IRVING, Texas– It's a strange thought that, as popular an interview as Matt Cassel was on Wednesday, he might be all alone the next time the Cowboys' starting quarterback addresses the media.
Cassel spoke to reporters for the fifth time since being named the starter back during the bye week. As much emphasis as there might be on beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the interview was dominated by talk of next week – and the looming presence of Tony Romo.
"Obviously, Tony is coming back next week, and when he's gets back, he's back," Cassel said. "But at the same time, I would love to finish on a winning note and obviously teams, we'd all like to win, so again all of our focus has gone into this week."
Romo is eligible to return to the active roster next week, which means he'll be able to play when the Cowboys travel to face Miami in Week 11. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has already stated that Romo will play against the Dolphins – even if coach Jason Garrett intends to be a bit more cautious.
"We'll take him day-by day – he's certainly had a good couple weeks," Garrett said. "We'll continue working through his rehab and his time on the field here this week, and hopefully he'll continue to make the same kind of progress."
If that progress keeps up, it seems like a decent bet that Sunday's trip to Tampa will be Cassel's last start of this eight-week stretch. That's not necessarily a criticism of his play this season, as Garrett said he has continued to improve in each start.
"I think Matt's done a good job for us," he said. "Unfortunately, we haven't won the games he's started, but I think there's a lot of positive things that he's done for our team."
His performance has been enough to raise questions about the Cowboys' backup quarterback situation. Both Cassel and Brandon Weeden will be free agents at the end of the season, and it's fair to say Cassel has had the more productive tenure this season.
Cassel said he's not focused on the future for the time being. Though, as a lifelong Cowboys fan, he did repeat his oft-cited affinity for the organization.
"My main focus is all about this week. We'll cross that bridge when it comes here," he said. "If you're asking me would I like to be a Dallas Cowboy for a long period of time, absolutely."
In the meantime, Cassel's looking at one more week of starting duties – headlined by one last opportunity to deliver a win during the Cowboys' two-month stretch without Romo. Last week's overtime loss was about as close as the Cowboys have come to winning in the last six weeks, and Cassel's quarterback rating of 105 was easily his best of his time in Dallas.
"I feel like I get more comfortable each and every week. And I feel like that in turn, the results on the field, you start to perform better," he said. "That's just a comfort level in terms of just being in the huddle, being with the guys, and also learning the playbook. So every week I'm here, every week I'm on the field, I feel like I've grown and gotten better."
That improvement should give at least some hope that Cassel can leave Romo with a somewhat manageable record to work with – sitting at 3-6, rather than 2-7. That remains the focus for the Cowboys' current starter, even as the spotlight shifts toward his replacement in the starting lineup.
"We've always known that Tony was going to come back at some point. But at the same time, you do what you can with the time that you get," Cassel said. "Hopefully, we'll make the most of this opportunity and we'll go out there and get a win this week."[embeddedad0]