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Berry Tramel  


Dallas Cowboys: The Tony Romo dilemma

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm •  Published: April 2, 2013

Many are the problems that come with an NFL organization that isn’t first rate. And Tony Romo’s contract with the Dallas Cowboys is a prime example.

The Cowboys aren’t likely to contend for a Super Bowl with Romo. So why give him a six-year, $108-million contract extension, with $55 million of the money guaranteed?

Because Romo is the least of Dallas’ problems. The Cowboys aren’t likely to contend for a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Romo is not an upper-tier quarterback. But he’s upper half. Probably ranks somewhere in the 12-13 range of NFL quarterbacks.

Let’s see. Without ranking them, here are the veteran quarterbacks better than Romo: Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning. That’s eight.

The three 2012 rookie sensations — RG3, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck — certainly seem bound for various stages of stardom. And you’ve got Phil Rivers, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. That’s 16. Are all of them better than Romo? I’d certainly say not. I think 12-13 is about the right range for Romo.

A team can win a Super Bowl with a quarterback like Romo, if it’s a great roster that is well-coached. The 2012 Ravens are a superb example.

Trouble is, the Cowboys are not a great roster that is well-coached. The Cowboys have star power with depth issues. Have had for a long time. They’re not an elite organization. Dallas is trying to win a Super Bowl without a plan. The Giants, the Patriots, the Steelers, the Ravens. They have plans.

So is Dallas wasting money on Romo? Well, depends. If it’s a waste of money to spend big with little chance of Super Bowl success, then yes. But if spending money to at least bring hope and a semblance of competitiveness, then no. Sure, Dallas could get another quarterback. A Carson Palmer or a Kevin Kolb or a Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It’s not like Big Ben or Brees or Eli are clamoring to get traded to Dallas. Odds are, the Cowboys can’t do better than Romo. Sure, they could start drafting a quarterback, and that’s probably not a bad idea, but that’s no assurance of bettering the position. Absolute assurance in the short them, little assurance in the long term.

And even if the Cowboys could get a prime quarterback out of the draft, is the Dallas culture set up to let a young QB prosper, be he sitting or playing? The Steelers threw Roethlisberger to the wolves straight out of Miami-Ohio. The Packers let Rodgers sit for several seasons. Both ways work, if you’ve got a franchise conducive to player development.

But if you’ve got no plan, if you’ve got no organizational structure which demands players commit to discipline and a certain work environment, then developing a young quarterback is not going to happen. Romo and Eli Manning are virtually the same age. They produce at about the same level in terms of quarterback performance. But Eli wins, especially in the playoffs, moreso than does Romo. Maybe that’s because Eli’s a better quarterback, and maybe that’s because Eli plays for the stately Giants and not the soap opera Cowboys. Playing for the Maras is a better gig than playing for the Joneses.

So that’s the Dallas dilemma. They are paying Super Bowl money to a quarterback who isn’t likely to challenge for a Super Bowl. But they’ve got a quarterback who is better than a lot of NFL teams. Get rid of Tony Romo, and not even that will be true.




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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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