Vincent T. Conroy-Villarreal @mrconroy2u– AAVSPORT
He’ll Be Back- But With Who?
PHOENIX- When the Dallas Cowboys’ season abruptly came to a conclusion after their heartbreaking playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs, perhaps the most gripping and intriguing storyline developed: The Romo Radar.
While there are some in NFL circles that still believe the longtime signal caller could theoretically stick around with the organization- there are plenty of individuals that feel Tony Romo’s time with the club has reached its resolution. With a plethora of development quarterbacks flooding this year’s NFL Draft and with no clear-cut legitimate “face of the franchise” signal caller available for selection, Romo could very well be an intriguing option for numerous teams that are either in the transition of contending for an NFL title or looking for the theoretical last and final piece to the puzzle.
Romo holds a 16-5 record in all contests over the last three years of playing time. The argument can be made that over the last three years, this stretch was the most consistent string of play for the long-time Dallas signal caller. However chronic back, collar bone and rib injuries also saw Romo miss at least one start for the fourth consecutive season from 2012-16. His inability to remain healthy forced longtime owner and general manager Jerry Jones to explore the eventual replacement of Romo- eying Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the 2016 NFL Draft. When Denver snagged Lynch with the 26th pick in the NFL Draft via a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, Jones settled on Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.
The rest is a well chronicled timeline of Romo’s fall from grace with the Cowboy organization. NFL quarterback breakups are never quite what it seems. Often, it’s a messy divorce where animosity and bad blood between ownership and the coaching staff develops. Furthermore, it can divide fanbases and create a rift in the ever so necessary “trust” between fans and team alike. Jones’ role with the team’s brass only complicates things even further. Organizational breakups with star quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre serve as recent reminders how complicated this process truly is. Usually the veteran quarterback wants to land with a team that can allow him to cement his legacy while the organization, wants some sort of return in their long-term investment.
What the Cowboys want to do with Romo remains highly unclear. By all means, Jerry Jones has never been transparent with his decisions in regards to player personnel. His release of Demarcus Ware was unheralded and unprecedented. Romo has always been Jones’ “guy” considering that he himself found the Eastern Illinois product as undrafted free agent in 2003. Jones even publicly stated in 2006 offseason that Romo’s value to the team was at minimum, a second round draft pick after New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton offered a third-round draft back for Romo’s services. Jerry Jones in my eyes will always be an advocate for his star quarterback.
At the tender age of 36, Romo no longer carries that sort of value anymore. His services by all means will be short-term answer, making him more attractive to teams with closing championship window. Peyton Manning was lured to Denver as a free agent acquisition while Brett Favre, was acquired by the New York Jets via a fourth-round draft pick. By no means is Romo any where near that level of caliber of quarterback play, but there is an established value for him considering this year’s free agent market is mediocre and the lack of quarterback talent in the upcoming draft is highly concerning. The question becomes, who will join the Dallas Buyers Club this offseason?
THE OBVIOUS ANSWER AND ONLY ANSWER
Tony Romo’s desire to play for the Denver Broncos next season has by far been one of the most well chronicled storylines to take hold of the NFL since the beginning of December. After the defending Super Bowl 50 champions failed to return to the playoffs after a 4-0 start to the season, largely due to a struggling and inept offensive scheme, the Broncos have now undergone a complete institutional makeover after Gary Kubiak’s retirement from coaching. Even if Kubiak remained with the team, adding Romo still made sense for the Broncos.
Vance Joseph was appointed Head Coach of the Denver Broncos on Jan. 11, 2017. Shortly afterwards, Joseph brought in ex-San Diego Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy to coordinate his offense while also bringing in Oakland’s offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to coach the quarterbacks. This move was highly applauded around the league and was seen as a calculated power move by Joseph. By bringing in perhaps two of the most versatile and flexible offensive minds, Joseph can either microwave Paxton Lynch’s development or continue to cater an offensive system around Trevor Siemian’s skill set.
Trevor Siemian currently is the incumbent starter for the Denver Broncos. Without question he is well respected by his teammates, his peers and coaches around the league. In his first full year of starting, the Northwestern alum threw for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 14 starts. Only three of his games were played in complete health as he battled shoulder and ankle injuries throughout the season. After burdening much of the offensive load for most of the season, Siemian earned a Pro Bowl alternate invitation but unfortunately had to decline due to offseason non-throwing shoulder surgery.
Siemian’s situation only complicates matters for the Broncos’ brass. With Kubiak’s retirement along with Rick Dennison’s and Greg Knapp’s dismissal from the team, Siemian’s largest advocates no longer have a role within the organization. By all accounts, John Elway seems ready to push Lynch into the starting lineup and into stardom.
However Siemian’s performances indicate that he should still be considered as the starter and rightfully so. If Siemian is named the starter at the beginning of the 2017 season, its points to an absolute failure of Denver’s coaching staff to develop Lynch’s raw and immeasurable talent into sustained consistency. Then again it would also dictate where the Broncos organization is headed and that is by all means-winning championships. With Lynch as the hypothetical starter for Denver, the Broncos are sending a clear and concise message that they are rebuilding and not rebooting.
John Elway’s recent photograph with Romo at House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s victory party, only added more fuel to the fire that Denver is interested in Romo’s services. Was there a conversation? It’s highly doubtful since Romo is still under contract with Dallas, but who knows what happened behind closed doors. WIth players like Emmanuel Sanders and Demarcus Ware making subtle pushes for Romo’s services, it’s clear from an “outside looking in” perspective that there is some sort of locker room divide about who should play under center for the upcoming season.
Romo’s transition would almost be seamless for Denver from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Scott Linehan’s one-back offensive philosophy is similar to McCoy’s. His offensive scheme is actaully dated back to Jack Elway’s, John Elway’s father’s, offensive principles. The play action pass is a staple in both Linehan’s and McCoy’s system, theoretically meaning the terminology would be the only point of emphasis.
The only concerns Denver would have is the re-negotiation of his contract and of course- his health. Denver just got Manning off the books for 20 million dollars a year after the Sheriff decided to retire at the conclusion of the Broncos Super Bowl run. Is Elway really comfortable giving that sort of money out again to an aging, banged up veteran? Precedent states that he is. Elway has a history of negotiating reduction clauses in player contracts, only to have players earn the money back in the form of incentives. In 2015, Elway and Manning agreed on 4 million dollar reduction to his salary, only to see Manning earn that money back if Denver won the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl. So theoretically, the same thing can happen with Romo.
Adding Romo sends the message that Broncos are contending for a world championship in 2017. As Ware alluded to earlier this week, the addition of Romo will not only send a message to the team and respective fanbase- but to the entire league. The ripples of Romo’s addition would not be a simple stone thrown in a shallow pond. It would be resounding wave that would crash on the New England shoreline. The Broncos would be a legitimate and for threat again for contending for championships by adding a veteran quarterback. The harsh reality remains that Denver still has other holes to address. Reconstructing the team’s offensive line should remain the team’s largest priority. Remember this was a team that only collected 18 rushing yards against the Titans, 33 rushing yards against the Raiders, and allowed 6 sacks against the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.
What will Denver do at the quarterback position? It is any one’s best guess at this point. But for now, Denver seems to be genuinely interested about Romo’s services as the right price. It may now have the same result as Manning, but it extends Denver’s Super Bowl aspirations for another four years. Count the Broncos to be a buyer in the Dallas Buyers Club.