Make no mistake about it: The Dallas Cowboys should rest every starter possible in the regular season finale against the Redskins in Washington.
The argument that Dallas needs to keep up its momentum as the playoffs near might sound good, but it’s just not the reality.
This obviously not the kind of team that head coach Jason Garrett briefly referred to earlier this week when discussing this week’s strategy. Sure, it’s a young team that’s making its first playoff appearance in five years, the first appearance ever for a number of players on the roster in fact.
Of all six Pro Bowl selections, only the captain of this offensive ship, as surprising as it may sound, has ever ventured into the postseason before, quarterback Tony Romo.
Since this 2014 party begins and ends with the offense, do we really need to think too hard about whether or not Romo, bad back and all, should be on the field Sunday in the nation’s Capitol?
I suspect that Garrett gets it, despite his rather vague suggestion that his team will go all out for victory against the Redskins.
Owner and general manger Jerry Jones, however, has different concerns in addition to his team’s success in the postseason. Jones eluded to a bigger, less important picture as captured by David Moore of the Dallas Morning News when discussing the effort to be displayed in the regular season finale:
"“I feel strongly about going all out against the Redskins. There are several reasons, but number one, I think there’s a bigger concern about losing your edge than there is about some of those other issues that are involved.”"
Well, the momentum thing is somewhat valid, but when you’ve got the offensive line and offensive skill position players the Cowboys have, it doesn’t hold too much water. The several other reasons weren’t clarified to my knowledge, but I would bet that those pertain to cosmetic objectives such as television ratings, statistical accomplishments and so forth.
Honestly, I don’t expect for Jones or Garrett to come out and state that the team is leaping backwards in time to a mid-August approach to this game. That would be too honest, really.
The truth is that Romo, for starters, needs nothing to do with football against Washington. The odds of the Cowboys improving their postseason positioning are ludicrously low. When a tie needs to happen for you to earn a week off before the playoffs begin, go ahead and forget about that.
It would seem that the odds of your MVP-caliber quarterback getting injured, especially in this case, are significantly higher, right?
All we have to do is go back a couple of months to October and you can see exactly what can happen on a given night. Romo ended up getting an already sensitive back injured further the first time these two teams met at Jerry Town. The Cowboys lost the following week to the Arizona Cardinals in a game that Romo missed and that loss still impacts Dallas’ postseason standing as we speak.
What would one more victory in the standings mean for the Cowboys right now?
Well, we’re talking about home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs with a win Sunday, that’s all.
Romo’s back is nothing to ‘play with’ at this point of the season. He hardly practices in the first place, so the idea of lining him up against a pathetic team from Washington that has positively nothing to lose is beyond ridiculous.
You think Murray, with his steady history of injuries throughout his brief career, needs to pass Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith’s franchise single-season rushing record?
Multiple offensive linemen are banged up, which includes right tackle Doug Free and Pro Bowl right tackle Zach Martin, a rookie.
Simply put, Week 17 needs to essentially be the Cowboys first round bye – they just aren’t going to get it any other way. It’s not like Dallas hasn’t been under ‘playoff pressure’ for the entire month of December anyway. This team deserves all the rest it can get before embarking on a postseason journey that could potentially reach Super Bowl status.
America’s Team has an offense that can win anywhere, period. This doesn’t mean that they will, but we do know they certainly can.
It’s not like the Cowboys will have any idea what’s really at stake next weekend either. They play early while any other meaningful NFC games will take place during the later time slot. If it was the other way around, and Dallas knew already that the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers had finished in a tie before kickoff against the ‘Skins, then things might be different.
It is what it is, and only a healthy offense is going to lead the Cowboys somewhere meaningful come January, period.
Risking anybody during a meaningless regular season finale just makes no sense at all – and can you really say with a straight face that backup quarterback Brandon Weeden couldn’t use some free reps as Romo’s understudy just before the playoffs?