Sometimes, in order to appreciate what you have in life, you simply have to look at the circumstances that others deal with on a constant basis.
As humans, we are able with great ease to check those more fortunate than us and allow jealousy to build up as we see the bigger and nicer house or car and feel that our possessions do not compare. Seldom, do we look in the other direction to concede that just about everyone on the planet would love to change places with us. That helps us appreciate what we have, but it is something that nobody ever enjoys doing.
Such is life in the NFL. When we look at the quarterback of our team - in this case, Dallas' QB Tony Romo - many of the diehards of the organization will spend time comparing him to legendary Cowboys of the past (Aikman, Staubach) or legendary QBs of the present around the league (Manning, Brady). The very best to ever play the position are impossible for almost anyone to measure against. Our memories remind us of their victories and great moments and time erased any and all shortcomings. They are perfect, and we want to measure a man against perfection to see that he is not there. This is the equivalent of taking the family through Highland Park to see all of the houses that you will never be able to afford.
It is not a complete waste of time to do this, as the object of the game is to win and to figure out how to add to the Cowboys trophy case. Part of the ongoing battle is to constantly evaluate and to strive for excellence. But, to be realistic, one should always know where they sit in either direction. Constantly looking up at genius can make you forget how far you are from football poverty.
As the Cowboys travel to Washington to play the Redskins on Sunday, we are reminded that so much in football depends on the QB position. Washington teaches us this lesson on a year to year basis.
Let's start in 2006, the same year Tony Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe in midseason, Washington ran out 2nd year QB Jason Campbell to replace veteran QB Mark Brunell. Campbell was taken with the 25th pick in the 2005 draft, 1 pick after Green Bay snagged Aaron Rodgers. One can only wonder what Washington would have done if Rodgers had made it one more pick down the board.
With young Campbell, the Redskins believed they had finally filled the QB vacancy. Since Mark Rypien, the Skins had never found the permanent holder of the position. Heath Shuler, Gus Frerotte, Trent Green, Brad Johnson, Tony Banks, Trent Ramsey, and Brunell had all had shots at the job for the long term, and nobody held down the spot for any length of time.
But in 4 years as the Redskins starter, Campbell never won more games than he lost in a season. 2006: 2-5, 2007: 6-7, 2008: 8-8, and 2009: 4-12. Todd Collins actually rallied the troops in 2007 to get into the playoffs, and Campbell proved to never fully possess anything above mediocre.
By the end of 2009, the Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell era in Washington had run its 2-year course and it was time to reload with Mike Shanahan. The Redskins have now have won 9 of 27 games under Shanahan - thanks in no small part again to mediocre QB play. Donovan McNabb has started 13 games, Rex Grossman 9, and John Beck 3.
During that stretch, the Redskins quarterback position has combined for a QB rating of 74.5, with 29 TD passes against 34 interceptions.
It has been 20 years since Mark Rypien won the Super Bowl MVP for the 1991 season and was a strong candidate for the full season MVP. Since that time, the Redskins have not had a single season with a 90 passer rating. Not one.
Meanwhile, here is Tony Romo. He is having the best passing season of his career according to the passer rating (97.7). But, on a year by year basis since he has been the Cowboys starter, Romo has put up these ratings: 95.1, 97.4, 91.4, 97.6, 94.9, and now 97.7.
A 90 QB rating is the benchmark for excellence. About 8-10 QBs a year have a rating at or above 90. Since 2006, do you know how many QBs can boast a QB rating of over 90 each year? Exactly 2. Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. Obviously, that number is about to shrink to 1 with Manning sitting out the year with injury.
Now, before I am reminded that Manning also has the Super Bowl ring that is so badly desired around these parts for the Cowboys, let me share one more number: 144. 144 starts for Peyton Manning to get to a Super Bowl ring. Not everyone waits that long, but since some wait longer (John Elway, 219), it is fair to say that Romo with 71 starts entering Sunday's action still has a chance.
Sure, if you were smart, you would rate Drew Brees, Rodgers, Tom Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger and perhaps 1 or 2 others in front of Romo with great certainty. You would also concede that Eli Manning has a ring and therefore bragging rights despite his flaws and lack of consistency.
But, I think you would also glance at the 20 or so spots around the league that would be thrilled to have the level of QB play Dallas has enjoyed since Romo was installed as starter. 44-26 as a starter in those 70 starts means that the Cowboys are almost always in the playoff mix when he at the helm.
He does have flaws - there is no doubt - and you can find better QBs when you look around the league. But, I hope when you are driving through the nice neighborhoods looking at the QBs in New England and Green Bay, you are also being fair to your own situation by taking a turn down the roads in Washington, Seattle, St Louis, and for goodness sakes, I hope you were able to catch a bit of Broncos and the Jets last night.
The Cowboys should easily dispatch of Washington on Sunday, with perhaps the biggest reason being that the Redskins are awful at the QB position. And the reality is they have been awful for years. During that time they have tried several coaches - with at least a few of them being labeled as "offensive geniuses" - as well as elite play at many positions on the field. But, the Skins lacked quality at QB, the most important spot on the field.
Dallas shows us that QB is the most important spot, but not the only spot for a team to go from a winning team to a champion. The talk shows and message boards can say whatever they want, but there is more to winning football than whether Romo plays golf in April.
Since 2006, the year Romo and Campbell were both named starters with their respective teams, the Cowboys (53-36) have won 18 more games than the Redskins (35-54). Neither team has won Super Bowls, so if that impossible standard is the only way to appease the masses, both organizations need a QB. But, anyone with a fair and balanced perspective on current events in all 32 organizations in the NFL would easily concede that the Cowboys are receiving above average QB play.
Dallas may never win a Super Bowl during Romo's career. If you have a trade ready for Brady or Rodgers, I would tell you to take it. Otherwise, you should be willing to admit that Romo is strong to quite strong at the position. Romo may end up being a solid QB with a solid career, but never the Hall of Fame resume that he is compared to in this city. But, a quick look at the data will reveal that if that is the case, and he never wins it all, it might have less to do with the QB position that you think.
The grass is not always greener. Washington proves that every year.