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Sunday, December 15, 2013
Updated: January 20, 11:40 AM ET
Romo must fix Cowboys on his own

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

Tony Romo
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is going to get his money's worth out of Tony Romo's six-year contract, so don't expect replacements under center any time soon.
You would think owner and general manager Jerry Jones had learned his lesson when the Dallas Cowboys went through nearly 5½ seasons of vagabond and journeyman quarterbacks in his quest to find Troy Aikman's replacement.

You know the names: Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.

When you consider Jerry lucked into Tony Romo -- no GM ever expects an undrafted free agent to be a long-term solution at quarterback -- you would think he would put more of a priority on the position.

Especially when he looks at 26-year-old Colin Kaepernick and 25-year-old Russell Wilson, the two quarterbacks who started Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

Jerry Jones
Jones must count on his starting quarterback to correct the cracks in the Cowboys' foundation.

He hasn't put the QB question on the front burner. And he won't.

And there's this: The Cowboys' dirty little secret, so to speak, is that they're not even equipped to put Romo's eventual replacement on the roster right now.

So as hard as this is going to be for some of you to hear, forget about Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida's Blake Bortles somehow winding up on the Cowboys' roster.

It ain't happening.

First, Jerry has drafted just three quarterbacks since he bought the team in 1989 -- and none in the first round since Aikman. He's not suddenly going to make the position a priority in the draft.

Second, Romo's six-year, $108 million contract with $55 million in guaranteed cash doesn't kick in until next season. You better believe Jerry wants to get his money's worth from Romo, regardless of Romo's two back surgeries in less than a year.

Last, the Cowboys have so many holes at various positions that they can't afford to use the premium pick it would require to get a legitimate player capable of eventually replacing Romo.

Can you imagine the outrage if the Cowboys passed on a defensive lineman, offensive lineman, cornerback, safety or linebacker to draft a quarterback who's going to hold a clipboard for a couple of years?

Just so you know, 30 of the 32 quarterbacks who led their teams in passing this season were drafted in the first three rounds. The other two? Romo and New England's Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick.

Twenty starters were selected in the first round. It's far-fetched to think the Cowboys can expect to find a starter in the fourth or fifth round capable of leading this franchise to a Super Bowl.

Sure, Jerry could get lucky again and find another Romo. But no one wants to pin their franchise's future on luck.

So Romo remains your quarterback for the foreseeable future.

He will turn 34 in April and is coming off one of the best statistical seasons of his career. He finished with a plus-21 touchdown/interception differential. Only Denver's Peyton Manning (+45), New Orleans' Drew Brees (+27) and Philadelphia's Nick Foles (+25) were better.

But there must be concern over Romo's back, no matter what the Cowboys say publicly. Back injuries and not concussions, like many folks think, ended Aikman's career at 34.

The reality is there's not much any team can do to protect its quarterback. Football is a violent game, and Romo isn't Manning, who gets rid of the ball quickly and rarely takes big hits.

Romo's game is built on athleticism, an uncanny ability to elude blitzing defenders and extend plays long enough to create big plays. It's what separates him from most.

You're certainly entitled to complain about his well-known propensity for making mistakes at the end of games. But you also must mention his proclivity for late-game heroics.

Jerry has created a team so flawed that Romo must do it all. Every week. You could almost say he's set up to fail. It's not an excuse, but that's the reality of his situation in Dallas.

Every quarterback has his own situation to endure and overcome. Romo must win in spite of his GM, who has made him rich beyond his dreams as a little boy in Burlington, Wis.

Time is quickly running out for him to change the narrative of his career and add to his playoff win total.

This much we know: Romo's eventual replacement won't be on the roster until he's played his last game.

We know how the GM operates. We've seen it before.