Oct 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) lays on the field injured as trainers, doctors and head coach Jason Garrett check on him in the this quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
As the Dallas Cowboys have nipped across the pond this week for a road game in jolly old England, it’s fitting to paraphrase the master bard in assessing quarterback Tony Romo’s availability: To start, or not to start? That is the question.
William Shakespeare’s Danish hero was a famous waffler, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no qualms with making a call and living with it. On Thursday, he told reporters:
"“I’m anticipating (Romo) playing. I have no reason to think that he won’t. Anytime he can play, we want him to play. We’re a better team, to be trite, with him playing. There’s no such thing as holding him out and foregoing the potential chance that we win.”"
Jones makes a strong case to start Romo: The Cowboys are just a whole lot better when he’s in the lineup. Arguably, with a healthy Romo, the Cowboys are 7-2 and feeling good coming off a home win this week. A healthy Romo exploits the Arizona Cardinals’ man coverage last week and forces the defense to pull men out of the box, allowing running back DeMarco Murray to pound those birds into dust.
Everything the Cowboys have been doing successfully all year depends on everyone doing their jobs. With the quarterback out last week, the trickle-down effect hurt everyone’s execution: The offense couldn’t run effectively on first and second downs, which led to third-and-longs, which led to poor third down efficiency, which led to stalled drive after stalled drive.
The irony is the past three years this team couldn’t win without Tony Romo putting them on his back, and just when they get to the point where they don’t need Romo to carry them, he breaks his back. Literally.
The offense’s failures led to the defense being on the field more, which led to a season-high nine third down conversions, which led to a perfectly disastrous four-for-four red zone TD rate, which led to an insurmountable 28 points.
All because backup quarterback Brandon Weeden couldn’t see the open receivers and couldn’t hit the covered ones. So I get the argument to start Romo this Sunday against Jacksonville, but it still seems extremely short-sighted. I come down on the side of not starting Romo for three reasons:
A month off between starts can only benefit Romo’s health.
It’s not exactly a month, but it’s close. There are 27 days between the Monday night game against the Washington Redskins in which Romo broke his back, and the November 23rd Sunday night game in New Jersey against the Giants that follows next week’s bye. Romo is as tough as any player in the league. He is also 34 years old. Human biology is what it is. You turn 30, you take longer to heal.
I don’t know how bad Romo hurts. I don’t know how serious the injury is. I’m not privy to how it’s healing. Maybe he feels great and there’s no real danger of him making the injury worse, assuming he doesn’t take the wrong kind of hit.
I don’t think that matters. For all the nuances regarding Romo’s injury and recovery that I don’t know, I can still say this for certain: NFL football is a violent game, and it is better for Romo’s health to sit this one out.