As the draft inched ever closer, the rumors about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ infatuation with Johnny Manziel grew more intense and the speculation that Jones would use his first-round pick on Johnny Football got hotter than summertime in Big D. Bringing Manziel’s swaggering, larger-than-life personality – and the circus sideshow that comes with him – seemed like a vintage Jones move. Shockingly though, Jones passed on Manziel and made a solid football decision for his team instead.
And despite the persistent rumors that Manziel was coming to town, Dallas QB Tony Romo insists that he was never worried about his status as the team’s starter. Not for a minute. According to Dallas’ executive vice-president – and son of the team’s owner – Stephen Jones, when Romo was assured that the Cowboys would not be selecting Manziel, he responded by saying:
“Well, if you decide to, it ain’t going to matter. There’s not anybody out there that can beat me out.”
Clearly, when Romo said that, he wasn’t referring to teams in the playoffs.
Romo is clearly comfortable in his role as Dallas’ starting QB. The question is why? Yes, he signed a mammoth contract and the Cowboys owe him a pile of money – and it’s unlikely that they’ll A) ever find a trade partner willing to take on that sort of salary, and B) ever bench somebody making that kind of money.
The truth of the matter is that Romo is 34 years old, coming off of multiple back surgeries, and oh yeah, has never actually led Dallas anywhere. The Cowboys have posted back-to-back-to-back 8-8 seasons, haven’t been to the postseason in four years, and with Romo at the helm, have never advanced further than the divisional round of the playoffs. One of the most enduring mysteries in the league is why Romo is still considered an “elite” quarterback when he’s never gotten his team within shouting distance of a title.
Yes, Romo puts up some pretty decent statistics in the regular season. But if your team finishes at .500 and out of the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter if you threw for 10,000 yards and 150 touchdowns. His 1-3 mark in the postseason over a 10-year career doesn’t exactly speak of an “elite” or “transcendent” quarterback who continually leads his team to greatness.
By not drafting a Manziel, or somebody who can push Romo to aspire to better things, the Cowboys are settling for mediocrity once again. His very close friendship with head coach Jason Garrett, plus a depth chart with the likes of Kyle Orton, Brandon Wheeden and Caleb Hanie on it isn’t likely going to make Romo feel any threat to his job security, or give him any sort of incentive to improve – and by extension, help the Cowboys to improve. By not bringing in a quarterback who can make Romo feel uncomfortable, like his role as the team’s starter is at risk if he plays poorly, does a disservice not just to the team, but to Dallas’ fan base.
Instead of seeing Romo elevate his play and become the quarterback Jones and the fans want him to be – and believe he still can be – Dallas is likely settling for another mediocre season in which it will miss the playoffs once again. Romo has perhaps gotten a little too comfortable for his and Dallas’ good. And three consecutive 8-8 seasons, as well as a culture that seems accepting of mediocrity, is the result.