FRISCO, Texas –Each week, the staff writers put together their own thoughts about the upcoming game – not only picking a winner, but key moments that could occur throughout the game.
Obviously, the Cowboys are enjoying their bye week this weekend, but that doesn't mean they haven't made big headlines.
In fact, one could argue the NFL's hottest, most intriguing story sits right here in Dallas as the Cowboys are riding a five-game winning streak behind rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. But Tony Romo is getting healthy once again and is expected to return to action at some point next month.
Do the Cowboys go back to the face of their franchise in Romo, who has been the starter since midway through the 2006 season? Or do they ride the hot hand with Prescott, who is off to a record-breaking start. Just last week he surpassed Tom Brady's 15-year-old NFL record for the most passes to begin a career without an interception. Even though Prescott finally threw one after 176 attempts, the rookie continue to dazzle the league, especially after a three-TD performance at Lambeau Field, where he out-played former NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
So just what do the Cowboys do when Romo returns? That is the question, and it's the one the staff writers of DallasCowboys.com have decided to tackle here during the bye week.
David Helman:I came to an epiphany on Wednesday afternoon after a full week of wringing my hands about the Cowboys' quarterback situation. My thought was this: what exactly are we all wringing our hands about? These are the types of luxuries you can afford when you're 5-1! At this point last year, the Cowboys were 2-4 and there was a very real sense that season would slip away. Right now, we know that they have a nice cushion heading into their bye week, and it affords them the ability to not stress so hard about Tony Romo. The 36-year-old quarterback is on pace to return soon – perhaps as early as the Cleveland game. When he is in fact ready to return to the field, it seems like a safe bet that the Cowboys will still have a winning record. Which, in that case, throw him out there. If he's good to go, he has the potential to take this offense to the next level. If he struggles or hurts himself, you have a proven playmaker sitting right behind him. And having watched him play over the last three months, I'm convinced that there's nothing you can do to affect Dak Prescott's confidence. But the Cowboys need to figure out if Romo has gas in the tank or not, and the only way to do that is to play him. Best-case scenario, he makes this offense even scarier than it already is. Worst-case scenario, you have a definitive answer about when to begin building around Dak. And the real kicker in this entire situation is that you can accomplish all of this without affecting your playoff hopes too much, thanks to the work that's been done to this point. The Cowboys' success so far gives them the leeway to determine their future. In my opinion, they do that by playing Tony Romo.
Rob Phillips: I've felt all along Tony Romo would start when he's healthy and ready to go. Yet, the more the Cowboys win with Dak Prescott, I understand why this is becoming a national debate. Prescott has inspired this football team with the way he has handled this opportunity. I think it's important to take emotion out of the discussion here. Prescott is the franchise's future – he's already an outstanding player, and the best part is he's not going anywhere. The question I have is simply this: how long will the Cowboys need to wait for Romo to not only get healthy, but get back to being Tony Romo again? There is bound to be rust involved due to the injury and the fact that he didn't play that much football in training camp and preseason before he got hurt. Can a few practices knock off all the rust? Or does the team, if Romo starts when ready, have to accept some possible inconsistency after building so much momentum to this point entering the heart of their schedule? This is the central issue, in my opinion, because we know what Tony Romo can do with this offense when he's healthy, in shape and in rhythm.
Nick Eatman: Three weeks ago, I was a bit surprised that I kept getting the question about this topic. Two weeks ago, I was prepared for it, but without a great answer. Last week, I just waited for someone to say it like the elephant in the room. And now, I just go ahead and break the ice right off the bat and just start talking about Romo and Dak because I know that's what people want to talk about it. This truly is a tough call for the Cowboys because you have to figure out a couple of "what-if" scenarios. For starters, what if this offense is just way better with Romo back in the lineup. Sure, Prescott has exceeded all of our expectations and then some, but what if Romo and his experienced and savviness just makes this offense even better? Or, what if Dak Prescott is Tom Brady? Laugh if you want to, but what he's done already is certainly Brady-like. A lower-round pick with lower expectations but no one could ever have expected the kind of assassin-like competitor that Brady has become. What if Prescott can be that good? These are questions the coaches get paid to answer. And let's not forget about that part, too – the coaches. These guys will make the right call. The world has seen Prescott play about six times, maybe seven or eight depending on the preseason. The coaches have seen him much more than that. When it's time for Romo to get back to practice, I bet the decision to play these guys will probably be easier than we think. So for the sake of this piece – my gut feeling is that Romo will start probably in Cleveland, but maybe Pittsburgh. But the leash won't be long. This team is already too good to have anyone mess up the chemistry. My thoughts are that as long as that big offensive line is pushing the pile with Ezekiel Elliott running the ball – it doesn't matter too much who is giving him the handoffs. I think Romo should get his job back, but I wouldn't be overly patient if the rust if apparent and the success that we're currently seeing starts to fade.[embeddedad0]
Bryan Broaddus:I am trying to look at this in the way that Jerry and Stephen Jones would approach it. As happy as I am about the way that the team has responded to Dak Prescott - I still need to know what I have in Tony Romo not only for the remainder of this season but also looking ahead. The Jones have a huge payment due to Romo next season and they surely don't want to go into the off season wondering what path they should take? If Romo doesn't play it makes that decision even more difficult. At least with DeMarcus Ware they had a feeling that the money didn't match the level of performance they were getting from him thus they made the call. Romo needs to be handled in the same way as Ware. Play him and once his level of performance is identified - make your decision. If Romo has success, all is good. Poor play or injury then should allow you to move on with Prescott going forward and work to adjust the cap. All this doesn't happen unless they play him and that is likely soon that later.