Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is no closer to making a decision on the team’s offensive play-caller than he was last week.
During a news conference at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, he reiterated his statements of a week ago about being confident how it’s going to work out but still working through the mechanics of whether he will call plays or turn the duties over to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
But there was no vacillating from Garrett regarding quarterback Tony Romo and his importance to the Cowboys in 2013 and beyond — so much so that he doesn’t feel pressed to seek a replacement or even draft a quarterback for the future.
The Cowboys have had informal contract negotiations with the 32-year-old Romo about a long-term contract extension that will keep him with the team for the rest of his career.
How long that will be is unknown, but Garrett called Romo “a young 32” who has many more years left to play.
“I think Tony’s a young player,” Garrett said. “He’s 32 right now, but if you remember he didn’t play his first three or four years at all, so he’s been a starter for six years and he has a lot of football in front of him. I think if you watch him play you see a guy who can move, a guy who the ball really jumps out of his hand, very spontaneous as a player. You see no signs of him getting old as a player, so we feel good about him for a long time to come.”
The Cowboys plan to evaluate quarterbacks at the combine, but it’s not a pressing need as Garrett feels good about Romo and backup Kyle Orton.
It’s also why Garrett is on board with the team’s decision to try to lock in Romo to a new deal, which is critical in helping the Cowboys clear salary-cap room so they can address other areas of the team.
“That’s certainly part of the conversation,” Garrett said. “There’s math involved in this deal. Everyone has to get under the cap and a number of teams are making these types of decisions, so we do have an opportunity to restructure Tony’s contract. We believe very strongly in Tony Romo as our quarterback. We need to make sure we get that business done to help our football team be as good as it could be. We do have to address some things with personnel and freeing up some of that money will allow us to do that.”
Regarding specific needs they want to address in the draft and free agency, Garrett said team will evaluate every position in hopes of creating competition to help the Cowboys get stronger.
But there are some positions that are bigger needs than others, including the offensive line, running back and safety.
Garrett, understanding the team won’t be as active in free agency as last season because of salary cap constraints, echoed vice-president Stephen Jones in saying the team can improve the most during the off-season after an 8-8 campaign in 2012 by simply getting healthy.
Four defensive starters, including linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, safety Barry Church and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, were sidelined for the season as was nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff played in only six games due to injuries. Running back DeMarco Murray missed six games with injuries and Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware played the last half of the season with one arm because of shoulder and elbow injuries.
“I think we will be better,” Garrett said. “A lot of young guys will be better because of their experiences. Hopefully we will coach better. Hopefully, guys will play better. Hopefully, guys will be healthier. There were a number of guys on our team that weren’t available to us for a large part of the year. Hopefully, guys will stay healthy. There were a number of starting players, key guys who didn’t play a lot of games. It will be great to get those guys back in the roles they have been.
“Hopefully, they are better and stronger and continue to have Pro Bowl-type years like some of the guys have had.”