Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he has never been part of a season that has gone off the rails from preseason expectations to now as much as this season.
The Cowboys (3-8) entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations. And while they remain mathematically alive in the dismal NFC East, the losers of seven of their past eight are as much in the race for the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft as they are in the race for a playoff berth.
A devastated and stunned Jones blames a host of injuries, specifically the loss of quarterback Tony Romo, who is out for the season after breaking his left collarbone for the second time since Sept. 20.
The Cowboys are 3-1 with Romo. They are 0-7 without him, including 0-4 with Matt Cassel, who again will step into the starting role.
“I don’t know when I’ve ever had diametrically opposite to the extent we have from where I thought we would be to where we are,” said Jones, who met with the media after Wednesday’s NFL owners meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel in Irving. “This was stunning this year for us to experience the injuries we have. I’m numb from it, really.”
Jones said this season’s experience has raised the sensitivity throughout the organization to find a quality backup for Romo and a quarterback for the future. That means the Cowboys could look to take a quarterback high in the draft, though not necessarily in the first round, and also carry a veteran backup such as Cassel next season.
However, Jones remains adamant that Romo, who is 35, can be successful for at least three more years if not the four to five that he has mentioned in the past.
Jones said he views Romo in that category as Denver Broncos’ John Elway, who won two Super Bowls titles after turning 37, and New England Patriots’Tom Brady, 38, who has won four Super Bowls and continues to play at a Pro Bowl level.
“I will emphasize I don’t pretend to know how many years [Romo has] left,” Jones said. “I would say that the read I have, the success that older quarterbacks have had with his kind of skill, it has been a measure of success. How old is Brady?
“So it’s about about two and a half (more years for Romo to catch Brady), so there’s three right there. You can’t deem unreasonable to think he might have three when you’re sitting there with one of the top performing quarterbacks in the league this year in Brady.”
Jones said he is not worried about a future injury risk with Romo than he would be for any other player, despite Romo having fractured his collarbone for the second time in two months and a third time since 2010.
He acknowledged that stem cell treatment, similar to what receiver Dez Bryant had in October to improve healing in his fracture right foot, is an option for Romo’s collarbone to hopefully prolong his career.
Bryant’s procedure involved having bone marrow stem cells removed from his hip and injected into his ankle to enhance the healing.
“I don’t want into get into any specifics,” Jones said. “But he and Dez talked to me together about the stem cell back when he initially hurt it earlier this year. All of that is more of a long-term thing relative to my understanding. It has application to prolonging a career. Not a just specific injury.”
Cowboys at Redskins
7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN