NFL

NFL AM: The Cowboys Have A Decision To Make And It’s An Easy One

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The Dallas Cowboys have a good problem upcoming, but it’s a problem nonetheless.  The saying goes, “if you have two quarterbacks you have none.”  Jason Garrett and the Cowboys seem to legitimately have two quarterbacks.

Rookie Dak Prescott continued his impressive play as the Cowboys beat the AFC perennial playoff team Cincinnati Bengals, 28-14, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.  Prescott completed 18 of 24 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown pass against the Bengals. He also ran for a touchdown, his third of the season.

“We’re going to have the luxury of being able to, I think, see them both,” Cowboys owner and de facto czar Jerry Jones said. “Now I don’t want to take anything — presume that Dak is going to be necessarily healthy. I don’t want to presume anything like that, but I welcome the opportunity of having Dak playing at this level and Tony back in excellent health. It’s going to be really special for the Cowboys.”

Having two legitimate quarterbacks is a special thing, but what does the team do when Romo is healthy enough to return, which could be in the next couple weeks?

“Tony is our No. 1 quarterback,” Jones said after Sunday’s win, but it’s not that easy.

The Cowboys are playing superior complementary football with Prescott and the added dimension of his running ability makes the Cowboys more difficult to stop than ever.  The rookie has won four straight games, Dallas is in first place and the team is doing it without the services of Dez Bryant, at least for the past two games.  There’s no word that can be used to describe Prescott other than impressive.

I wouldn’t go as far as suggesting that guys play harder for the rookie, but the offense caters to aggressive offensive line play when you become a run first team.  The Cowboys are successfully eating clock and keeping their defense on the sideline which is making a mediocre unit much more effective.

Let’s give some credit to head coach Jason Garrett, who is often the lightning rod for criticism when things don’t go the Cowboys way.  He’s not asking Prescott to do too much and the team is playing to each of their strengths.  What more could you possibly ask out of a head coach?

Getting back to the matter at hand, how could anyone possibly put Prescott on the bench at this point?  

It’s not that Romo isn’t a very good quarterback, it’s just that the team has so much momentum right now and they are playing such complementary football that it would be extremely foolish to change that.  All of the dangers of playing a rookie quarterback: tendency to turn the ball over, the game looking too fast and inaccuracy have been quelled by Prescott.  He’s one of just three starting quarterbacks not to throw an interception, he’s completing nearly 70 percent of his throws and has a full command of the huddle and the offense.

In Romo’s entire 10-year career, he’s never had a stretch of being careful with the football as Prescott has.  Again, it’s not an indictment of Romo’s abilities, but if the team returns to him how much do they lose in terms of chemistry?  How quickly will the fans turn on him after a poor stretch of play where he turns the ball over?  Romo will be on such a short mental leash it’s significantly better to let this experiment play out with the rookie.

The one thing in Romo’s favor is the money that Dallas owes him.  Dallas still owes him roughly $70 million on a contract that runs through the next three years.  That’s quite the investment to take a bath on.  If Dallas were to part ways with the veteran, they would still have a dead money cap hit of roughly $20 million next season.

What would offset that bitter pill is that you get your starting quarterback, Prescott, for $540,000 in 2017.  That’s still paying less than $21 million for your starting quarterback and having a good, young starting caliber player.

The New England Patriots dynasty began with a decision very much like this when former No. 1 overall pick Drew Bledsoe went down after Mo Lewis hit him in the abdomen.  Second-year, former sixth round pick Tom Brady played reasonably well and the team had chemistry and Bill Belichick went to Brady.  Four Lombardi Trophy’s later, it proved to be the correct move.

Will Prescott have the same success as Brady?  Probably not.  Brady is a once in a generation type of player who could be the best quarterback ever to suit up.  Those are a lot of undo expectations to put on a fourth round rookie.

With that said, there’s no legitimate reason to go back to Romo when Prescott is playing this well.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.