Tony Romo will be 36 years old before he takes another meaningful snap in the NFL. His time in the league is coming to a close one way or the other, and there is nothing that can stand in the way of Father Time. Many of us, myself included, believe that he has a couple more seasons of performing at the highest level left in his battered frame. That is beside the point, sooner or later Dallas is going to have to move forward. It happened with Meredith, Staubach, and Aikman. It will happen with Romo.
History tells us that quarterbacks taken outside the first round have much longer odds of making it to the Super Bowl than do those taken during the earliest round of the draft. Of the 98 starting quarterback thus far in Super Bowl history 50 have been taken in the first round. Having guys like ninth-round selection Roger Staubach and sixth-rounder Tom Brady making multiple starts in the big game skew those numbers quite a bit. It all boils down to the teams that win roll the dice on passers in the first round.
Roll the dice is an appropriate term, because drafting a first-round quarterback is a major gamble. For every success story there are many more risks that did not pay off. For every Manning brother or Ben Roethlisberger there are plenty of Joey Harringtons, Brady Quinns and Ryan Leafs. Selecting a leader for an NFL franchise is a course filled with peril and failure can easily impact the organization for half a decade or longer. The Cleveland Browns are the poster children for this futility.
When an organization invests a first-round selection in a quarterback they are essentially handing the keys over to a 22 year old kid and letting him take the wheel. Some will succeed, yet most will not. Finding the right one is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack. It is also a long term commitment to that kid. Over at the mothership Micky Spagnola shared his thoughts about how much of an investment taking a first-round quarterback really is.
So ask yourself, because the Cowboys must: Are any of these quarterbacks entering this 2016 draft worth betting your business on, your job? Because chances are this at least would be a five-year commitment if you do. And if you reach out of desperation, if you are wrong, suddenly it's 2020 and you're still looking for Romo's replacement. You don't get do-overs on these types of investments.
Drafting a quarterback is the riskiest thing a front office can do in the first round, the fate of a franchise often depends on the choice. Careers are made and blown by the simple act of turning in one name for the commissioner to announce. Franchises can rise or fall based on that one single name. Legends are born while others fade to obscurity. It all comes down to a single roll of the dice.
Like Spags mentioned, unless you are the Browns who seem to feel that the rules require you to select a quarterback in the first round every other year, taking a passer to lead your team is a five-year gamble that seldom pays off. On the other hand, not selecting one is almost always a gamble as well. The price is high, the odds are long, but when the risk taking does pay off the rewards are all so sweet.
Navigating the waters as an NFL personnel man is never easy. Everyone misses, it just comes down to where you miss the most. Going quarterback with the fourth-overall selection may sound easy to many of the so called experts out there. It always is when you are not betting your job on the ability of another man to do his. Guys like Will McClay and Jason Garrett do not have that luxury. If Dallas does take a quarterback with the fourth overall selection they will be betting their careers on whomever they select. They will also be betting the next several years of the franchise's future.