IRVING, Texas -- For better or worse, the legacies of Tony Romo and Jason Garrett will be intertwined forever.
The Dallas Cowboys coach isn't going anywhere until the quarterback rides off into the sunset, so you can quit pining over Sean Payton (who is committed to New Orleans) or any other coach who you believe will do a better job than Garrett -- and it's not just because he has four years and $24 million left on his contract.
You're fooling yourself if you think Romo, who missed 12 games with a broken collarbone, isn't going to have a huge say in who's coaching the Cowboys. Troy Aikman had similar juice.
Like Aikman, Romo won't have the final word on a coach's tenure, but his words carry tremendous weight just like Aikman's words played a role in owner Jerry Jones firing former coaches Barry Switzer and Chan Gailey.
Jerry occasionally asked Aikman for his opinion on prospects, and he has done the same with Romo. Obviously, Aikman has three Super Bowl rings and a Hall of Fame career and Romo has only two playoff wins to his name, but their stature within the club is similar.
Jerry's not going to do anything with the head coach that would leave his quarterback upset. You can certainly argue that's not the best way to run an organization, but the Cowboys aren't your typical organization.
Romo and Garrett have a relationship that runs deeper than player and coach: They're friends.
They've attended several SMU basketball games together over the the past couple of years and even took a trip to Duke last March, along with Jason Witten and former teammate DeMarco Murray, to watch a men's basketball game.
At times, Garrett has defended the relationship and whether he's hard enough on Romo when the quarterback makes mistakes. It's clear they share a bond that goes beyond football.
All you have to do is listen to Romo's words, and it's clear what he thinks about Garrett.
"I know no one wants to hear anything positive because when you're 4-12 there's not a lot of positive," Romo said Monday, "because ultimately we're defined by our record and how we played, but I thought Coach Garrett was incredible.
"He was really incredible in getting our football team to play consistently at a very, very high level as far as effort and energy week to week. He really has the pulse of the team and it was a great thing to watch.
"As you lose that many games in a row it can be very difficult to continue to get great effort by a lot of proud professionals, and I think that Coach Garrett just did an incredible job of allowing us to have a chance as the weeks went on through his ability to just motivate, connect and really drive the team in that direction."
Among Jerry's goals since the moment Romo became one of the league's upper-echelon quarterbacks has been to make the Cowboys' offense Romo-friendly.
It's among the reasons the Cowboys drafted Dez Bryant and spent three first-round picks on offensive linemen over the past five years.
Romo is the epicenter of this team. Even when the Cowboys built their offense around their running game last season, when Murray carried 392 times for a franchise-record 1,845 yards, it was done with Romo in mind. The fewer passes Romo throws the less likely he is to make a game-changing mistake because of his propensity to gamble.
Romo has been with Garrett since 2007, his second season as a starter, and he has bought into every word of the coach's philosophical tenets about the importance of the process.
That's because Garrett's core beliefs speak to Romo's personality. Romo is all about the process, mentally and physically, and its importance to a player and a team in consistently getting the results they want.
Plus, Romo credits Garrett with being an integral part of his success. Romo understands every nuance of this offense -- and it has been good to him. No one thinks the Cowboys will have another wretched season as long as the 36-year-old Romo is healthy next season.
Understand, Jerry wants Garrett, his hand-picked head coach, to succeed. After all, Jones hired Garrett in 2007 as offensive coordinator just three years after Garrett's playing career ended. Jerry loves Garrett's mind and the way the coach has built the foundation of this team.
But Jerry also wants to win. When the Cowboys missed the playoffs in 2012, he fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and made Garrett turn over the play-calling duties to former assistant coach Bill Callahan.
When the offense struggled late in the 2013 season, Garrett took over play-calling. Then Scott Linehan, Garrett's friend and mentor, was hired to run the offense, and the Cowboys averaged 29.2 points points per game in 2014.
Garrett expects the Cowboys' offense to be dynamic again, when Romo returns. It must be if the Cowboys are to make a deep playoff run.
Romo and Garrett will either get the team to another Super Bowl, or they won't. Whatever happens, they'll do it together.
Their legacies are intertwined just like Roger Staubach and Tom Landry are linked forever, as are Aikman and Jimmy Johnson.