After injuring his back in the preseason, Tony Romo has watched from the sideline while rookie Dak Prescott has led the Dallas Cowboys to a league-best 8–1 record. With each passing week, it looked like Romo would suffer the same fate he helped hand to Drew Bledsoe a decade ago — having his job taken from him by a younger QB.
Now healthy, Romo held a press conference Tuesday evening in which he endorsed Prescott as the starter. It now seems that Romo’s time in Dallas is nearing its end. What Romo didn’t address in that press conference was his future. It’s time to find him a new home — and we’re here to do it.
Danny Kelly: If anyone knows how to pull off a coup like landing an All-Pro-caliber veteran quarterback who would complete an already-solid roster, it’s John Elway. The former Super Bowl–winning quarterback became a Super Bowl–winning general manager in Denver largely because of his ability to woo Peyton Manning to the Broncos in 2012 when the Colts decided to go with Andrew Luck. While big-ticket free-agency signings and trades are often doomed to failure, Manning transformed Denver from a good team into a juggernaut in short order. Romo could do the same.
The circumstances now are slightly different — Elway will have to trade for the Cowboys’ longtime passer, so he’ll have to woo Jerry Jones, not Romo — but there’s not a more perfect place for Romo to land. The Broncos still have an elite defense. They have a good ground game. They have two great receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. They have a similar heavy-boot-action zone-blocking scheme up front. What they don’t have is a great quarterback. The Trevor Siemian experiment has fizzled and Paxton Lynch is nowhere close to being ready. But Romo could hit the ground running.
Megan Schuster: Romo doesn’t need a “new” home or a “next” home — he needs to go back home.
Romo grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin, about 150 miles south of Green Bay, and he goes back each summer for his annual youth football camp. Despite his Wisconsin ties, Romo denied any Packers allegiances before his first NFL start against Green Bay, although former Dallas receiver Patrick Crayton has called him “a Brett Favre fan,” and years after Romo went undrafted in 2003, Troy Aikman said “had Green Bay wanted to sign him to a free-agent contract, he’d probably be a Packer right now.”
One could argue that Green Bay doesn’t necessarily need a quarterback at the moment (cc: two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers), but since the Packers’ 2015 bye week, Rodgers has been anything but consistent. In the first six weeks of last season, Rodgers recorded four games with a quarterback rating over 100. He’s had a total of just three since. And sure, he’s shown flashes of brilliance this season, but he’s also laid more than a few eggs.
Romo will likely never make his way to Green Bay (what with the Packers’ general phobia toward trades and free-agent signings), and even if he did, Rodgers deserves some trust and good faith that he’ll figure things out. But that doesn’t mean, given the chance, that Romo wouldn’t be open to the idea. “I actually find that you can go home again,” he told ESPN in June. Yes, Tony, sometimes you can.
Mallory Rubin: I wonder if Romo is planning to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them this weekend. I wonder if he has J.K. Rowling on the mind. I wonder if he’s sitting at his locker right now, reciting Albus Dumbledore’s words: “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
Dak Prescott is young. Romo is old, but if Tuesday’s agonizing press conference told us anything, it’s that he definitely remembers what it was to be young. Why should Romo spend each day staring at the man who stole his life, tormenting himself by longing for a past he can never again reclaim? Why agonize over what was but can never again be? Dak won. Youth won. So Romo needs to go live among his fellow elderly infirmed. He needs to go to Baltimore.
Dak is cool. Dak is fast. Dak is spry. Joe Flacco, on the other hand, is approximately as energetic as a prune. He’s statuesque, both in the literal “tall and dignified” way and in the more figurative “never remembers to move, often appears to be napping” sense. Dak is so alive that his essence cannot possibly be contained; Flacco very recently had to convince the public that he was not dead.
Romo wants to be a starting quarterback. But he needs to feel young again, and Papa Joe — father of four, endorser of soft candies, possessor of shredded ligaments — can give him that. “I think once you control the man inside of you, the one across from you doesn’t really matter,” Romo said on Tuesday. If that man already has one leg in the football grave, he matters even less.
Fox’s ‘NFL Sunday’
Kevin Clark: Romo showed a lot of poise on Tuesday when he gave what amounted to a concession speech in the quarterback battle with Prescott. Instead of chasing another starting quarterback position with a bland team like the Jets, Rams, or (shudder) Browns, he should just keep talking for a living and join the ranks of television stars.
Romo has played in four games since the start of last season and will turn 37 in April. He’s clearly shown a propensity to get injured, and that won’t get better in his advanced age. By the way, the only offensive line that will keep him upright and healthy? Prescott is playing behind it right now. Any other team that would have an available spot for him is a risk to get him sacked and injured. So the solution is for Romo to slide into a chair next to Michael Strahan and Howie Long and talk about football from the safety of a Los Angeles studio. We know he’d be perfect — he’s already shown throughout his career that he’s one of football’s most engaging talkers, and he gets to go out vaguely on top: gracefully handing the torch off to a quarterback who will deliver Dallas some big wins. No one wants to see you on the Jets, Tony. But we still want to see you every Sunday.
Jason Gallagher: Tony Romo doesn’t need to find a new home because he will forever live in my heart. (That’s a wrap on submissions, everyone. Happy Wednesday.)
In all seriousness, this dude ought to be remembered as a Dallas Cowboys legend — period. Not only for his spectacular play on the field (look it up), but also for the way he has handled every single thing that came at him with decency and grace. It’s not easy being the face of the Dallas Cowboys. Since entering the league, Romo has experienced a lightning-fast rise to fame, wild success, humiliating losses, unfortunate injury luck, and years of unjustified media bullshit. And he’s handled it all like a fucking champion.
Tuesday, we saw that grace on display once again as he painfully accepted his new role of “backup QB to a rookie.” That’s not an easy thing, but Romo did it with the kind of class that makes Daniel Day-Lewis look like Lil Dicky. Why? For the good of the team and the good of the 214. (I’m not crying …)
So go on, Tony Romo. Get your starting role back as you should. But don’t forget that you will always and forever be a citizen of Dallas, TX. Cue T.O.
Sam Fortier: Romo and Drew Bledsoe are living the same life. They moved around as kids and spent time on the West Coast. They have dope parents (evidence via middle names: Ramiro and McQueen, respectively). They grew into 6-foot-something, 230-pound, gunslinging quarterbacks. They both had distinguished college careers (Romo’s was in DI-AA, but stay with me). They both signed $100 million contracts with their first franchises and then were usurped by young quarterbacks while they were out nursing injuries. Given this irrefutable evidence that Romo is tape-delayed Bledsoe, we can reasonably predict that Romo will be traded to an intradivision rival this offseason, play well only to be unseated by another young QB, and then bitterly sign with … Dallas again? Either way, after all that, Romo will end up owning a vineyard, too, and keeping a not-at-all-depressing silver Sharpie near him at all times to sign guests’ bottles. He will end up in Sports Illustrated’s “Where Are They Now?” section and find himself obsessing over wind patterns and soil quality and calling himself a “wine dork.” I hope you like grapes, Antonio.
Claire McNear: Romo should go to Disney World. Not only will he finally have the opportunity to check out Splash Mountain (not my jam, but the kids like it) and drink around the world at Epcot (my jam), he can make a new and vibrant home for himself in the most magical place on earth. I’m not suggesting that he is lacking for happiness currently, but he is, he absolutely is, and Tony, there’s a happy place for you there. There is also literally a place for you there, a tidy little establishment called Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. “Ladies will be over the moon for Tony’s pasta primavera and seafood pasta,” Tony’s promises, “while starry-eyed scamps indulge themselves on a delicious New York strip steak.” Tony, you dog (this is a pun), you’ll be so happy there, and moreover you’ll finally be able to do what you’ve always aspired to: make other people happy, all the way to the bottom of their molto delizioso chocolate-hazelnut filling. Mm-mm.
Also — gosh, what a coincidence — Tony, you’ll be around to greet each year’s Super Bowl victors. And when the quarterbacks and MVPs come marching in, eyes bloodshot and hair still matted with champagne, you, Tony Romo, can be there. Standing. Staring. Wearing your enemies’ collarbones around your neck. Waiting. The tunnels beneath the park are long and silent.
New York Jets
Sam Schube: You, a non-Jets fan, will laugh when I tell you: Brett Favre is the greatest New York Jets quarterback of my lifetime. I have a deep and abiding affection for Jedi Vinny Testaverde, and for Padawan Chad Pennington. I have no love for Neil O’Donnell. I care too much about Ryan Fitzpatrick, for reasons I cannot divine. I sincerely regret everything I ever said about Mark Sanchez, in praise and in condemnation. But Favre? In 2008, for one brief season in green and white, the aging, complaining, dick-pic-flinging gunslinger was … actually kind of good. And in East Rutherford, that passes for great. Favre completed 65.7 percent of his passes, good for 3,472 yards, 22 touchdowns (against — lol — 22 interceptions), and the distinct sense that, hey, having an even infrequently elite quarterback really changes things. The Jets went 9–7 and missed the playoffs. Favre, pushing 40, fake-retired.
I mention all of that so you don’t try to punch me when I say this: Romo, who is 36 and has a back made of Wheat Thins, would be head-and-shoulders above Brett Favre. He would be — I bite my tongue — the single greatest New York Jets quarterback of my lifetime. Easily. It will be awful, and I can’t wait for it to happen.
Caitlin Blosser: Romo is terribly fragile, but the QB market is bleak. He’s a proven veteran who could lead a multitude of teams whose standards are so low they would settle for a player with an arm that rotates. And whose standards are lower than the Jets? Ryan Fitzpatrick will never be able to replicate his 2015 production and Bryce Petty is definitely not the answer. The Jets have offensive weapons in Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker (currently injured), and Matt Forte. They have all of the pieces to be a really good team; they just need an offensive leader. Romo would have great chemistry with Chan Gailey, who coached the Cowboys for two seasons. Sure, it was before Romo’s time, but the connection’s still there.
Tony, if you still think playing football is a good choice for you, go to New York. If not, there’s always acting. Totally kidding, please don’t try to act!
Michael Baumann: For a sci-fi franchise with such a hyperbolically clear sense of good and evil, Star Trek usually gives you a good idea of where the bad guy is coming from, and when I think of a basically good person who’s been through enough shit to turn him evil, I think of Romo.
He’s also got a decade of experience leading a hated evil empire that — don’t worry — never wins anything of consequence. Romo could also get some pointers from Jerry Jones, the inspiration for Ahdar Ru’afo, F. Murray Abraham’s creepy, megalomaniacal, surgically reconstructed villain from Star Trek: Insurrection. But most of all, Romo, having seen years of offside and false-start penalties up close, understands perfectly when you’re not supposed to enter the neutral zone. I can’t think of a better choice to lead the Rom(o)ulans in the next Star Trek movie.
Carl Brooks Jr.: Romo has been the face of “America’s Team” for a decade now, and he strikes me as the type who won’t go through a decline in lifestyle well. So we need to find him a high-profile team in a big market that’s content to settle for a series of first-round playoff exits because hey, at least they’re in it. The Los Angeles Rams would be a perfect fit. L.A. is the kind of market Romo would need to keep his ego sufficiently stroked, he could give (false) hope to a new team in a new city, and after he leads the Rams to a first-round loss, he could show up on random daytime TV shows. Everyone wins.
Rodger Sherman: You know where the best place for Romo is? Dallas. Right there, on that sideline, while Dak Prescott plays and wins. Romo could definitely help another team be better, but why bother?
For too long, Tony has gone out and played football, and he’s been pretty great at it! But for all his effort and all the injuries he’s fought through, people still trash him. He’s never been clutch enough for people, even as he’s led dozens of game-winning drives. He’s never gone far enough in the playoffs for people, even though the Cowboys have generally been decent with him playing.
Let it go, Tony. You’re 36. You’ve made $127 million playing this sport, and your body is opting out. You don’t need to play.
Tell Jerry Jones you’d like to stick around and mentor Dak. It’d be crazy as hell for him to honor your contract and pay you $20 million to be a backup, but he’s crazy as hell, and he trusts you. Look him in the eye, and let him believe that you mean it.
And then hold a clipboard, collect checks, and enjoy the best seats in the house. If the Cowboys win, you get whatever trophies they get. If they lose, they blame Dak. Eat enough Texas BBQ that they can’t play you even if Dak struggles. Football ain’t living, Tony. It’s time for Tony to live.