Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Dak and Tony Show

The Dallas Cowboys will soon have a serious decision to  make. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has played well in early season games, while long time starter Tony Romo recovers from a back injury. Some feel that Prescott should remain the starter when Romo returns, while others are ready for the old veteran to resume his role.

Before the October 9 Cowboys win over the Bengals, this CBS Sports story by Jason La Canfora appeared with the headline: "There's 'zero chance' the Cowboys start Dak Prescott over a healthy Tony Romo."
With Prescott at quarterback, the Cowboys won their fourth straight game, putting them at 4-1, in first place in the NFC East. Does it make any sense to sit this rookie who has played so well?
Not even close.
Romo has played with distinction for Dallas for most of his tenure. Although he has not led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl Championship, he has set a number of team records along with several NFL marks. I recall thinking in 2006, when Romo backed up Drew Bledsoe, that he had the potential to be a great quarterback. When he took over the starting spot in October of that season, Cowboys fans everywhere finally had reason for hope that 'America's Team' might return to glory. Although Dallas had made several playoff appearances in the years since their 1995 Super Bowl title, those attempts ended in disappointment.
Realistically, Romo is now 36 years old. How much does he have left in him? He played only four games in 2015, and has played hurt for several years, lessening his effectiveness. It was no great surprise that Romo was injured again in 2016 (during a pre-season game). At his age, he is battered, worn out, and injury prone.
When Prescott stepped in as starter, no one really knew what to expect. Regardless of how well one performs in college football, the jump to a starting role in the NFL is huge, especially at quarterback. To the delight of most Cowboys fans, the former Mississippi State QB has performed admirably.
With Prescott behind center, Dallas lost the opening game by one point, at home against the Giants. Although he did not throw a touchdown pass, he also did not suffer an interception, ending with 25 completions out of 45 attempts, for 227 yards. It was still a loss, however, the good performance by the untested rookie was cause for hope.
The following week, Prescott still did not record a TD pass, and again, no interceptions. His 292 passing yards was enough to help Dallas beat Washington. Over the next three games, Dallas topped Chicago, San Francisco, and Cincinnati, with the promising rookie throwing his first four career touchdown passes – still without an interception.
After the convincing 28-14 win over the Bengals, and Dallas in first place, the question remains: will Prescott sit when Romo is ready to play?
According to the La Confora/CBS Sports story, the Cowboys are running a "constricted version of the offense" under Prescott. The story states "the Cowboys' brass believes it will have a more robust, well-rounded offense with Romo back under center."
What Romo has going for him is years of experience, and (we assume) full knowledge of the Dallas offensive playbook. What Prescott has is the momentum of four straight wins without an interception, and we assume and hope he has, the full confidence of his teammates. Winning is contagious and fun; a constantly injured quarterback is a downer.
It seems obvious that winning four straight games is reasonably "robust". The timetable for Romo's proposed return is still unknown, or at least has not been made public, giving the rookie time to get even better (we hope). It is possible that Prescott may prove unworthy by the time Romo is able to suit up, however, at least up until now, Prescott has not faltered. His performance should earn him the starting job unless he proves it should be otherwise, regardless of whether Romo is in uniform or not.
With the addition of Prescott, the possibility of success is again real and within reach for the long-suffering Dallas Cowboys and their fans. The 23-year-old should remain the top quarterback for Dallas, with Romo backing him up.
To Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett: if it ain't broke, don't fix it! The 'Dak and Tony Show' should feature Dak Prescott with top billing.
Larry Manch is an author, teacher, guitar player, freelance writer, and columnist. His books include: 'The Toughest Hundred Dollars & Other Rock & Roll Stories', 'A Sports Junkie', 'The Avery Appointment', 'Between the Fuzzy Parts'.

He also writes about baseball for Climbing Tal's Hill, food and travel on Miles & Meals, and music/guitars on The Backbeat.

He lives in Central Texas with his wife and family.

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