There is plenty of debate swirling around quarterback Tony Romo and how the Cowboys should handle his latest injury. The recovery period for his fractured vertebrae has been given everything from 4-10 weeks.
The Cowboys have the option of putting Romo on Injured Reserve but then bringing him back after eight weeks. They could also just leave him on the 53-man roster, inactive on gamedays, and keeping the option to bring Romo back at whatever point he can go.
There are plenty of a factors to consider when determining how you want to handle Romo’s status. Here is a summary:
If Dallas doesn’t put Romo in IR then it will tie up a roster spot. It means one of your other positions won’t be as deep, or that you may have to risk losing a talented young player from off your practice squad.
Consider one of their raw talents like running back Darius Jackson or tight end Rico Gathers. Dallas would probably like to keep both on the roster to avoid another team poaching them. But that roster spot occupied by a recovering Romo would likely cost one of them that protection.
As of the writing of this article, Dallas has yet to add any new quarterbacks. Right now they only have Dak Prescott and Jameil Showers active and able to play. They held a workout with free agent Austin Davis yesterday, but not deal has been made yet.
If Dallas wants to keep Romo off of IR then, early in the year, they may actually have to carry four quarterbacks! Prescott would start and then Davis or some other veteran would be added. However, they may then need to keep Showers on the roster while the veteran addition has time to learn the offense.
Personally, I have no problem with Showers being Dak’s backup now and going forward. I think he’s shown himself to be a capable player and his style of play would make for an easy transition if he had to come in for Prescott.
Last year, Dallas traded for a veteran backup QB who checked every single box. Matt Cassel was as good a backup option as you could ask for on paper, but we all saw how that turned out. It’s hard to ask any player to just walk in and play without spending one training camp or preseason with a team.
Last year we saw what happened when Tony Romo tried to come back quickly from an injury. He lasted one-and-a-half games.
Of course, this is an entirely different injury to a different part of the body. One has nothing to do with the other. However, it’s still a glaring reminder of what can happen if you try to rush things.
If Romo is placed on IR then he would miss at least seven games. He would be out for Week 1-6 and then be able to start practicing. Week 7 is Dallas bye, essentially giving the team a bonus game with Romo once he returns.
If they think Romo needs at least 8-10 weeks of recovery then there’s no question that you put him on IR. It would be a waste of a roster spot otherwise.
The only question is how much everyone feels he can really come back closer to that 4-6 range. If he only has to miss a quarter of the season, or even less, then you probably want to leave you options open.
The Dak Factor
At this point everyone agrees on one thing; Dallas may have something really special in Dak Prescott. Maybe they want use this time to see just what the kid has.
A couple of games may not tell you everything. The aforementioned Austin Davis or a guy like Matt Flynn have all made millions off a few great games. But increased exposure reveals the truth.
Seven games is plenty of time to learn what Prescott is. You will know for sure if you need to keep scouting mid-round quarterbacks in the next few drafts or if you already have the future in place.
What’s more, seven games is enough time for Prescott to potentially earn the starting QB job from this point forward. If Prescott is a rookie phenom and the team is winning with him, how do you justify bringing Romo back in? Seven games of evidence is enough to sell the majority of people that you’re making the best decision for the franchise.
Obviously, none of us are rooting against Romo. But ultimately we root for the Cowboys and whatever’s best for the team. Ask a Patriots fan if they lose any sleep over what happened with Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady.
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The decision to be made here is difficult. It has multiple layers; medical information, loyalty to players, team performance, and others.
What scares me is the idea that Romo will push to come back. That could be for his love of the game and desire to play, but also the fear of being the new Drew Bledsoe. Romo has already been quoted that he sees himself playing a few more years. We assume he wants those years to be in Dallas, and Prescott is now a threat to that goal.
Putting Romo on Injured Reserve would mitigate that risk. It would give him a full 10 weeks between the date of his injury and the earliest point that he could play again, with nine games still to go in the season.
What’s more, if takes a huge monkey off the back of Dak Prescott and the coaches as they try to get through the games during his absence. It would eliminate the “when’s Tony playing” question from everyone’s minds, setting a firm timetable. As much as I believe in Prescott’s ability to handle pressure, why pile on?
Granted, I don’t know how realistic the possibility of Romo coming back by Week 3 or 4 truly is. If they think there’s a legitimate potential then I guess I can’t fault them for wanting to keep the option open.
However, if the 8-10 week recovery time is the more realistic timetable then I think the team’s best decision is to put Tony Romo in Injured Reserve. Relieve some of the pressure off your rookie QB and force your veteran to put his health over all other concerns.
Clearly, it’s not an easy choice.