Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Can Win With Tony Romo (But Probably Not in Dallas)

On Sunday night Tony Romo had another fourth quarter meltdown that cost the Cowboys the game, thus giving the news media reason to criticize his play all week, most of which has been unjust.

Does Romo wish he didn't fumble the ball? Sure, but Romo made the right decision. In opting for the safest play call, Romo caused a turnover, but it was a turnover that could have happened to any quarterback in the league. Of course not fumbling would have put the game away, but the fumble itself isn't what cost the Cowboys the game.

Was it probably a bad idea targeting an injured Dez Bryant and picking on the best defensive player in the league? I'd say so, but if the coach is going to put the player on the field you need to utilize him. Some say that Bryant missed the route, but it was still a risk a more cautious quarterback might not have taken. Though Romo had some success against Revis over the course of the game, there is only so much you could do to Revis before you pay for it. Throughout his career, Revis has been the sort of player who gets better as the game goes on, and if you're going to get to him it's going to happen in the first half.

This week summed up Tony Romo's stint with the Cowboys: offensive success, a lot of great plays, but a few costly mistakes. There was no Wade Phillips to blame on Sunday, no T.O, and no grumpy Bill Parcells. This was Romo's loss, with Romo's coach, and it looks like it may very well be time for Tony Romo and Dallas to go their separate ways.

The problem with this is that Dallas are built to win now so they don't have time to wait for a Landry Jones or Matt Barkley. In order to part ways with Romo they would need a better option to go with to win in 2012, and franchise quarterbacks don't come on to the market every year, and when they do it's for a reason. The exception would be Joe Montana to the Chiefs or Brett Favre to the Jets, but it doesn't look like we have any situations like that... Yet.

But let's say we did. Where would Tony Romo go, and who would want him? In a quarterback free agent class led by Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, Chad Henne, Vince Young, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Charlie Whitehurst, it would seem as though Romo would be the blue chip on the market and the first domino to fall. I anticipate Fitzpatrick staying in Buffalo, but those other quarterbacks leaving should open up jobs in Denver, Miami, and Seattle, three potential destinations for Romo.

Miami, like Dallas, are built to win now. Next year they'll probably have a new head coach that is brought in to help sell tickets. The coach's name could be Gruden, it could be Fischer, it could even be Billick. Whoever it may be it'll be a coach who throughout their career has opted toward veteran quarterbacks. Enter Romo the Dolphin, which would likely be the best case scenario for Romo's career and mental health. In the AFC East no one will expect the Dolphins to do much. If he could beat New England and the Jets once each he'd initially be a hero. If he could get the team to the playoffs he'd be a savior. In a city that has embraced LeBron, Tony Romo would no longer have the weight of the world on his shoulders in Miami, and I could see it being a wonderful fit.

Then there's Denver, with head coach John Fox who has a rule against QB's under the age of 28: he hates them. Denver is a mess for any quarterback to step into, but it's really not that bad. The Denver defense should be competitive by this time next year, and the wide receivers and running backs are adequate. Romo in Denver would instantly put Denver back in the race that Kyle Orton has held them out of, but he'd be thrown into a poor situation with the expectations and popularity that Tebow (who would now presumably be gone) thrown onto his shoulders. This situation is not ideal but it could work.

Then there's Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Going to the NFC West would be great for Romo, but it might be hard for Jerry Jones to send him there. If this happened though, Romo would instantly have a chance to rebuild his career and his self esteem by picking apart the Cardinals and 49ers. Carroll seems to be looking for a quarterback with some athleticism, and Romo has enough, plus several other intangibles that would instantly turn the Seahawks into divisional favorites. The weapons are poor in Seattle, but who ever thought that Miles Austin would become what Romo has helped him become?

Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert prevent Romo from heading to Minnesota or Jacksonville, and there is an outside chance he could end up a 49er, but again I don't think Jerry Jones wants Romo in the NFC. That leaves Cleveland as the final potential destination for Romo, but they seem like the sort of franchise who would think rookie before they went veteran.

Wherever Tony Romo ends up next year, in this scenario everyone benefits. The Cowboys would have the Montana or Favre type (hint, hint) and Romo would be somewhere in the AFC with less pressure and a decent shot to take his team to the playoffs.

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