Dallas Cowboys

Just Chill: Family was the X-factor in Romo’s retirement

In the end, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo chose family over football.

A broadcasting job allows him to stay connected to the game.

But this decision to retire was about his health and his family.

And in the end, it was the right thing to do.

Romo has two young sons and another due in August.

He has played in just five games since 2014 because of two fractures in his collarbone and a fractured back.

More to the point, three of the past six times he’s touched the field in the preseason and regular season, he has left with a broken bone.

As much as Romo believes he can still play the game at a high level, as much as Romo wanted to put a nice bow on a record-setting career by finally proving he can lead a team to playoff success, the tug of health and family won out.

As it should have.

And this is the main reason why all the conjecture over the past few weeks about the Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones not doing right by Romo and holding him hostage was pure folly.

The delay was not just about Jones holding on to Romo’s rights and trying to force a trade.

It was also about Romo trying to decide what he wanted to do with his life.

Remember, this all happened quickly for the former franchise quarterback, who spent much of the 2016 off-season motivated to get back on the field to be the team’s savior after missing 12 games in 2015 with two collarbone fractures.

It’s the reason he underwent surgery to strengthen the shoulder and hopefully prevent further damage.

All the Cowboys’ hopes heading into 2016 were based on Romo’s return to health.

And then three plays into his first preseason game, he suffered a fracture in his back.

Again, surgery was required and a determined Romo vowed to return to help save the Cowboys again.

There was an inner feeling of letting the team down again.

So there was no question he attacked his rehab with aggression and focus.

But when Romo was ready to return, the Cowboys had moved on.

Rookie fourth-round pick Dak Prescott had gone from developmental quarterback of the future to franchise quarterback of the now.

Romo conceded the starting job for the good of the team.

But he never envisioned being done with his career and not having the chance to lead a team to the Super Bowl.

It was a lot to take and a lot to take in.

It proved to be an ironic bookend to Romo’s dramatic and meteoric rise to stardom from undrafted free agent to quarterback of America’s Team in 2006.

Romo came out of nowhere and took the league by storm.

And now he is gone just as quickly and surprisingly, following arguably the finest season of his career in 2014 when he tossed 33 touchdowns with nine interceptions and led the Cowboys to the NFC East title with a 12-4 record.

Instead of Romo building on that, he has played in just five games since.

It has been tough to take and tough to swallow. It is why he has a strained relationship with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who ultimately made the decision to take his job away and give it to Prescott.

Romo and Garrett haven’t spoken since the end of the season, as Romo has wrestled with his football mortality and future plans.

Unlike a lot of football players who are forced out of the game or are forced to stay longer than they needed to, Romo had options.

The opportunity to make an immediate transition to television allowed Romo to take stock of what is important in his life.

Romo will be 37 years old later this month.

There was no reason to keep putting his body through the punishment of playing in the NFL.

And while he still believes he can play at a high level, he ultimately has nothing left to prove to the people who truly know the game.

Romo’s legacy as a Cowboys legend should be unquestioned.

No, he doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring or a litany of playoff wins. He has just two in 10 years as the starting quarterback.

But Romo owns nearly all of the team’s passing records. He should be credited with rescuing the Cowboys from the quarterback abyss following the retirement of Troy Aikman.

He made the Cowboys relevant again.

He was overvalued and underappreciated all at the same time.

The bottom line is Romo walks away as a four-time Pro Bowler with a career record of 78-49.

His 34,183 passing yards and 248 touchdown passes are the most in team history.

Romo has a career passer rating of 97.1, which is the fourth-best in NFL history, behind only Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.

Per Elias Sports Bureau, Romo ranks fourth in passing yards, third in touchdown passes and fourth in starts among undrafted players since 1970.

There is nothing more left for him to do.

It allowed him to choose family over football.

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr

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