Mac Engel

Romo took Cowboys as far as he could but it’s Dak’s turn

Tony Romo threw his first touchdown pass of the season on Sunday, after which he calmly celebrated by raising his right index finger when it might as well have been his middle finger.

This is not a happy man.

The Cowboys best win the Super Bowl or the brilliance of an entire, entertaining season will be lost in a “What If” debate that will be more horrific than any Mariah Carey New Year’s Eve performance.

Watching Tony “Take This Job and Shove It” Romo play in his first and lone series of the 2016 NFL season is just enough evidence to support the theory that the Cowboys would be as good if he was the starting quarterback. And enough evidence to support the nervous-theory that the only way the Cowboys will actually win the Super Bowl is if he is the starting quarterback over the kid rookie from Miss’ State.

It’s a no-win argument, but one that will thrive should the Cowboys fail to win the Super Bowl.

Beware in participating in said debate — you can’t cure dumb. The people supporting him are the same ones who killed him for his variety of football sins.

Here is the reality: The Cowboys would not be the best team in the NFC without Dak as their starting quarterback, and they will not win a Super Bowl this season because he is their starting quarterback.

Rookie QBs don’t win Super Bowls, yet he remains their best chance to win their first title since 1995. If he wasn’t, he would be on the bench.

Romo is a wonderfully entertaining player who had 10 seasons to take the Cowboys to an NFC title game, and he never did. He had his chance.

As evidenced by Romo’s 6-minute postgame press conference, he clearly does not agree with any of this.

He was brief, and wanted to avoid “existential questions” ... whatever that means.

“I just wanted to prove to myself and prove to the coaches and to the teammates that I can be the same guy,” Romo said.

Tony is not dumb; he knows the storylines and the questions. He’s not answering them not to be rude, but rather to avoid any headline that is about him, even if that is impossible.

It is apparent if he’s not playing it’s hard for him to care. This whole thing has exposed one of his greater shortcomings — as a leader, it’s just not there. It never was. He always wanted the benefits of being a celebrity quarterback without its hassles.

Dak already gets it in a way Romo simply never did.

This is a man who lost his job because he got hurt in a preseason game, and he’s hissed off. Right now, he is a guy trying to keep his mouth shut until he’s the starting quarterback for a new team next season.

And should the Cowboys not win the Super Bowl both he and his fans will scream, “We would have won it had Tony been playing!”

Even former Cowboys coach and current Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson joined the fun after the Cowboys’ throwaway 27-13 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday by saying the offense would have bigger plays with Romo.

We all love Jimmy, but you can’t have it both ways. The Cowboys are not 13-3 if Romo is the starter in Week 1. He can’t be expected to survive a full season anymore, or not turn the ball over.

The difference between Romo and Dak was evident on Sunday on the last play from Prescott, and the first from Romo:

In the first play of the second quarter, Prescott took a nasty hit from Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins on a blitz. It’s the type of hit that Romo can no longer survive.

To start the Cowboys’ next series, Romo came out for the first time in a regular-season game since Thanksgiving of 2015. His first play was a long pass down the sideline intended for Terrance Williams; it was underthrown and the defender had a better chance at the ball than Williams.

It’s the type of pass that Prescott seldom attempts.

Romo is not afraid. He’s always been a gambler, whereas Dak is not going to try the throw unless it’s there.

Other than not demonstrating any semblance of his nimble feet, because he didn’t have to, Romo looked like the player who was the starting QB for this team for 10 years. But it was one series, and he never did take a hit.

For a guy who for a decade was the franchise, if his last play as a Cowboy is the 3-yard touchdown pass to Williams in the second quarter, it’s not a bad way to go out.

“I feel better than I did last year,” said Romo, who completed 3 of 4 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. “There’s no question about that. It felt great to get out there and play football.”

At a minimum Romo looks like a guy who, if needed, can relieve Dak should he suffer an injury in the postseason. Because that is the only way he is playing again as a Cowboy.

The only detail missing from Romo’s cameo was a pass to tight end Jason Witten. It would have been nice to have that, as well as a sendoff at JerryWorld.

Sunday’s game did nothing to enhance Romo’s trade value, because he has none. Teams know the Cowboys can’t afford a $20 million backup, so Romo will be cut in the off-season and sign with a team of his preference. Romo will have to re-structure his contract, which considering how much he has already made he will gladly do in exchange for the chance to play again.

What we saw on Sunday was a quarterback who can still throw it, and what we heard was a quarterback who is annoyed to no end that this is the end.

Because it is.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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