Because this weekend's game is a Monday nighter, the Cowboys' players don't begin their preparations until Thursday. As a consequence, yesterday was an even slower Tuesday than usual, with a preponderance of stories manufactured in response to a Jerry Jones radio interview. We might as well start there...
Here's the quote from Jones the Elder that inspired the article, headline, and whatever other output we might imagine:
"You’re asking me what I think," he said, "and I think we’ve got outstanding quarterback (play) ahead of us for the next 4-5 years. That’s not a downer. Will we be looking to develop and get talent behind Romo? Absolutely."
As the headline notes, Jerruh got a bit snippy when pressed about Romo's continued presence under center:
"This is not a damn debate, guys," Jones said. "This is not a debate we're having here. Do you know that I don't know if he's got four or five years? You asked me my opinion and I can give you all the reasons why: the back, or I can give you clavicle, or I can give you any other type of injuries that are there.
"But you're asking me what I think, and I think we've got outstanding quarterbacking ahead of us for the next four or five years.
Fish takes a long, sobering look at the Cowboys quarterback position, which includes this section:
I believe the Joneses see that writing on the wall -- the Life Without Romo Wall -- more clearly than ever.
Oh, I know Jerry Jones goes on 105.3 The Fan and talks of Romo playing "four or five more years.'' But realize that Jerry's been saying "four or five'' for two years now; he's just saying it by rote, at this point. And note that it's not realistic to ask a 39-year-old to play at a high level (though a Matt Hasselback level is conceivable.) And note the way Dallas specifically constructed Romo's contract, which on paper runs through 2019: For the next two years, the penalty for separating from him is $31 mllion. But after the 2017 season, the escape is relatively painless.
This is a two-year window. People inside Valley Ranch know this. And despite what "Jerry Poppins'' says as he offers 100,000-watt spoonfuls of sugar ... the Joneses know this, too.
Engel writes about Jerry Jones's reluctance to dive in and find Tony Romo's replacement:
I have no idea why Jerry’s stance should surprise even the most novice and casual of NFL fans. He has been all-in with Romo the moment he handed him his first giant contract in the fall of 2007. Jerry would rather die 1,000 deaths than to go through the football inferno of finding his replacement for Troy Aikman.
Jerry has a memory like an elephant, and cannot forget the days of Vinny Testaverde, Quincy Carter, Clint Stoerner, Randall Cunningham, and all of the other greats to play QB here in the [sic] Jerre era.
Sherrington sits Jerry down on the analysts couch and presents us with his findings:
Jerry's window, at 73, is closing just as fast as Romo's. And when Jerry's is shut, there's no re-opening it.
Bottom line: Jerry is even less inclined than ever to develop a quarterback because his shelf life, like mine, ain't what it used to be.
The fact that he's so touchy about Romo's future, as he showed on his radio show Tuesday, is evidence of his true feelings. He gives lip service to developing a quarterback, but his track record says something else. Five quarterbacks drafted over 26 years isn't exactly a trend.
The question of Romo's successor is an interesting one on many levels. The most basic is: do you spend a pick on the future or on a player who might be able to contribute now? Several writers opine...
Raf reviews the fallow periods in Cowboys quarterbacking history, capping it off with an assessment of the current situation:
The Cowboys may be prepared to again exploit that organizational luck. They’re in the top 5 among the draft totem, in a year when several of the other four bottom dwellers (San Diego, Tennessee, Baltimore) don’t need a quarterback. This draft may also have some worthy quarterback prospects at its top. Landing a top young signal caller would give Dallas a chance to transition beyond Romo on its own terms.
The pain doesn’t have to be long. But if the team gets cute at quarterback a return of the Pelluer and Carter days could recur. I’ve been there, and I don’t ever want to see their likes again.
The Playmaker answers some questions. Here, he weighs in on what is sure to be offseason topic #1 - whether to spend a high draft pick on a player on Romo's heir apparent, or on a guy who can contribute right away:
My first priority is to win a Super Bowl, right now. Period.
Your future, right now, is to build for a Super Bowl with Tony. You go poking around looking for the next dude, and you miss this opportunity you have right now focusing on that next dude? You have to focus on winning right now.
Phillips reminds us of what is conveniently forgotten when chastising the Cowboys for not drafting Romo's successor: how do we know that guys; going to be any better than Weeden or Cassell? To wit:
But, are you sure that a rookie quarterback, no matter how talented, could step in next year as an injury replacement, if needed, and win games?
And, for example, where would this defense be without Byron Jones, the 2015 first-round pick who has played approximately 38 different spots in the secondary this year?
Drafting an impact player at another position would be more helpful to Tony Romo next year.
Tiny Jim also writes a piece derived largely from Jerry's recent radio interview. Here, he focuses on whether the team will acquire their next quarterback in the upcoming draft. It doesn't appear to be terribly likely:
"Well, I don’t know about first round, necessarily – at all," he said. "But again, I go back to Weeden. Weeden was an opportunity to develop the future. Again, he hadn’t played much football and he had some age on him because he played baseball – but still it was an opportunity for us to develop for the future. It did not work. There’s your first-round pick. Half of the first-round picks that are made don’t work."
You'll see Jerry refer to this 50% first-round QB hit rate a lot this offseason, I'd imagine, since that's precisely what has kept him gun shy about spending draft capital on a QB since the Aikman era.
Archer with a report from the "never give up" department. Apparently, the Cowboys haven't placed Tony Romo on IR, and won't until they are officially eliminated:
"We're competitors," executive vice president Stephen Jones told ESPN.
Jones put Romo's recovery from the recent fracture of the quarterback's left collarbone at six to eight weeks...
So Romo hasn't yet been placed on IR because its conceivable he could return somewhere in the vicinity of the NFC Championship game. Machota quickly pokes a hole in this, the silliest of balloons:
Of course, the Cowboys have been unable to win a game without Romo this season, so it seems unlikely that they'd win enough games to make a deep playoff run while he is recovering.
Of course, if this miraculous run WERE to occur, we can't be assured that Romo would fare any better in his return than he did against Carolina. In case you forgot, it wasn't good. No, indeed, not anywhere near good...
Last week's PFF grades are in, and Vesnaver collects the worst performances into one abject All-Star team. Captaining the squad is none other than Number Nine:
Quarterback: Tony Romo, Cowboys (-6.7)
It seems a little mean-spirited to pick on someone who didn’t finish his game because of injury, but Romo was struggling the entire game before he was hurt. He completed barely more than 50 percent of his passes for just over 100 yards, and threw three poor interceptions. Most of his bad play came when he had a completely clean pocket, as he was 7-of-14 for 64 yards and two interceptions when he was not under pressure. He rarely even looked outside, attempting just four passes outside the numbers on either side all game, completing one of them for 10 yards.
In the midst of the aforementioned interview, Jerry calmly inserted his foot into his mouth by bringing up Johnny Manziel. This led to speculation that the Cowboys would acquire him on the cheap, of course.
Jerry dares speak of the unspeakable horror that could have been:
"Do you remember two years ago when we sat there right to the last second on the clock with Manziel? My whole point is, there you are," Jones said. "That was the whole purpose of doing that. At that particular time, for a first-round pick, I thought that Romo had more time. And if we sat there and worked with Manziel for four or five years, now we all know what's happened. We know the off-the-field issues. But on our board, one of our top five or six picks dropped down to us and it was at the quarterback position, and I absolutely was a vote of one in that room to basically go there. And I understood why.
"I understood the risk that was involved. And we got a great player instead. But those are the circumstances that come up when you're thinking for the future. I was at that particular time, debating the value of him for the future as well as debating a backup."
The most important phrase Jerry uttered was "we got a great player instead."
The fine folks over at ESPN S&I proffer an article that examines the Colts' success with something the Cowboys simply couldn't accomplish: winning with a back-up QB. The Colts are now 4-0 with Hasselbeck as the starter, and his numbers look legit; how did they do it? Here's one item on the checklist:
Go with what works
Hasselbeck entered the day 14-of-16 for 155 yards and two touchdowns on play-action passes. The Colts decided to stick with that over and over and over again, as Hasselbeck was 11-of-17 for 191 yards and a touchdown off play-action Sunday. His 17 play-action attempts are the most by any quarterback in a game this season, and his 191 yards on such plays are his most in the past 10 seasons.
The Broad One puts in some study time on the Cowboys' third rounder and comes away with a few thoughts. Green's scouting report coheres to what we might expect from a good "foot athlete":
I would like to see him play with more power than finesse. There were snaps where he tried to muscle his man off the ball. When on the move he will drive his man down inside. He is a much better man when he can play on the move instead of blocking one-on-one -- tends to get stalemated when that happens. Green does a nice job of playing on his feet, but there are snaps where he gets a little over-extended and it causes him to play off balance. His feet can be good in pass pro, and I really like the way this guy plays as a pass blocker. He gets away from the line well, which puts him in position to make the block.
The Sturminator's weekly "Decoding Marinelli" article pieces through the rubble of the Thanksgiving massacre and concludes that the Cowboys are average across the board. Against Carolina, however, they were far below average on third-and-longs:
The Cowboys in 2015 had dealt with 34 situations in 3rd and long before Thursday and had allowed just 5 conversions (14.7%). But, against Cam Newton and his very impressive gun, the Panthers converted on 3 of 7 "3rd-and-long" situations for a staggering 43%. It is just one game and a small sample, but giving up 3 of these long-shot scenarios in one game is an absolute failure....Going into the game, Carolina was slightly better than league average at (21.8%) on these.
Ferrar offers one way that each of the NFC East entrants might be able to turn it around. For the Cowboys, he suggests installing more quick passes:
Now that Tony Romo is out for the rest of the season with yet another injury, it's up to Jerry Jones's team to find a way to win with backup Matt Cassel. The Brandon Weeden experiment ended mercifully quickly through Romo's absence from the field, and Cassel, unlike Weeden, at least resembles an NFL quarterback at times. A career backup from a talent perspective, Cassel was the first quarterback to really benefit from the Tom Brady Effect—when Brady went down in the first game of the 2008 season with a knee injury, the Patriots went 11-5 with Cassel as his replacement. That's had a lot of teams wondering if Cassel could fix what ailed their quarterback positions, and to date, the answers have been mostly mediocre. Cassel is a decent arm-thrower with limited mobility and a relative inability to reset in the pocket when he's pressured. He's best off getting the ball out quickly. That's how the Pats designed things around him in 2008, and it's how the Cowboys need to do it now.
Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings, which they determine by breaking down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. Our Brave 'Boys in Blue have fallen into the very depths...
Lets be real here, 29th is pretty sucky...
Toddzilla's weekly "Five Wonders" properly begins the offseason assessment phase. Here, he speculates about the coaching staff:
A year ago Jerry Jones was calling Jason Garrett’s coaching staff the best he has had in his time as owner and general manager. The Jimmy Johnson staff was pretty good. The Bill Parcells coaching staff had head coaches such as Sean Payton, Todd Bowles, Mike Zimmer, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley, Mike MacIntyre (Colorado) and Paul Pasqualoni (Connecticut). I wonder if there will be changes to the staff going forward. I don’t think it will be major after the money Jones gave to Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli, but there could be other changes. Perhaps Rich Bisaccia gets in the mix for a head coach job at the college level. Perhaps Mike Pope looks to retire. Perhaps Matt Eberflus gets a chance as a head coach at the college level.
Archer goes to the history books to make a point about the tension between scouts and coaches at the end of losing seasons:
When seasons go poorly there can be a natural dissent between coaches and the personnel department.
Both sides want to win as much as possible, but the personnel department wants to see what they have in younger players. Knocked out of the playoffs minutes before their final game in 2005, a lot of members of the personnel department and those with the last name Jones wanted to see Tony Romo start. Instead Bill Parcells stuck with Drew Bledsoe.
The Cowboys aren’t quite ready to go with the youth movement just yet.
Monday night feels far off, but the early previews are trickling in. Let's close with a couple...
Davison's preview piece tags on some bullet-point factoids. I found these interesting. Check it:
▪ This is the first time the Redskins have entered the month of December with the division lead since 1999.
▪ The Redskins have given up 17 sacks through 11 games, their fewest since 2007.
▪ If the Redskins win, they’ll have a six-game winning streak at home for the first time since their Super Bowl-winning team in 1991.
The Goose looks at the Redskins' 5-1 home record and concludes that much of the credit goes to Kirk Cousins:
Cousins has thrown 173 consecutive passes at home without an interception in the five victories. He has thrown eight interceptions on the road in those five road losses.
Cousins is completing 74.7 percent of his passes at home but only 61.8 percent on the road. He has thrown 11 touchdowns at home against just two interceptions. He has thrown five TD passes on the road against those eight interceptions. He's averaging 272 yards passing per game at home but only 231 on the road. He also has rushed for all three of his touchdowns this season at home.