The year was 2016. In the first few snaps of a preseason game in Seattle, Washington against the Seattle Seahawks, veteran Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo scrambled out of the pocket and was crushed from behind by a Seattle defender.
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Romo laid on the turf, writhing in pain for the third time in just his last three games. Romo broke his collarbone in just the second game of the 2015 season against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys quarterback was driven into the turf on his shoulder while being sacked, a move that has since been banned in the NFL.
Despite elevating the Cowboys to win that game against Philadelphia, Dallas would go on to lose every single game that season until Romo’s return one week before Thanksgiving, in Miami. As a young man, I actually attended this game. It would be Romo’s last full game starting at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Just a season before, fate had been stolen from Romo and the Cowboys in one of the worst officiating blunders of all time. The Cowboys went 12-4 that season, notching a wild-card round win at home against the Detroit Lions and Matt Stafford. After their first playoff win in 5 years, Dallas headed to Lambeau field to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who had not lost a home game that season.
DeMarco Murray, who rushed for some 1,800 yards that season and won Offensive Player of the Year, made a crucial fumble on a play that should have resulted in a touchdown, as defender Julius Peppers used his reach to knock the ball out of Murray’s hands before he could zoom through the gaping hole in the Packers defense.
Because of this blunder, the Cowboys found themselves trailing late in the game. Romo did not make one mistake the entire game, playing incredibly well. It came down to a 4th down play in Green Bay territory. Romo dropped back, firing a perfect pass near the goalline to star wide receiver Dez Bryant, who had an astounding 16 touchdowns during the 2014 season, and was widely regarded as one of the best receivers in all of football at the time.
Bryant leaped, catching the ball, taking three steps, switching the ball to a single hand, and extending for the goalline. When Bryant hit the ground, the ball moved slightly. It did not his the grass, and was juggled and secured by Bryant in bounds. Despite the fact that he took three steps, AND transferred the ball to a single hand, the officials ruled that Bryant did not ‘complete the catch.’
Again, if the receiver makes a ‘football move’ after catching the ball, also known as taking three steps and transferring the possesion of the ball to a single hand, the catch has already been made. The receiver is a ball carrier at that point. It truly remains one of the most unbelievably sick and twisted calls in NFL history.
Tony Romo threw the perfect pass, on the perfect play call, to his best wide receiver at the most crucial moment of his entire career…. and it was taken away from him. The Cowboys defense, much weaker than their offense, would go on to lose the game to Aaron Rodgers, who never let Romo see the ball again. The Packers would win 28-24.
Fast forward to the following year. Coming off of his clavicle injury, Romo won in Miami, marking Dallas’ first win since he got hurt in week two. The following week, on just 4 days rest, the Cowboys would play the undefeated Carolina Panthers in Dallas on Thanksgiving.
During this game, Romo was hit again, and once again, left writhing on the turf. The same clavicle, and the same outcome. Tony Romo was out for the rest of the season. Dallas would go on to win only one more game, against the Washington Redskins, that year, finishing just 4-12. Romo would be responsible for three of the four wins for the team. They were 3-1 with him, and 1-11 without him.
In that offseason with their number four overall draft pick, the Dallas Cowboys selected star Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott would go on to lead the league in rushing in 2016, and was viewed as the rightful successor to Demarco Murray, who had departed for Philadelphia after his record-breaking 2014 season. Murray would fizzle out, eventually finding his way to Tennessee where he had a few solid years, eventually retiring.
Romo finally had his running back again. In Murray’s departure, Dallas made no effort to bring in talent, signing a washed up Darren McFadden to replace the league’s leading rusher. Everything was put on Romo’s shoulders, the same shoulders that kept getting broken.
After Romo was injured in the preseason game in 2016 in Seattle, Dallas turned to a rookie named Dak Prescott. Prescott would lead the Cowboys to a victory in that preseason game, and during the early season led the Cowboys to a shocking 9-1 record. It was at this time that Tony Romo, who had rushed back from injury the year prior, putting his health and future in jeopardy in order to win football games, was ready to return.
In one of the most distasteful, disgusting, and shameless moves in franchise history, ranking up there with the firing of Tom Landry, the Cowboys refused to let Romo play. Even though Dak Prescott had won just 9 games for the franchise, and Romo had sacrificed his health and future for the sake of the team, the Dallas Cowboys showed no loyalty.
They showed no respect for Romo’s sacrifice. It eventually led to Tony making a statement in the media, saying that he wanted Prescott to be the starting quarterback, as media hype and attention was reportedly interfering with the team. Romo didn’t make the decision, management did, and even within this disrespectful move, Romo still had the guts to take the media shots and be the bigger man.
Romo was as good as any quarterback of his era. His toughness was unmatched. His dedication to winning and the team is unlike any quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys in the last 20 years.
Though Dallas has a strong team this year, they have one weak link. Quarterback. Dak Prescott continues to be the only reason that anybody doubts the Cowboys ability to win the Super Bowl. I think the Dallas defense has the potential to go down as one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
But it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter because somehow, someway, when it really counts, and the ball is placed into the hands of Dak Prescott, he has shown time and time again that he will find a way to mess up. He will find a way to hand the ball to the other team, and he will find a way to lose the game.
Dak Prescott is the only weak link that the Dallas Cowboys have… and that is the curse of Tony Romo. The Cowboys brought this upon themselves. They threw away the best quarterback that the franchise has ever had for a guy that won 9 games. Since 2016, Prescott has never been able to replicate his success.
He’s just good enough statistically to remain quarterback, and just pathetic and stupid enough to ensure that the Cowboys never advance to a Super Bowl as long as he remains quarterback.