Our most beloved stories give us a false sense of normalcy.
We’ve watched enough film or television over the years to know there has to be more. We’re familiar with story arcs and we crave a sense of finality.
The greatest storyteller the world has ever known taught us generations ago that stories do not end in happiness: they end ironically and tragically. And they end without warning.
Romo’s entire career is an argument left incomplete. That is his lasting legacy.
Was the snap in Seattle his fault? Bill Parcells has since absorbed the blame. Is he clutch? Romo has more fourth quarter comebacks than any other QB since 1960. Is Romo a winner? He’s an undrafted free agent QB out of Eastern Illinois University, who is 78-49 in the 127 games he started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Tony Romo is objectively a great NFL QB. His place in history will be debated, but the perception of Romo his entire career belies his true greatness.
He played through a broken rib in a winner-take-all season finale in 2008 against the Eagles. He broke a rib, punctured a lung and managed to finish a game against the 49ers in 2011. Then, of course, there was the 2013 must win game against the Redskins in Week 16 in which he somehow led the Cowboys to a fourth quarter comeback after he herniated the disc in his back.
There was a moment in that game where Romo had just thrown a TD to Demarco Murray on fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, trailing by six. There was a moment immediately after he escaped the rush and found Murray a step before he hit the goal line – a moment when you realized the pain he had just played through, and the inevitable pain of knowing he wasn’t going to be able to finish it.
Tony Freaking Romo has thrown for more yards and more touchdowns than any other QB in franchise history. But the Cowboys let Romo down in the prime of his career. They failed to surround him with talent because they were awash in salary cap hell and hit rock bottom in the 2009 draft when they missed on all twelve of their picks.
For a decade Romo dragged a lifeless franchise as close as he could get it to the finish line.
After years of missed evaluations on talent and very little organizational direction they decided to invest in their most important asset, an aging all-pro QB. They got a legitimate weapon on the outside in the first round of the 2010 draft. Then, they selected an offensive lineman in the first round of the 2011 draft (a first for Jerry Jones), another in 2013 and again in the first round of the 2014 draft. They gave Romo something he never had: the best offensive line in football. And in 2016 they drafted him a superstar at running back.
If “all of the world is a stage,” then Tony Romo is our tragic hero.
We all want a perfect ending. You could say the most Romo-esque ending would be Romo hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
In Shakespeare’s tragedies the protagonists succumb because of a fatal character flaw. Maybe Romo’s fatal flaw is in the cosmos. Maybe the greatest tragedy will be that his greatness was always misunderstood. Or maybe greatness is best when uncovered in the cracks.
Romo could still get that perfect, non-Shakespearean ending. That story we’ve all seen – or read – where he moves on to Houston or to Denver and he’s the reason for the Trophy, materialistically justifying an already justified career.
There’s nostalgia in wanting to watch Romo do it.
There’s logic to contradict it.
There’s rigidness to this ending.
The Cowboys went 13 and 3 last year. They had an offense tailor made to Romo’s exact specifications and it was executed flawlessly by a fourth round draft pick that galvanized the locker room in a way that he hasn’t . . . at least not recently.
What is to come is not better than what has already been of Tony Romo.
Maybe the greatest endings are the ones left open-ended.