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Registered: 05-2007
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Cowboys Officially Place Future In Romo's Hands


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IRVING, Texas - In 18 years of NFL ownership, Jerry Jones has seen what a franchise quarterback can provide his team over a career.

In most cases around the league, it's a consistently high winning percentage. From Jones' personal experience, it's a collection of Super Bowl trophies.

Jones officially ended his search for Troy Aikman's long-term successor Tuesday afternoon, but emphasized Tony Romo's staggering six-year, $67.5 million contract extension doesn't guarantee a return to championship glory. It's merely a significant piece in the construction of a consistent winner.

"When we had it, we won Super Bowls. When we didn't have it, we didn't get close," Jones said about quarterback stability during a news conference announcing Romo's deal. "I don't want to say that because we're having this press conference that we're going to win Super Bowls - I'm not saying that. What I am saying is, it is about the future.

"I wouldn't have done this had I not thought (Romo) gave us a chance to compete for Super Bowls."

Romo offers Jones the best chance for sustained success since parting ways with Aikman after the 2000 season. Once the league's envy for their perceptible ease in finding era-long starters, the Cowboys started nine different quarterbacks with mixed results before Romo took the job from Drew Bledsoe last October.

Six games into Romo's first full season as the starter, the Cowboys (6-1) are tied for the NFC's best record and are legitimate contenders for their first division title since 1998.

Jones has said for several months he viewed Romo as the Cowboys' long-term answer, but wanted to see a larger body of work from the 27-year-old before settling on an appropriate contract.

Now, Jones' commitment to Romo is evident in dollars and cents.

The second-year starter received $30 million in guaranteed money, including an $11.5 million signing bonus paid out evenly between this season and next. The Cowboys will stuff $4.5 million into this year's base salary, pushing his 2007 earnings to $6 million rather than the $1.5 million he was scheduled to make in the final year of his original two-year deal.

In essence, it's a new seven-year, $69 million deal that makes Romo one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks despite his relative inexperience. The Cowboys have a 12-5 regular-season record in Romo's 17 regular-season starts.

"The best feeling by far is to know the organization, the Jones family, our coaches and everyone says, 'You're our guy - you're the guy we want to go to the next level with,'" said Romo, whose parents were in attendance Tuesday. "That means everything - more than the money ever could."

Quite a long way from Romo's relatively anonymous arrival in Dallas.

Undrafted out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois, Romo received a modest $10,000 signing bonus back in 2003 and initially was buried on the depth chart behind Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson. He alternated backup duties with Drew Henson in 2004 and became Bledsoe's primary backup in 2005.

Romo didn't throw his first regular-season pass until the fifth game of his fourth season, the week before he replaced Bledsoe for good at halftime of the Cowboys' 36-22 loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 23, 2006.

Since then, he has developed into a national phenomenon.

On the field, Romo leads the NFC with a 95.6 quarterback rating and is on pace for a franchise-record 4,535 passing yards. Since taking over 17 games ago, Romo has completed 368 of 574 passes (64 percent) for 4,852 yards, 34 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

Off the field, he's the face of arguably America's most popular sports franchise. Over the last 12 months Romo has graced the cover of magazines, endorsed products and found himself reportedly linked to various celebrity actresses or performers, most recently pop princess Britney Spears (a false rumor, he insists).

Yet nothing seems to alter Romo's competitive focus - the sole reason for his success, he says, not the motivation of financial security.

"Off the field in some ways you live a more comfortable life," Romo said, "but I think as far as making it . . . were my goals set out to make a whole bunch of money? If that was the case, sure, I've accomplished something. But that was never really what the intent was when you start playing the game. The next step is always on the field."

That drive - a "wouldn't take no for an answer" attitude despite long odds - is what Jones appreciates most about Romo besides his football talent.

The two sides remained comfortable throughout the negotiating process, mostly because each made clear they wanted the other in their long-term plans. Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said Romo played a "tremendous role" in the constructive communication between his agent, Ken Kremer, and the organization.

"I liken it to how he is like a player on the field," Stephen Jones said. "Once we got here in this bye week and we started to get closer, he wasn't going to let what can happen sometimes between a team and a representative (where) you stalemate it because no one wants to move. He wasn't going to let that happen."

The Cowboys see that same leadership from Romo every Sunday. Despite greater media scrutiny that will come naturally with a higher salary, the franchise is confident Romo will only get better.

"He's the man for the 2000s," Jerry Jones said. "The way he got here, his personality, the way that he has fun, the way that he portrays that to our fans - all of those things made me on a personal basis and made us as an organization want to make this commitment to Tony."



Last edited by MeowMama, 10/31/2007, 1:59 pm


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