(Editor's Note: This is the 11th 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 2016 season. Today we complete the series with quarterback.)
Where to begin? Well, let's start with Tony Romo. His left collarbone is healing well on its own, and following a follow-up scan in a couple weeks he could have surgery to help strengthen the shoulder area against re-injury. If Romo does have a procedure done in early March, he should still be available for the start of the team's offseason program that begins April 18.
The Cowboys will have a healthy Romo for the 2016 season, his 11th as their starting quarterback. The depth behind him is incomplete. Kellen Moore is under contract through 2016, but Matt Cassel, a seven-game fill-in starter, is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
No way to sugarcoat it: the Cowboys' season fell apart with Romo sidelined 12 of 16 games with two different left collarbone injuries. They lost 11 of those 12 games, and team owner/general manager Jerry Jones has said backup quarterback is a high priority this offseason.
The Cowboys simply expected to win more games without their veteran starter, and while they came close – six of those 11 losses were by a touchdown or less – the offense didn't function at a high enough level with the backup quarterbacks in there.
Here are the combined numbers from Cassel, Moore, Brandon Weeden (the first fill-in starter who was ultimately waived after Romo returned at midseason): 251-of-406 for 2,793 yards, 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. In four games the offense failed to score a touchdown.
Need More From …
Romo knows how much he means to the offense, and he has said more than once since the Thanksgiving collarbone injury that he must be able to stay on the field going forward. That's the easy way to keep the offense competitive, but Jones and the front office realize they need a stronger Plan B.
Clearly, it's a backup quarterback they feel can capably move the offense if ever called into action. Moore showed flashes in two and a half games replacing Cassel to end the season, posting four touchdowns but also six interceptions. He should be in the mix for the No. 2 job in training camp, but the team very well could attempt to add competition through the draft or free agency.
The Cowboys have only drafted four quarterbacks since Troy Aikman in 1989 and have their highest draft position (No. 4 overall) since taking Aikman that year. Naturally, there's outside buzz around the possibility of selecting a developmental passer. But the team has plenty of other needs and will focus on taking the best players available to them.
By The Numbers:
- Romo made four starts, his fewest game appearances since becoming the starter in 2006, and completed 83 of 121 passes (68.6 percent) for 884 yards, 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Three of those picks happened in the first half on Thanksgiving against Carolina.
- The Cowboys ranked 27th in passing offense (216.9 yards per game), down from last year's 16th ranking (236.5).
- Moore's 435 passing yards in the season finale against the Washington Redskins were the second-most by a quarterback in his first career home start in NFL history.