Shutdown Corner - NFL

The last time Tony Romo(notes) played holder for the Dallas Cowboys he botched an easy snap on a field goal attempt which would have advanced the team to the 2007 divisional playoffs. Starting Sunday, at his request, he'll be back in that role for America's Team.

With a new holder this year, Cowboys kicker Nick Folk(notes) has missed more field goals (eight) than in his first two seasons combined (seven). On Sunday in New York he threw his arms up in disgust at punter Mat McBriar(notes), who took over the role after backup quarterback Brad Johnson(notes) wasn't re-signed this past offseason.

On the team plane back after the Cowboys loss, Romo spoke with special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and volunteered to take over for the struggling McBriar despite his checkered history at the position that left him tearfully apologizing to his teammates after his last try:

When you're the quarterback of a football team, really all that matters is winning," Romo said Thursday. "If this helps us do that, I'm doing to do it. ... Pops told me one time, `Leadership is doing what has to be done."'

Credit Romo for having the fortitude to step up and volunteer for the role. Had he stood back and let somebody else play the position, nobody would have criticized him. To do this shows leadership, a trait of Romo's that gets questioned (fairly or unfairly) every December owing to his 5-9 record as a starter in the critical month.

But just because it's a good move by Romo doesn't mean it's a good move by the Cowboys. This is a high risk-medium reward deal for the coaching staff. If the Romo/Folk duo works out, things are back to normal. If it doesn't, it could wreak mental havoc with the two guys on your team who can't afford such things: the quarterback and kicker.

Romo has enough to worry about in the next four games. (See: December record.) Now he's supposed to revisit the lowest moment of his career? Why, exactly? Was there really nobody else to do the job?  

Though Folk has missed eight kicks this year with McBriar as his holder, it's not like Romo's past success suggests he's some sort of holder savant. During his three years as Cowboys holder the team's kickers made 72 percent of field goals. Since Romo moved on from the duties there has been an 80 percent conversion rate. Now, that has more to do with the quality of kickers rather than the quality of holders, but that only leads to the most important point: A kicker's misses are most likely his own fault.

Blaming the holder for a season of bad kicks is like a golfer blaming his caddie for a year of missed putts. Once or twice can be the holders fault. Eight times seems more like a scapegoat situation and the change is being made in a "let's see if this works" mode rather than "this was the problem and we're fixing it".

It definitely may. Kicking in the NFL is just as much mental as it is physical and if having somebody else besides McBriar holding for Folk means that he will be more confident, then it's an easy decision. But now that the holder has become such a big story, does that put even more pressure on the tandem?

The last thing Tony Romo needs is more pressure. He just got some.

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