He’s been the face of this franchise for the last decade, but alas - that is no more. We all knew it was coming, yet it is still a sad day as the Cowboys are set to release Tony Romo tomorrow. The numbers have been crunched, the writing has been on the wall, and it has been a foregone conclusion that the beloved veteran quarterback would be cut. But none of that makes today any easier.
When we look back through the history of the Cowboys, there have been other players who have departed that have made for some sad moments. I was too young to really feel the effects of the Roger Staubach retirement. Even though he was still playing well, he left on his own to preserve his health as Staubach had suffered 20 concussions during his playing career. It was a clean transition and the Cowboys were still in good hands with Danny White, who would help the Cowboys reach the NFC Championship in each of the next three seasons. Nobody felt sorry for Staubach because he’s the one who made that decision.
When Tony Dorsett left, it was also difficult. He was traded to the Denver Broncos for a fifth-round draft pick. The Cowboys had acquired Herschel Walker in 1986 and for two seasons the team tried to make it work with two former Heisman winners in the same backfield. Eventually, the job went to Walker and Dorsett demanded a trade. At the age of 34, it was an easy decision for the Cowboys as Dorsett didn’t have much left in the tank. He only played one season with the Broncos. Even though he’s the one who wanted out, it was still difficult because his departure occurred during the decline of the Tom Landry era.
Walker only had one full season as the Cowboys starting running back and he made it count, rushing for over 1,500 yards in 1988. But Dallas would win only three games that season in what would be Landry’s final year as head coach. The Cowboys would trade Walker the next season which at the time was a crushing blow to fans as he was the team’s only good player. With Jerry Jones firing Landry, Jimmy Johnson trading Walker, many fans adopted the "I don’t give a damn" attitude and the team would finish with a franchise worst record of 1-15. Little did we know that the Walker deal would mean so much for the future of this organization.
Things are different with Romo. Despite having trouble staying healthy in recent seasons, he’s healthy now and doesn’t want to call it quits. His play hasn’t declined to where he’s no longer a valuable asset to the team. In fact...
Highest passer rating over last 3 seasons:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) February 19, 2017
Tony Romo: 106.4
Dak Prescott: 104.9
Tom Brady: 103.1
Aaron Rodgers: 102.8
Drew Brees: 99.9
And this move wasn’t made to acquire additional talent to help rebuild the team. This move is strictly attributed to two big factors - the emergence of rookie QB Dak Prescott and the gargantuan size of Romo’s contract.
While many of us understand this had to happen, it’s still a difficult thing to digest. And it’s not difficult for ourselves, because as fans we are still sitting in great shape. The Cowboys future looks incredibly bright and many of us expect our team to be contending for Super Bowls over the next several years. No, the hardship is for Romo. Whether everyone can see it or not, this underappreciated quarterback has been responsible for keeping our seasons relevant over the last decade.
Some people will try to sell you on the idea that Romo’s the reason this team hasn’t been able to get over the hump, but they are wrong. The reality is - Romo’s the reason the Cowboys were even in the mix in the first place. We sometimes get stuck on the huge disappointments that we forget to be grateful for what we have in the first place. Romo has given us something we didn’t have before he arrived - hope.
My good friend RJ Ochoa from Inside the Star tipped me off on this little tidbit of information last year...
In his 10 years as our QB, Tony Romo has NEVER played a game where he was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) May 8, 2016
Marinate on that for a moment.
During the 11 years Romo has began the season as the team’s starting quarterback, the Cowboys have had only two losing seasons (2010 and 2015). These are both seasons where Romo was hurt and missed at least 10 games. And while we would all like to believe that the Cowboys have had some amazing talent alongside him, that hasn’t always been the case. Many times the defense has been a huge liability and Romo had to go through the complete remodeling of his offensive line. He’s had five different starting running backs in the backfield. DeMarco Murray was the only stable RB he’s had throughout his entire career and we all saw how good the team was when that finally took off.
But more significant, we all saw how bad it can be without him in the form of the disastrous season of 2015. Going from a great quarterback to a terrible one can completely undercut a team’s ability to compete.
And while Prescott is here now and seems to be the answer, it doesn’t take anything away from what Romo has meant to this team. That crazy Monday Night Buffalo game in 2007 will never be forgotten. Romo’s 500 yards, five TD performance in a losing effort against Denver in 2013 will never be overlooked. In fact, in many ways that game was the epitome of Romo’s career. He played great, but it just wasn’t enough for the team to win. And when it’s all over, it’s the late game interception that people will choose to remember.
Perhaps they should remember plays like this:
It’s hard not to feel sad for Romo. The Cowboys are stronger than they’ve ever been since he arrived and now he can’t be a part of their success. That’s messed up. For us fans, we’re going to be just fine as the Cowboys are in great shape. For Romo, he’s going to be just fine, too. He’s got a beautiful wife, growing family, great faith, buckets full of money, and he’s set records while being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s a pretty good gig.
It’s been an exhilarating ride and without you, Mr. Romo, it would have been a big mess. So, as you embark on whatever becomes the next chapter in your life, I just wanted to say, thank you. Thank you so much.