Mac Engel

If needed, Jason Garrett must play Tony Romo vs. Green Bay

The “know it when you see it moment” is potentially coming for Jason Garrett and his backup quarterback. Coach Process owes it to the Cowboys to play Tony Romo on Sunday, if Dak is a dog.

Should the Cowboys trail the Green Bay Packers by two scores in the second half, Romo must be summoned off the bench.

This would be the specific “know it when you see it moment” that Jerry Jones infamously referred to late last year in reference to Romo playing again this season.

God knows Tony wants to play.

The Cowboys are the only team to have a healthy, Pro Bowl quarterback as their backup to a man who has never played in an NFL playoff game.

To heck with Dak Prescott’s psyche — the only component of the future that matters is winning this game. Worry about the rest later. He’s an adult. Much like Romo, Dak will get over it. Or he won’t — that’s a problem for Monday morning.

On Monday, Dak tweeted a picture of himself with the caption, “ALL IN #readyready.” That’s great, but it doesn’t translate into points.

This is the fifth time the Cowboys have a chance to reach an NFC title game since Barry Switzer “led” them to their last Super Bowl win in January of 1996. Since that Super Bowl title, the Cowboys are 0-4 in the divisional round.

It’s not as if we can write “NFC title game” in our day planner.

The Cowboys are four-point favorites to advance to the NFC title game, and exactly no one in town feels secure given the reality that the hottest team and quarterback are coming to JerryWorld.

The Packers team the Cowboys defeated by two touchdowns in mid-October at Lambeau Field is no more. Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the NFL not named Brady, and the Packers team that was 4-6 in November is now good enough to defeat New England.

Even if top receiver Jordy Nelson, who is out of practice until Saturday because of a rib injury suffered in the Packers’ wild-card win against the New York Giants, can’t play, Green Bay’s offense could scare the tweet out of Donald Trump.

Dak and the Cowboys could well play a good, clean game Sunday and simply get beat.

This is what happens in the playoffs — a good team plays another good team and the good team wins.

What we saw in the wild-card weekend, where the average margin of victory was 19 points for the four home teams, will not be repeated in the next round. The favorites might win, but other than New England mauling Houston, every game will be close.

In the NFL playoffs, the teams with the best quarterbacks win. The best quarterbacks in the playoffs are the guys who can make throws in the tightest of spaces, and create plays when there are none to make.

In this case, Dak can’t blink. He’s not only going to have to not make mistakes, but vertical plays, too.

The Cowboys were the best team in the NFC during the regular season because of Dak, and the idea of not starting him on Sunday is ludicrous, insulting and unrealistic. With that comes the right to weather a bad quarter, or a half.

Beyond that, however, the score should dictate whether Garrett makes a call to the ’pen. Garrett has a $20 million weapon at his disposal that no other coach in these playoffs does.

While everyone with a brain should doubt that Romo’s health would allow him to last an entire regular season, we are now talking about a limited amount of time. Romo can make it a half.

In Romo’s lone appearance of the season — one series in Philadelphia in the regular-season finale — he played like a man who had not been hit in a long time. Four of his five passes were on point, and he completed a nice touchdown throw to Terrance Williams. He looked good and he said he felt great.

Do not put it past Garrett to make this switch, either. He has done this before in a similar situation, albeit at vastly different positions.

JG was coach Wade Phillips’ offensive coordinator in 2007, when running back Julius Jones was the starter throughout the regular season. Marion Barber was the closer off the bench. Shortly before the Cowboys hosted the New York Giants in the divisional round game, Garrett and crew decided to make Barber the starter for the first time that season.

Barber ran for 129 yards with a touchdown, but the Cowboys lost 21-17. Barber was not the reason the Cowboys lost that game, whereas Dak plays the position most able to affect Sunday’s outcome.

Dak has proven he can do what no rookie has ever done in the NFL, so maybe he will handle the postseason as well as he did the regular variety. Much like the regular season, in the playoffs there just might not be a need for Tony Romo.

But Garrett should not hesitate to break-glass-in-case-of-emergency and put in his veteran Pro Bowl passer.

As for what that emergency is? Well ... we’ll know it when we see it.

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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