Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ biggest off-season decision is Tony Romo’s future

Coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t declare it publicly, but it goes without saying: Dak Prescott is the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback now and for the future.

The only question left for the Cowboys is where Tony Romo plays next season.

“Tony has been such a great player for the Cowboys over the course of his career here,” Garrett said Monday. “…We certainly want the best for him, whether he is here or whether he is somewhere else.

“Good things will happen for Tony Romo. A lot of things will be discussed over the next few weeks.”

The Cowboys didn’t make the midseason quarterback decision as much as Prescott made it for them. When Romo was ready to return from a compression fracture in his back, the Cowboys were on an eight-game winning streak. The streak reached a team-record 11 in a row before a loss to the New York Giants.

The legend of Prescott continued Sunday when he completed 13 of 17 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the final 17 minutes, 19 seconds of the divisional-round game, twice bringing Dallas back from dead.

The Cowboys lost 34-31 to the Green Bay Packers, ending their season, but Prescott became the first rookie quarterback of the 20 in the Super Bowl era to start a postseason game to throw three touchdown passes.

It was another of many records Prescott set in perhaps the best rookie quarterback season in NFL history.

“It’s sinking in,” Prescott said of the loss. “It sucks. It stinks. But I mean it was fun; it was a great year. Great teammates, great coaches. The reality of it, though, is we all won’t be back together. That’s what team meeting was about. We know it’s the business of this league. It’s part of it. But yeah, it sucks.”

The Cowboys have 18 unrestricted free agents, many of whom won’t return, but it is the backup quarterback signed through 2019 whose future will merit the most off-season discussion.

Romo holds team records in passing touchdowns and passing yards and ranks second in attempts and completions and third in victories. But he probably has played his last down for the Cowboys.

Romo, 36, took only seven plays this season, throwing a touchdown in his only series. His 2017 cap number of $24.7 million stands as the highest among any quarterback for next season.

He missed 21 games with injuries the past two seasons, losing his job in the process, but Garrett pointed to the 15-4 record Romo produced in the games he started in 2014 and ’15.

Romo also played a big part in the Cowboys’ success this season, not only by helping Prescott but by ending a quarterback controversy with his November concession speech.

“When he had his opportunities based on the merits, there’s a compelling argument to be made that that guy should be your quarterback,” Garrett said. “The thing that was challenging for him and for everybody was these decisions were independent of each other. What happened when Tony got hurt, Dak stepped in and this team got going. It went on a run, and what we needed to do was somehow, someway stay on that run. Those decisions were kind of independent of each other, because based on the merits, there is a compelling argument for Tony Romo.

“But the team was just at a certain place and they were handling that situation so well that it was just in the best interest for us to continue down that road. The challenge for Tony was to kind of process that in an unemotional way and get himself ready. I thought over the course of the season he did a really good job of that, and I think he showed who he is.

“I’ve described Tony Romo a lot of different ways through the years, but the thing that sticks out to me is he’s Burlington, Wis. That’s what he is. He’s Middle American values, brought up the right way, and I think we all saw that in how he handled that situation.

“Again, he was ready to play if called upon. I think he helped Dak in every way that he could and that whole relationship helped our football team.”

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

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