The worst part about decision-making in the NFL is the fact that you will be second guessed, regardless of what you decide. There will always be individuals that think they know better than you do, and, with the advent of social media, they will often be the vocal minority. Gone are the hands-off days when my father would grumble at the television while watching the Giants, or the local Syracuse Orange (okay, he still does that). Now, if he wanted to, my father could tweet at the coach, or at the very least the organization and let everyone know how he felt about an in-game decision or a personnel move. There are no winners in this new world of social interaction, especially when you are the one making the decision.
That is why, despite all the shit I give Jerry Jones, I feel sorry for him (I’d say I feel sorry for Jason Garrett but a) I don’t and b) I think we all know that he’s not calling the shots). Jones is in the unenviable position of having to choose between the face of the franchise for the past decade and the face of the franchise for the next decade. While I am not embedded in the Cowboys training facility, nor do I know anyone on the team, I am a longtime fan. I cannot speak to the decision from a logistics standpoint (though I know the short-term salary cap pain will be alleviated by the fact that the starting quarterback will be making fourth-round draft pick money for the next five years) but I can speak to the situation as a longtime supporter of the team, through the good and the very, very Dave Campo (bad) years.
From the 2001 season, when Troy Aikman retired, to the 2006 season, the quarterback position was in flux for the Dallas Cowboys, with some drafting misses and some free agent flops manning the position. The thing that stands out, especially in the early going (and something that I was unable to see as an eighteen and nineteen year old fan of the team) was that the Cowboys’ biggest issue was their inability to have a plan of succession in place at that all-important position of quarterback. Sure, the late 90’s, early 2000’s teams were just devoid of talent at many key areas (and wasted the twilight of Emmitt Smith’s career, frankly)but the most glaring hole on the roster was the one they took five seasons to fill.
I don’t think, and in fact, after watching a video on the Dallas Cowboys website last year regarding Romo’s ascension to starting quarterback, I know that the Cowboys did not enter the 2006 season with any designs of making Romo the starter that year, and maybe ever. Drew Bledsoe got hurt, and Romo took over, never looking back as the administration at the time wanted to grab the lightning in a bottle that he represented, an excitement at quarterback that hadn’t been felt since the mid-nineties. Now, I’m not sure what Bledsoe’s contract situation was, but I’m sure it wasn’t as oppressive as Romo’s is at this time, but the situation is very similar. The Cowboys entered this season with the thought that maybe they would be able to groom Dak Prescott as a quarterback that would take over in a year or two, when Romo made his graceful exit. Then Romo got hurt (again) and Prescott was thrust into the starting role (after the actual backup, Kellen Moore had been injured earlier in the preseason – that’s right, Prescott was a third-stringer as early as much as three months ago).
We all know the rest of the story. If it wasn’t for a shaky defensive effort and Terrance Williams showing us all what kind of education he received at Baylor, the Cowboys might be undefeated right now. They have the best rushing attack in the league, which, while not being totally Dak’s doing, shows that their opponents respect him enough to not stack ten defenders in the box every play. He has been nothing short of a revelation at the quarterback position after the revolving door of suck that took the field last year, and points to a bright future for the team. Could Dak be a Nick Foles kind of player that has a good season his rookie year and can never replicate those numbers? Sure, that’s always a possibility. Should the Cowboys throw away that good year because their prohibitive starter is finally ready to play? As a fan of the Cowboys I say no.
Let me clarify. I’m a huge Romo fan and supporter, and have been since he took the field against the Giants in week seven of the 2006 season. I’m not coming at this conundrum as anything more than a fan that doesn’t want another five year period of quarterback purgatory once Tony decides to hang up his cleats for good. That being said, I can see that Prescott gives the Cowboys a great chance to win now (at this point, I would even say as good a chance to win as Romo does) and a chance to set the franchise up for the foreseeable future. The Cowboys owe it to themselves and their fans to avoid derailing this train while it’s moving forward.
But that doesn’t make Jerry’s decision any easier.