By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts ice man
The Cold, Hard Football Facts address the iciest issues of the divisional playoffs with all the emotion of a Holmgren Way lamppost.
Icy Issue: Which coach is in most desperate need of a victory this weekend?
Icier Response: No doubt, it's San Diego's Norv Turner
Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren have championship rings on their fingers that will cushion any loss this week. Jack Del Rio and Mike McCarthy are playing with house money: their teams have already fulfilled or surpassed preseason expectations. Wade Phillips's Cowboys have improved dramatically from the 9-7 team handed him by the legend Bill Parcells last year. And Tom Coughlin has already carried his Giants about as far as most people expected them to go this season, with a toe-to-toe battle against the mighty Patriots and a wild-card round victory over Tampa adding an air of "success" to the season.
But Turner, with a loss to Indy Sunday, will have taken a team that went 14-2 and lost in the divisional round in 2006 and turned it into a team that went 11-5 and lost in the divisional round in 2007.
Not exactly upward mobility.
Turner will have done nothing to justify the San Diego organization's controversial (some would argue foolish) decision to fire coach Marty Schottenheimer last year.
Plus, Turner might want to look over his shoulder aftter the game. The Chargers showed no hesitation last year to fire a coach with a record of 200-126-1 (.613) after he lost in the divisional round.
Turner will have lost in the divisional round with a career record of 69-87-1 (.443) and will be leading a team heading in the wrong direction.
Icy Issue: Which QB is under the most pressure to win this weekend?
Icier Response: Easy. It's Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
The NFL is a simple game at the end of the day: If your quarterback plays better than the other team's quarterback, you're probably going to win. And if your passer has a poor game, your team is toast.
No quarterback will feel the heat more than Romo.
His bye-week jaunt to Mexico with galpal Jessica Simpson will have no effect on the Giants-Cowboys game this weekend. But it will certainly add fuel to the critics' fire if the Cowboys lose. Especially considering that – for all the attention he's received – Romo has accomplished squat in the NFL.
Sure, he's put up some nifty numbers, including a 96.5 passer rating through 26 NFL starts, and a 19-7 (.731) regular-season record as a starter that's third in the NFL behind only Tom Brady (86-24; .782) and Phillip Rivers (25-7; .781).
But he's proven nothing. His lone playoff game last year ended in disaster as Romo, then the kick holder, botched a last-minute field goal snap that handed Seattle a 1-point victory in the wildcard round. And his amazing 2007 season has fizzled at the end.
Since throwing 4 TDs in a marquee 37-27 win over Dallas in November, Romo's thrown just three TDs, against five picks, in three and a half games of work. And the lone victories over the final four games were a one-point win over down-and-out Detroit and a seven-point victory against a Panthers team with more holes in it than a Roger Clemens alibi.
It's quite simple for Romo now: play well, win and move on to the NFC title game. Play poorly and you might start hearing about the flashy QB who "can't win the big game."