Tony Romo has a strong argument as the greatest quarterback in Dallas Cowboys history.
Romo has the most passing yards in Cowboys history. His 248 passing touchdowns are 83 more than any other Cowboys quarterback. His 97.1 career passer rating is the fourth-best in the history of the NFL.
Yet, as Romo’s Cowboys career comes to a close – ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Todd Archer reported he will officially be cut Thursday – we all know why he won’t be remembered as fondly as Roger Staubach or Troy Aikman are. Romo played 13 seasons with Dallas and never won a Super Bowl, and never even made it there. The Cowboys won just two playoff games with Romo. That’s not all his fault, but the failure to win big in the postseason is a big reason why he seemed to be under constant criticism.
The painful part about how Romo’s Cowboys career ended is he had his best shot at a championship late in his career, like John Elway with the Denver Broncos. The problem was his body didn’t cooperate. Dallas went 12-4 in 2014 and had high hopes in 2015, but Romo broke his collarbone twice. In 2016, Romo broke a bone in his back in the preseason, and Dallas went 13-3 without him. No matter how good rookie Dak Prescott was last season, Romo will look back and probably believe Dallas would have had similar success if he stayed healthy. But that will be of little consolation.
That Romo could never lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl doesn’t erase all of his accomplishments, of course. Romo was undrafted out of Eastern Illinois, and became one of the greatest undrafted players in NFL history. It’s incredibly rare for a quarterback in this era to slip completely through the draft and have the success Romo did in Dallas. Romo will have an argument for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he might need to get to a Super Bowl with his second team to get in. Even if he falls short of that, and even if he fails with his second team, Romo has had a great career – especially given how it started. It’s a tremendous underdog story.
The Cowboys and Romo move on, and it has to be sad for both sides. Romo was Dallas’ starter from 2006, when he went to the first of four Pro Bowls, to last season when the Cowboys couldn’t remove the red-hot Prescott from the role. Dallas will wonder what might have happened had Romo been able to stay healthy the last couple years, when the Cowboys built a championship-quality team around him. Had it not been for Prescott’s unbelievable rookie season, Romo might be getting another shot to lead the Cowboys to glory in 2017. It wasn’t meant to be.
Romo, who will be 37 next season, gets a fresh start. The Broncos and Houston Texans are expected to be his most aggressive suitors. The Cowboys, coming off a tremendous season, have their quarterback of the future. Romo will return sometime after he has retired and be added to the Cowboys Ring of Honor. He had a great run with the Cowboys, even if he never got to experience the storybook ending. Maybe he can still write that perfect ending before his NFL career is done.