The operative theory held by many about the Dallas Cowboys is that the team will go as far as quarterback Tony Romo can take them. So there were more than a few hearts in throats when the $100 million man lay flat on his back for an extended time after he was laid out in the loss to Washington. But two things that no one should ever question about Romo are his toughness and desire to compete. After an exam and medical treatment, he returned to the field. However, he was not able to engineer a victory for the team.
Now the coaches and Romo have to make a decision. He has stated that the issue is not pain tolerance, but functionality. There is little question that he wants to play. But even if he is able to play well, there has to be some question about how much he has recovered and whether the injury has any effect on his ability to throw the ball. The team can go with him now, or it can sit him for one or possibly two games. Giving him two games off would mean he would not only avoid having to face the blitz-heavy Arizona Cardinals, but he could also stay in Dallas when the team goes to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, skipping a long overseas round trip that may not be the best thing for his ailing back. If they elect to sit him twice, that would get Dallas to the bye week. The three weeks to heal might be important, because the Cowboys then have three games to play in an twelve day span (thank you once again, NFL schedulers). Additionally, four of the six games remaining after the bye are against NFC East opponents.
While every game is important in the NFL, Dallas has the advantage of being 6-2 and tied for the most wins in the NFC. Even if they keep Romo out, it is by no means an automatic concession of the Arizona game. Brandon Weeden did well, leading the team to 10 of its 17 points against Washington. He certainly has a chance against the Cardinals, and an even better one against the Jaguars.
There are certainly different views on this, some almost heated.
.@DCFilmRoom @geopaschall I didn't say he can't play for 4 weeks. I wouldn't let him play for 4. Discretion is better part of valor.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) October 29, 2014
"@Papisalvans: @BryanBroaddus @Boys_Vox now would you rest him?"Same answer. If docs say ok he plays. Your question is clueless.— Brad Sham (@Boys_Vox) October 29, 2014
I think the team should take a longer view here than just the next game. Sit Romo for the next two games, and they should have him ready for that grueling stretch of games to close out the season. Remember, his injury does not just affect his throwing motion, but his mobility. Playing hurt also increases the likelihood of getting hurt worse. Give Weeden a chance. This is what he is paid for, after all. The decision would certainly be criticized (as would doing the opposite, because, Cowboys), but in my opinion, this is the smart way to go. (Of course, the decision should not be revealed until the inactives are announced 90 minutes before kickoff, but it can certainly be made now.)
However, since there are some different views on this subject, I threw the question out to the rest of the staff writers for input. It seems that I am in the minority, at least among those who offered an opinion.
David Halprin: If he can play, then play him. The Cowboys are not good enough a team to be dealing with saving players, massaging the schedule, etc. They need to win and if Romo is healthy enough to play, then he is their best chance to win. Confidence is a tricky, mysterious thing, if the Cowboys lose two or three in a row, all bets are off. Win now by playing anybody who can help you win.
OCC: There is no doubt that Romo gives the Cowboys the best chance to win, and that's not a knock on Weeden, but acknowledging reality. If Romo is hurt, then don't play him. If he can play, you play him. It's not complicated.
But the Cowboys have a tendency to get a little too cute with this kind of stuff. So they may try to concoct a rationale where they rest him midseason for two weeks in order to have him fully heathy for the stretch run. Getting too cute tends to blow up in your face in the NFL.
Unless you have home field advantage locked up for the playoffs, you play your best players. End of discussion.
(OCC also offered a sure-fire course of treatment for the back as prescribed by the official medical consultant of the Dallas Cowboys: Jerry, I hurt my back! "Well here, take some Robitussin!" Jerry, I got a back contusion! "Here, take some Robitussin!" Jerry, I can't hardly move! "Here, put some Robitussin on it... that's right, let the Robitussin sink in there.")
Rabblerousr: I think the perfect time to sit him already presented itself, and they declined to do so..
Joey Ickes: He's your starter... He's your franchise, if the Drs say he is healthy enough to play, and he feels mobile enough to be effective, he plays. Period, end of discussion....
As you can see, most of the writers who were hanging around the virtual BTB offices today disagreed with me. Only one saw things more or less my way.
Dawn Macelli: I actually look at it differently. Brandon Weeden probably will not beat Arizona but he should be able to handle Jax. That should leave the team at 7-3 with a healthy Romo. That is acceptable. An ineffective Romo will also likely leave Dallas at 7-3 but potentially expose him to more risk. Weeden will not take Dallas deep into the playoffs, a healthy Tony could. Rest him now and take your chances.
This is going to be the primary topic of discussion leading up to the game, since Jason Garrett would rather remove his own appendix with a rusty spoon than divulge any useful details about the availability of personnel until he absolutely has to under league rules. (At least it beats debating whether Jerry Jones violated the sacred precepts of NFL ownership by personally telling his head coach how things were going with Romo in the locker room.) And it is one of those questions whose answer depends to a great degree on the final score of the game this Sunday (if it is a loss, then obviously the decision was wrong, whatever it was).
So what would you do? Sit Romo to make sure he is available for the stretch run, or play him to do everything you can to win now?