EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: Is Tony Romo today’s Danny White?
It’s been a tough season for Cowboys fans — but there’s plenty of salt left in the shaker to pour into those wounds.
The question creeps up again: Are the Cowboys the most inappropriately hyped team in professional sports?
Their on-field performance seems to be of no issue: if they win three games this season, playing some of the worst football in the NFC, there’s no doubt the league will still slate them for five or six nationally televised games in 2011. Quality on the field not even taken into account, we’ll be told their the “most talented team in the NFC” come summer.
Stripping away the media sheen, what do the Cowboys substantively bring to the table?
Why have we been force-fed this team during its 15-year, post-Aikman wanderings? They’re consistently outplayed by other teams — especially in big games. This has been happening for years.
And why the media’s love affair with frat-boyish Tony Romo?
While everyone’s busy anointing Romo the next Roger Staubach — is he more accurately the next Danny White, during an equally depressing era of Cowboys football?
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN takes a look at some of today’s stars and (imperfectly) attempts to match them to their natural predecessors of old.
Danny White and Tony Romo
Most Cowboys fans will not appreciate the comparison — and deny it.
White presided over a Cowboys franchise that still felt it was all that based on its glory years a decade or so before. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound White was 62-30 (.674) as a starter and 5-5 (.500) in the playoffs. He was never able to get Dallas to the Super Bowl, despite a string of double-digit-win regular seasons and a talented supporting cast. His inability to win the big game didn’t help fans forget about Staubach.
Romo presides over a Cowboys franchise that still feels it’s all that based on its glory years a decade or so ago. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Romo is 39-23 (.629) as a starter and 1-3 (.250) in the playoffs. He has never been able to get Dallas to the Super Bowl, despite a string of double-digit-win regular seasons and a talented supporting cast. His inability to win the big game hasn’t helped fans forget about Aikman.
Notorious ‘Boys fan, C-O-U-R-T-N-E-Y, suggested Romo be compared to Fran Tarkenton. OK, let’s do it:
Tarkenton, a Hall of Famer and nine-time Pro Bowler, played for 18 seasons, 13 of them with the Minnesota Vikings. He was drafted by the Vikings and played six years in Minnesota before spending five seasons with the New York Giants. He then, in his 12th season, returned to the Vikings and led the team to three Super Bowls.
Tarkenton won 124 games as a starter and was 6-4 in the playoffs.
During a golden era in the Vikings’ history, Tarkenton was their leader, willing them to NFC crowns.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
Kevin Mack and Peyton Hillis
Kevin Mack, a 6-foot, 224-pound bruiser who surprised people with his agility, downhill running style and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, gave Cleveland a much-needed lift after the Browns masterfully plucked him from the USFL’s Los Angeles Express for a song. In 1985, his first campaign with a young, developing Browns team under the direction of poised rookie quarterback Bernie Kosar — who became the team’s starter in Week 6 — Mack barnstormed his way for 1,104 rushing yards, 297 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. He helped an 8-8 Browns team squeak into the playoffs. He rushed for 5,123 yards (4.0 yards per attempt) and 46 touchdowns in his career. He also caught 197 passes for 1,602 yards and eight scores.
Peyton Hillis, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound bruiser who has surprised people with his agility, downhill running style and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, has given Cleveland a much-needed lift after the Browns masterfully plucked him from the Denver Broncos for a song. In 2010, his first campaign with a young, developing Browns team under the direction of poised rookie quarterback Colt McCoy — who became the team’s starter in Week 6 — Hillis has barnstormed his way for 726 rushing yards, 256 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns in nine games. He has helped a young Browns team to wins over a series of playoff-caliber teams. In three seasons, he has rushed for 1,123 yards (4.8 yards per attempt) and 14 touchdowns. He has also caught 52 passes for 454 yards and two scores.
George Blanda and Brett Favre
The Blanda-Favre comparison is imperfect. The shape of Favre’s career is not altogether comparable to Blanda’s beyond the sheer extent of it. Taking Favre’s endurance into account, he might compare better to someone like Peyton Manning, John Elway or (yes) Fran Tarkenton (sorry, Romo).
The matchup with Blanda is more in essence than statistical.
Blanda, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback, played 26 seasons in the NFL, appearing in 340 career games. He was a factor well into his late 30s and 40s, and appeared in his last game, the 1975 AFC Championship, on January 4, 1976, at age 48. A talented kicker, Blanda kicked a field goal and extra point in the game. At the time of his retirement, Blanda had scored more points than anyone in league history.
Favre, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound quarterback, is in his 20th (and, he says, last) NFL season, appearing in 298 career games, with an astonishing 294 consecutive starts. He has Blanda beat in this category, hands down, and it makes him a different brand of player, in a sense.
Peyton Manning is the next active player on the list with 201 consecutive starts. His brother, Eli, follows him with 96. Ron Jaworski, Tom Brady and Buffalo’s Ron Ferguson recorded streaks of 116, 111 and 107 starts, but Brady’s was cut short when he was injured in 2008. Philip Rivers has 73 active consecutive starts.
The Blanda-Favre comparison becomes scary only when we admit that we’re concerned Favre will, against his word, still be around at age 48.
Mark Bavaro and Rob Gronkowski
Mark Bavaro, the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder, was a tough-as-nails, receiving tight end who made immediate impact, catching 15 passes for 511 yards and four scores his rookie season, and becoming a favorite target of quarterback Phil Simms. The physically gifted Bavaro was well-suited in Bill Parcells’ Giants offense, which relied less on star players and more on men who knew their roles and thrived in a system that helped the Giants to multiple Super Bowl championships.
Rob Gronkowski, the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder, is a tough-as-nails, receiving tight end who’s made immediate impact, catching 19 passes for 220 yards and six scores through the first nine games of his rookie season, and is becoming a favorite target of quarterback Tom Brady. The physically gifted Gronkowski is well-suited in Bill Belichick’s Patriots offense, which — after the Moss trade — relies less on star players and more on men who know their roles and thrive in a system that has helped the Patriots to multiple Super Bowl championships.
Jerry Glanville and Rex Ryan
I understand that the immediate thought here is, “Wait, why not Buddy Ryan vs. Rex Ryan?”
Fine… Buddy Ryan’s 55-55-1 head coaching experience with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals is only part of what Buddy’s passed down to twin sons Rex and Rob. There’s little question whose son Rex is — in both demeanor and philosophy. We’ve processed the comparison before — and so has every pregame show, newspaper, and NFL blog in America.
I believe Rex has the chance, with the Jets, to do things his father never did as a head coach.
When I think about Rex though — and how he agitates fans of opposing AFC East teams — he reminds me of how Jerry Glanville used to get under my skin when he coached the Houston Oilers. As a Browns fan, the Oilers of the old AFC Central were supremely annoying — and it was Glanville who I wanted pressed into the dirt as much anyone. That division was a bloodbath largely because of Glanville’s ability as a coach — and his knack for adding fuel to fire.
Glanville infuriated Sam Wyche over the years, and Wyche, when the opportunity knocked in 1989, had no problem ripping Glanville a new one in a 61-7 drubbing of the Oilers. It was cathartic for everyone beyond Glanville’s mother.
Glanville talked endlessly — and left tickets for Elvis left and right — but he backed it up, to some degree, by building a smothering, imposing defense that made the Oilers one of the team’s to beat in the AFC in the late ’80s. He was a players coach, and he found a way to get his guys to buy in to the Oilers way of life — but he was also humiliated on more than one occasion, and eventually wore his welcome out in league circles.
For my money, if the Jets aren’t in your way, Rex is a fun-loving, entertaining guy who brings the soundbites. If you’re forced to deal with his team — and his loud mouth — twice a season, he’s a big part of the reason you want to see the Jets take a dirt nap.
In the end, Glanville — and Buddy Ryan — never took a team to the Super Bowl.
Rex can eclipse both of them by backing up the endless chatter.