IRVING, Texas- Well, Happy Thanksgiving.
Nothing goes better with a little turkey and dressing than watching a team with just a small glimmer of hope get pummeled from start to finish … and then lose their most important player with the same injury he just had.
At the time of this column being written, the official word from the Cowboys was a left clavicle injury for Tony Romo. But even before further tests on Friday, the fear among the team is that his season will now be over.
This one was hard to watch for multiple reasons. The Cowboys indeed lost their quarterback, but he was off his game way before he was on the ground holding his left shoulder. Romo's 27.2 quarterback rating was the second worst of his career. A lot of that was Romo. A lot was Carolina's defense.
The Panthers were too good for him from start to his finish, evident by the interception return for a touchdown on his second pass.
The fact that you have to clarify which pick-six we're referencing is never a good sign.
We can call it rust – either physically or mentally or both. Or maybe he's just not able to get his body ready to play in a short week.
But either way you slice it, the performance they got from Romo on Thursday wouldn't have beaten an 0-10 team, much less a 10-0 one with aggressive, talented players on both sides of the ball.
Losing 33-14 is bad enough. Losing Tony Romo for the game and most likely the season is also pretty bad.
But now comes the next point. It's that humongous elephant in the room that I've typically tried to ignore, but I don't know how you can keep overlooking the big fella at this point.
The Cowboys have to be asking themselves if the time is now, or very close, to start thinking about L.A.R.
We know what it stands for and it's something that many fans have said should've happened a long time ago. But "Life After Romo" is a scary thought, simply because of the seven games we saw when he didn't play.
Again, this isn't a write-off column in any way. I'm not saying that Romo has thrown his final pass or anything like that. If this is indeed another collarbone injury, it's a huge setback for this year, but nothing that should be career ending.
If any player can rally from this, it's Romo. OK, maybe Jason Witten, too, although those two guys are in a class by themselves.
But here's my issue, and I apologize for taking so long to get here: The Cowboys look like a one-man team, who physically can't get himself ready to play every game. And that's kind of a big problem.
I know last week I caught a little Twitter heat for comparing Romo to Michael Jordan, or even LeBron James. But I don't back down from that. I'm not comparing their status as players in their respective leagues or generations, but their value to the team.
Romo is the LeBron James to this team. When he's average, the team is good. When he's good, they can be great. And when he's great, there really is no stopping them.
But when he's bad, his team has no shot.
The Cowboys had no shot in this game. And they probably won't have a shot to win much down the stretch.
The reality that the team can't win without Romo, but Romo can't seem to win without a full week of rest, can't be a fun one for the Cowboys to come to grips with.
There hasn't been anyone more supportive of No. 9 over his career than me. I think he's an unbelievable player who has made himself into a great NFL quarterback. But right now, he physically can't be relied on for every game, especially the ones without seven days to prepare.
Even though the Cowboys need him to be their superhero.