Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/16/12
Football is a rough sport, both literally and figuratively speaking, and no one knows this better than the Dallas Cowboys.

Since Tony Romo emerged as the franchize's starting quarterback in 2006, the Cowboys have been under more scrutiny than any other team in the NFL. This is partially due to the label of being "America's team," but the bigger issue is the fact that Dallas has not lived up to expectations in the postseason under Romo.

With that said, we now take a look at the most loved and hated players of the Cowboys and as a result of Dallas being an underachiever, it is only fitting to start this list with the team's most hated.

MOST HATED PLAYERS

1. Tony Romo, Quarterback

Romo is the single most hated player on Dallas for a few reasons— he went out with Jessica Simpson and was accused at times of having a cavalier attitude towards football, he has been known to choke late in games, and he has failed to lead the Cowboys deep in the playoffs.

While dating Simpson may not have been the best public relations decision, the acquisitions that Romo has not always tried his hardest are simply unjust.

The Eastern Illinois product has thrown for 20,834 yards, 149 touchdowns and completed 64.5 percent of his passes over his six-year career, including 2010, when an injury caused him to miss 10 games.

In addition, Romo has just 72 career interceptions and posts a regular season passer rating of 96.8, the second highest in NFL history behind only Aaron Rodgers.

Given that we are talking about the regular season, it is still important to give praise when praise is due. Dallas' quarterback has been a more productive passer (in terms of passer rating) throughout his career than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, and all-time greats, Steve Young and Kurt Warner.

Of course passer rating does not take into account interceptions at crucial moments, but nonetheless, it is fair to say that Romo has been a successful NFL quarterback.

Here enlies the problem, however, as fans and media of the Dallas Cowboys do not care about the regular season. For a team with five Super Bowl's and three out of four in the 1990s, the Lombardi Trophy is the only acceptable outcome for wearing the star on your helmet.

Unfortunately for Romo and company, they have not been able to reach that goal since Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmit Smith set the bar high 20 years ago.

A large reason why this goal has not been met is a result of Romo, in all fairness. Though his regular season numbers are among the best, the three-time Pro Bowler has a nack for playing his worst in the biggest moments.

In 2007, for example, the Cowboys were a 19-yard field goal away from winning a playoff game in Seattle before Romo botched the snap and was tackled on the one-yard line with a minute left in the game.

Then, in the 2010 divisional round against the Minnesota Vikings, Romo had two lost fumbles and an interception while the Cowboys were destroyed 34-3.

To top it off, Romo's career record in December and January is a disastrous 11-21, making it clear that his level of play drops drastically in crunch time.

On the other hand, football is a team game and there have been plently of times when the blame is dumped on the Cowboys' signal-caller even when it is not his fault. Also, since quarterbacks are often measured in terms of championships, Romo is only one behind Rodgers, Brees, and Peyton Manning.

If he can win a Super Bowl and get over his postseason curse, aside from a tremendous performance in the 2010 wild card round that gave Dallas their first playoff win in 13 years, Romo can establish himself has a top-five quarterback.

For now though, he is barely a top-10 quarterback and will continue to be loathed until he can recreate what Cowboys' fans are accostumed to.


2. Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver

Aside from Romo, Dallas' "star" receiver Dez Bryant is the second most despised player on the Cowboys as he continuously has off-the-field issues that become definite distractions.

Coaches and players are always raving about how much talent and potential he has, but that gets old after awhile. For an organization with Super Bowl aspirations, potential is not a word anyone wants to repeatedly hear.

Most recently, the third-year wideout made news for a domestic violence dispute involving his mother. These types of distractions are never okay, but they are especially harmful when the team is counting on a player to emerge as their No. 1 option.

Bryant and teammate Miles Austin form one of the better receiver tandems in the league, but a key part of being successful is determination and practice. It will be interesting to see how the Oklahoma State product bounces back after a much improved second season. Last year, he had 928 yards receiving and a solid nine touchdowns.

It is going to be difficult, however, for Bryant to boost those numbers up given the fact that he does play opposite of a Pro Bowler in Austin. Plus, Romo's favorite target has always been tight end Jason Witten.

Numbers are always important for a wide receiver, but for a team with "questionable" leadership throughout the locker room, Bryant's bigger job is to show up focused and help the team perform at a consistenly high level. If he can learn to do that, No. 88 will win over fans in Texas and across the country.


MOST LOVED PLAYERS

Though the Cowboys are known for generating negative attention, there are a couple of players on the roster who are praised and loved by fans and media.

1. Jason Witten, Tight End

As I alluded to earlier, Witten is Romo's No. 1 option and for good reason— the two are always on the same page and Witten is one of the best at finding holes in defenses, regardless of the fact that teams specifically game plan for him.

He also has some of the best hands in the league and has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark three times in his career, an outstanding accomplishment for a tight end.

Production aside, the Cowboys' security blanket is also one of the most genuine and nice players in the NFL. Every time Witten shows up for an interview he is candid and speaks highly of his teammates, even if no one else does.

Opposite of Bryant, he has never been in the news for anything other than football. Instead, the seven-time Pro Bowler sticks to his passion and is a nightmare for defensive coordinators.

Moreover, he carries a postive attitude that helps the confidence of other players (especially Romo) when they are not performning their best.

Cowboys' fans are lucky to have Witten and they realize that.


2. DeMarcus Ware, Outside Linebacker

The cream of the crop at outside linebacker in the NFL, it is hard not to love DeMarcus Ware. All the guy does is routinely beat double teams and sack the quarterback.

Last year alone, for example, Ware posted a remarkable 20.5 sacks and was voted by his peers as the sixth best player on NFL Networks' Top 100 Players of 2012.

Similar to Witten, Ware has always been popular and admired by fans and media. This is true even when the team is not performing well.

Also, when the defense for the Cowboys is not showing up you can bet your house that Ware is still bringing it. Over the last few years, he has been the only consistent defensive player for the Cowboys on a weekly basis.

That is why there is a general consesus of love for him.


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