For some NFL teams, this may be a bit harder to answer. But for the Dallas Cowboys, it is obvious. And it is not just based on opinion. The team got to see the harsh reality of what happens to them if one key player is not available.
In case you can't get this to play, here is the transcript: "Being GMC Professional Grade means rising to the challenge when your team needs it most. Who needs to be the second-half MVP to finish the year strong?"
The answer for this was demonstrated when Dallas hosted the Arizona Cardinals, with Tony Romo on the sidelines. Brandon Weeden was totally ineffective, the rest of the team seemed to deflate, and the Cowboys lost their second game in a row in very dismal fashion. The next week, Romo fought through the fractures to his transverse processes and let the team to a fairly easy victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
It can hardly be any more clear. As Clarence Hill put it, the Cowboys go as Romo goes. He is not just the MVP, he is the MIP, the most important player. He is not capable of winning every game by himself, as we have seen in the past few seasons, but he is the one ingredient that has to be there.
That was largely true in the past, but this year the dropoff from Romo to Weeden seems bigger than what the team faced in recent years. It may have been just a bad outing for Weeden, but the team really can't risk finding out. If Romo can play out the season, Dallas has an excellent chance of winning three or more of the last six games and getting into the playoffs. And if they get there, who knows how far this bunch of overachievers can go?
Even though he is the linchpin for the offense, Romo does take the field with the most complete set of teammates he has ever had. The offensive line is able to protect him and open holes for the running game. DeMarco Murray is having a record setting year, Dez Bryant is playing for a nine figure contract, Jason Witten is still Jason by God Witten, and the role players have been doing very well. For the first time in years, Romo has players surrounding him that help him, not force him to try and compensate. Stephen Jones admitted during an interview at 105.3 the Fan that Romo has not been the reason the Cowboys have had little success of late.
"But I think he'd be the first to tell you, anybody would, the only thing missing on resume at this point is a championship, and certainly that doesn't sit in Tony's lap, that sits in our lap, Jerry [Jones] and our family's lap. In terms of the organization, we have to do better at putting better people around him."
This year, that may have been accomplished. However, it all is going to depend on Romo staying healthy, and playing at his accustomed high level. The Cowboys might be able to survive a few off games from almost anyone else on the team. But not from the guy wearing the 9 on his jersey. He has to be the team's MVP for them to succeed.