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Position Series: Missed Postseason Defines QB Spot

Posted Jan 16, 2014


(Editor's Note: This is the ninth of an 11-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2014 season. Today we examine the interior quarterbacks.)

Pressing Matters: The headline news that’s sure to come from the quarterback spot this offseason is the recovery of Tony Romo from back surgery. 

Romo stole headlines across the NFL in the build up to the Cowboys’ Week 17 showdown against Philadelphia. The herniated disc he suffered against Washington forced him to undergo season-ending surgery and miss the game that would ultimately decide the division.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has said repeatedly that the surgery went well, and that Romo should be fine to participate in the offseason program beginning in April and May. In that sense there’s no “pressing matter” about the team’s quarterback prospects, because Romo should be fine for the 2014 season.

On the other hand, the surgery – Romo’s second back surgery in the past year – has raised the question about the Cowboys’ longterm security at the quarterback spot. Romo will turn 34 this spring, and his backup, Kyle Orton, will turn 32.

Jones has already said he doesn’t plan to spend a high draft pick on a quarterback of the future, but the questions about the future are already being asked.

2013 Evaluation:  Judging by the stats, there’s some truth to the idea that Romo was a bit more conservative than usual in 2013.

He finished with a sold 3,828 yards and 31 touchdowns in 15 games. The touchdown mark ties the second-best total of his career. This season marks the first time since 2010, when he missed 10 games, that Romo has failed to pass for 4,000 yards – though it’s worth pointing out he likely would have done so had he played Week 17.

Even with a strong passing total, the numbers show Romo threw for a career-low 7.2 yards per attempt and 255 yards per game – his lowest total since 2006.

The counter to that is Romo had a 1,000-yard rusher behind him for the first time in his career, and the Cowboys weren’t playing from behind nearly as often as they were in his 4,900-yard 2012 campaign.

Orton played in just one game, the season finale, where he acquitted himself quite well. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles, giving the Cowboys a great chance to win.

Of course, it’s common knowledge what comes next. Romo’s season can be summed up the same way as Orton’s lone game: good, efficient quarterback play, followed by crippling mistakes at the end.

Romo led beautiful game-winning drives against Minnesota and Washington. But the lasting images of quarterback in 2013 will be game-changing interceptions – Denver, Green Bay and Philadelphia.

Need More From: It’s always going to be Romo, regardless of how fair that is.

Judging objectively, Romo had a fantastic season statistically. His 31:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio tied the best of his career, and his quarterback rating was his second-best of the past four seasons.

Ultimately, though, the Cowboys fell short of the postseason for the fifth time in Romo’s eight seasons as the starter, which will always leave people demanding more.

Upgrades Needed: Romo is the starter going forward, but his injury history does raise questions about drafting a prospective replacement.

It doesn’t seem logical to spend an early pick on a quarterback, but the Cowboys haven’t used a draft pick of any kind on a signal-caller since they took Stephen McGee in the fourth round of the 2009 draft.

Whether in the middle rounds of the draft or in free agency, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team bring in a third quarterback to add some depth behind the two veterans.

By The Numbers:

  • In his career as a Cowboy, Orton has completed 42-of-61 passes, or 69 percent, for 487 yards, three touchdowns and two picks.
  • Romo’s 506 passing yards against Denver set a career high, and his five touchdowns tied a career high, set in 2006 against Tampa Bay.
  • Interestingly enough, aside from the 500-yard effort against the Broncos, Romo only threw for 300 or more yards four times in 2013. Not counting 2010, when he missed 10 games, that’s his lowest number of 300-yard days since 2006.
  • Romo had the 12th-highest yardage total in the league, and he had the fifth-highest touchdown total in the league.
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