By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
So maybe you didn't get a Wii, an iPhone or a weekend at the Playboy Mansion. But you know what? You didn't need them.
Because you already got the most valuable and exclusive of all Christmas presents—a franchise quarterback.
Even better, yours came equipped with all the atypical accessories. Hall of Fame creativity. Hollywood charisma. Record-setting season. NFC East Championship. Favorable Super Bowl shot. The works.
Before ringing in 2008 with the Dallas Cowboys' first playoff victory in 12 years this Sunday in Washington, the gift that keeps on giving will climax one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.
So, who do we thank for all this?
Merry Christmas, Joan Romo. You're the one who brought into this world the bouncing baby boy armed with the talent and temperament to attract both the NFL and TMZ.
Merry Christmas, Ramiro Romo. You're the one who instilled in your son the virtues of determination and ingenuity, prodding him to engineer nine come-from-behind victories and make more incomprehensible escapes than Criss Angel.
Merry Christmas, Steve Gerber. You're the one who, as the kid's high school football coach, suggested he wear No. 16 like his favorite player, Joe Montana, despite growing up in a Brett Favre-ian ZIP code of Burlington, Wisconsin.
Merry Christmas, Bob Spoo. You're the one who coached the player at Eastern Illinois, orchestrating a pass-happy offense that allowed him to win the Walter Payton Award as Division I-AA's best player in 2002.
Merry Christmas, NFL general managers. You're the ones who ignored the prospect in 2003, paving the way for him to become only the third quarterback (along with Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme) to lead his team to a Super Bowl despite being neither drafted nor offered a Division I scholarship.
Merry Christmas, Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Ryan Leaf, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Henson. You're the ones who, via your ineptitude, kept alive the Cowboys' perpetual search for Troy Aikman's successor.
Merry Christmas, Sean Payton. You're the one who, while Cowboys offensive coordinator, first alerted the team about the kid's NFL potential. And you should've known, since he broke all your passing records at EIU.
Merry Christmas, Ken Kremer. You're the one who, as the player's agent, allowed him on May 1, 2003, to eschew a $25,000 signing bonus from the Denver Broncos to accept $10,000 from the Cowboys.
Merry Christmas, David Lee. You're the one who, as Cowboys quarterback coach in 2003, helped the newbie re-tool his throwing motion. After a summer with you throwing 10,000 balls into a net, the quarterback quickened his release and shed his sidearm delivery.
Merry Christmas, Quincy Carter. You're the one who toked your way out of training camp in 2004, allowing the third-stringer to sneak onto the final roster.
Merry Christmas, Bill Parcells. You're the one who gave the backup quarterback a glimmer of hope, starting him in the 2006 pre-season opener in Seattle.
Merry Christmas, Drew Bledsoe. You're the one who handed the punk your job, throwing an interception to Giants cornerback Sam Madison at New York's 4-yard line just before halftime of the October 23, 2006, game when Dallas trailed only 12-7.
Merry Christmas, Vivian Fullerlove. You're the one who, as his longtime publicist, helped nurture the guy into a charismatic persona perfectly suited to oppose Buzz Killingtons like the Patriots' Bill Belichick.
Merry Christmas, Crystal Kaspar. You're the one who broke off your long-distance Florida/Dallas romance with your boyfriend in October 2006, a move that would eventually increase ninefold the sales of gossip tabloids in the metroplex.
Merry Christmas, Jason Witten. You're the one who immediately befriended the rookie, eventually became his road roommate, best friend and, this season, favorite passing target.
Merry Christmas, Martin Gramatica. You're the one who attempted the half-ass whiff of a block on Seattle's Jordan Babineaux on January 6, 2007, allowing the quarterback to be tackled short of a first down after he bobbled the snap of your potential chip-shot field goal. In the play's wake, Parcells resigned, the quarterback recovered and the Cowboys returned to glory.
Merry Christmas, Metal Skool. You're the ones who, as a popular glam metal parody band, lifted the pouting player's spirits by luring him onstage with you twice during the 2007 summer.
Merry Christmas, Brady Quinn. You're the one who wasn't quite good enough to tease the Cowboys into drafting you and potentially stunting the prodigy's confidence.
Merry Christmas, Wade Phillips. You're the one who, as the player's head coach, is willing to see him more as kamikaze fighter pilot than shackled bus driver.
Merry Christmas, Jason Garrett. You're the one who, as his offensive coordinator, is drawing up the plays leading to the most prolific season by a Cowboys quarterback in the franchise's 47-year history.
Merry Christmas, Jerry Jones. You're the one who awarded your quarterback a $67 million contract extension, let him retain the spotlight by turning down your invite to Dancing With the Stars, and who continues to appropriately heap praise more on today's players than yesterday's coach. "I give Bill Parcells all the credit in the world," you said last week. "But under that kind of thinking, Dave Campo should've gotten the credit when Bill took us to the playoffs his first season here. We've got a lot of the same players we had under Bill, and the fact of the matter is they're playing better under Wade Phillips." Touché.
Merry Christmas, Terrell Owens. You're the one who hasn't once—defying your past—hinted at your quarterback being a homosexual quitter.
Merry Christmas, Andre Gurode. You're the one who sailed a snap over your teammate's head against the Rams, making possible his legacy-enhancing 37-yard scramble/4-yard gain.
Merry Christmas, Tony Curtis and Paris Lenon. You're the ones who, respectively, recovered Dallas' onside kick in Buffalo and muffed Dallas' fumble in Detroit, setting up two improbable comebacks that further fueled the quarterback's legend.
Merry Christmas, Carrie Underwood, Sophia Bush and Britney Spears. You're the ones who couldn't close the deal with the bachelor, leaving him for Jessica Simpson. Check that, the last thing the Cowboys need is a pink-clad Yoko Romo. Coal in your stockings. All of ya.
Merry Christmas, Troy Aikman. You're the one who dated Lorrie Morgan and brought Faith Hill into the locker room in the early 1990s, proving this "Jessica Jinx" is nothing more than a bullshit premise hatched by Fox's TV cameras.
Merry Christmas, Al Pacino. You're the one who starred in Scarface but also Gigli, putting the quarterback's hiccup against the Eagles in perspective.
Merry Christmas, Chicago Bears. You're the ones who became the seventh out of the last eight Super Bowl losers to miss the playoffs the following year. Because of you, Cowboys fans will enthusiastically embrace this season as a potential one-hit wonder, rather than arrogantly trumpeting the birth of another Dallas dynasty.
Merry Christmas, Jesus, Santa or Lady Luck. Whoever's responsible, you're the one who bestowed upon us a once-in-a-generation quarterback blessed with Aikman's handsomeness, Don Meredith's humor and Roger Staubach's heroics.
Merry Christmas, Tony Romo. You're the one.