In explaining his Sideline Stone Face, Tom Landry said he never had the luxury of reacting emotionally because he was always thinking a play, or a series, ahead.
The current Cowboy brass are no doubt thinking two or three weeks ahead. And they need to be just as dispassionate about this decision as Coach Landry would have been.
Tony Romo will almost certainly be medically cleared to play before the season ends.
Romo or Kitna?
Romo will be rusty and in something other than tip-top condition. And he will be unaccustomed to NFL game speed after not playing for up to two months. I am assuming he would be at no more than normal physical risk after being completely green-lighted by the medical staff.
Jon Kitna, if himself healthy upon Romo's availability, will be in rhythm and battle-hardened. Kitna has been more than solid so far in six games as the Cowboys' starter. He has looked comfortable, as have his teammates, particularly since Jason Garrett took over as interim head coach. How the team plays between now and Romo's clearance will factor into the decision, despite the absence of playoff implications.
I'm not pretending the choice is easy or clear-cut. But here's what I say: Play Romo.
My logic is simple. Some of you will describe it as simplistic. Romo is the starting quarterback. There is a reason for that. Kitna is the backup. There is a reason for that. The NFL is about winning football games, and nothing else. Starters start. Backups back up.
And, no, this is not simply a blind extension of the axiom that "A starter can't lose his job to injury." Of course he can, depending on circumstances. But he shouldn't in this case.
Romo clearly wants to play again this season. Admirable. And completely logical. Tony explains that 1) he's a football player, 2) it's football season, and 3) that football players play football during football season if they possibly can. Romo makes a lot of money, not a cent of which is intended to compensate him for games not played when healthy. I have a difficult, almost impossible, time jumping off that train of thought. If one has a job, and one is able to do that job, shouldn't one be welcome--and even expected--to do that job? It would work that way in my job. And in yours.
Plenty of personnel and philosophical evaluations must be made over the remaining quarter of this season. Jason Garrett's future would top the list. That evaluation cannot properly and fairly be made without seeing Romo perform in a starting role with JG as head coach.
I'm not pretending this decision is easy or irrefutable. I'm not contending there is no counter-argument. But I am saying that a fundamental logical chain leads to one conclusion: Play Romo.
The Cowboy brass should be looking ahead, as Coach Landry would have. And it's my belief they should come to the same conclusion I'm confident Coach Landry would have.