A few weeks ago, after the Philadelphia game, I wrote a long article espousing my contention that it was better for Drew Bledsoe to continue as the Dallas quarterback because he gave us a better chance to win this year. One pass has changed my mind. You might think it's silly to change my mind because of one pass, more of you probably think it's silly I didn't come to this conclusion earlier. Either way, I don't think Bledsoe is the man to lead the Cowboys any longer.
The pass I'm referring to came just before halftime in the Giants game. Dallas had spent the first half of the game looking as inept as a team can. But somehow we were only down by five points. I didn't hold Bledsoe fully responsible for our failings in the first half, and if anybody thinks that Romo would've escaped from that safety, I would say they are too attached to the Romo agenda to be taken seriously. Some of the other sacks were also the result of bad line play and some were Bledsoe's fault. For examples of how bad the offensive line was throughout the game take a look at Romo being sacked twice in the second half. Don't be fooled into thinking that just because Romo is infinitely more mobile than Bledsoe that our problem with giving up sacks is solved, it's only diminished.
Back to the point about the one pass. After falling behind 12-0, Drew Bledsoe did what a good quarterback is supposed to do; he drove the team down the field and scored a touchdown. Closing the gap to 12-7, I felt that was a pretty good score going into halftime as badly as the team had played for most of the first half. Then we got a gift when Tiki Barber fumbled deep in New York territory and the Cowboys were now staring at the possibility of actually leading this game at halftime. This was huge. After all the work and the good things the Giants had done in the first half, they were about to be losing at halftime. That would've been a tremendous psychological blow. I can't predict how the second half would've unfolded, but I can tell you it would've been different. We might've won, we might've lost, but we'll never know. In one unbelievably poor decision, in one pass that was so bad that from the second it left Bledsoe's hand I knew it was an interception, Bledsoe took away all that was possible.
This is the part where you get to say "I told you so". It's not a news flash to me that Drew Bledsoe will throw an ill-timed interception with the worst of them. I lived through the Seattle game last year. Maybe it was a sense of unguarded optimism, or maybe it was just the fear of the unknown - the unknown being Romo - but I convinced myself that Bledsoe would stop. He would stop making the killer turnover; he would understand that if he didn't throw interceptions, this team could win. Naïve? Maybe. Wrong? Seemingly so.
I think it had more to do with fearing what would happen if we turned the team over to Tony Romo. And in some ways, that fear was confirmed in the second half of the Giants game. The first interception he threw was as bad a decision as most that Drew Bledsoe has made in his career. The score was still 12-7; the Cowboys were still in the game. Romo was looking at a TE that was covered, but he tried to throw it to him anyway. Even if it wasn't deflected by the lineman, it's doubtful it's a completed pass. The smart move would've been to tuck the ball away and live to fight another day. He didn't and he probably will make plenty more of those kind of mistakes as the season moves on. In fact, he did it again on a screen pass later in the game.
Another factor was that the offensive line that was shredded by Philadelphia had actually done fairly well in the other games we played. 5 sacks over 4 games isn't that bad. The 7 sacks given up to Philadelphia were mostly the results of mental errors and blown protection schemes. These are things that can be remedied. Then came the Giants game, where the Cowboys line once again was a revolving door for defensive players and some of the same errors were made by the other side of the line. At this point, I can no longer rationalize that this line will be capable of protecting any quarterback.
I've reached a confluence of factors that have led me to change my mind. One, Bledsoe is never going to learn, he's going to give you the gut-punch turnover every so often and there's nothing you can do about it. Two, the offensive line is not going to be able to give him a clean pocket, at least not against a decent defense. This means that the turnovers will come more often, and we'll probably struggle against good teams all year. I've lost faith that Bledsoe can lead us anywhere this year, and he's too old to be thought of as a next-year option.
Before, I was willing to dance with the devil I knew. Now, I'll dance with the devil I don't know. Tony Romo will avoid some of the sacks that Bledsoe could not, but don't kid yourself into believing that he's an instant panacea for our offensive line woes. You also better believe that he's going to make plenty of mistakes while learning what it means to be a starting NFL QB week in and week out. You got a good glimpse of them in the Giants game. But if this team is going anywhere this year, then it will be because Romo grows up faster than is to be expected. I'm not cashing in my chips on this year's team and saying wait until next year. If Romo is in there I expect him to produce even though that may not be totally realistic. But the door has closed on Drew Bledsoe, and it closed just before halftime when he threw away the best opportunity Dallas had to win that game.
The king is dead, long live the king.