Cowboys butterfly effect: What if Tony Romo never got hurt?

Dak Prescott #4 and Tony Romo #9, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott #4 and Tony Romo #9, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

“What is the butterfly effect?” some may ask. One could describe it as one minuscule action causing catastrophic consequences, others could say that a butterfly in Illinois flapping its wings could cause a hurricane off the coast of Florida, according to the American Scientist.

The Dallas Cowboys could be living in a very different world had quarterback Tony Romo’s career not ended in injury and a bit of a “Wally Pipp” tale. Cowboys fans lived the saga of the, “Do we start Romo when he is healthy? But Dak Prescott is leading us to win after win!” throughout the entirety of the 2016 season.

It was not an easy decision either. The coaching staff, the front office, and every fan had a belief on what to do. Myself, I grew up with Romo as my quarterback. He will always be No. 9 in my eyes (we can dive into linebacker Jaylon Smith’s jersey change at a later date).

Romo gave the Cowboys hope and excitement. There was something about the small college quarterback out of Eastern Illinois leading America’s Team and being so high profile, for better or worse, that was unbelievably captivating.

So, what if Romo never got hurt? Where would things be for the Cowboys? Where should I start?  First off, I think Romo would have undoubtedly earned himself a Super Bowl ring. He was 36 years old with an abundance of talent surrounding him.

Handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott would have done wonders for Romo’s play-action attack. Some of the weight of the offense would finally be off of his, let’s say, back. What does that Super Bowl ring do? I believe you see a Hall of Fame argument for Romo that even the biggest Cowboys trolls would have a hard time arguing.

Romo finished his career top-10 in career passing efficiency and completion percentage, tied with one Peyton Manning. Toss in a top-15 ranking in touchdown-to-interception ratio, he protected the ball.

Clutch is tough to measure, but it is hard to argue with finishing 17th all-time in fourth-quarter comebacks. It doesn’t hurt he is the Cowboys’ leader in passing yards, passer rating, and touchdowns, which dethroned the likes of NFL greats Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. I believe that is what Romo’s legacy looks like.

What about quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys? Prescott was drafted prior to Romo’s injury in 2016. While it wouldn’t change that he is on the roster, I believe the Cowboys would have built a mini-package for Prescott.

While at Mississippi State, Prescott was known for his dual-threat ability. The SEC quarterback threw for over 9,300 yards while running for over 2,500 yards.

When the Cowboys drafted Prescott I felt as though he would be a goal-line package or a wrinkle in the offense that would give defenses more to gameplan for with the ability to run the ball in short-yardage downs while threatening the ability to air it out.

I was entirely wrong in believing Prescott would be a project to turn into a full-time NFL quarterback. What a pleasant surprise Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones stumbled upon.

If Romo never got hurt he may have a Super Bowl ring but no one will ever know how the twilight of his career would have ended. Prescott may be buried on the roster or even on his second team after finishing his rookie contract.

The Cowboys could very well be looking to draft a successor or in a complete rebuild. Rather, the Cowboys have their guy in Prescott. They have an explosive offense. I would argue they are geared to make the run that fans have so desperately been begging for.

Is it possible that one play in Seattle, one car honking their horn that day, or one mouse scurrying through the bowels of the stadium changed the entire trajectory of the Cowboys franchise? That is impossible to know. If Prescott brings the Cowboys a Super Bowl ring, maybe we are closer to an answer here.

In a way, it is a question that brings sadness. Romo deserved to go out on his own after everything he gave this franchise. Broken bones, fractured vertebrae, punctured lungs, you name it; Romo was a warrior. That is one thing that won’t change.

Romo is always “9” in my eyes and has a special place in Cowboys history. One thing I feel confident in saying is that there may be no greater supporter of Prescott than Romo. It’s hard to not imagine him being one of the happiest people on this planet if Dak can reach that pinnacle.

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The NFL provides some of the greatest “what ifs” and isn’t always fair but maybe we will get to see this come full circle the way sports always have a way of doing.