October 23, 2006. A day that would go down in Dallas Cowboys history as one of the best personnel decisions ever made. The Cowboys were playing one of their NFC-East rivals, the New York Giants at Texas Stadium. 63,000+ fans of both teams were in attendance, ready to see a divisional matchup between a 4-2 Manning-led Giants and the 3-3 Bledsoe-led Cowboys.
The Giants were coming off of a seven-sack game against Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons, and their defense was riding high because of it. However, the Giants offense was what excelled that day, as Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress on the fifth play of the game for a touchdown. That didn’t mean the defense didn’t come to play, as the Giants sacked Bledsoe into the end-zone for a safety, putting New York up 9-0 to close the first quarter.
The second quarter concluded following a Giants field goal and a Drew Bledsoe rushing touchdown to set the score at 12-7. Despite only a 5-point deficit, Bledsoe had been sacked 4 times and held a passer rating of 54.5. Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells wanted a change, and as he was sitting in the coaches locker room during halftime, the coaches heard him say “I’m going with Romo.”
Antonio Ramiro Romo was an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois University, where he held several school QB records and led the Panthers to some of their best years in recent history. When the team left the locker room, and Romo wandered out onto the field for the first time in his career, he was met with chants of his last name. Cowboys fans were excited for a change, as Drew Bledsoe had a bad history of being replaced by young talent.
Tony Romo’s half wasn’t miles better than Bledsoe’s, as his first NFL career play was an interception, setting what many would think a bad precedent for his remainder in the league. Romo finished the game at 14-for-25 with 277 passing yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
This small personnel change ended up being one of the most important decisions in Cowboys history, as it paved the way for Tony Romo to become the leader in almost every Dallas quarterback stat, and allowed for a fanbase to fall in love with a player that they hadn’t felt since Emmitt Smith left. This change would lead to a 9-7 season ending in the playoffs in 2006, an 11-5 finish in the playoffs in 2007, a 13-3 2009 season, a statistically amazing duel with the Sherrif in 2013, Dez Bryant’s catch in 2014, and the emotional final touchdown to Terrance Williams in 2016.
In 2006, Bill Parcells shaped a franchise, forcing a young man from Wisconsin into the spotlight of the starting quarterback for America’s Team. Cowboys Nation has nothing but respect for OUR quarterback.