Cowboys, Tony Romo, and the writing on the wall

Aug 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and quarterback Tony Romo (9) talk during the pregame warmups against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and quarterback Tony Romo (9) talk during the pregame warmups against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Contrary to popular opinion, starters can lose their job to injury. It’ s about to happen to Tony Romo, and the Dallas Cowboys may be better off for it.

Bye weeks are hard on fans. They are especially inconvenient when your team is on a bona fide roll. The weekly installments of Dallas Cowboys football this season have a been a joy and revelation. The players, however, probably beg to differ. Having a week off to nurse themselves back to health and enjoy some personal time couldn’t have come at a better time.

The surprising aspect of the roll they are on just happens to be that they have done it without franchise quarterback Tony Romo. Even more stupefying is that they’ve also done it without Pro Bowl wideout Dez Bryant. Both were lost to injury for extended periods last season, and it was a recipe for disaster.

Longtime Romo haters–outside of and within the Cowboy fan base–finally got their wish. Romo backers finally got their own validation in return. If you’re a fan of Tony, the argument was always that the Cowboys were a four-win team without him. Well, the parade of clowns that filled in at quarterback proved it. The 4-12 record was the boozy, morning-after face staring at them in the mirror at the end of the campaign.

So when injury history repeated itself this year, it became easy to throw up the white flag. Expectations were low. Spoiled as we have been for most of our lives, long time Cowboys fans have become quite the jaded bunch in the last twenty years, present company included. Blame the general manager.

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Despite having some strong pieces in place like a killer offensive line and strength at the skill positions, the question always came back to quarterbacking. Rookie Dak Prescott was the great unknown. Yes, he was extremely poised and efficient in the preseason. What happens, though, when defenses start throwing exotic coverages and blitzes at the kid?

The NFL eats rookie quarterbacks for breakfast. It was much easier to be jaded and despondent. In today’s sports landscape. Optimism is for homers. Homers get kicked in the groin on social media. Everyone points and laughs.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the bye last week. The same punishing rushing attack that keyed 2014’s ascendance has been accompanied by stellar quarterbacking. Prescott’s performances have been nothing short of superb. The confidence and grasp of the playbook he displayed in the preseason has seamlessly carried to the regular season. To this point, the 5-1 record is not an aberration. It is not a fluke. The Cowboys’ formula for victory this year has thus far been consistent and repeatable.

Of course, this has led to a lot of debate on DFW sports radio, in sports bars, among groups of friends, you name it. Whose team is this once Tony Romo is ready to return?

While all the usual “This is Tony’s team” platitudes came from Prescott as he piled up win after win, the results cannot be ignored. This team has flourished under Dak. Taking him off the field when Romo is ready to return simply doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Now before the Team Romo camp pillories me for being a partisan hack for the Prescott side, something must be understood: No one is a more ardent Romo backer than me. I love Tony Romo. I have always been quick to remind anyone who hated on Tony of the litany of spares that bridged the gap between him and Troy Aikman. Romo provided so many “WOW!” moments over the course of his career. Haters were simply contrarian morons or sports idiots.

My two cents regarding this situation: The internal discussions have already taken place. Dak Prescott will be the starting quarterback once Romo is ready to return. Tony Romo has been informed of this decision and will handle it like the professional he always has been. Is he happy about it? Absolutely not. No competitor worth their salt wants to be informed that they lost their job because they got hurt. It’s just that the replacement has performed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. Ask Drew Bledsoe.

And for Romo–for lack of a better phrase–this sucks. He has given his heart and soul to this franchise. His efforts normally get this group to the cusp of mediocrity, but I say that with all the love in the world. If the general manager realized a premier offensive line was the ticket to success five years sooner, then who knows what the ceiling might have been?

The simple fact of the matter is that Tony Romo has literally been broken, lying supine on the colosseum floor in Jerry Jones’s quixotic quest to win a Super Bowl on his terms. It has never been fair, but Romo has asked nor given any quarter.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way, but the harsh reality is that this is a young man’s game. Dak Prescott is the future. Team chemistry cannot afford disruption. This is why Dak must remain the starter, and it absolutely kills me to say that.

Next: Tony Romo: How Tradeable is He Going Forward?

This isn’t to say that Tony Romo won’t factor into this team’s fortunes this year. Injuries happen. Dak may very well hit a wall and plateau, if not fall back altogether. An injury is a far likelier scenario, but there are ways Romo could see himself under center in a given game. We call these “First World Problems”, and if you’re a fan of this team, this is a problem we’ve never seen before. Stay tuned. Jerry’s three-ring circus is maddening, but it is never, ever dull.