To play or not to play Tony Romo. That would be Billy Shakespeare’s question were he a Cowboys fan.
Such a cut-and-dried conundrum would seem simple by nature, but of course, there’s nothing simple in Cowboyland, where owners play doctor and hopes hinge on the magic lumbar of a Cinderella-storied, beloved, and equally detested quarterback.
Offseason back surgery already had Dallas holding its collective breath with every hit on Romo, especially as wins piled up. So when Romo laid prone Monday for agonizingly too long, then logrolled, rose, and old-man walked to the X-ray room, season-ending thoughts crept through the rafters. Perhaps career-ending even.
But then suddenly, there he was, tossing balls on the sidelines on Jerry’s big TeeVee. Season back on. The sting of what followed was very much an afterthought in the big picture. Football apocalypse will have to wait another day.
So here things are, with a season still in very good standing, and a QB who’ll want to play Sunday most likely no matter what. What to do now, if you’re Jason Garrett? Do you play Romo if he can numb his back and go on Sunday against the team with the best record in the NFC?
Option 1 is, of course, no.
Why subject Romo to a Cardinals defense that blitzes as much, and better, than Washington? Why not let a healthy and seasoned backup, and the NFL’s top running game, give this a go while Romo mends? Why risk a 6-2 season in October when Tony Romo is so critical to the postseason equation, especially with Jacksonville and a bye to follow?
Park Romo until New York and let that mysterious injury, of which the Cowboys will not speak, heal. Four full weeks to rest Romo before that final run at the division, and perhaps a bye. Dallas could not ask for a better scenario to coddle Romo and his back midseason.
This is punctuated by the fact that Romo has sat out practice on Wednesdays, while Weeden took crucial practice snaps with the first team. He’s more ready than most backups for this because of it.
So even without Romo, 7-3 is probable, and 8-2 is more than possible heading into the bye.
Which brings us to option 2: play him.
Why is this even a consideration, given the current state of things, you ask? Truth is, it shouldn’t be, but this isn’t Arizona or Buffalo or Jacksonville. This is Football Hollywood.
And, this is “America’s Team”. Bring us your tired, your poor, and your completely clueless when it comes to football. Dallas breeds a mutated fan base of lemmings that start mornings in the Funny Pages and think as they’re told. Add a national media licking its chops to tear into the fabric of this unexpectedly great start to the season. Implode this thing from within; that will be the strategy from afar. Stoke at every chance.
God forbid Dallas win with Weeden. Heaven help us if this running game, offensive line, and abundant receiving corps make the backup look good. A full-on quarterback controversy will blow up the air waves and lead every Sports Center. They might even break into the election coverage on Tuesday with Romo-Weeden updates.
So if Tony Romo can go, you keep the mojo of this season churning and take that risk. Avoid the distraction of a concocted quarterback controversy, and give the Cardinals a heavy dose of the run game and protect Romo. Take what fate brings this week, beat Jacksonville, and regroup with the extra week.
Besides, he did it in San Francisco with a punctured lung, remember? He kept playing after that, too.
So what’s best?
The choice from here is clear. You play Weeden the next two weeks and get Tony Romo ready for the stretch run. I don’t fear an implosion from within because that is a strong locker room of Garrett’s RKGs, with a coaching staff up to the task. Romo knows this, as does Weeden. Such is simple football and management logic, at least for this week.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy the aftermath. It’ll take earplugs and blindfolds to get through mid-week between games as the national nonsense ensues. The mindless will riot over anything, and jump on the biggest bandwagon they see coming. There’ll be plenty of help from the outside to throw bloody meat in the cage every day.
But never mind all that in the meantime. Sit him. Eyes forward. Play on.