Commentary

Tony Romo still Cowboys' best option

Despite QB's flaws, there aren't any alternatives that would represent an upgrade

Updated: January 4, 2013, 12:34 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

Frustrated by another failure in a win-or-the-end game, you want to get rid of Tony Romo?

OK, fine. What's your plan for the Dallas Cowboys to upgrade at the NFL's most important position?

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesTony Romo walked off without a playoff berth, but would the Cowboys have even had a chance at the postseason without him?

Surely, you don't want the Cowboys to dump the fifth-rated passer in NFL history and just figure things out on the fly.

So far, Romo's tenure as the franchise quarterback for America's Team has been a football tragedy. He has been good enough to build up hope and break hearts over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Take Romo away, and there's no hope to begin with.

Fortunately, the torch-and-pitchforks mob that has formed on radio call-in lines, message boards and social media since Romo's poor performance in Sunday's de facto NFC East title game is being ignored by the Valley Ranch decision-maker(s). (Not sure if that's still plural, given the way Jerry Jones hammered away at head coach Jason Garrett's authority during the owner/general manager's recent radio appearance.)

The Cowboys, of course, are frustrated that Romo has authored only one playoff win since assuming the starting role in 2006. It's a painful past. But they rightfully fear a future without Romo.

Garrett We have great belief of Tony Romo as our quarterback. We all know that we want to take the next step, and Tony is going to be a big part of that going forward.

-- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett

"I don't like what's on the other side of the page," Jones said on KRLD-FM. "We've got a better chance to get to the Super Bowl relative to Tony Romo [staying with the Cowboys]. We've got a much better chance."

Forget about the phenomenal numbers Romo has produced as a starter for a moment. For many, that's easy, considering how difficult it is to debate those who call those numbers empty after Romo threw for a franchise-record 4,903 yards, broke Troy Aikman's career club record for touchdown passes and still will sit on his couch to watch the playoffs again.

Jerry has nine really good reasons to follow through on his plan to ride it out with Romo. Here's a list, in chronological order: Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson and Drew Bledsoe.

Those are the Cowboys' starting quarterbacks between Aikman and Romo, the two Pro Bowlers who have played the position for the Cowboys during Jerry's tenure. Three has-beens and six never-weres.

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ESPN's Chris Mortensen joins Galloway & Company and says that the Cowboys could probably get a first- and third-round pick if they were to trade Tony Romo. But, he also says that there's no chance of that happening.

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No wonder Jerry is so hesitant go down the road of replacing a franchise quarterback again, no matter how little Romo's talent has translated into the type of success quarterbacks are judged by, especially around these parts.

This team has too many holes to fill to draft a quarterback in the first couple of rounds and expect the kid to succeed right away, especially since this year's class is considered a weak crop at the position. The same goes for using premium picks to trade for a quarterback developed elsewhere.

If the Cowboys don't make the offensive line an offseason priority, they'll have problems no matter who is taking the snaps.

Should they sign Joe Flacco in free agency? That'd be a huge investment for a downgrade, not to mention the minor detail that the Baltimore Ravens won't let him get away. Flacco is the only current starter scheduled to hit the market this offseason, unless you count Brady Quinn.

Hey, remember the 2007 draft debate about whether the Cowboys should draft Quinn in the first round? Can we all agree Dallas made the right decision to pass?

That illustrates how difficult it is to evaluate quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the draft. Look at the rest of the quarterback drafted after the first few picks in the first round in the last five drafts: Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Flacco.

None of them are better than Romo right now. Only a few of them have a legitimate chance to ever be.

That's why the big question regarding Romo is not whether they'll replace him, but if the Cowboys will sign him to an extension, perhaps in the neighborhood of the four-year, $62 million deal Matt Schaub got from the Houston Texans before the season opener.

(Given the Cowboys' issues with the salary cap, which include Romo being scheduled to eat up $16.8 million worth next season, a failure to reach a deal could cost the team outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, their best defensive player this season.)

Maybe the Cowboys take a mid- or late-round flyer on a developmental quarterback, but the offseason priority at Valley Ranch is to find ways to improve Romo's chances of succeeding, not search for his successor.

"We have great belief of Tony Romo as our quarterback," Garrett said, pointing out that Romo was a big reason the Cowboys had a chance to play in high-stakes season finales the past two years. "We all know that we want to take the next step, and Tony is going to be a big part of that going forward. I think you have to understand the whole body of work. I think you have to understand that winning is how we get evaluated. He's done a lot of great things for this franchise.

"We're excited about him being our quarterback."

You might not be so excited about Romo continuing as the Cowboys' quarterback. If you're honest, however, you can't come up with any better immediate alternatives.

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