IRVING, Texas (AP) – While Jerry Jones is disappointed the Dallas Cowboys are going to their backup quarterback, he won’t get any complaints from Terrell Owens.

T.O. said Thursday he already feels better chemistry with Tony Romo than he ever did with deposed starter Drew Bledsoe. Owens even had an example, pointing out his 8-yard touchdown catch against New York Giants on Monday night.

“I looked across the formation and he looked at me and he knew what was going on,” Owens said. “It’s just two players making a play.”

Did he and Bledsoe ever develop that bond?

“I honestly tried to do that time and time again,” he said. “But for whatever reason it didn’t happen.”

What happened with Bledsoe were turnovers, far too many for coach Bill Parcells to tolerate. So he switched to the unproven Romo at halftime against the Giants, then on Wednesday announced that Romo would keep the job when Dallas (3-3) plays at Carolina on Sunday night.

Jones hinted Tuesday he wanted to stick with the veteran. He explained Thursday that he actually was clinging to his preseason belief that Bledsoe would lead Dallas to the playoffs.

“I’m disappointed at the reason we’re having to make this change,” Jones said.

The QB switch has forced Jones to lower his expectations for this season. He’s no longer convinced this team could be “special,” the code word he and Parcells used this summer instead of saying they expected a deep playoff run.

“I have to be a realist,” Jones said. “I hadn’t thought or hoped that we’d be sitting here after the sixth game making these adjustments. … I did not want to this year go to an inexperienced quarterback. I wanted to have the benefit of Drew Bledsoe. It hasn’t worked out as of today. It just hasn’t worked out. That to me is a step back.”

Romo is in his fourth year with the Cowboys, but had never thrown a pass until two games ago. In his relief appearance Monday night, the former Division I-AA player of the year was 14-of-25 for 227 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a 2-point conversion. He also threw three interceptions.

Interceptions were Bledsoe’s undoing. He had three in each of Dallas’ first two losses, then a costly one against New York on what became his final pass.

Parcells wasn’t the only one on the Cowboys sideline disgusted by that play. Teammates were frustrated by the same old, same old, too.

It hadn’t gotten to the point that players were lobbying for a change, but linebacker Bradie James said it was being discussed.

How strong was the support for Romo?

“I don’t know if it was sizzling,” he said. “It might’ve been lukewarm.”

James said everyone is rallying around Romo “because that’s who we need to believe in.”

“It’d be that way if it was Matt Baker,” said James, referring to the team’s practice squad QB. “We’re going to roll with Romo and get it going. This is the guy. He’s the golden child right now.”

Romo has been getting ready for a long time, having sat by while Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson and Bledsoe all got their chances.

The organization liked his potential enough that he received a second contract extension, and a $2 million bonus, in the preseason, locking him up through 2007. Yet he was never trusted enough to throw the ball until recently.

“I saw him coming along. I saw things I liked in the player,” Parcells said. “Now it’s time. I guess I was ready now.”

Parcells said he’s not nervous about starting Romo. He said the better description is “anxious to see what is going to happen.”

Confidence is not an issue with Romo. Neither is mobility, Bledsoe’s biggest weakness. Romo also has a quicker release, all of which should lead to fewer sacks – and, as Owens hopes, more hookups to No. 81 on broken plays.

“Once he gets outside that pocket, he can make some things happen,” Owens said. “He has some coaches who will be in his ear to just get the ball to the playmakers and everything will work out well.”

The knocks on Romo are his lack of experience, obviously, as well average arm strength and a tendency to make what Parcells calls “impulse” throws.

But now Romo may have a chance to get comfortable. Each game will be an audition to see if he deserves to start the next one, and at the end of the season the Cowboys will have a better idea if he’s their quarterback of the future. He’s already set to become the ninth starter since Troy Aikman.

“I think Bill’s expectations are for us to go 10-0. That would be ideal,” Romo said. “You are going to lose in this league. That’s going to happen. You just have to make sure you take it week by week and get yourself ready to go every week for a new challenge.”

Jones has taken pride in “consciously tried not to go to the top of the draft to get a quarterback.” However, he acknowledged Thursday that he might have to change that philosophy if things don’t pan out with Romo.

“Part of the responsibility I have is how you address the long term situation at quarterback,” said Jones, who also is the team’s general manager. “My mind-set would be to say, positively, it’s going to work. … In my mind, we’re going to see a player that makes some plays, makes some things happen.”

AP-ES-10-26-06 1913EDT


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