Commentary

Cowboys need to explore QB options

Club can't afford an Anthony Spencer-like debacle when Tony Romo's contract expires

Updated: February 24, 2012, 7:06 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

The Dallas Cowboys have screwed up this Anthony Spencer situation so badly they're probably going to pay an average linebacker $8.8 million this season.

Ridiculous.

Hopefully, the club's front office won't make this same mistake again -- and that's why Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett should spend considerable time studying quarterbacks this week at the NFL ccouting combine in Indianapolis.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Larry French/Getty ImagesTony Romo has put up gaudy numbers, but the Cowboys can't put themselves in a position where they don't have a viable replacement on the roster.

Tony Romo's contract expires at the end of the 2013 season, when he'll be 33 years old.

At that time, there's a good chance Romo will still have one playoff victory on his résumé after seven seasons plus 10 games as a starter.

That would be awful.

Do you give a 10-year veteran with terrific stats -- but virtually no postseason success -- a long-term deal for a trillion dollars, which he'll command?

A smart organization would make sure it had options.

Frankly, the Cowboys should draft a quarterback or add a priority undrafted free agent each year.

Quarterback is the game's most important position and you can never go wrong with developing good ones, especially since the head coach played the position in the NFL for more than a decade.

Romo spent his first three seasons on the bench, so his body doesn't have the normal wear and tear of an NFL quarterback his age. Plus, he's a talented guy who consistently puts up gaudy stats.

If the Cowboys choose to sign Romo to another long-term deal because they think he'll still be playing at a high level into his late 30s and they believe he can take them to a Super Bowl, then so be it.

But it would be foolish for the Cowboys to put themselves in a position where they don't have any other option but to sign Romo to a long-term deal because they don't have a capable replacement on the roster and they're unsure whether they can find one in free agency or the draft.

That's why Spencer is getting paid more than he's worth. Putting themselves in a similar situation with Romo would be beyond dumb.

But that's how it's shaping up, if you look at the current roster.

Jon Kitna has retired and the Cowboys have said they want to sign a veteran backup. There's not one backup quarterback the Cowboys could sign, whether it's Vince Young, Kyle Orton or Jason Campbell, who's going to legitimately challenge Romo for playing time.

Garrett can talk about Stephen McGee's improvement until he's blue in the face, as mama used to say, but there's no tangible evidence he can be more than a No.3 quarterback.

Understand, there's nothing wrong with that. There's something to be said for a No. 3 quarterback capable of winning an NFL start.

All of that brings us back to Romo, who passed for more than 4,000 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season but still went 8-8 as a starter. The Cowboys also faded in December and January.

Again.

It's not all Romo's fault the Cowboys have missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons, but he bears considerable responsibility. We can't excuse his role in this team's plunge into an abyss of mediocrity.

Garrett and Jerry and Stephen Jones must take a hard look at Romo and determine whether he's really part of the solution. Or the problem.

We see the talent; we don't see the wins. It's up to the front office to find the disconnect.

And that's why the Cowboys should be interviewing and studying every quarterback not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III at the combine.

Perhaps Michigan State's Kirk Cousins intrigues them. Maybe it's Houston's Case Keenum or Boise State's Kellen Moore. Arizona State's Brock Osweiler will be there. So will Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill.

And if none of the quarterbacks at the combine excites the coaching staff or the front office, that's cool, too. At least they will have made the effort and put in the time.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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