Sesame Street is not normally a place you would go for high-level football analysis, but occasionally even The Count can help decipher good cap management from bad.
With that in mind, here's a list of NFL quarterbacks who have received contract extensions that included at least $48 million paid over the first three years (as noted by NFL.com's Albert Breer shortly after Romo's six-year, $108 million deal was announced). The three-year total is important because most contracts are relatively easy for a team to get out of after that time:
• Tom Brady: $48.5 million in 2010
• Eli Manning: $49 million in 2009
• Peyton Manning: $58 million in 2012
• Drew Brees: $61 million in 2012
• Joe Flacco: $62 million in 2013
• Tony Romo: $57 million in 2013
To borrow a line from the folks at the children's TV show, one of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong.
Yeah, that's Romo, who unlike the other five guys on that list has yet to win a Super Bowl (let alone two for Eli and three for Brady). Heck, as former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb noted via Twitter, Romo has only won one playoff game.
Now, don't take this the wrong way: business is business. Romo, who has high-powered agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra working for him, deserves whatever he can get. He also had plenty of leverage based on the fact that he could void his contract after this season and not be franchised by Dallas.
The real problem in all of this is how the Cowboys continue to do business. Dallas continues to pay its players and manage its team as if it has actually accomplished something. This is a team with an array of reported bloated contracts, from offensive tackle Doug Free (four years, $32 million) to defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (five years, $40 million) to wide receiver Miles Austin (six years, $54 million) to cornerback Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million) to defensive end/linebacker Anthony Spencer, who is being paid $10.6 million for one year on the franchise tag.
Like Romo, the Cowboys have given Spencer a lot of leverage if they want to get his salary cap number down with a long-term contract.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has given too many people on his roster way too much comfort, way too much artificial belief that they are actually great when they are anything but.
Yes, Dallas has the makings of a good team and Romo is perfectly capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl title. Talent is not the issue. Mindset is the problem. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said it best last season when he blasted the team's country club-type atmosphere.
In the aftermath of that remark, Jones promised change. He promised that he was going to make people uncomfortable. He fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and even let head coach Jason Garrett twist in the wind a bit.
But less than three months after another disappointing season, Jones rewarded his top player with one of the richest deals in the history of the league. The same quarterback who once posed on a lounge chair in Los Cabos during the bye week before the playoffs now has Jones figuratively bringing him drinks poolside.
More ice, Mr. Romo?
This is why the Cowboys are mentally weak, a team incapable of living up to its talent. This is why Jones doesn't get it when people point out that he shouldn't be the GM. It's not because he's so bad at it. In fact, the talent level of the Cowboys is pretty good and the drafting has been OK lately.
The problem is that there's no checks-and-balance system with the Cowboys. The same guy who's writing the checks to make players feel good about themselves is the same guy who's balancing the books to make sure the results add up.
Worse, there's no second person to be bad cop to Jones' good cop routine. Jones is becoming a latter-day Al Davis, a guy who loved his players and simply changed the coach when things didn't go right.
There's nobody in the organization to look at the players and say, "This isn't good enough." There's no one to tell Jones, "No, we don't pay players like this until they actually win."
No, there's just a lot of money flowing around to a lot of satisfied players.
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