Mac Engel

It’s scary how much the Cowboys need Tony Romo

Tony Romo returned to limited practice on Wednesday.
Tony Romo returned to limited practice on Wednesday. Star-Telegram

While the Dallas Cowboys warmed up and did their thing, the Most Important One either intentionally or unintentionally slipped directly past the leering press to make the grandest of subtle entrances.

As his teammates broke off from their pre-practice routine of stretching, Tony Romo jogged out in pads and a helmet to join them in practice for the first time in what now feels like 17 years.

This must have been what it felt like when Knicks center Willis Reed came out to play the Lakers in the 1970 NBA Finals in Madison Square Garden. Only different.

Romo is not allowed to play in a game yet, but watching him just throw a football in limited reps Wednesday morning is the best news this team has received since the creation of the Cowboys cheerleaders.

Coach Process refused to say Wednesday whether his meal ticket will indeed play as scheduled Nov. 22 at the Miami Dolphins, only that they are focused on today. Don’t worry, his boss told the world on Tuesday, there is no reason to think Romo won’t play as scheduled.

Thank you, Jerry Jones.

He announced Tuesday on his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan that Romo will be back to play the Fish.

Thank you, God.

A five-game losing streak exposes every nasty wart on a team, none any bigger than the fact the Cowboys are still completely reliant on No. 9. It is an indictment on everybody involved in the football part of this organization that they cannot win a football game on the football field in the National Football League without this man.

This team has asked much of Romo throughout his career, and the list of demands on him this season are absurd.

Romo has to save the following: a running game that has been garbage without DeMarco Murray; a wide receiving corps that can’t catch passes unless he is putting the ball in their lap; an offensive line that doesn’t block as well without his nimble feet; a defense that can’t force turnovers; and a head coach that can’t tell a player not to hit an assistant coach.

“When we first lost Romo, I did not think we would be on this streak that we’re on,” defensive back Morris Claiborne said. “I thought we would at least hold on until he got back.”

Agreed. Without Romo, a record around .500 seemed plausible, and acceptable, in either direction.

Nobody expected the Cowboys to be the same after Romo went down with a broken collarbone in Week 2 in Philadelphia, but nobody expected a fat o-fer without him.

Coach Jason Garrett offered up the cliché that it’s not just one guy and that it’s a team thing. In theory he is right, and yet, in practice, this organization simply stinks without their Mojo, in this case, their Romo.

No rational human being, which includes Jerry, thought Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel were passable facsimiles to a top-tier NFL starting quarterback, but the offense with these guys throwing it around has been as entertaining as a Jason Garrett news conference.

Cassel and Weeden have combined for the same number of touchdown passes as Romo.

The running game, save for one performance by Darren McFadden, has been a disappointment. Receiver Terrance Williams has been exposed. According the guys that actually watch the offensive line, it has been ish.

“I don’t know — we have been in games,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “We just gotta finish.”

Look at the close games in this five-game stretch: the Falcons, Saints, Giants and Seahawks. The Cowboys had a fourth-quarter lead against the Falcons and the Seahawks; the lead against the Falcons was a mirage — that game was well on its way to getting out of hand.

The Cowboys could have won the games against the Saints, Giants or Seahawks, and to lose all three is bewildering. The Cowboys are better than this; their record says they are not.

But Claiborne offered this morsel of hope: “There is still a lot of football to be played. It’s not over yet.”

I keep forgetting that. More than half of the regular season remains, and the Cowboys play in a division that is only slightly better than the Southland Conference. There is time, but with every loss, the Cowboys’ margin for error decreases and the demands on Romo grow.

Can Romo, 35, do it again coming off a broken collarbone and a bad back to be, essentially, perfect just to make the playoffs?

It has always been that way, and it turns out this year is no different.

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

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, @macengelprof

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