The Dallas Cowboys made a tough decision this past week, opting to keep rookie quarterback sensation Dak Prescott as their starter over 13-year veteran and four-time pro-bowler Tony Romo. Set back by a preseason severe back injury, Romo sat on the sidelines as the Cowboys handed over the offense to Prescott, a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State in the 2016 NFL Draft. Prescott has flourished, leading the team to an impressive 8-1 record and one of the best starts to the season in their franchise history. General Manager and Team Owner, Jerry Jones, now has to consider whether to move on from the Romo era and either trade or release the once-beloved quarterback.
With Dak Prescott’s surprising play; Tony Romo now finds himself as the backup and could be looking at a new home for the 2017 season (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jones commented that “Dak has got a hot hand, and we’re going to go with it.” Prescott will remain the starting QB, meaning that Romo will serve as the team’s backup. Romo, too, feels the impending changes in his future that lie ahead. In a press conference this past week, the Cowboys all-time leader in passing yards was emotional, stating that,
“He has earned the right to be our quarterback. As hard as that is for me to say, he’s earned that right. He has guided our team to an 8-1 record and that’s hard to do. If you think for a second I don’t want to be out there, then you probably never felt the pure ecstasy of competing and winning. “I think you all know something magical is happening to our team. I’m not going to allow this situation to negatively affect Dak or this football team by becoming a constant distraction. I think Dak knows that I have his back and I think I know that he has mine. Ultimately, it’s about the team. It’s a dark place. Probably the darkest it’s ever been, you’re sad and down and out. And you ask yourself why did this have to happen?”
This news comes in a Shakespearean-like manner. Romo played his best football in 2014, leading the team to an NFC East title, only to lose to Green Bay in the Divisional Round of the postseason. Then, with the hopes and expectations of being Super Bowl contenders, he injured his collarbone in September 2015. Romo returned that Thanksgiving Day, only to re-injure his collarbone, which ended his season. This season, Romo was again primed to lead Dallas to a deep run with a vaunted offensive line and running attack, but received a nasty hit, which wrenched his lower back, resulting in a compression fracture.
Fans of the Cowboys have had a love-hate relationship with Romo since day one. The undrafted quarterback out of Eastern Illinois waited patiently under an aging Drew Bledsoe, during the tenure of Bill Parcells. However, in October 2006 he got his chance, in relief, against the New York Giants. That season he led the Cowboys to a 9-7 record and a postseason berth, but lost in dramatic fashion, something which defined Romo throughout his career.
He’d then take the Cowboys back to the postseason, with sidekick Terrell Owens, leading the team to an NFC best 13-3 record and home-field advantage. Once again, however, the team lost, in heartbreaking fashion, to the New York Giants 21-17. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2009 season that Romo finally got his Cowboy team a postseason victory, throttling the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14 in a Wild Card game.
Romo will likely leave Dallas following the 2016 season, and maybe with that elusive championship he’s always strived for and, perhaps unfairly, been held to by Cowboy fans. However, if he departs Dallas he will leave as the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (34,154) and touchdowns (247). Fans will not forget his grit, toughness and pro bowl play during years where he had little support from his defense. That is likely why Jerry Jones gave Romo a six-year contract worth $108 million in 2013, which, at the time, was the one of highest in the league.
Tony Romo is 80-53 as a starting quarterback; but it became official this week that rookie Dak Prescott will be the Cowboys new starting quarterback (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Nevertheless, that money and those days in a Cowboy uniform are numbered, even if he spends time spelling Prescott for an injury. The Cowboys could save $14 million in cap space if they release Romo after the season.
So where would someone like Tony Romo fit in best? There are several suitable candidates, but the front runners for the 36-year-old quarterback have to be the Broncos, Jets and Chicago. Let’s examine these possible options along with a few other potential suitors.
With two young and unproven quarterbacks in Trevor Semien and top 2016 draft pick Paxton Lynch, the Broncos could yield significant benefits from signing Romo. Semien has played well, but the team has also not asked much of him. The Broncos have a solid defense, ranking 12th overall, fourth against the pass and fourth in takeaways. This pairing with Romo, and former backup QB now head coach Gary Kubiak, could be a great way to close out Romo’s career, and the best possibility to win that elusive Super Bowl Championship. It’s certainly worthwhile for General Manager John Elway to revisit this idea and help stabilize the position.
New York Jets
The Jets are currently a mess at the quarterback position with their opening day starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed a big contract worth $12 million in the off-season, being benched in October due to his poor play. They’ve also seen underwhelming Geno Smith get some time and they have two young quarterbacks behind him, with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, who aren’t likely to see much of the field. The Jets have drafted a quarterback three of the last four years, with none of them panning out quite as they expected. Although the Jets rank 22nd in team defense this season, under Todd Bowles, it’s likely they’ll right the ship. A balanced attack of run and pass, including star receiver Brandon Marshall, coupled with a reliable defense, could make the Jets a front runner to sign Romo.
The Monsters of the Midway need a quarterback to fill the void that will come once the team releases Jay Cutler, the league’s highest paid player making $17 million in 2016. The Bears would likely draft a quarterback but could bring Romo back to Illinois, where he spent his college football career playing for Eastern Illinois. The team also has talent at the skill position, along with premiere receivers wide out Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller at tight end. The Bears’ offense also has a decent backfield by committee with Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey and Jordan Howard. Head coach John Fox paired well with veteran quarterback and aging star Peyton Manning in Denver for two seasons, helping lead the team to a Super Bowl, so he surely knows how to treat a veteran like Romo.
Los Angeles Rams
Head coach Jeff Fisher has stockpiled draft picks and loaded up on defensive talent over the course of his tenure with the Rams. However, he’s never had a consistent quarterback behind center to help manage and push his offense over the hump. The Rams did draft Jared Goff in 2016; however he is just now making his first start of the season and some worry about his durability, with his size and strength. If the team were to pursue Romo, they’d have a veteran quarterback that Goff could study and learn from. Coupled with that, the Rams fans would get the star they so desire, increasing support and attendance as they open up their new stadium. Also, Romo would certainly be an upgrade from Case Keenum and could lead the team to their first playoff appearance in over 12 years.
San Francisco 49ers
This is the most unlikely scenario, but don’t discount a surprise move by general manager Trent Baalke and owner Jed York. The 49ers are clearly in a rebuilding mode, barely piecing together their team each week due to a combination of injuries and youth. However they could use a battle-tested quarterback to help bridge the gap as they groom whomever they draft, whether it be DeShaun Watson or DeShone Kizer. Romo also could help draw support and fans back into Levi’s Stadium. Chip Kelly did do well at times with Sam Bradford, a traditional dropback passer like Romo, and would enjoy a more accurate and precise passer not presently seen in Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert. The team also has the second highest amount of cap space so money certainly would not be an issue.
Simon Ogus is the COO of SportTechie.com. He can be followed at @SportTechie and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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