Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) smiles prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

What If Tony Romo Retired Today?

Tony Romo has retired. It’s over. Done.

It turns out that The Dallas Cowboys did more than just lose a game on December 30th to The Washington Redskins. They lost their leader. Quarterback Tony Romo reinjuried his left clavicle — the same injury he had in 2010 against The New York Giants — in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ loss 28 – 18 at FedEx Field.

Initially, it appeared Romo would be out eight to ten weeks. But after having difficulty sleeping (he went through a similar experience in 2010), Romo and sources close to him were convinced a second look was necessary. That’s when Romo got the bad news. Doctors advised him to retire.

Tony Romo, who turns 33 in April, leaves the field with 25,737 passing yards, 177 touchdowns, and a rating of 95.6.

Compare Romo’s stats with these first rounders

• Ben Roethlisberger: 29,844 passing yards, 191 touchdowns, 92.7 rating (30 years old)

• Eli Manning: 31,527 passing yards, 211 touchdowns, 82.7 rating (32 years old)

• Philip Rivers: 27,891 passing yards, 189 touchdowns, 94.5 rating (31 years old)

Dec 16, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws in the pocket as center Ryan Cook (63) blocks against Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton (98) at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys signed Romo as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He played college ball at Eastern Illinois, where he caught the eye of Cowboy’s assistant Sean Payton (Now head coach of New Orleans Saints). But Payton wasn’t the only one after Romo.

Turns out, former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan also pursued Romo heavily. In the 2006 off-season, Sean Payton offered a third round draft pick for Romo. Jerry Jones refused (see, he did something right).

There are mixed feelings out there. Some fans are rejoicing this retirement. Some fans are curling in their closets in flat out tears.

I’m stuck in the middle.

Let me put this out there: Tony Romo is a hero. Yes, a hero. You see I think Tony Romo injected some real hope in people. Because like Tony Romo, if you worked your tail off and kept your head on straight, your opportunity to shine would come.

And for Tony Romo it did. It really did come.

Remember: He entered the league without anyone drafting him. Once he was finally signed as a Cowboy, he sat behind other quarterbacks (Vinny Testerverde, Quincy Carter, Drew Henson, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Bledsoe) until he got his chance. He even faced being cut.

Tony Romo’s story is as good as anyone else in this league. But not all heroes turn out to be legends. Tony Romo’s name will linger for awhile. And when he is remembered, he will be known for what he didn’t do or what he could have done.

That’s what hurts. That’s what he has to live with for the rest of his life. He will look in the mirror each morning knowing the fact he could have done more; that he could have done better.

But that chance is over.

Tony Romo will often be remembered for his last significant play: A completion to Rob Jackson. Oh, you don’t recognize that name? That’s because Rob Jackson is a linebacker for The Washington Redskins.

He’ll never get an opportunity to overwrite that interception. His one playoff win will grow stale. All of his accomplishments will be overlooked. The potential he once possessed will never come to fruition.

This comes at the worst time for The Cowboys, who must find a replacement with similar or better caliber and talent. Good luck.

I’m sorry, but second string Kyle Orton is not an answer. Although The Cowboys are uncertain who will take the helm, one thing for certain is that this team won’t be looking at another .500 season. This team will fall way short of that.

This window is closed and sealed shut. Forever.

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