Tony Romo's Latest Injury Marks Crossroads for Dallas Cowboys

By Jeric Griffin

For years, people in, around and outside the Dallas Cowboys organization have been calling for the team to draft Tony Romo’s eventual successor at quarterback. The team finally did that with Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and not a moment too soon; Romo suffered a broken bone in his surgically repaired back on Thursday and will likely miss a significant portino of the upcoming season.

Romo went down awkwardly on the third play of the Cowboys’ third preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks and immediately reached for his lower back. He eventually walked off the field under his own power and even lobbied to go back in to the game, but an MRI revealed a fracture in his back near the area that has already been broken and repaired with surgery.

At 36 and coming off two collarbone surgeries and two back surgeries over the past couple of years, Romo’s NFL future looks to be brief and in jeopardy altogether. On the play he was injured, Romo didn’t take a particularly hard shot and the way he fell would suggest an injury to a muscle, not a bone. The fact he suffered a fracture on this particular play is further evidence his back is not anywhere close to being as healthy as it’s ever been, which is the picture Jason Garrett and the Cowboys’ staff painted earlier in the offseason.

Now Prescott, who has looked sensational in extended work through three preseason games, will likely start for the first month of his rookie regular season. Romo will undoubtedly try to come back as quickly as possible, but unless Garrett and Jerry Jones have completely lost their minds – which is certainly possibly – they have to be thinking about the future now with a young quarterback who has shown worlds of potential, albeit in meaningless exhibitions.

That’s not to say Romo is done, but it’s clear he probably won’t play out the remainder of his six-year, $108 million deal. If he does come back this season and suffers yet another injury, his health as a human being could be in jeopardy, much less as a pro football player.

Over the past few seasons, Jones has preached a sense of urgency to win a Super Bowl during Romo’s prime. From a performance standpoint throwing the ball, Romo may still be in his prime, but obviously his physical peak has passed. Thus, the win-now mode Dallas has employed over the last few years will take a harder turn toward the future than it has over the past 18 months. During that time, the Cowboys have refused to overpay for veterans and have instead turned to younger players to develop faster, showing salary cap responsibility in the process.

Maybe the Joneses have finally learned how to run an NFL organization without a Jimmy Johnson or Bill Parcells guiding them. That was especially evident with the Prescott pick, especially since he wasn’t exactly a high-profile quarterback prospect entering the draft. Had they not brought him in, they’d now be entering the season essentially without a viable option under center. Dallas may not be a potential Super Bowl contender this season with Prescott at the helm, but the era of the new Triplets with Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant (and a young roster across the board) may now begin sooner than expected.

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