. He was saying, Man, I cannot fail, because I can't handle it. I'm embarrassed to show my face outside, because I let everybody down."

Carolina went up 14--0 late in the first quarter. Witten approached Romo on the sideline, where the rising panic was palpable. The season was on the line. "Listen, man, we've got to have this game," Witten told his quarterback. "You need to relax, be the leader, play within the system, because we're 3--3 and we cannot lose here."

Romo cut him off. "Jason, I've got everything under control," he said, seething. "We'll be fine." The Cowboys went on to win 35--14, Romo finishing 24 of 36 for 270 yards. After throwing an interception in the first quarter against the Panthers, he tossed only one in the ensuing 19 quarters.

Romo also moves, something Bledsoe didn't do. "He has the ability to buy time and let his receivers get open," says Cardinals cornerback Eric Green. And Romo spreads the ball more generously than Bledsoe among those receivers: 60% of Bledsoe's completions were to Terry Glenn and Owens, but they've gotten fewer than half of Romo's. Despite numerous drops (including two against the Giants), Owens has caught nearly twice as many balls from Romo as he had from Bledsoe, and he's predictably pleased. "What can you not like about Tony?" Owens says. "Student of the game, great athlete, and every receiver out there knows he might get the ball on every play."

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