Gentlemen, start your engines. I know, the title isn't exactly proper English so I ask the forgiveness of the grammar police early here. NFL.com ran an article yesterday where they posed the question to their writers: Who is more important to the Cowboys, quarterback Tony Romo or outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware? Seven of their sites writer's weighed in with their vote and a short snippet to support their stance.
The debate is interesting. In the NFL, there are four premier positions. The quarterback obviously touches the ball on every offensive snap, so its importance is undebatable. A defense without an edge rusher capable of providing a consistent threat is no defense at all. An offense incapable of stopping said edge rusher would most likely shorten a quarterback's season and career. Therefore, the man that protects the QB's blind side, normally the left tackle, is held in high regard. Finally, the last line of defense, the man in charge of removing the top target from the quarterback's reads, cornerback ranks highly as well.
I think any of these four positions could easily be named as the most important player on a team. Multiple MVP awards cement the cases in Indy and New England, with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The New York Jets and Oakland Raiders have been led by Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha. One could argue that the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't led by their quarterback, but are led by outside linebacker James Harrison. Due to the fact that offensive linemen get little notoriety it's tough to make an argument, but ask any league GM where they value the position. Track records even show teams that bypass a quarterback prospect in order to select someone to protect him (read Miami with Jake Long over Matt Ryan).
So what about for the Cowboys? Few would argue the Cowboys have a corner capable of entering the discussion. As well, for all the love we heap on Doug Free, one season as a starter cannot gain him entry into the discussion just yet. Quarterback Tony Romo has put up gaudy numbers. He is the first Cowboys quarterback since Troy Aikman to be firmly entrenched as the team's starter. He has broken numerous single game and season records, and has been named to the Pro Bowl three times, every season in which he didn't suffer a major injury. DeMarcus Ware on the other hand, is (in my humble opinion) one of the best edge rushers in the history of the NFL. He's made five consecutive Pro Bowls, including three seasons as a first team all-pro. There's no doubt each is the leader of his respective units, but which is the most important to the Cowboys?
Romo won the battle of the NFL.com writers four to three. Here are some of the snippets supporting each side.
Pressure is on Romo to perform and lead
No player is more important that the quarterback. I love Ware, and he is one of the 10 best players in the NFL -- and Romo is not. Frankly, the fact that Romo was recognized as a top-75 player after missing most of last season was a surprise.
However, Ware had 15.5 sacks last season and Dallas still won just six games.
Even with Ware's dominance, it's Romo
The rankings tell you what's wrong with the Cowboys, or what's wrong with the list. Ware can lead the NFL in sacks all he wants, but until it's Romo who leads the team to the Super Bowl the team isn't going to the big dance. The quarterback is more important than a pass rusher. Romo needs a big season. He only played in six games last year, but if he played all 16 and Ware only played six, the team would have had a better record.
It's Ware, of course
Gimme Ware over Romo. Over the past five seasons, Ware has been the NFL's best pass rusher, and it's hard to imagine he'll be any less dominant in Rob Ryan's attacking defense this year.
Over the better part of that same half-decade, Romo has put up some big stats but only has one playoff victory. That's just not good enough for a guy playing the most important position on the field, especially in an era when most QBs get maybe half a season to prove their value.
Bennett knows what's up
I'll let Martellus Bennett make the argument here: The Cowboys didn't lose a step when Jon Kitna took over in 2010. And you might argue -- as Bennett did -- that the offense even was better. There is some truth to that, and in terms of this debate there is no dilemma on who is more important to the Cowboys.
Simply put, the Cowboys would have a harder time replacing Ware, who might be the best defensive player in the NFL right now, than Romo. Unless there is a shortage of quarterbacks who are good enough to get their team to the playoffs but then do nothing when they get there.
I'm sure the comment section will have plenty of fun with some of the rationales presented. But what say you BTB? Who do you think is the most important player for the Dallas Cowboys? Answer in the poll and debate in the comment sections. I think we can safely pencil in a vote for Romo from his resident publicist and longtime BTB favorite, Terry. I considered adding Jason Witten to the debate even though the original article didn't, but we'll keep it concise for this post.