It was supposed to be just another Monday night in October. I walked into Texas Stadium and said the usual prayer: That Drew Bledsoe will bring the Cowboys a much needed win against the hated Giants. With the Big Tuna, Jason Witten, and T.O. on the good guys’ side, a win was likely. But the first half doesn’t go as planned and the Cowboys trail the Giants 12-7. Little did anyone know the second half of this Monday Night Football game would be the beginning of a ten-year roller coaster ride for Cowboy Nation. It was October 23, 2006 – the night the Romo era began. Cowboys fans remember like it was yesterday, seeing the number 9 jersey trot onto the field to start the second half. The excitement of a new beginning – this was THE guy, OUR guy. It wasn’t just Romo waiting patiently for this moment, the fans had been waiting too. His first pass was picked off and the Cowboys ultimately lost the game, but the Cowboys found a winner that night. He led the team to 5 wins over the next 6 games and a playoff berth. He also made the Pro Bowl and Cowboy Nation never looked back. A decade later, history may be repeating itself.
Romo has washed away many of the sins of Jerry Jones and the front office over the past decade. But is that enough for Jerry to keep Romo in Dallas? Mr. Jones said it best after a few Johnnie Walkers, “Romo was a miracle”. But couldn’t the same be said for Dak Prescott? The football gods must have been smiling down on Jerry again when Dak was still available midway through the 4th round in the 2016 draft. Every scouting department in the NFL probably wants a mulligan after Dak was selected 135th overall, but as they say – hindsight is 20/20. Dak is much more than any Cowboys fan had hoped for when they drafted him. He has not only proved to be a legitimate NFL quarterback, but possibly a franchise quarterback for the next decade or longer. After Dak’s fast start, the Cowboys may not want to stunt his growth for a fragile, aging Romo. If they ultimately choose Dak to finish out the season, wouldn’t it be similar to Romo’s promotion a decade ago? The Cowboys would be in contention to win the East, but would likely end up settling for a Wildcard berth. There is nothing wrong with this scenario for a rookie quarterback, but is it enough this time around?
There is also the argument for Romo to retain his starting job when he is healthy. If the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’, why pass on a top-tier quarterback like Romo when he could lead an offense with all of its’ pieces still intact? The Cowboys offense boasts the best O-Line in football, a Hall of Fame tight end, an All-Pro receiver, and arguably the best running back combo in the league. Who wouldn’t want a quarterback with the second highest quarterback rating in NFL history? If there is a fifty percent chance he could stay healthy for the rest of the year, it’s worth the risk of potentially stunting Dak’s growth as a quarterback (if that’s even a real concern). Who gives the Cowboys the best chance to win TODAY? The short answer is, Tony, and the gap is larger than most people would think. Many have forgotten that Romo is 15-4 (.789) in his last 19 regular season starts. When he’s healthy, the Cowboys are very hard to beat. Dak’s not going anywhere, and there isn’t a Cowboy fan out there that disagrees that he should be given the reins once Romo is done. If Romo gives the team a better chance to win, benching him when he’s ready will limit the Cowboys’ potential.
If the Cowboys decide to stay with Dak for the remainder of the season, there is no reason to keep Romo around. He would be a huge distraction, not only for Dak, but for the entire team. Romo makes no sense as an insurance policy, because the Cowboys have already passed on a legitimate run at the playoffs if they decide to bench him. Teams are always looking for a good quarterback, and would likely give up substantial draft picks to get Romo. The Cowboys could certainty benefit from a few extra draft picks to fill the holes on the defensive side of the ball. The last time the Cowboys got a ‘few’ extra draft picks from trading a high powered offensive talent, it translated into a dynasty that brought three Lombardi trophies to Valley Ranch. It may not be on par with The Great Trade Robbery, but ‘The Star’ is up and running and waiting for some new trophies to fill the halls.
The debate is not who should start for the Cowboys, but rather, when do the Cowboys want to make a serious push in the postseason? The answer should be “Now”. So look for number 9 to trot back on the field once again this year. But the question now becomes, for how long?