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Tony Romo: The Harsh Reality I Had To Come To Terms With

How long did it take you to finally appreciate Tony Romo?

Did it happen quickly? Did you immediately fall in love when he entered that game in 2006? Was it after his first playoff victory in 2009? Was it last year when he played as efficient as it gets leading the Cowboys to a 12-4 record with a playoff victory? Or was it this season, when you realized what life is like without number nine under center?

You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

One of the most important sayings in this world holds true when it comes to Tony Romo.

The saddest part…the end may be sooner than any of us want to think it is…myself included.

While I have firmly believed the Cowboys should address the quarterback position via the draft for the past couple years, I have always thought it would be so that Romo could train the young player and we could have a seamless transition in a couple of years.

I always childishly thought that Romo would be my quarterback forever. As a 23-year-old Dallas Cowboys fan, Romo was the first great Cowboys quarterback I ever got to watch. I have several different versions of his jersey. I have his FatHead on the wall of my basement, with a signed picture of him accompanying it. My girlfriend painted a picture of Romo and Dez and that hangs in my bedroom. Tony Romo is that connection that I have from childhood to adulthood. Someone that will always be very important to me.

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Framed painting of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant hangs in my bedroom

With that being said, it really hit a nerve this weekend when I heard about how the hit Romo took in week one against the Giants brought him back to where he was in week one against the 49ers in 2014.

Tony Romo played a large portion of 2014 and with an entire offseason, I thought we would see a Tony Romo as healthy as he’s been in some time. The back should have been stronger. The aches and pains you get from playing such a physical sport your entire life should be lessened…and BOOM…one hit sends Romo right back to where he was.

Then there is the obvious, the fractured collarbone which he re-fractured just one week after returning.

All of this put together made me sit and think about this. One hit sent Romo back to where he was in week one of 2014? Someone so sparingly hit is getting hurt this often? Romo needed a day off on the Wednesday before his return against the Dolphins after sitting for all those weeks? What is really going on with my quarterback?

The reality is…Tony Romo is not what he used to be physically. I think we all tend to remove ourselves from the human aspect of pro sports and celebrities in general. Think about it, you play one game of football and I bet you wake up the next day as sore as could be. Yes, that is probably because you are doing something that your muscles aren’t used to. So then imagine playing an entire season of football, or any sport for that matter. I bet you wake up everyday with some sort of ache or pain. You get that numb feeling in your shoulder or your knee, etc. where you just feel the fatigue.

Picture that…but magnify it across twenty or so years. Think back to the Tony Romo playing football and basketball in high school. Then the same guy playing in college…and so on and so forth. Think about all the hits he has taken. Think about all the days and nights he has felt sore or achy. Take into account the amount of serious injuries Romo has sustained over his career. It all starts to add up.

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Tony Romo’s FatHead hangs in my basement next to a signed photo

Yes, there have been plenty of players who have played much later into their careers. Look at Tom Brady still dominating at 38 and Peyton Manning finally starting to regress at 39. These are nice stories, but every player is different and father-time chooses to strike people at different times.

Tony Romo plays a much different type of football than Manning or Brady. Romo has made a living off of being athletic. No, he’s not Russell Wilson or Michael Vick, but Romo would scramble, avoid pressure, take heavy hits…all while making big plays.

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Tony Romo puts the “Romo Spin” on JJ Watt

We know that Romo has taken Toradol a ton of times over his career.

Toradol is a heavy-duty anti-inflammatory drug. It reduces hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Toradol is a very controversial drug in sports today as the long-term effects of the drug are unknown.

His performance last season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving can be attributed to lack of Toradol in some minds. With the quick turnaround, it would be unhealthy for Romo to have taken another dose of Toradol for that Thanksgiving game.

Cowboys Blog - Tony Romo: The Harsh Reality I Had To Come To Terms With
The controversial anti-inflammatory drug, Toradol

This made me think about Romo’s performances on Thanksgiving as of late. In 2014, Romo was 18-29 for 199 yards with 0 TDs and 2 INTs, good for a 53.7 QB rating. In 2015, Romo was 11-21 for 106 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs, good for a 27.2 QB rating.

Since injuring his back, Romo has chucked up two of his worst career performances ever, on Thanksgiving. I wonder what we can expect from Romo on a short week in the future. Can both of these instances be attributed to lack of Toradol? Are the aches and pains from football so extreme that Romo can’t play in a short week? If Romo needs to sit every Wednesday practice, and we see what he does when forced to play on a Thursday, what does that tell you?

Then there is this which I found in a New York Times article about Toradol:

“The limit I’m worried about is, does it dull the pain so much that it dulls the body part they’ve injured?” said Dr. Carla C. Keirns, a medical ethicist at Stony Brook University, adding that athletes could be prone to reinjury because the warning signs of pain are muted.

If all of that isn’t enough to cause concern for Tony Romo, he is entering his age 36 season. To expect him to come back healthy and continue to be great would be expecting too much. Can he come back and play 16 games and lead this team to a great season? Of course he can. However, you have to consider some of the things that will happen to a quarterback who is 36 years old.

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At ages 35-36, quarterbacks see a drop off in their play. Keep in mind, we didn’t see Tony Romo play his age 35 season due to injury. We should see decreased arm strength. Will Romo be able to hit the deep ball like he did two years ago? Will he be able to throw an out route from the slot to the sideline with velocity? Will he have the same touch we expect? Will he be able to do some of the athletic pocket moves that make him so special?

More importantly, will Tony Romo be thinking about his back and shoulder when the defense is caving down on him? You can make an argument that protecting his back is why Romo has gone down like he has when injuring his collarbone. Not to mention the rib issues that he has had over his career.

I am as big a fan of Tony Romo as you will ever meet. It was hard coming to this realization. Part of me knew this was going to come, but I wanted to refuse the thought as long as I could. Unfortunately, this came quick during the 2015 season.

It is extremely important for the Dallas Cowboys to have a plan in place in case they have less of Tony Romo than they thought. I think you have Jerry Jones feeling the same way I do, and most fans do about Romo. We want to refuse the thought that we will ever see number 9 hang it up one day.

While we have that guy, it is extremely important to not only back him up, but to use the opportunity to have a young quarterback sit, watch and learn from Tony Romo. It could be a real luxury to not have to thrust someone into the fire so early. Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long and not letting your young quarterback learn and be as ready as possible. Tony Romo is as good a player to learn from on-the-field and off-the-field.

Nobody wants the day when someone other than Tony Romo is behind center. It will hurt even more if they are not prepared when that day comes.

What do you think?

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Written by Nick Cocchiaro

I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content.

I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

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