IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will officially be without starting quarterback Tony Romo the rest of the season.
Head coach Jason Garrett said Romo underwent back surgery Friday morning that will place him on injured reserve, leaving Kyle Orton as the team's starting quarterback going forward this season.
"The surgery was done as a result of the injury that happened in the game against Washington, and Tony will be on IR," Garrett said. "Kyle Orton will be our starter in the ballgame. We spent the week exhausting all options in regards to Tony's situation – treatment, rehab, all the different things, consulted a lot of different people on this. We just felt like as we discussed it, as yesterday wore on, that this was the best decision for him and for our organization moving forward."
The Cowboys wouldn't rule Romo out early in the week after initial reports he'd be done for the year, but as the week went on, the decision was ultimately made to have the surgery taken care of sooner rather than later.
"We felt like the surgery went well, and Tony should be able to come home hopefully later today and start to begin his rehabilitation for the 2014 season," Garrett said.
Garrett didn't have a specific timetable at this point for Romo's recovery, nor did he get into the specifics of the back surgery. He added that Romo, who was in the midst of one his best seasons with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, was thoroughly disappointed about the result. [embedded_ad]
"He's devastated," Garrett said. "He puts a lot into this."
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones said on 105.3 FM "The Fan" that he'd hoped Romo would respond to the treatment and the injections to be comfortable enough to get cleared and play through the injury.
That wasn't the case.
"It was pretty apparent there yesterday it was not responding so he could be as comfortable as he needed to be and function to play," Jones said. "We were advised by many people that the quicker that you could relieve any type of those symptoms, the better off he was in his long-term recovery. Having said all of that, everybody agreed we ought to have surgery this morning."
Jones reiterated what Garrett said about Romo's disappointment. After sustaining the injury, Romo still led the Cowboys on a nine-play, 87-yard touchdown drive capped by a game-winning throw to DeMarco Murray against the Redskins to put Dallas in a position to play for the NFC East title this weekend.
"You know him, we know him, and we know where his heart is, where his intentions are," Jones said. "It was a real superhuman effort for him to have finished the game the other day and made the plays to get us here. Everybody understands that."
Jones said Romo held out hope he could play and thought if there was the slightest chance he'd be able to function, he wanted to get out there. Those hopes were quelled quickly Friday after surgery that Jones and Garrett said was unrelated to the surgery for a cyst Romo had on his back in the offseason.
"That, by the way, with the MRIs and things that you do when you have an injury of this nature, showed that all that area was doing well and looked to be no problem for now and in the future," Jones said. "They're not related in any way."
One of the positives to getting the surgery done now is that Romo has the chance to be ready for the 2014 season. Jones anticipates Romo being ready on time for Organized Team Activities.
Romo finished the 2013 season with the same touchdown-to-interception he had in 2011, tossing 31 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions. He would have had to have thrown five touchdown passes against the Eagles to have tied his career-high mark in touchdowns, but the 31 he threw this year tied for the second most in a season in his career.
The Cowboys will move on with Orton, who's making his first start for the team since joining the Cowboys last season. A lot was made this offseason about Romo being more involved than ever in the game plan, and Jones said it's a different situation now with Orton than it was with Romo.
"Tony was so involved with the makeup of the game plan in what we were offensively, several parts of it tailored to the kinds of things he does the best and wants to do the best," Jones said. "It'll be different. On the other hand, it'll be very, very good, in my mind. The good thing about Orton is that he understands this philosophy, for lack of a better term, Jason's offense, and he understands what's expected from it. He can read it well. He's got a strong arm and a lot of experience."