Cowboys Number One Offseason Priority: Protect Tony Romo?

Tom Pennington

When the soon-to-be most expensive player on your roster isn't playing to the maximum of his abilities, you'd better make sure he does. In Tony Romo's case, that may mean investing in better protection and a more balanced offense.

Sometime early in 2009, an new acronym surfaced in Cowboys Nation: The "RFO." The RFO promised a change for a better, brighter future for the Cowboys. RFO, as I quickly learned, stood for a Romo Friendly Offense, a term Jerry Jones first used in February 2009:

"I think being as Romo-friendly as our team can be. Romo friendly means let's utilize his skills to the fullest and make sure everything we do maximizes his abilities."

At the time, most Cowboys fans interpreted Romo-friendly as meaning the Cowboys would run a more simplified offense, with emphasis on the running game and high percentage passes to multiple targets (not just T.O.). This was going to help Tony cut down on his improvisation and minimize his turnovers. Ultimately, the RFO was about freeing up Tony Romo and maximizing his abilities, as Jones said.

Fast forward to the 2012 season. The Cowboys passed for a franchise record 4,729 yards, but rushed for a franchise-low 1,265 yards. And Tony Romo had to make more plays under pressure than ever before. If anything, 2012 was the exact opposite of a Romo Friendly Offense. The Cowboys in 2012 were pretty far away from maximizing Romo's abilities. And that's got to be hard to swallow for an organization that values Tony Romo greatly. Stephen Jones left no doubt about that when he talked about Romo's pending contract extension yesterday:

"First and foremost, I would like to extend Romo because he is a great quarterback," Jones said. "We want him here. It’s time for him. He is in the last year of his deal."

"We have a lot of confidence in Tony," Jones said. "We believe in him. You say he has won just one playoff game. I understand that. But I still think Tony Romo is a great quarterback. I think our time is going to come with him."

Jerry Jones is probably one of the biggest fans of Tony Romo out there. He's about to re-sign Romo to an enormous contract that will see Romo retire a Cowboy. And more than anything else, he wants to put Romo and the Cowboys in a position to succeed. So let's imagine a hypothetical scenario in which Jerry Jones the GM defines the offseason priorities for the Cowboys.

What if the Cowboys' number one offseason priority is: "Protect Tony Romo."

We saw in our summary of mock drafts yesterday that the draftnik sentiment may be leaning towards the Cowboys taking a defensive lineman with their first pick. But what if the Cowboys are looking at beefing up Tony Romo's protection? What if they are looking to add more punch in the run game for a more balanced offense?

In that scenario, it would be conceivable for the Cowboys to go OL and RB with their first two picks. In fact, in this scenario, it could be entirely possible for the Cowboys to end up picking more players for the offense than they'll do for the defense.

It could even mean having the defense transition to the 4-3 with largely the same cast of players the Cowboys had last year, and trusting that fewer injuries next year will lead to better results. Also, the Cowboys brought in some pretty big names as defensive coaches, and they should be able get results with the players already on the roster, no?

Tony Romo is without question the most important player on the roster. Ensuring that he can play to the maximum of his abilities looks like a pretty sound strategy. This year, that may entail a significant investment in both his protection and a more balanced offense.

Over to you: What if the Cowboys' number one offseason priority is about protecting Tony Romo?

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