Drama, thy name is Dallas.
The euphoria of the Dallas Cowboys’ come-from-behind victory against the Washington Redskins on Sunday was replaced by disappointment following the news that quarterback Tony Romo is unlikely to play against the Philadelphia Eagles in the winner-take-all battle for the NFC East title because of a back injury.
The Cowboys are refusing to rule him out, preferring the day-to-day approach of Jason Garrett, aka Coach Process.
But a herniated disk that could require surgery is not anything that is resolved in less than a week.
So that means that the most important game of the season, the most important one of the Jason Garrett era, the one that will decide whether the Cowboys make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and avoid a third consecutive 8-8 season is now in the hands of journeyman backup Kyle Orton.
Talk about a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking.
At this point, I’m starting to believe the old joke that owner Jerry Jones made a deal with the devil to win that last Super Bowl in 1995 under Barry Switzer. Since then, the Old Trickster has had Jones and the Cowboys on a road to perdition with only two playoff wins, including just one postseason victory and a 136-135 record since the 1997 season.
Or maybe it’s former coach Jimmy Johnson, who was unceremoniously fired after back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1992 and 1993, getting his payback. Or even the legendary Tom Landry, who, according to his wife, never forgave Jones for firing him in 1989 and rooted for the rival New York Giants until his death.
How else do you explain the Cowboys’ current lot?
Even among all the drama of this season to go along with the roller coaster the franchise has been on since Romo took over at quarterback in 2006, you understood where Jones was coming from when he said the basis of any hopes he had of the Cowboys making the playoffs was because they had Romo at quarterback.
Through all the injuries, through all the play-calling turmoil, through all the talk about coaching changes, the one constant was Romo.
While his critics quickly point to the game-deciding interceptions in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers this year, think about where this team, which features the worst defense in franchise history and one of the worst in league history, would be without Romo at the helm.
He is the league’s eighth-rated quarterback with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Twice this season he has led the Cowboys to victory in the fourth quarter — upping his team-record total to 20 — and none were likely better than last Sunday’s miracle against the Redskins.
It was Romo, hampered by the back injury that is threatening to end his season, who led the Cowboys back from a 23-14 deficit in the fourth quarter.
The heroic game-winner came on a pass to running back DeMarco Murray when a hobbling Romo had to buy time to make a play on fourth-and-goal from the 10.
It was enough to think that yes, maybe this year the Cowboys would finally break through.
After failing in win-or-go-home games on the road against the New York Giants and Washington Redskins the past two years, the Cowboys get the Eagles at home at AT&T Stadium.
But then the news came on Monday about Romo likely missing the game with the back injury, putting the season and Jones’ hopes in the hands of Orton — a nice enough fellow, with a 35-30 career starting record.
Orton has zero starts since the 2011 season and only played three games of mop-up duty for the Cowboys the past two years.
The Cowboys are 6-7 since 2006 without Romo at quarterback.
It likely will take another deal with the devil to put them back at .500 without their starting quarterback on Sunday.