Romo And The Equal-Rights NFL

Going into this game, locker-room chemistry simply must've been a challenge. Assume there are some pro-Bledsoe guys in the room, and some pro-Romo guys in the room. That's never good.

In case you were wondering, the answer to the unthinkable question is "Matt Baker.''

The Cowboys were reeling in every way after Monday night's debacle against the Giants. They have now rebounded in every way with Sunday night's nationally-televised 35-14 win at Carolina.

Consider this another lesson offered by this Equal-Rights NFL (where the Saints are good and the Steelers are bad), and mark me down again as a guy not pulling up "the hearses'' for Bill Parcells until his team registers its eighth loss.

At which time, however, Bill Parcells damn well better be in the way-back seat of the vehicle, if you know what I mean.

I'm not saying my faith hadn't been shaken by recent events. I must admit that the foundation was revealing a few of its cracks. But isn't it wonderful how 35 straight points, a sterling performance by a defense, a grinning-for-the-right-reasons Terrell Owens, a shiny new underdog QB and a gloomy coach who almost shattered his face with a rare smile, can alter a landslide?

For instance:

* Going into this game, locker-room chemistry simply must've been a challenge. Assume there are some pro-Bledsoe guys in the room, and some pro-Romo guys in the room. That's never good. Add those however-innocent factions to the already-existing factions that are part of usual territory -- groups broken up by income, by race, by position, by elements as basic as players' home states -- and it seems fair to suggest that there was a "combustibility'' here.

And now? Tony Romo's new best friend is T.O., who caught nine for 107. Romo's old best friend is road roomie Jason Witten, who caught Romo's TD throw. And everybody's new best friend is Bill Parcells, who celebrated the critical win by playing with Owens' cap, hugging everyone in silver and blue, even kissing Keith Davis right on the bullet hole.

* Speaking of the aforementioned chemistry concerns: And that's not even counting whatever pro-T.O./anti-T.O. stuff might exist. There's a line from Freud about the Irish quoted in the new Martin Scorsese movie, "The Departed,'' that goes something like, "This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever." I'm hearing people try to dissect Owens' fits of laughter after his dropped passes, his cartoonish grin during losses, his insistence on saying just the wrong thing at just the wrong time (and then pointing out, however correctly, that "I'm just being honest'') and I'm thinking Freud was wrong.

It is Terrell Owens for whom psychoanlysis is of no use whatsoever.

And now? Consider this quick psychological flip: A few weeks ago, Owens' girlfriend broke up with him and the next thing you know the cops are investigating a suicide attempt. Sunday night, the world learned that Romo's girlfriend had just broken up with him and the next thing you know Michaels and Madden are on NBC making fun of the fact and offering comical relationship counseling.

(Sidebar: At least we know the girl isn't a gold digger; I mean, shouldn't it be Drew Bledsoe who now can't get the women?)

* If the Cowboys are looking for an injection of young and exciting talent -- one of the justifications for elevating Romo, right? -- it'd be nice to get that injection from their fresh-faced draft class. Alas, Pat Watkins is the only rookie Cowboy who ever pops up on your TV screen. And you usually just see the back of him as he sees the bottom of receivers' shoes. Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Fasano, Jason Hatcher, Skyler Green, Montavious Stanley, Pat McQuistan, E.J. Whitley. ... we hardly know ye.

Coach famously wanted to "cook the meals'' and "buy the groceries.'' As it applies so far to these draftees, Coach might need to be demoted from "personal shopper'' and from "head chef'' and maybe he can just be the busboy?

And now? Hey, Fasano played, didn't he? And while kicker Mike Vanderjagt isn't young, he is damn sure exciting, right?

* We've got us a 3-4 defense that, in retrospect, might not be any more helpful in winning games than the 4-3. We've got unfounded rumors of a Parcells/Jerry Jones rift that are born largely of Coach's skills in the department of media manipulation. We've got a staff of assistant coaches who might deserve credit or might deserve blame but are instead shrouded in secrecy and obscurity (right down to their complicated fake-footballese titles) and are treated and looked at as if they are ants building a sand mound. Oh, except for Chris Palmer; everybody knows him now, because he was the underling assigned by Parcells to inform Bledsoe to grab him a hunk of bench.

And we've got a half-hour every day of live-broadcast brow-beating and condescension and bullying and non-answers and pretending not to hear and stories about how great his old Giants were and anecdotes about how much he likes baseball and boxing analogies.

And now? Well, we've gotten to know the coaching staff a bit; for instance, I hear Todd Haley doesn't like the new McRat Sandwich. And Coach Parcells appears to have exited the other end of a midlife crisis and is suddenly a "hugger.'' Geez, in one week the guy's gone from having all the cuddly warmth of Dick Cheney to having all the cuddly warmth of Dick Van Patten.

At this moment, I'm willing to believe that Drew Bledsoe will attempt to continue to be a friend to his replacement. I can envision Owens being an on-field savior, of Parcells fueling defensive dominance, of the O-line coming together, of an us-against-the-world mindset pushing Dallas to the playoffs. I can even envision some of Coach's rookie groceries ripening.

John Madden actually said Tony Romo "reminds me a lot of Joe Montana."

That's how quickly fate can be altered and landslides ceased in this Equal-Rights NFL. For the 4-3 Cowboys, the purring engines of those hearses have been silenced. And for now, the search for a QB savior is over, too.

So no need, right now, to Google the name of "Matt Baker.'' You know, the next QB on the Cowboys' depth chart.

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