Parcells ponders: Bledsoe or Romo?


Tuesday, October 24th 2006, 5:25 am
By: News On 6


IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Drew Bledsoe doesn't carry a clipboard, and he's not into playing big brother.

He's either a starter or one unhappy veteran.

That's just part of the dilemma Bill Parcells faces this week while deciding whether Bledsoe or Tony Romo should be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Bledsoe lost his grip on the job after throwing an interception shortly before halftime Monday night. With the Cowboys in position to score a go-ahead touchdown, Bledsoe instead made one of the bad decisions Parcells had warned could get him yanked.

So Bledsoe spent the second half seething, watching his backup not do much better.

In the first meaningful action of his four-year career, Romo was intercepted on his first play and twice more, including one returned 96 yards for a touchdown. Dallas (3-3) went from being down by five points when Romo took over to losing 36-22.

But Romo also showed he could be effective. He scrambled and completed 14 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and flashed more footwork running for a 2-point conversion. Fans certainly rallied behind him and teammates such as Terrell Owens seemed more energized, too.

That leaves Parcells mulling these options:

_ Does he go with Bledsoe, who needs more time than his offensive line often can provide and tends to make bad decisions, but knows what he's doing after 194 career starts?

_ Or does he go with Romo, who'd thrown only two passes until Monday night and immediately reminded everyone that he's going to have some growing pains?

Actually, it's not even that simple.

Parcells also has to weigh the upcoming schedule (beginning Sunday night in Carolina against NFL sack leader Julius Peppers, then two more road games), the team's playoff hopes and the long-term impact of either move.

Stick with Romo and Bledsoe could become a burden, or go with Bledsoe and he'd waste a chance to see whether Romo is the quarterback of the future. And what might the decision mean to Parcells' future in Dallas?

No wonder team owner Jerry Jones was happy to be in New Orleans on Tuesday, attending an owners meeting instead of dwelling over it all. Still, the quarterback question was fresh on his mind.

``I thought the best chance for us to be where we wanted to be, which was continuing in the playoffs, was to go with an experienced quarterback in Drew and I don't know that I've changed my mind,'' Jones said. ``But we've got to win games.

``There's no question Romo's got ability and he can mitigate some of the problems we have with Drew's mobility. It'll be a tough decision.''

Romo and Bledsoe both believe they deserve the same job, which already is generating friction.

Wearing a visor and a scowl, Bledsoe stood on the sideline the entire second half. He constantly tugged the collar of his jersey, almost as if he was ready to rip off his uniform, and didn't offer Romo a single word of advice.

``He's a competitor,'' Parcells said. ``He doesn't want to come out.''

It goes deeper than that, though.

Bledsoe left New England and Buffalo because he didn't want to be a mentor or an insurance policy. He's hinted that Dallas is his last stop and has indicated that if he's not starting, he'd rather be home playing with his kids.

Of course, what Bledsoe wants matters little to Parcells. All the coach wants is the QB who gives the Cowboys the best chance of winning.

That can still be Bledsoe, as evidenced by his six touchdown passes and one interception in Dallas' three victories. But those have all been against teams with losing records. Against playoff contenders Jacksonville, Philadelphia and the Giants, he has one TD and seven INTs.

Romo arrived in Dallas in 2003 and has outlasted Jones-picked quarterbacks Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson, mostly on ability but also with a mix of intangibles that Parcells admires. Jones believes in him, too, with a recent contract extension for next year serving as proof.

Mobility is Romo's biggest selling point. That could be more necessity than luxury considering the way the line played Monday night.

Romo also plays with a gunslinger mentality, which sometimes means throwing passes with an I'll-cram-it-in-there bravado. Experience could help team him when he can and can't. (For what it's worth: Bledsoe's never had a three-interception half for Dallas.)

``I definitely would have liked to have performed better,'' Romo said.

Then there's the Parcells factor.

Whether it's stubbornness, loyalty or both, Parcells rarely changes quarterbacks midseason. Cowboys fans learned that the hard way two years ago, when he stuck with 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde.

Things are different now. Romo is ready and the team is far more primed to challenge for a playoff berth. A miss would make it three straight years, a blow to Parcells' reputation.

Some answers will come Wednesday, when Parcells holds his next news conference. The real answer probably will have to wait until Sunday night.