I've always enjoyed connecting dots.
I loved coloring books as a kid, but what I really loved were those pictures that could only be seen by that beautiful connecting of the dots.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers hoisted the Larry O'Brien on Father's Day Evening in celebration of the first Championship the city of Cleveland has seen since the 1964 Cleveland Browns, my brain went into dot-connecting mode. LeBron James, the Finals MVP and Cleveland-crowned King, is a Cowboys fan... how long until the team he roots for shares the same jubilation that he brought to his hometown?
The honest answer is, who knows.
We're all rooting for the Cowboys to deliver the franchise its sixth World Championship, and perhaps that will indeed come in 2016. What about those dots, though? What do they say?
I'm going to be frank with you and say that everything from this point out is:
- 100% factual
- In no way an analysis of any kind
- Nothing more than a connecting of dots
There are three dots that I found relative to LeBron James bringing a championship to Cleveland, and the surrounding elements from a few tangents, that I believe bode well for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys.
popcorn pencils ready.
Tony Romo And LeBron James: A Road Begun In 2003
The 2003 NFL Draft was held April 26th and 27th. The first overall pick was Carson Palmer, but the top signal caller from the class would not hear his name called at all. No, Tony Romo would have to watch 262 players get drafted and then answer his Undrafted Free Agent phone call from the Dallas Cowboys.
Tony Romo rises above, becomes a sensation, and is now one of the more famous figures in the world of sports. Some would argue that he's the pre-Father's Day 2016 version of LeBron James. His talent is acknowledged worldwide, but he hasn't won the games that mattered most, or delivered a championship to his team.
The latter portion of that statement is forever invalid when referring to the player drafted first overall 62 days after Tony's phone never rang. LeBron James, then a young and upcoming superstar, began his professional career in the same year as Tony Romo.
So Tony Romo and LeBron James both set out on missions to bring their respective cities glory at the same time. LeBron may have gone astray for a few seasons, but his bringing a championship to Cleveland is that journey coming around full circle. Tony Romo and the Cowboys? There's dot one.
Houston, We Have a... Super Bowl
We already discussed how 2003 is an important year and common denominator for these two athletes. It's the point at which their quests began.
In a year where both LeBron James and Tony Romo were rookies, the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers were busy asserting their dominance across the NFL. They took that level of prestige to the highest possible level - Super Bowl XXXVIII (fun fact: that's the Super Bowl with the most Roman Numerals in NFL History), played on February 1st, 2004.
Super Bowl XXXVIII is not only long in length, it's long in pomp and circumstance, too. I've said many a time that I believe its National Anthem is the greatest that sports has ever seen, a beautiful rendition courtesy of Beyonce. After Queen Bey did her thang, the New England Patriots followed suit with a victory, leaving the Panthers clawing at the jaws of defeat.
Come back to the future with me to 2016. LeBron James' journey has come full circle from the beginning in 2003. You know what already happened in 2016? Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl (Super Bowl 50 took place February 7th, 2016). Weird, isn't it? Oh and who lost that game? Anyone? Bueller? The Carolina Panthers (Steph Curry's team, talk about salt in wounds). Hmm.
Here's what we're working with now:
- The 2003 Super Bowl was in Houston, as is the Super Bowl the season that LeBron won his title with Cleveland (2016)
- Beyonce performed at the 2003 Super Bowl and in the Super Bowl the same year that LeBron won his title with Cleveland (2016)
- The Carolina Panthers lost the 2003 Super Bowl and the Super Bowl the same year LeBron won his title with Cleveland (2016)
If it lined up that perfectly for King James, why can't it for Tony Romo? There's two dots. Let's do what Steph Curry couldn't and hit the game-winning three.
"The Most Democratic Golf Tournament In The World" -Roy McAvoy
Shortly before tip off of Cleveland's triumphant Game 7, Dustin Johnson won the 2016 U.S. Open in the face of some serious drama. If you paid attention to the final round on Sunday then you know that Dustin's victory came at a steep price - some serious mental focus.
The USGA decided when DJ was on the 12th at Oakmont (one of the most difficult golf courses in the world) that they were going to consider assessing him a penalty stroke for a possible infraction that occurred way back at the 5th. The fiasco cast a gigantic wave of doubt and confusion over the field, and the USGA has since apologized for its misstep.
That apology didn't come without one last jab, though. The USGA did in fact hit the champion with a one-stroke-penalty, bringing his championship-earning score to -4 for the tournament.
This came in the same year, on the same day, that LeBron tied a bow on his Cleveland journey that began in 2003. And remember that the 2003 Super Bowl took place in Houston during 2004, similarly to how the 2016 Super Bowl will actually be played in 2017. Since Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston technically took place in 2004, we'll use that year as our reference point. Who won that U.S. Open? The South African wonder, Retief Goosen. What was his championship-earning score? Oh, just -4.
These are facts.
There's no quantifying the impact of the title that LeBron James just delivered to the city of Cleveland. It cannot be measured. It will transcend sports, history, and the culture of that community. James put the exclamation point on a Cleveland career mired in doubt and ridicule.
Sounds a lot like the man under center for America's Team, doesn't it?
Tony Romo can't close. Tony Romo can't win. Tony Romo can't stay healthy... We've heard them all.
Just like LeBron, if/when Tony Romo delivers a World Championship to his Dallas Cowboys, the impact will reach levels we've never seen in sports. Unlike LeBron though, Tony was never supposed to do it. He wasn't the chosen one. He didn't anoint himself, in the words of Sara Bareilles, King of anything. He was undrafted and still ascended to the same status and level of expectation.
Now that the King has been crowned in Cleveland, it's time for Tony to get his own hardware. These two heroes started their journey at the same time, so it seems fitting that they should experience glory at the same time as well. Vamonos, amigos.
What are your thoughts? Does LeBron James winning a championship in Cleveland bode well for Tony Romo and the Cowboys? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa!
Tony Romo Documentary in the Works
If you've missed seeing Tony Romo on the field, an upcoming documentary may be the cure. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is reportedly the subject of a film chronicling his football career going all the way back to high school.
"Now or Never" will tell Romo's incredible story, going from undrafted to one of the top passers in the history of the Cowboys' storied franchise. It's being produced by a Texas-based company run by Christian Hanna (no known relation to James).
According to an article from MyRacineCounty.com, Romo's hometown newspaper, the tale of Tony's football career will be told going back to his days at Burlington High School in Wisconsin. It will follow him to Eastern Illinois University, the same QB hotbed that more recently produced Jimmy Garoppolo.
But what most of us will want to relive is Tony's amazing NFL career, which stands out among the most unexpected rises to stardom of any player in league history.
Romo, who was an undrafted free agent signed by the Cowboys in 2003, didn't play in a game for three seasons. He rose the QB depth chart through practice and preseason play, eventually becoming the backup and earning the respect of then-coach Bill Parcells.
In Week 7 of 2006, Parcells pulled struggling starter Drew Bledsoe at halftime and went with his intriguing young prospect. Tony's first pass in the NFL was one to forget; an interception.
About a decade later, Romo would retire as the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He currently ranks fourth all-time in NFL history for passer rating.
Tony's career never saw the playoff and Super Bowl success of predecessors Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, but he remains a beloved figure in team history. The controversial end to his football career, losing his job to rookie phenom Dak Prescott in 2016, created a major rift among Cowboys fans.
While no longer playing, Romo remains one of the hottest names in football. His charisma and football acumen have him in a featured role with CBS Broadcasting.
From obscurity to "anointing oil" to one of the most discussed names in sports, Tony Romo's story is fascinating. This documentary crew picked a great subject, and we look forward to enjoying their work and revisiting the Romo Era once the film is released.
Prescott VS Wentz Rivalry is Just Beginning
No one expected Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott to become such an interesting rivalry, but that's precisely what the 2016's second and 135th draft picks have turnt out to be since the day they entered the NFL. The two came into the NFC East with very different expectations. Dak wasn't even supposed to be a starter, but circumstance is what helped this rivalry emerge.
Prescott seemed to lead the race after their rookie seasons were over, having led the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC, but Carson Wentz made a huge statement in 2017. Before he went down injured playing versus the LA Rams last December, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was playing astonishingly well.
Leading the MVP race before tearing his ACL, Carson Wentz had thrown for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns through 13 games. Had he not gone down, it's more likely than not he would've been named the MVP instead of Tom Brady.
Despite having won the passing yards race, Dak Prescott's 2017 was rougher than his rival's. His interceptions count went from 4 in 2016 to 13 last season. He threw for only 22 touchdowns, falling eight short of the 30 TDs mark. His completion percentage also went down, from over 67% to almost 63%.
As we all know, it wasn't a good year for the Dallas Cowboys. Suspensions, injuries and poor play led them to a disappointing 9-7 season that didn't feel like a winning season at all, even though that's how it will go down in the books.
To make things worse, the Eagles went into January with QB Nick Foles starting, and overcoming adversity and doubters, won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Although it was Foles and not Wentz the one who played Philadelphia's postseason, the former second overall pick is one of the main reasons for the team's success.
His sophomore year was way better than Dak's.
But as impressive as Wentz's year was, the rivalry between the two signal-callers is just beginning. There is still a lot of history to write in this duel of two young and hard-working players. Two leader of men in one of the most intense rivalries in the NFL.
Through two years of football, here's how their numbers look like:
Wentz: 29 games, 1,047 attempts, 644 completions (61.5%), 7,078 yards, 49 TDs, 2 rushing TDs
Prescott: 32 games, 949 attempts, 619 completions (65.2%), 6,991 yards, 45 TDs, 12 rushing TDs
There's not a ton of difference between their numbers, but in the NFL, it's about more than stats. Prescott had the better 2016, Wentz the better 2017.
Dak and Carson have really only played two match-ups in their two years playing in the league. Sitting at an even 1-1 record, 2018 will feature two great games between both of their teams. The defending Super Bowl Champions against the underestimated Dallas Cowboys.
The sport is about winning games and championships, but rivalries like this one make the NFL even more special. Even with Wentz being the MVP front-runner for most of last season, Dak Prescott still has a lot of time to turn things around.
If both turn out to be as successful and important as their franchise wish them to be, then this rivalry will be around for a lot of years.
If Reinstated, Is Randy Gregory A Lock for Cowboys 53-Man Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys will enter training camp in Oxnard with arguably their deepest and most talented defensive line in years. Cowboys Nation continues to hope for the best possible news on suspended Defensive End Randy Gregory, to potentially take this defensive front to the next level. Should Gregory be reinstated, the Cowboys would have another option at right defensive end. This is a position they've bolstered with the signing of Kony Ealy and drafting of Dorance Armstrong, both moves coming behind would-be starter Tyrone Crawford.
This logjam at DE begs the question, amidst optimism for Gregory's situation, is the 2015 second round pick even a lock to make this roster?
Who Does Randy Gregory Need to Outplay?
Going through some form of the Cowboys depth chart at Gregory's position above does little to sort out how Gregory can justify a starting position. Having true starters on the defensive line is not DC Rod Marinelli's way, meaning a possible rotation of Crawford, Gregory, and Armstrong could coexist.
Even with insufficient depth at defensive tackle, the Cowboys seem committed to keeping Crawford on the edge. As he's done with each position change within the Cowboys defense, Crawford is slowly developing into a respectable right end that's great against the run.
This sounds like just the type of player to compliment a speedy rusher like Gregory, but Randy won't be alone in this role should he return to the team. Along with FA addition Kony Ealy, the Cowboys will look to bring Charles Tapper back from an offseason concussion, and also have second-year rusher Taco Charlton in need of a true position.
It's fair to say that Gregory has been anything but reliable since the Cowboys took a gamble on him, but turning his life around to see out this reinstatement would go a long way in beating out the often-injured Tapper.
Given Ealy's ability to play both on the edge and inside, at his best if receiving limited snaps, I believe that Gregory will only have to surpass Tapper in reaching a favorable spot on the Cowboys depth chart at DE.
Comparing Randy Gregory and Dorance Armstrong
Of course, making the roster and making an impact on defense are two vastly different realities for Gregory in 2018. Another player that could stunt his opportunities to hunt down quarterbacks is rookie fourth round pick Dorance Armstrong.
The Cowboys would love to see Armstrong begin his career with a strong showing in Oxnard, owning all of the traits needed to be an effective right end at the next level.
Lacking the true cornering speed that Gregory has flashed in short spurts, Armstrong did produce a ten sack season for Kansas in 2016. This production matches the traits that kept Armstrong a priority for the Cowboys at the draft, despite only seeing him get home 1.5 times in 2017.
Rewind to last year's draft, and the Cowboys spent their first round pick on a defensive end they looked to make a right end, all while knowing his ideal spot is at LDE. This makes the difference between drafting Charlton and Armstrong an important one, as the Cowboys are clearly searching for high-value options to complete their pass rush.
Again, assuming Tapper becomes the odd man out in the Cowboys carrying Gregory, Ealy, and Armstrong as right ends, the work is cut out for Gregory to regain the trust of his coaches and bring what only he can to this defense.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
It goes without saying that Randy Gregory will carry plenty of attention with him if present in Oxnard. This is a player capable of transforming a young Cowboys defense into one of the league's most feared.
While the Cowboys would do well to quickly sort out who plays the 3T-DT position alongside DeMarcus Lawrence, and the 1T inside for that matter too, sticking Gregory on the opposite edge could be the easiest decision they make to see immediate improvements in their pass rush.
Should Ealy or Armstrong have more to say about this lineup for the Cowboys defensive line, the depth of this unit will live up to the hype.
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