By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
So, you want a piece of Tony Romo's fortune?
If you're a Hollywood starlet, get in line. If you're the least bit Web-savvy, get to crackin'.
For as little as $9.99 you can be at least an ancillary part of the Romo Empire, as proud owner of Internet sites such as onlinetonyromo.com, tonyromohome.net and tonyromoblog.com. But to acquire the crown jewel Web home of the Dallas Cowboys quarterback and new $67 million man—tonyromo.com—you have to go through...
No joke. On Monday, records at godaddy.com's domain register reflected that the hilarious KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket morning show yuk monkey and star of WFAA-Channel 8's The Gordon Keith Show snatched tonyromo.com on June 12 and has ownership through August 14, 2010. Considering Romo's skyrocketing performance and charismatic persona—coupled with last week's sale of cowboys.com for $370,000—ol' Gordo seems to have himself a savory slice of cyberspace real estate.
Curiously, Keith didn't want to comment on his prized possession. He would have likely confused us with a barrage of "baby arm"s and "why are rain?"s anyway. But consider him a lucky man, because everything Romo will be worth every penny.
While we were calculating the APR on a $10 million signing bonus on the one hand and thumbing through Texas' Lemon Law fine print with the other, Romo strolls into the NFL's most hostile environment and is again equal parts subtle and sublime.
With Philly's Lincoln Financial Field frothing at the mouth for a reality-check hazing, Romo calmly completes his first nine passes and winds up 20 of 25 for 324 yards and three touchdowns. All without having to use his fastball. Seemingly channeling Doug Flutie, Brett Favre and David Blaine, Romo side-steps rushes, ducks blitzers, shovels quirky passes underhand, dinks unorthodox wobblers over linebackers and delicately arcs perfecto bombs to blanketed receivers.
Sashaying through the St. Louis Rams and frolicking with Sophie Bush is cute and all. But Cowboys 38, Eagles 17 means it's time to get serious.
Tony Romo: Notarized.
"The promise he brings is the future," says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "When we've had quarterback stability we've won Super Bowls. And when we haven't had it we haven't gotten close."
At the season's halfway mark, the 7-1 Cowboys are the best team in the NFC. The first blue norther is yet to arrive, and the playoffs are already a lock. They've started 7-1 10 times, never missing the post-season and winning three Super Bowls. Only one of 38 NFL teams to start a season 7-1 failed to make the playoffs.
But just winning the NFC East division championship and a playoff game for the first time in 11 years would be setting the bar far too low.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Cowboys as the clear favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008, in Arizona. Dallas' only loss is to the undefeated New England Patriots, and it has looming dates with NFC pretenders such as the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and New York Giants, starting Sunday in The Meadowlands.
Any doubt the Cowboys won't win in New Jersey this weekend has been vaporized—like the buyer's remorse that briefly lingered in the back of our minds—by Romo's astounding first eight games.
Other than the regression of Tyson Thompson as a kick returner and the stagnation of Bobby Carpenter as any sort of a contributor, the season has been flawless. The snapshots: Romo beating the Giants in the season opener with four touchdown passes. Hanging 34 points on the vaunted Bears defense in Chicago. Romo's miraculous 37-yard scramble/4-yard gain against the Rams. Nick Folk's 53-yard field goal capping an unfathomable comeback in Buffalo. Jason Witten's 30-yard romp without helmet and with bloody nose, climaxing a laugher in Philly which all but buries the longtime bully on the block. Former coach Bill Parcells gone, forgotten and flat-out wrong for stifling an offense that without his ultra-conservative dictatorship has scored at least 24 points in every game.
And it will only get better. While we're all getting hopped up on Pepsi and Papa John's this week, Tank Johnson arrives for more run support on defense, and around Thanksgiving Terry Glenn, last year's leading receiver, returns to add yet another weapon to Romo's arsenal.
Despite 18 starts in which he's 13-5 with 38 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, digesting Romo's remarkable rise is more difficult than understanding Shannon Sharpe's language, deciphering what NBC's studio show accomplished by going "Green" or figuring out why the Eagles cheerleaders accessorized with fuchsia pompoms. After navigating a path never traveled to the apex of sports stardom, Romo made a believer of Jones to the tune of a six-year, $67.5 million contract extension. The deal pays him more than Tom Brady and rewards him $30 million guaranteed, $11 million per season. Troy Aikman's first contract with Dallas in 1989 was also worth $11 million. Total.
Bottom line: When Romo leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl XLII, he'll be filthy rich. And he'll have the worst pedigree of any big-game quarterback in NFL history.
Of the 58 quarterbacks to start the 41 Super Bowls, only St. Louis' Kurt Warner and the Carolina Panthers' Jake Delhomme were, like Romo, neither drafted by an NFL team nor offered a scholarship to a Division I college. Still, Warner (from Northern Iowa) and Delhomme (Louisiana-Lafayette) had tangible credentials. Warner won an Arena League championship; Delhomme, a title in NFL Europe. There have been small-school surprises to make Super Bowls, such as Terry Bradshaw (Louisiana Tech), Phil Simms (Morehead State) and Rich Gannon (Delaware), but all were compelling enough in college to at least get drafted.