Jerry Jones, owner of the red-hot Cowboys, unexpectedly hit it big with rookie Dak Prescott in the fourth round but still has an expected soft spot for deposed long-time starter Tony Romo.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News in his midtown Manhattan hotel room Thursday afternoon, Jones made two predictions:
— There’s going to be a situation where Romo steps in and helps Dallas in its quest to get to Super Bowl LI in Houston.
— Even if Romo is the backup going into the offseason, Jones believes he will be able to talk him out of demanding a trade or his release so he can join a team where he could start.
If Romo gets into a meaningful regular season or playoff game in the next two months, it’s either because Prescott is injured or he is playing so poorly that Romo comes in to try and keep the season alive.
“I think Romo is going to get his opportunity,” Jones said. “I don’t want it to happen. But I think he may get his opportunity to get us a Super Bowl. While that’s a mixed bag when I think about it — that means you don’t have Dak out there — but it means, what a story, one for the ages, if he’d step in there and this year help us win a Super Bowl on the field with his skill. That can happen here. We’re not talking about a bus driver out there. We’re talking about a guy who can go out there and move our team.”
The Cowboys are 11-1 without Romo. Last year, they were 1-11 without him. Prescott has won 11 consecutive games, more than Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, more than Romo, more than any quarterback in Cowboys history.
Dallas can clinch the NFC East on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium with a victory over the Giants, and naturally Jones is in football heaven: Prescott is playing great and Romo, once he was back in uniform on Nov. 20 after suffering a compression fracture in his back this summer, has accepted his backup role and this week has been playing Eli Manning on the scout team.
Jones is not sticking pins in a Prescott voodoo doll. He’s all-in on the rookie. But there is precedent for exactly what Jones was talking about Thursday.
Tom Brady took over after Drew Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest late in the second game of the 2001 season against the Jets. He didn’t play again until Brady injured his ankle in the first half of the AFC Championship Game. Bledsoe was a big reason New England won that game. Brady returned for the Super Bowl and led a game-winning drive to beat the Rams.
In the Dolphins’ perfect season in 1972, Bob Griese broke his leg and dislocated his ankle in the fifth game and Earl Morrall took over. Don Shula switched back to Griese during the AFC Championship Game and he finished off the unbeaten season by defeating Washington in the Super Bowl.
Romo is 36 years old and due to make $14 million in 2017 with a salary cap number of $24.7 million. If the Cowboys cut him, they will have $19.6 million in dead money on their cap. Prescott signed a four-year, $2.7 million deal. He is making $450,000 this season and $540,000 in 2017. The collective bargaining agreement prevents the Cowboys from giving Prescott a new contract next year, which presents the chance for Jones to fit both quarterbacks into the salary cap.
“Because of where we are, we can afford it,” Jones said.
Romo (r.) conceded the starting role to Dak Prescott earlier this season.
No team can afford two big-money quarterbacks. But with Prescott not yet able to cash in, Jones said he thinks it could make more sense to allocate the resources to Romo, even if he’s the backup, than to a pass rusher in free agency.
“Unorthodox?” Jones said. “Absolutely.”
Jones said, “my intention” is for Romo to be back in Dallas next year.
Will Romo accept going into camp as the backup?
“I think Tony is going to compete. He will never accept it,” Jones said. “But do I think it is possible that he could be in Dallas and it’s good for him and good for us and be the smart thing to do? How many times have we ever seen one drawn up where you see that kind of depth at the quarterback position? How many times do you have to be reminded if we had the concussion protocol the way we had it today, Troy Aikman wouldn’t have played in the second Super Bowl.”
Aikman suffered a concussion in the 1993 NFC title game against the 49ers and with no week off before the Super Bowl, he played in the game but it’s a blur to him. Now the concussion protocol can keep players sidelined for several weeks. If it happens to Prescott next season, Jones wants Romo to be his QB.
He believes he can talk Romo into staying rather than pursuing an opportunity to finish his career elsewhere as a starter.
“I do,” he said. “I think if I ask Tony to go with us on that and let’s try to win a championship, I think, yes, he will.”
Romo, unlike Bledsoe 15 years ago, is not complaining. “Tony is investing in his teammates,” Jones said. “Everybody understands while he’s excited to be part of the team and he’s excited for the team, that he’s dying inside not to be out there competing. I underline the words dying inside. There are plenty of examples where high profile quarterbacks didn’t go down gracefully and step off the field gracefully. Lots of example of it. It’s just hard for that kind for competitor to do that.”
But when Romo made his concession speech last month, “he absolutely stepped up and was genuine and honest,” Jones said. “He let the air out of the controversy in front of the country when he stood up there and said, “I’m the backup quarterback.”
If Jones is right in his predictions, Romo will get an opportunity to help the ‘Boys get to the Super Bowl for the first time in two decades and then be back in Dallas next season.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News