Tony Romo is going to get a shot to be the Dallas Cowboys’ new starting quarterback.
As much as the owner didn’t want to see it, when Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe was benched Monday night it wasn’t just for one quarter or one half. According to a source, Tony Romo will be the starter when the Cowboys play the Panthers on Sunday night in Charlotte, N.C. It would be his first NFL start. The source said Romo will be with the first-team offense when practice begins today.
But the move is one that makes Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones uneasy. “I’ve thought the best chance for us to be where we wanted to be, contending in the playoffs, was to go with the experienced quarterback in Drew, and I don’t know if I’ve changed my mind there at all,” Jones told reporters while he attended the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans on Tuesday afternoon.
Jones said he did not know who would start Sunday. “But we have to win games,” he said. “We have to give ourselves every opportunity. There is no question Romo has mobility and he can mitigate some of the problems we have with Drew’s mobility. On the other hand, you saw [against the Giants] we give up some good stuff experience-wise. It’ll be a tough decision.”
Bledsoe declined an interview request Tuesday. Clearly, though, he’s ticked off, and believes he’s the best man for the job. Bledsoe has said he would never again be a backup, but it’s doubtful he will retire on the spot. He showered as coach Bill Parcells talked to the team after Monday night’s 36-22 loss to the New York Giants and left quickly. The last thing he was heard saying on Monday night was, “It was a very bad decision.”
Jones is almost certainly right that Bledsoe is the better quarterback right now, despite his lack of mobility and propensity to make bad decisions. He’s still got a great arm and has fifteen years experience as an NFL starter.
Still, Romo has the physical ability to overcome the problems caused by a mediocre offensive line and has more upside. If nothing else, this will let the team learn whether they need to take a quarterback in the first round of the 2007 draft and/or sign a free agent.
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Bledsoe left New England and Buffalo because he didn’t want to be a mentor or an insurance policy. He’s hinted that Dallas is his last stop and has indicated that if he’s not starting, he’d rather be home playing with his kids.
Of course, what Bledsoe wants matters little to Parcells. All the coach wants is the QB who gives the Cowboys the best chance of winning. That can still be Bledsoe, as evidenced by his six touchdown passes and one interception in Dallas’ three victories. But those have all been against teams with losing records. Against playoff contenders Jacksonville, Philadelphia and the Giants, he has one TD and seven INTs.
Romo arrived in Dallas in 2003 and has outlasted Jones-picked quarterbacks Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson, mostly on ability but also with a mix of intangibles that Parcells admires. Jones believes in him, too, with a recent contract extension for next year serving as proof.
Mobility is Romo’s biggest selling point. That could be more necessity than luxury considering the way the line played Monday night. Romo also plays with a gunslinger mentality, which sometimes means throwing passes with an I’ll-cram-it-in-there bravado. Experience could help team him when he can and can’t. (For what it’s worth: Bledsoe’s never had a three-interception half for Dallas.) “I definitely would have liked to have performed better,” Romo said.
UPDATE: Todd Archer adds this statistical note: “Romo becomes the 10th different starting quarterback for the Cowboys since Troy Aikman retired following the 2000 season.” That’s something else.
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