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Should The Cowboys Play Tony Romo In A Potential Meaningless Game?

RJ Ochoa



Tony Romo

Listen to an audio version of this article on Bumpers!

If you look at your calendar you'll see that we are past Thanksgiving. We are at such a point in time with the Dallas Cowboys having only one loss to their 2016 name. That is utterly incredible.

As is the case when you enter December with a lone blemish in the loss column... you start to think about things - legitimate things:

  • When will the Cowboys clinch the division? (December 11th in my estimation)
  • When will the Cowboys clinch a first-round bye? (We'll discuss in the coming weeks)
  • When will the Cowboys clinch home-field advantage? (stay tuned to Inside The Star)

Typically when an NFL team is in the position the current Cowboys are, they have to consider these things. We're talking about if the Cowboys have clinched all that they can with time left before the playoffs. In other words... what if the Cowboys play a totally meaningless game in Week 17? (or Week 16, you get the picture).

In situations like that these teams normally rest their starters or give them minimal playing time so as to minimize the risk for injury. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant, and others likely won't play in these hypothetical games... but what about Tony Romo?

Should the Dallas Cowboys reach a point where they have clinched everything that they can (division, bye, home-field) then they should absolutely not play Tony Romo. Here's why.


Would You Rather Have Tony Romo Or Mark Sanchez In The Playoffs?

That's what this boils down to, ultimately.

Say the Dallas Cowboys decide to play Tony Romo in a meaningless game... and that he gets hurt. Then say a few weeks later in the NFC Championship game against the Seahawks that Dak Prescott gets hurt. Do you know who your knight in shining armor is in that moment? Mark Sanchez.

The Cowboys have what is indisputably the best backup quarterback in the NFL with Tony Romo on the sidelines. Why would they jeopardize that? Let's not forget that Tony Romo, as much as we all love him, has been critically hurt in two of the last three regular season games that he's played (three out of six if you count the bits of 2016 preseason). Why would you jeopardize his health - which could be needed in the playoffs - for literally no gain?

"The Cowboys Can Maximize Tony Romo's Trade Value By Him Playing Well"

When you say that Romo shouldn't play a meaningless game, this is typically the response that you get. It is not practical or of sound reason.

Could Tony Romo trot out during a meaningless game and play some of the finest football that we've ever seen, thus making whoever will want him this offseason want him all the more? Sure. Anything can happen. But in your opinion is that likely? Would you even give it 50% chance of likelihood? Of course not, because you're someone who is practical and of sound reason.

These are the possible results of Tony Romo playing in a meaningless game:

  1. He's awesome and improves his trade stock.
  2. He's not awesome and diminishes his trade stock.
  3. He gets hurt.

Even if Option 1 was the result... how much is Tony Romo really going to improve his trade stock at this point? He's a very seasoned veteran, people know who he is. The best thing going for Tony Romo honestly might be that nobody has seen him play in over a year.

Tony Romo's Mystery: Why It's A Good Thing

The last time that Tony Romo took a regular season snap in the NFL was November 26th, 2015. That was a long time ago.

If you fast forward to the offseason someone is going to have interest in him, we've already heard about the teams that supposedly do. The greatest thing Tony Romo has going for him right now is the element of surprise in that no one knows whether he can still do it at a high level anymore.

Why is it a great thing? What if you're an NFL GM and, during a meaningless game, you find out Tony Romo can't do it anymore? It's an uncomfortable reality that we don't really want to come to terms with, but what if Tony Romo simply cannot get it done like he used to? This would explain why the team went with Dak Prescott, and playing Tony Romo for no reason flirts with a lot more negative repercussions than positive results.

Tony Romo Or Mark Sanchez: That's What This Comes Down To

We're back to where we started here and that's whether you would rather have Tony Romo or Mark Sanchez quarterbacking your Cowboys in the playoffs should Dak Prescott get hurt.

Right now we believe that Tony Romo can still get it done at a high level, and dangling that potential lottery ticket over a flame of injury and accidents is not smart business. That's what this is all about - business. Playing Tony Romo in a completely meaningless game (which by the way would likely be IN Philadelphia) is going against the philosophy of preserving depth that this team has reaped the benefits from all season long.

We all believe that Tony Romo still has a lot in the tank. This is exactly why if the Cowboys are in a meaningless game that they shouldn't risk him for the sake of maybe/possibly/hopefully improving his supposed trade stock. It's not smart business.

Would you play Tony Romo in a completely meaningless game? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

Tell us what you think about "Should The Cowboys Play Tony Romo In A Potential Meaningless Game?" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!



  1. Tommy (@TommyVictorySec)

    November 28, 2016 at 8:56 am

    play @Romo to get rust off and increase trade value. the potential “risk” of injury should never be over riding factor

    • RJ Ochoa

      RJ Ochoa

      November 28, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      It’s not a “risk” of injury that we’re avoiding. It’s about prioritizing depth at the most important position on the team. Do you really want to flirt with the possibility of Dak going down in the playoffs and relying on Mark Sanchez in the NFC Championship Game all because you didn’t want to consider what “risk” might result in?

      • Grumpy

        December 3, 2016 at 11:33 am

        Who is to say Romo does not go down in the playoffs? We still end up with Sanchez. Let him play to knock the rust off and get comfortable. A rusty QB coming in for playoffs is really dangerous.

        • RJ Ochoa

          RJ Ochoa

          December 7, 2016 at 10:36 am

          No one is saying that Romo won’t go down in the playoffs, but at least he’ll be available for them. Isn’t a rust Romo better than Sanchez? That’s the whole point.

  2. Mike Young

    November 28, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    My initial reaction is yes, play Romo who has been named backup. If the game is meaningless, then why risk injury to starter Prescott? Also, Romo gets snaps at “game speed” as preparation in case he’s needed. But on another level there is a case to be made for playing the starters even in a meaningless game. If we have a first round bye, then do the starters go three weeks without playing a game?

    • RJ Ochoa

      RJ Ochoa

      December 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

      I’m not advocating playing Dak over Romo in a potential meaningless game, I’m advocating keeping them both off the field and playing Sanchez. It goes without saying that getting Romo reps would be nice to have, but is it worth the risk that comes with trying to do that? That’s the question, and I don’t believe it is.

  3. Gary Barrett

    December 1, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Whatever they decide they’d better not put him in w/o the rest of the starters. If it’s meaningless the starters won’t be playing and I wouldn’t put Romo in w/backups. Go Cowboys

    • Gbear

      December 3, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      If they clinch home field throughout the playoffs, early, let’s say w/2 games left, then everyone knows the backup WILL play, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey. How much he’ll play is up to whatever criteria the coach goes by. If the wins continue I’m pretty certain we will see Tony out there, don’t think he’ll have the starting o-line but it’s going to get interesting. I think Tony is in the best shape he’s been since 2014, I think it’ll be exciting to see him at least one more time. Go Cowboys #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY

      • RJ Ochoa

        RJ Ochoa

        December 7, 2016 at 10:39 am

        This “regardless of the name on the back of the jersey” line isn’t how you run this type of situation. This isn’t some moment in high school football where you’re trying to be cliche and send a message. Romo isn’t a “name on the back of the jersey” type of guy- he’s a potential difference-maker. Because he is a potential ace card, you don’t risk him… especially to prove some “he’s a backup and the backups play” point.

        • Gbear

          December 7, 2016 at 4:33 pm

          You sound more like a fan than a reporter which is fine with me. You sound nothing like a coach, to a “good” coach (Bill Bellichek comes to mind) the name on the jersey is completely and totally irrelevant. A backup is a backup is a backup and will be treated and utilized as such. Romo is the backup without benefit of real game action for a very long time. There is rust, when do you as a coach want to discover the rust and the extent of that rust? It’s not during the playoffs when the starter goes down. I’d suggest the view of the backup should concen a fan, teammate, coaches and owner to the extent of functionality instead of ambulatory. Romo has to get game action sometime before it matters, but Garrett has to know what he can still do. Is he tentative due to the psychology of injury, does he bail to early, can he regain effectiveness under fire? So many questions, so little time. You can wish Tony can go in and pick it up from 2014 but only delusion convinces you of it without evidence. As soon as Jerry Jones can talk or threaten Jason Garrett into playing Tony we’ll certainly see him prior to playoffs, regardless.
          Personally I’d like to see Tony start against the Giants for about a quarter and half, hoping he can build a quick lead. If so I’d bring Dak back for clock control utilizing the run and more designed qb runs. I’d have to try it if I was Garrett, I would be surprised if they haven’t considered something similar, it’d drive opposing coordinators and coaches nuts.
          #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY Go Cowboys

          • RJ Ochoa

            RJ Ochoa

            December 7, 2016 at 5:38 pm

            The thing about this conversation is that neither one of us is a coach, a good coach, or Bill Belichick.

            If you want to micromanage this situation into simplicities with your “a backup is a backup is a backup and will be treated and utilized as such,” then that’s your decision; there are far larger stakes and considerations to be examined here.

            Is there a concern that Tony Romo has rust? Undeniably. This isn’t a situation with a perfect or flawless path of operation, we’re doing our best to maximize our odds of success.

            I have no wish, no desire, no inclination to see Tony Romo go pick it up from 2014 or to see the coaches flip-flop with him and Dak Prescott in New York against the Giants. My thought process is maximizing the chances of success in the games that matter, which would not be a meaningless game in Week 17 in Philadelphia.

            How would you feel with your “a backup is a backup is a backup and will be treated and utilized as such” mentality if you bring Tony Romo back in this game, he gets hurt, and then Dak got hurt in the NFC Championship Game? Would you be proud of playing the backup quarterback in the situation that called for it, or would you be wishing there had been a little bit more foresight… regardless if it was yours or Bill Belichick’s?

          • Gbear

            December 7, 2016 at 7:39 pm

            I’ve been a coach for many years and think like one. I would play Romo without hesitation, if he gets hurt, he gets hurt. You have to play the game, you can’t predict injuries. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the Super Bowl and Dak gets hurt, Romo could go in and be hurt the very next play. No one can protect a player except by keeping him on the bench, actually he could be hurt on the sideline, stuff happens. #playtony #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY Go Cowboys

    • RJ Ochoa

      RJ Ochoa

      December 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

      That’s the other thing- if he’s going to play it’s likely going to be without Tyron, Dez, etc… that’s a horrible idea.

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Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip

Mauricio Rodriguez



Next Day Rant: Cowboys Drafting LB Vander Esch Looks Pretty Smart Now

Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.

After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

DallasCowboys linebacker @VanderEsch38 has been added to the 2019 Pro Bowl Roster. 🐺 Congratulations, rookie! →

The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.

Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.

But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.

Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.

The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.

Tell me what you think about "Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Jess Haynie



Travis Frederick

Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.

After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire

While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.

It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.

Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.

That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.

But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.

Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.

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For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way

John Williams



Playoff Scenarios Aim Towards Seahawks vs Cowboys in Wild Card

In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.

This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.

A few Rams Passing Game Notes

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  • The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
  • The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
  • The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
  • They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
  • The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.

Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.

On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.

The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.

NFL Research on Twitter

Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak

No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.

The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.

This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.

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