How Romo was almost a Bronco

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Long before Tony Romo was a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, he was a rookie free agent who turned down twice as much money to sign with Denver.

Not even Broncos coach and fellow Eastern Illinois product Mike Shanahan could persuade Romo to go to Denver instead of Dallas in 2003.

"I tried to sign him very hard. I really liked him coming out of school," Shanahan said Wednesday. "We offered him $20,000 and (the Cowboys) offered him $10,000. To show you my recruiting ability (they) beat me. ... That really disappointed me at that time."

Shanahan finally had the chance "not too long ago" to ask Romo why he went to Dallas.

"He said, 'Coach, I thought I had a much better chance to make the team here than at your place,"' Shanahan said. "So he's a politician as well."

At the time Shanahan was trying to get Romo, the Broncos had just signed free agent Jake Plummer to a $40 million, seven-year deal and had Danny Kanell and Steve Beuerlein as the backup quarterbacks. The Cowboys had Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson.

"It's never been about money," Romo said. "It's just about playing the game and having fun doing it. This was just a good situation. Denver was, too. It really came down to Denver and Dallas. I think I made the right choice for right now."

Shanahan and Romo visited briefly Wednesday after the Broncos and Cowboys practiced together at the Valley Ranch facility, and will see plenty of each other this week.

"We were just catching up on football stuff, seeing what's going on," Romo said.

After two practices Wednesday in the sweltering heat, Denver and Dallas will work together in two more sessions Thursday. They then play a preseason game Saturday night at Texas Stadium.

Romo isn't the only Cowboys player that might have been on the other side this week.

When Terrell Owens was a free agent last year, the first team he visited was Denver -- not Dallas, which gave him a $25 million, three-year deal. T.O. even went to Shanahan's home.

"Yeah, there was an opportunity there. ... Denver was the first team that kind of stepped up to the plate to consider me being part of their organization," said Owens, adding he's not sure how close a deal ever came with Denver. "It was a good visit. I was very pleased with it."

Before Brad Johnson signed a three-year deal to be Romo's backup, he also visited and considered signing with Denver.

"I didn't feel like I could go wrong either way," Johnson said. "I've taken five or six visits the last couple of years. That one blew me away."

Plummer is gone from Denver. Rookie Jay Cutler took over as the Broncos starter with five games left after Plummer had struggled all last season.

Romo waited 3 1/2 seasons -- and for former coach Bill Parcells to try to squeeze more time out of aging quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe -- before he finally threw his first NFL pass in October.

"I try not to look back and say coulda, shoulda and woulda," Romo said. "There are times I thought in the four years before I started playing that if I had gone somewhere else, I maybe could have been on the field sooner. I think everything happens for a reason."

After replacing Bledsoe as the starter last season, Romo won five of his first six starts and beat eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis when the Colts were 9-0. But he finished 1-4 after botching the hold on a short go-ahead field goal attempt in a first-round playoff loss at Seattle.

Still, Romo was a Pro Bowler in his first half-season and led the NFC with a 65-percent completion percentage (220 of 337 passes).

"He's a football player. You can see it, the way he handles himself, the confidence level," Shanahan said. "He reads defenses extremely well, has a great sense of timing. He'll be a great quarterback for a lot of years."

Had Shanahan been able to persuade him four years ago, Romo might be starting for Denver now.

"It's good for us, I know that," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "I'd hate to be looking at him on the other side."


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