His NFL career had humble beginnings. His story is not unlike that of another Cowboys’ QB: Ben DiNucci, the man who currently recently found himself under center in Big D. But how much do the two have in common? Quite a bit, actually.
Tony Romo’s ascent to greatness
Romo was undrafted out of Eastern Illinois. Far from a football hotbed, Romo ended up making the Cowboys roster for the notoriously hard-charging head coach Bill Parcells.
While Parcells was a tough, disciplinarian coach, he saw something in Romo before anyone else. When then-Dallas starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured in 2006, Parcells had the foresight to make the change.
He inserted Romo due to necessity at the time, but he never looked back. Romo played well enough to win the starting job. Bledsoe retired soon after, and Romo found himself the QB on America’s Team.
He had his fair share of detractors over the years. Romo never won a Super Bowl (or even a playoff game) and at times got more attention for his dating life than his play on the field. But Romo was a solid quarterback who played reliably good football for Dallas over the course of his long career.
Who is Ben DiNucci?
According to Pro Football Reference, DiNucci was the 230th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. DiNucci played at both the University of Pittsburgh and James Madison. Selecting him as late as they did, the Cowboys were likely thinking of stashing DiNucci on the bench as a possible backup.
After they put the franchise tag on Dak Prescott and signed former Cincinnati Bengals starter Andy Dalton as the backup, DiNucci likely didn’t expect to see the field. Weird things happen in the NFL, however, and he eventually found his way into a game against Washington.
He’d start the next week against Philadelphia, going 21 for 40 with 180 yards passing. He currently has an overall completion percentage of 53.5% — fairly bad in today’s NFL, when hitting the high 60s is considered the standard for top quarterbacks.
It wasn’t a lights-out performance by any stretch, but everyone has to start somewhere. It’s worth mentioning that in only two appearances so far, DiNucci has been sacked seven times. It’s impossible to judge a quarterback when his offensive line is allowing that kind of penetration into the backfield, particularly a young quarterback.
The similarities between Ben DiNucci and Tony Romo
WFAA reported on how the two cases of DiNucci and Romo seem to have many parallels. Consider the following:
- Both got their first start on Sunday Night Football; Romo against the Carolina Panthers, DiNucci against the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Both played for smaller college football programs: Romo at Eastern Illinois, DiNucci for James Madison.
- While DiNucci was drafted, unlike Romo, he barely made it. The Cowboys made him a seventh-round selection.
Does DiNucci have a chance at a career as long as Romo’s? It seems unlikely as DiNucci failed to grab the starting spot in the Cowboys next game against the Steelers. With Andy Dalton set to return soon, DiNucci’s brief time in the spotlight appears to be over.
If anything this is just a testament to how easily Romo could have faded into anonymity if he didn’t seize his chance to prove himself.