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Writer's Blocks: Tony Romo's Unfinished Story, Making Football Fun; More

FRISCO, Texas – The fun thing about this job is that things change frequently.

Sure, on the surface, I wake up and write things about the Cowboys, and y'all read them. But the nuts and bolts are ever-changing. The opponent changes every week, the roster changes every day, the talking points shift over the course of the season.

That's why, as I write this at the end of the week, my feelings about "*THE STATEMENT" *have already changed dramatically from the beginning of the week.

So, even though it's already two days old in the news cycle, that's where I'm going to start this week:

Tony Romo and the Rapidly-Evolving Quarterback Discussion:

1.If you read our magnificent website regularly – and you should – then you might have seen my initial reaction to Tony Romo's powerful public words. I said on Tuesday afternoon that there was a "tone of finality" to the statement, and I wasn't alone. Plenty of people have said that the comments felt like a retirement speech. As I digested what had happened, I felt fairly confident that Romo might not ever start for the Cowboys again.

But you think about it, and then the world turns a couple times. Most importantly, you talk to Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott and Jason Witten, and you remember the way this team functions.

Honestly, talking to Jason Garrett, it felt like the Cowboys' head coach would have preferred Romo not make such a declarative statement. Sure, it helps settle the situation a bit. It cements Dak Prescott in the starting role and settles the speculation about what the Cowboys will do.

It also creates a hell of a lot of noise about Romo and his future. All across the league landscape, people are debating whether the Cowboys are making the right decision. On top of that, the conversation about Romo's landing spot has already begun. If he won't start for the Cowboys, where can he go?

Garrett will always support Romo, and he said the quarterback handled himself well at the podium. But I wonder if he thinks this whole thing has drummed up even more distraction than there already was?

2.Let's go back to my point about finality for sec. I no longer think I'm buying it.

Sure, Romo conceded that Dak is the starting quarterback. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones also told The Monday Morning Quarterback that Romo asked to compete for the starting job – and was denied.

Despite that, I feel like people are underestimating just how much of the season we have left to go.

It feels like we're in the home stretch, because the Cowboys are on the cusp of securing a winning record. But there's still a whopping seven games left to play – six of which coming against opponents that currently have winning records.

The odds dictate that some adversity is coming. I sincerely doubt the Cowboys will finish this season 15-1, or even 14-2. Even if they finish with a solid 12-4 record, that means we're still talking about roughly .500 football the rest of the way.

Is this decision going to look as clear-cut in December if the team is trading wins and losses? Or if they limp toward the finish line, looking significantly less impressive than they do right now?

Despite what we might be saying right now, I remain unconvinced. I don't think anything is written in stone – nor should it be. Jerry Jones said back in October that managing this quarterback conversation required a "tolerance of ambiguity," and that phrase really stuck with me.

It was important to make a clear-cut decision, just to stop the speculation if nothing else. But I honestly don't think we've seen the last plot twist in this story. There's a lot of football left to be played.

3.Speaking of "a lot of football left to be played," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones had a humdinger of a quote when asked about Tony Romo on Thursday afternoon.

"It's not a goodbye," Jones said. "I think Tony has five years left of really competing for a Super Bowl. I believe Tony will be the quarterback on a Super Bowl team. I believe that strongly. We're talking generic now, and I have no plans for him not to be part of the Dallas Cowboys. Not a consideration."

There's no reason for Jones to think too far into Romo's future at any point in the next two months. Romo is under contract, and he might be the best insurance policy in the entire NFL at this point in time – certainly at the quarterback position.

But there's just no way I can agree with the assessment that Romo – with his multiple back and shoulder injuries – will still be an NFL starter at the age of 40 or 41. Peyton Manning didn't make it to 40. Brett Favre, arguably the most durable quarterback in NFL history, retired when he was 41. And his final season was a nightmare, as you might remember.

Realistically, I think Romo's got one, perhaps two more seasons of starter-caliber play left in him. If he's not going to be the starter here, it's got to be somewhere else. He costs too much to hold a clipboard for this team – and he's also too fierce a competitor to want to. He's also bound to want to end his storied career on a high note.

It's far too early in the process to speculate on what will happen. But I think Romo will be starting for an NFL team in 2017, even if it's not this one.

4.Going back to my prior point about hot starts, how's this for a fun stat. If the Cowboys manage to beat Baltimore on Sunday afternoon, they'll have ensured themselves a winning season.

As you might have guessed, it's pretty unusual to win nine games so early in the season. It took the team until December to pull that off back in 2014. In fact, thanks to my phenomenal reporter skills, I figured out that only 10 teams in franchise history have achieved a winning record before Thanksgiving.

Four of those 10 teams played before the schedule expanded to 16 games, and back before NFL teams received bye weeks. Since 1990, only three Cowboys clubs have managed their ninth win before Thanksgiving – the 1992 team, the 1995 team and the 2007 team.

Obviously, it's encouraging that two of those three teams went on to win the Super Bowl. It's not so encouraging that the most recent team went one-and-done in the playoffs.

I'm not sure there's a lot you can draw from any of that. But it's pretty impressive how quickly the team has gotten to this point.

5.It's fun to notice the stark differences in the way NFL players and coaches interact with the media.

As a Cowboys writer, I deal in the "day at a time," forward-facing methods of Jason Garret. It's nearly impossible to shake Garrett out of his intensely narrow focus of the day's next duty. He doesn't like to talk about hypotheticals or broad subjects. He doesn't even like to talk about the opposition, lest he create some bulletin board material.

That's why it was fun when this tweet popped up on my Twitter timeline the other day:

Arians is one of the league's most outspoken coaches, and I love his swagger. He employs one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and he's not afraid to brag about it. It's not some kind of Earth-shattering quote, but it's a fun little dig. Like I've said: anything that makes football more fun, I'm down for it.

6.Along the same lines, I'm sure you've seen the video of Terrell Suggs having some fun at Dak Prescott's expense.

Again, just a little harmless fun and banter between two opponents heading into a game. It's not inflammatory or inappropriate, just a little goofy.

It's not the end of the world, but I wish we saw a little more fun from the Cowboys – though I guess I can't argue with the methods that have gotten them to an 8-1 record.

7.This isn't trash talk, so much as appreciated recognition.

Oftentimes, opposing PR staffs will send out packets of quotes from their teams in the week leading up to a game. So I was perusing a stack of Ravens quotes on Wednesday night, when I noticed someone ask Steve Smith Sr. about the way the Cowboys play defense.

Quick apology for linking to my own tweet. I hate myself, but whatever.

Anyway, I thought it was a cool quote for a number of reasons. Firstly, J.J. Wilcox deserves plenty of kudos for his play during a contract year. It hasn't always been perfect, but he is easily enjoying the best season of a career that has seen him take plenty of criticism.

Wilcox has always been a hard hitter – ask Odell Beckham Jr. But he's playing better in coverage than he ever has. There have been mistakes, but he's handled himself capably during Barry Church's absence, which probably isn't what we'd have expected back in July.

Kudos to you, dude.

8.If you hadn't heard, Vince Mayle has been called up to the practice squad to help the Cowboys offset the loss of Geoff Swaim to a torn pectoral.

I'm intrigued by the opportunity to look at Mayle. He's primarily going to function on special teams, but this dude is big. At 6-2, 224 pounds, he's got the size to get physical – which makes me wonder if he can contribute as a blocker in spots where Swaim might have.

He's been a practice squad player for a while now, but Mayle was talented enough to be a fourth-round draft pick by Cleveland in 2015. He was actually taken No. 123, which is 12 spots in front of where the Cowboys took Dak Prescott this year. His opportunities on offense are likely going to be limited, but I'm curious to see if he takes advantage of the opportunity.

And for all of y'all out there asking about Rico Gathers. Just, please keep in mind that the dude is a year removed from hoops. At this time last year, his Baylor Bears had just concluded an early-season loss to Oregon.

All the reports coming out of Cowboys practices say that Gathers has grown leaps and bounds from training camp, when we last saw him. But it's still a gradual process. It's also worth pointing out how much the Cowboys ask their tight ends to block. However much progress he might have made, I'm not sure I'm comfortable asking Gathers to help block Terrell Suggs. Not just yet.

9.Since we're on No. 9. Think about this.

The last time No. 9 was healthy enough to play for the Cowboys on a Sunday, but didn't start the game? That'd be Oct. 23, 2006, when he replaced Drew Bledsoe at halftime in a loss to the Giants.

It's literally been more than a decade since Tony Romo, fully healthy and in uniform, stood on the sidelines and watched a Cowboys game.

The cameras are undoubtedly going to pan to him this Sunday, and it's certainly going to be weird.

10.Once again, not a bad week for yours truly. Including a successful Cowboys pick, I went 9-5 on the week.

Here's the thing, though: when you cover an NFL team, there's not a whole lot of room to watch other games. So I wind up continually relying on preconceived notions to make my picks. I know the Green Bay Packers have been off this season, but I wind up picking them way more often than not because of their prior history – and it continually burns me.

This week, I'm going to do my best to throw my biases out the window and only pick what I know:

New Orleans over CAROLINA

Pittsburgh over CLEVELAND
DETROIT over Jacksonville
Tennessee over INDIANAPOLIS
CINCINNATI over Buffalo
KANSAS CITY over Tampa Bay
NEW YORK GIANTS over Chicago
Arizona over MINNESOTA
Miami over LOS ANGELES
New England over SAN FRANCISCO
SEATTLE over Philadelphia
WASHINGTON over Green Bay

Oakland over Houston (Mexico City)


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