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We’re Going to Miss Him When He’s Gone

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What this world needs is another opinion on Tony Romo.  I'm certain of it.

Please bear with me and resist the urge to eye-roll.  Throwing my hat in the contributors ring around here should call for an initiation of sorts, complete with a formal declaration, as in Name, Rank, Serial Number, and Stated Position on Tony Romo.  I know and accept that what I say here will be held against me forever more, and might even prompt an audit.

The name's Erod, scrub captain, BR549, and Lord help me, I love the knucklehead at QB.  Can't help it, and the intervention and therapy you prescribe won't work, so stuff it.

So let's get to it without trudging the tired and beaten paths more than minimally necessary.  Romo is synonymous with politics, religion, chickens, eggs, and Gordon/Earnhardt.  Hadn't been an original thought on this subject since TO had money and LeBron was a Cavalier.  I mean, the first time he was a Cavalier.

Simply put, never has a player this good been this summarily and unfairly dismissed in the NFL, ever.  If you can name another, please share.

Before I make my case for Romo, know this about me.  I detest statistical arguments.  Despise them to their core.  Why?  Because they're too often used definitively to cloud the truth.  Too many think stats win arguments, when they do exactly the opposite.  We have an inherent skill to create them from thin air, and ambiguously skew them as our agenda requires.  Reality is, you can't quantify players in team sports with just mathematics.  It ain't golf.

Football is more art than science, so to truly know and understand a player, it takes time and thought and prolonged observation, something not everyone can or will devote to a single player.  I can't say from here that I fully understand or appreciate Matt Ryan or Jay Cutler or Phillip Rivers either.  I don't drench myself in the day-to-day with those teams to have more than a fan's impression from afar.  However, I still take care not to lean on stats for any of them, and base my impressions from my mind's eye, with room to change my mind.

Jeff George had kickass stats.  So did Ernest Givens and Herman Moore.  Troy Aikman and Drew Pearson and Lynn Swann didn't.  Peyton Manning has them; Russell Wilson doesn't.  Numbers reflect circumstance, style, and approach.  Imagine if Emmitt had been drafted by Kansas City, or Jerry Rice was catching passes from Steve Pelluer.

Hey, let's be honest, Romo has great stats.  A bajillion yards passing and enough TD passes to make Roger and Troy blush.  "Greatest QB rating in the 4th quarter of all time" is the coolest one to say out loud.  Whatever, I don't care about Romo's numbers because his case doesn't depend on them.  All I've had to do is open my eyes and my mind, watch the games, and ask myself....

Where would this team have been the past five years without him?

Pardon the shudder, that's scary to ponder.  Romo has danced the Charleston on a high-wire act throughout this ongoing circus since Tuna left town, suffering through Wade, and now waiting on the rebuilding hopes of Garrett, McClay, and now Linehan.  I so wish Parcells was 10 years younger and could have raised him properly in this Beatles-band spotlight of Dallas.

Way back when, Romo inherited a pretty salty team, but he was an NFL quarterback in training at the time, relying on Jedi mind tricks and a boyish grin to get him from one huddle to the next.  As the newness wore off and his game sharpened, that same roster began to age and falter almost overnight.  His arrow pointed opposite the team's, without enough fruitful draft picks and cap room to catch the fall.

The offensive line became tattered and torn, and the defense regressed into historic incompetence.  There were still shiny, skilled objects to distract the masses, which allowed Romo to amaze us all with sleight-of-hand and Houdini acts along the way.  Because of him, this 4-12 roster got more attention than it deserved.

Garrett knows this.  So do coaches and quarterbacks past and present, who often seem to be the only public voices to support Romo.  Even the likes of Jaworski and Simms and well-intentioned RG3 have made a distinct point to say to him and us, "You're a damn fine quarterback, don't listen to what everybody says about you."

What grits my teeth is that so many Cowboys fans don't get this.  They go full goose-step and adopt the opinions of ne'er-do-wells hundreds of miles away, instead of trusting their eyes and their instinct.  It's easier and less exhausting to just chime in with the thoughtless hordes.

No, I haven't forgotten the bobbled snap.   (How many starting QBs hold on field goals?)  I watched the failure of 13-3 end against the Giants. (If Crayton doesn't drop the ball.)  I saw the 2011 finale in New York.  (Romo played with a sprained throwing hand), the 2012 pick against Washington, (the defense gave up nearly 300 yards rushing before Romo's awful pass), and Orton against the Eagles (if Romo played that day, they win easily).

And yes, I've seen the late-game interceptions that transfix the zombies.  Games, mind you, that Dallas had no business being competitive in without Romo.  Brady and Manning throw late interceptions, too, but their defenses put out the fire, so nobody remembers.  Other quarterbacks do - or don't - throw picks late, but they're down three touchdowns, so nobody cares.  I share your frustration with Romo at times, understand, but balanced in context.

Just how perfect does he have to be for this team to win?

Forgotten too often are the numerous games, more than most any QB, that Romo has taken the Cowboys down the field to win a game late, too.  Most of those included flaccid rushing efforts and a Cowboy defense giving up yards and points in droves.  So many losses that should have been, but weren't, thanks to No. 9.  So many drubbings made competitive.

Perhaps the pinnacle of my pissed-off-edness came last year against Denver.  We ALL saw Romo outplay Peyton, stem to stern, on every level, before stepping on his lineman's foot and throwing a plucked duck that led to a OT field goal.  Romo was brilliant beyond brilliant, but couldn't overcome his French-ified defense that day, and he finally made a mistake.  Nanoseconds after the game, the simpletons and dolts spilled from every crevice and hung Romo in effigy.  It explains so much about so many things, I suppose, especially beyond football.

I contend that if Romo was the QB in Seattle, he'd be going for his third straight championship this season.  Same for San Fran.  He's markedly better than both Wilson and Kaepernick, though his circumstances aren't.  Jerry's past failings ladle over this team and haunt Romo's legacy.

If there's football justice - and there often isn't - good health will allow Romo a real shot or two with a worthy roster.  It's getting better, but it might oughta hurry it up.  Bad backs are onerous injuries.

When Romo is no mo', it'll finally sink in among us all.  I hope it doesn't come to that, but I know this.  We're going to miss him when he's gone.



A jilted, frustrated, but eternally optimistic season-ticket holder.

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

Matthew Lenix

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys have what many believe to be the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. However, you can never undervalue the importance of depth at any position. When the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft came around, the Cowboys added another weapon to the backfield by selecting Tony Pollard out of Memphis.

If you’re looking for a dynamic player maker with the ability to take it to the house at any given moment, Pollard is your man. The former Tiger averaged a touchdown every 13 touches in college. That’s an absolutely insane statistic when you think about it. He also tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Long story short, he can get you six points at the blink of an eye.

The versatility in his game is outrageous and undoubtedly the reason why he was drafted. In addition to running for 941 yards on 6.8 yards per rush, he also had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to be salivating about the possibilities with his new toy. Having a running back that can not only carry the load as a runner but also line up at receiver keeps the defense honest. You never know what angle the offense is going to come from.

This has to be a sigh of relief for Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Cowboys don’t have to overexert him and can bring Pollard in on third downs if need be. Not just to give Elliott a breather but to change the pace of the offensive attack. You can hand the ball off, throw it to him or run jet sweeps when he is on the field. This sets up a potential combo at running back that could be the leagues very best shortly.

Speed, quickness, and agility are all wrapped up in the Tony Pollard package. The Cowboys now have a running back that can line up at multiple positions if need be. Also, this prevents a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the body of Ezekiel Elliott. This combination has all the potential to set the NFL on fire in 2019.



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CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.

While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.

I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.

So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.

"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola

Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.

It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.

And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.



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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.

The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.

Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.

2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.

Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.

He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.

If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.

He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.



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