Nov 2, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys injured quarterback Tony Romo (9) talks to players on the bench during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
I know we want to impress the Londoners, but this isn’t even a conference game.
Much less a division game – it’s against an AFC opponent. In the grand scheme of things, this game means as little as a regular season NFL game can mean, in terms of tie breakers and impacting playoff placing. Why are the Cowboys considering rushing the return of the franchise quarterback against a 1-8 team in early November? Romo is barely two weeks removed from literally breaking his back.
Take the long view: After the buy, there are six games left – five of them within the conference and four of them within the division. How important is it for Romo to be healthy for this crucial stretch of games? The importance can’t be overstated. If Romo gets hurt battling the 1-8 Jaguars and misses any more games, then the opportunity the Cowboys have created for themselves with this brilliant start to 2014 is done. Over. We can all start talking about the 2015 draft.
Take the longer view: The Cowboys have more than $49 million in dead salary cap money, spread out over the next five years, betting on Romo’s continued health. Tony Romo is set to count more than $27 million against the cap in 2015. If he is cut for any reason, including a career-ending injury, he counts more than $37 million in dead money, likely spread out over 2015 and 2016.
Then not only do the Cowboys have to contemplate Life After Romo three years sooner than they thought they might, but his dead money will impact their ability to sign other talented players, both in free agency and their own draft picks completing rookie contracts. If that back gives out before Romo turns 37, it’s going to hurt this organization big time. You’re going to put the next three seasons on the line for a 1-8 non-conference opponent? Really?
The Dallas Cowboys are good enough to win this game without Romo.
I know an elite quarterback like Romo has far reaching impact on his team’s performance, but one of the most encouraging things about this Cowboys team is it can be competitive without Romo.
That hasn’t been true since 2010 – since head coach Jason Garrett began reshaping the organization’s culture and rebuilding its roster. 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.
But not this year. Exhibit A is last week’s loss to the Cardinals. The Cowboys didn’t need the dynamic playmaking Tony Romo to win last week. All they needed was someone competent who could find and hit an open receiver. That would have been enough to loosen up a defense that was routinely stacking eight and nine men in the box.
Murray, the league’s leading rusher, ran for 4.2 yards per carry against the ridiculously stacked fronts of the league’s leading rush defense. Moderately competent play from the quarterback position would have unstacked those fronts, and Murray would have run wild.
I think Weeden has a chance to be that guy against Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a very different team from the 7-1 Cardinals. Weeden doesn’t have to be a playmaker. He just has to be able to find and hit the open receiver once in a while. If he can do that, the rest of the team is good enough to put Weeden on their back, so Romo can rest his.