1. So when Tony Romo took that hit to the back way back in August, and we learned he was going to miss about 10 weeks, I wrote the below (edited for brevity):
If I were close to Tony Romo, and he were to ask for my advice about his future, I would tell him to retire. Look, this isn't about his head or his heart. We all know what that's made of. This is about his back and about his quality of life after football, and I would urge him to take the time this injury affords him to strongly consider it.
This is the fourth time Romo has had to deal with a injury to his back in the past four years — surgery to remove a cyst, surgery on a ruptured disc, playing through two transverse process fractures and now a broken L1 vertebra fracture.
I've been around athletes for 20 years at every level, which means I've been around team doctors, trainers and surgeons for 20 years. When it comes to injuries the general theme is this — everything is cumulative when it comes to the human body. Once a player suffers an injury to a particular part of the body and surgery is involved, there is always a higher risk of re-injury, whether it’s re-injuring the same area or injury to that general area. You hurt your knee, there's a better chance you'll hurt it again. You sprain your ankle, there's a better chance you'll sprain it again. You pull your hamstring ... you get the idea. Exhibit A? Miles Austin.
This injury is treatable and recoverable. Romo just needs to rest and let it heal. That's good news for several weeks from now, but it may not be good news long term. Our Jordan Ross made this point about the hit that Romo took from Cliff Avril Thursday night:
It's a good point to make, but I'll build on that. That will not be the hardest hit Romo will take this season, nor will it be the last hit he will take to his back this season. In other words, the cumulative effect of his back injuries the past few years makes it more likely he'll hurt his back again. He's not brittle or fragile, as some might suggest. The guy played through a collapsed lung, for crying out loud. He's just more likely to get hurt when you consider his age (36) and the multiple injuries to his back. It's that simple. He can't hide from that and neither can the Cowboys.
He also can't hide from his post-football future. He has a wife now. He has two children now. I imagine that Romo envisions a future where he can play with his kids, enjoy his retirement with his wife and do the kinds of things he'd like to do — play golf, be a TV commentator, be an assistant coach — whatever that might be. The longer he plays the more he invites hits that, potentially, could diminish his physical capacity post-retirement including, heaven forbid, paralysis. That's a stark assertion, I know. But we've seen football players paralyzed playing this game. And we've seen them paralyzed taking less violent hits than the one Romo took Thursday night.
No, retirement is not what he wants. It would not leave the legacy that Romo desires. But legacy is little consolation if, in 10 years, you can't enjoy your life to the fullest.
So that's what I would tell him.
Of course, I’ve not spoken to Romo since the injury and I doubt very seriously he read the above. But I must admit, his announcement last week took me by surprise a bit. I fully expected him to give it one more go, to try and take one more shot at that Super Bowl ring that has proved elusive. But I can’t blame the guy for moving on. As I wrote above, there are plenty of reasons to do so.
2. So why hasn’t Tony Romo used the word? You know? Retired?
I was traveling all week, so I missed much of the coverage except via Twitter. But our Mike Fisher touched on the fact that Romo mysteriously avoided the word “retired.”
Yep. To Fish’s point:
And yet on a very eventful Tuesday, Romo couldn’t quite bring himself to utter the word "retired.” He tiptoed down the same path on Wednesday in an expansive and entertaining exclusive interview with my colleagues "Ben & Skin'' on 105.3 The Fan.
Fish wrote in his story that’s a mistake. I would agree. If you’re retired, you’re retired. Which means you not only use the word, but you file your paperwork with the NFL. Romo has done neither to this point. Now, it’s only been a week. But the longer he goes without doing that, well, things could get tricky.
Even Romo somewhat acknowledged that during his CBS intro conference call.
“Do I envision coming back and playing football?” Romo said. “Absolutely not. I'm committed to CBS for good. Do I think I'm going to get some calls? I'm sure I will."
When will those calls come? The first time a starting quarterback gets hurt and is out for the season. Now, there are some teams Romo wouldn’t give a fig about joining midway through training camp or midway through the season. But there are two that would still be enticing, the same two we’ve discussed for months — Denver and Houston. There is only so much more these two teams can do to better their quarterback situations at this point. Whether it’s Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler or a draft pick, Romo would likely be a better option.
When the NFL schedule comes out later this month, check the bye weeks for both the Broncos and the Texans. I don’t think Romo comes out of the booth before his TV career even starts. But if those two teams get to their bye weeks and their quarterback situations aren’t working out, expect either team to make a call to Romo and his agent to feel out whether he’s feel like being a short-term rental.
3. So, assuming Romo stays retired, it’s legacy time — Ring of Honor, Hall of Fame, all that stuff. Romo’s numbers for his career — 34,183 yards and 248 touchdown passes — are the best all-time in Cowboys history. He accomplished that in nine fewer games than Troy Aikman, who on my list is the Cowboys’ top all-time quarterback, all things considered. My top five? Aikman, Roger Staubach, Romo, Danny White and Don Meredith. Just so you know.
One also has to consider where the Cowboys were when Romo took over in 2006 — still trying to find an identity in the post-Aikman era. Jerry Jones’ inability to plan for life without Aikman meant the Cowboys burned through a litany of average options before Romo finally took over for Drew Bledsoe, who, admittedly was the best of the lot. Romo changed that narrative. He altered the path of the franchise in a way few players have. He made them relevant again, and not because Bill Parcells was the coach or because Jones said something outlandish.
For a decade, even with the injuries, he gave the franchise stability. And now that’s done.
The Ring of Honor? Absolutely. He belongs there. If Jones wants to do it right, he’ll wait until Jason Witten retires and induct them together. That might take a while, but that feels right to me.
But the Pro Football Hall of Fame? That’s where things get tricky.
The easy argument is to say that Romo has no titles and no NFL MVP awards, and those would be true statements. I agree that championships help, but they’re not the end of the conversation. We’ve seen players with massive numbers get into the Hall of Fame without a title. In fact, three of the Top 10 passers in NFL history by yards — Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Fran Tarkenton — are in the Hall of Fame without a title. Heck, Moon never made it to a Super Bowl. Extend it to the Top 15 and Dan Fouts slips in there, too.
Romo, at the moment, is No. 29 all-time in passing yards and No. 21 in touchdown passes. That’s actually the larger issue.
Romo didn’t play a single down in his first three years in the league (2003-05). It’s hard to blame anyone for that. He took over as the starter a half-dozen games into the 2006 season. From there, Romo missed 42 games due to injury (we’re including the games he dressed for in 2016 and sat behind Dak Prescott, even though he was healthy enough to play). That’s nearly three seasons to injury. How does that translate to numbers? Well, take his career averages per start (269.1 yards and 1.95 touchdown passes) and you get 11,302 yards and 82 touchdowns to add to his current career numbers.
What would his total numbers be in that scenario? Well, he’d have 45,485 yards passing and 330 touchdown passes. That would slide Romo up to Top 15 and significantly improve his case.
Of course, if Romo had never suffered those injuries and never missed those 42 games, there would have been no retirement ceremony and we would be talking about Prescott’s long-term viability as a starter once Romo retired. But that’s what happens in the NFL.
But Romo doesn’t have that benefit. And neither do the 48 people on the Hall of Fame committee. They will have to look at Romo’s career in full and make a decision, and I think when they do they’ll see an above-average player who had an above-average career. But to me, above-average shouldn’t get you in the Hall of Fame.
But this doesn’t mean Romo’s path to the Hall is blocked. Remember that while John Madden was inducted as a head coach, his illustrious broadcasting career kept him on the radar of the selection committee. Imagine if Romo becomes one of the game’s pre-eminent broadcasters. That, combined with his playing career, could get him in. One day. Just not one day anytime soon.
4. As for the broadcasting, I happen to think that Romo should be great at the job. I think he has the ability to break down the game for the average fan, communicate in a way that is easy to understand and has a natural charisma that will come across on camera. Moving to CBS was a good choice if you’re thinking about his career arc. The No. 1 analysts at Fox (Troy Aikman), NBC (Cris Collinsworth) and ESPN (Jon Gruden) aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Heck, I thought Phil Simms’ job was secure until this week.
That said, I think CBS is doing Romo a disservice by immediately putting him in the No. 1 booth. Aikman, Collinsworth and Simms all had time to learn the craft before they moved into the No. 1 booth. Romo won’t have that luxury and as easy as guys like Aikman, Collinsworth, Simms and Gruden make it look, it’s not. Forget the preparation. On gameday you have an earpiece filled with the voices of your director, producer, stats person and other personnel, along with a telestrator to operate and a game to keep track of. It’s a special breed of analyst that can handle all of that. Romo will have to do that on CBS’s best game each week, along with the Thursday night games that CBS broadcasts. He won’t have the proving ground the others did. His mistakes will happen in full view of the public. He’s used to it, of course, but it’s still a disservice.
By the way, I think Simms ends up on the NFL Today set replacing Tony Gonzalez and serves as the back-up plan in case Romo, you know, gets the itch to play.
5. The best Romo-related story of the week? It had nothing to do with his actual retirement. It had to do with a spin move he put on J.J. Watt in a game against the Texans in 2014. Heck, The Ringer’s Danny Kelly wrote an entire story about it.
And J.J. Watt even referenced it in a tweet congratulating Romo on his retirement.
It was that good. Really.
6. This is a great read by Jordan Ross. Tony Romo is the guy that finally got him to be a football fan.
Jordan is more bullish about Romo’s chances for the Hall of Fame than I am, but he feels about Romo the same way I feel about Danny White, the Cowboys quarterback I grew up on in the 1980s when I first started watching football. Romo is his first QB. White is mine. That’s always going to matter a little more than how others view either QB’s legacy.
7. Tony Romo’s rep in the fourth quarter is one of the best in NFL history. I know some will make the argument that the Cowboys shouldn’t have been in some of those situations, but the fact is he put together enough fourth-quarter magic to fill 12 minutes of highlight reels. In fact, here they are.
8. Tweet of the Week
Just in case you need a breakdown of every Cowboys player Romo has thrown a touchdown pass to.
9. This week’s “Great Moments in Headline Porn: “Romo’s Out. Who’s the next National Punching Bag” From nfl.com
Who says he’s going to stop being a national punching bag just because he’s not playing anymore?
10. One More Thing ….
The day Witten retires, good lord the tweets.
But wait. Romo isn't completely retiring ... if you count one day of basketball.
Some silly fun to top off a Romo career that's been "fun'' ... and a Mavs season that could use some.