VALLEY RANCH -- It was apparent during the Cowboys draft weekend: Quarterback Tony Romo was top-of-mind.
"We felt like we could get an extra half-a-second for Tony," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of the pick of offensive lineman Travis Frederick in the first round.
"Romo called and said, 'Thank you for my extra half-a-second,'" Jones continued, almost giddy. "That is going to mean more to us than anything I could say."
The Cowboys' top three draft picks were all offensive players.
"We got better. Romo got better," Jones said. "We're going to see a better Romo, if things are what we think they are with Frederick."
The draft was certainly Romo-friendly, although Jones offered this joke about the $108-million deal his signal caller signed this off season: "I'm getting soft on Romo," he said with a wink. "I want my money back; I want my money back," said Jones, feigning a whine.
While he can't get any of the $55-million guaranteed in the deal back, Jones is seemingly hell-bent on maximizing the return on his investment.
"They feel like they're doing whatever it is that Jerry has in mind to make it more Romo-friendly," said Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw. "Build around Romo, use his talents."
The Cowboys' second-round pick, tight end Gavin Escobar, could give the offense a different look -- more like the two-tight end sets we see from Tom Brady and the Patriots.
"We've thrown the ball the last six years since Tony's been our starting quarterback," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. "You know, we've done it with a lot of different players around him and its been consistent."
The Cowboys also consulted with Romo on their draft picks, and the owner said he expects Romo to put in Peyton Manning-type hours at the facility.
That comment drew instant criticism.
"It sounds to people around the country like Romo hasn't been working hard enough," said 1310 The Ticket radio host Norm Hitzges. "I don't know why you do that, because it smacks of throwing him under a bus that you didn't have to do."
The Cowboys are mentioning Romo with elite company like Manning and Brady. Now, the quarterback has to hold up his end of the deal.
That means he can't learn the lesson after getting burned on the stove again. Romo has to show his gunslinger mentality has evolved.
A quick look back shows Romo's issues in that area.
He assured fans he would improve back in 2009, when he threw three interceptions in a loss to the Giants. He rebounded by throwing just four interceptions over the next 12 weeks.
Last season, the turnover bug bit again. After throwing 10 interceptions over a four-week span, Romo answered the critics by throwing 17 touchdowns and just three picks over an eight weeks. However, he finished the season with three costly interceptions against Washington, and tied for the NFL lead with 19 interceptions on the year.
"The bottom line is, Romo's got to be better with the football," Hitzges said. "Now, it would help if you weren't being chased all over God's green earth a lot of Sunday's, but that's part of the position. Romo's got to be better with the ball."
Meanwhile, Jones contends his best bet is relying on Romo.
"If we can get Tony in a position to have the kind of support in the running game, or if we can get him to have some options to have a little more time," Jones said, "he sees so well down field, if he could hold that ball and see those guys get open, it's one of his best skills."
Jerry's motto seemingly is 'in Romo we trust.'
So, should Cowboy fans follow suit?
It looks as though they don't have a choice. And now, it's up to Romo to make the right ones.