After a few weeks of poor statistics and the Cowboys’ first loss since the season opener, Dak Prescott is discovering how fickle some fans and football onlookers can be. He’s also finding out just how large a shadow that Tony Romo casts from the sideline.
As you would have expected going into this situation, some are clamoring for Romo to regain the starting job after a bad stretch for Prescott. Nevermind that the Cowboys went 2-1 during this stretch, but Prescott failing to top 200 yards passing in any of the last three games has folks worried about how he’ll perform in January against playoff defenses.
Calling for Tony Romo is a natural reaction. You’ve loved him for about a decade. He’s a veteran who’s dealt with the pressure of the NFL postseason. No matter how exceptional a rookie Dak Prescott has been, he’s still a rookie.
The problem I have with the “run to Romo” mentality, though, is that it ignores a key aspect of why you have faith in Tony. It’s not that he’s never had some some real clunker games. Tony’s worst game is easily more atrocious than anything Dak’s showed us yet.
Romo had the chance to bounce back. He had the opportunity to restore or validate trust because he was out there the next week making plays and getting wins. It’s why you believe in him now.
It’s the same opportunity that Dak Prescott now deserves. If you want him to one day be mentioned along with Romo, Troy Aikman, and Roger Staubach, you can’t undercut him now.
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In 2006, his first year as the Cowboys starter, Romo started to have problems at the end of the season. He lost three of five games, threw eight interceptions, and had passer ratings below 60 in three games. Bill Parcells didn’t run back to Drew Bledsoe. He let Tony play through it, and it was a vital part of his development.
In 2008, Romo’s play cratered in December yet again. He threw six picks as the Cowboys lost three of four games. They went from 7-5 to an 8-8 team barely missing the playoffs. A Super Bowl-winning QB, Brad Johnson, was on the sideline. But by this point it was clearly Tony Romo’s team and the thought of switching to Johnson wasn’t even considered.
Fast forward to 2014. The now-veteran Romo led an 11-3 Cowboys into a Thanksgiving game with the Eagles. He had an awful day, throwing two picks, no touchdowns, and only 199 yards, as Dallas lost 33-10. Fears of another late-season slide arose. But Romo, now hardened by past experiences, went on a tear through that December and the Cowboys rolled into the playoffs.
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The debate about who’s better right now between Dak Prescott and Tony Romo is valid. There are certainly situations and opponents that Romo might be better equipped to handle based on his experience. If you’re only concern is Dallas winning a Super Bowl this season, then I can understand why you’re vexed.
If you’d like to see Dak Prescott and the Cowboys win multiple Super Bowls in the future, though, what happens now matters. Romo got to work through the bad times and deal with failure during a long offseason. Those made him one of the top quarterbacks in football and allowed him to sustain that status.
You can’t bench Prescott now. You can’t rob him of the opportunity to overcome his own adversity. It’s not just how quarterbacks get better, but it’s the fire that tempers athletes, other professions, and even people in general. It’s a fundamental truth of human existence; growing pains.
I’m not here to tell you Romo couldn’t do a better job this year. I’m not ignoring the possibility that Dak’s rookie wall could crumble right on top of us.
This is just a warning. A continued backslide from Prescott may cost us in 2016. There’s no denying that it.
Not letting him play through it, though, may cost us for a lot longer.