Washington Redskins fans should root for perception and not reality Sunday night when their team faces the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field for the NFC East title.
The perception is that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a loser, a choke artist who will find a way for his team to lose in crucial games.
The perception is that the rookie quarterback for Washington, Robert Griffin III, is a winner, a player who will rise to the moment and find a way for his team to win in crucial games.
That must really gall Romo -- that a rookie quarterback who has won exactly eight NFL games is more highly regarded and respected than a veteran like himself.
That's what makes Sunday night a career-defining moment for Romo.
If the Cowboys lose, the loss likely will include at least one turnover or miscue by Romo. He is the focal point of the Dallas offense, more so than RGIII for the Redskins, and the success and failure of the Cowboys ride solely on his arm.
That is how it has been in the past, and too often the reality has been in sync with the perception.
Take, for instance, the January 2007 wild-card game loss against Seattle in which Romo fumbled the hold on a field goal attempt. That would have given Dallas the lead against the Seahawks with less than 90 seconds left. Forgotten is that he threw for almost 3,000 yards and had 19 touchdowns in 10 games despite starting the season as a backup.
In a January 2008 division playoff loss to the New York Giants, Romo threw an interception in the end zone with no timeouts and less than 30 seconds left in the game. That ended a season in which he threw for 36 touchdowns and more than 4,200 yards.
Then came the December 2008 debacle, the 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a game the Cowboys needed to make the playoffs. Romo committed three turnovers that day. In 13 starts that season, he threw for 26 touchdowns.
The following season featured Romo's only postseason victory, a 34-14 win over the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. But a week later against the Vikings, Romo lost two fumbles, threw an interception and was sacked six times in a 34-3 loss. That's what people remember -- not the win. All anyone does is ridicule his play under pressure.
Those moments get in the way of the fact that in reality Romo is a pretty good quarterback -- a three-time Pro Bowl selection with a career quarterback rating of 96.1, which places him fourth in NFL history. He is rewriting the Cowboys' record books; he holds the team marks for games with three or more touchdown passes (28), games with 300-plus yards passing (40) and career touchdown passes (175).
Yet in his 10th season, the 32-year-old Romo wants what the Redskins' 22-yard-old rookie quarterback already has after just 14 NFL starts -- respect.