Whistling Past the Graveyard

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Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by Cowboy1959 on Sat Aug 27, 2016 3:20 pm


A couple of weeks ago the question was whether the Cowboys needed to bring in a veteran QB to back up Tony Romo as we go through the season.

Very soon the question may well be whether the Cowboys need to bring in a veteran QB to back up Dak Prescott as we go through the season.

The Cowboys would like us to believe that the hit on Romo was a freak occurrence, a "perfect storm" of motion and collision that is unlikely to be repeated.  But wasn't the hit that broke Romo's collarbone in Philadelphia also a freak occurrence--a perfect storm of motion and collision that was unlikely to be repeated?  But then was?

Romo would like us to believe that the hit was actually a good thing, that it was a test of his conditioning and physical health.  In his postgame word salad he tried awfully hard to make everything look like part of a plan--either the Cowboys' or that of a Higher Authority--to show us all how ready he is for the season.

Jerry Jones would like us to believe that the Cowboys have a pat hand at QB.  That Prescott and Jameill Showers give the Cowboys their best shot at winning if (when?) push comes to backup plan.

They're whistling past the graveyard, and they know it.  I think they're scared right down to their socks.  And jocks.

The likelihood of a specific hit damaging Romo in a way that is game-ending, season-ending, or career-ending is an unknown variable.  But the known constant here is an aging and increasingly brittle human being who has absorbed a pounding over the years that has weakened the structure he has relied on for his arm strength, mobility, stamina, and weekly recovery from the hits of the previous game.

It's fair to assume--or at least to worry--that it won't take a superhuman hit on Romo's back, shoulder, arm, or legs to put him out of action for an indeterminate amount of time.  All it will take is the right amount of stress on a specific pressure point to snap something he needs to be able to keep playing.

The next hit might not need to be a "perfect storm".  Just an ordinary hit that another player would be able to shake off.

Bob Sturm had an excellent article on this in yesterday's DMN, and I completely agree with him:  we've reached a "new normal" with Romo, that (quoting Sturm) "every time he takes a hit, there is now going to be the normal breath-holding and over-examination of his every reaction for the rest of his career".

That's no way to go into a season, much less the next five that Romo and Jones continue to (foolishly) believe remain in Romo's career window.  Of course, any team can have its season derailed by an injury at QB (or any other key position for that matter), but how many teams are in a situation where losing their QB is at such a high probability of occurring that losing him for a certain period of time during the course of the season seems likely?

These are the kinds of things that must keep Jason Garrett up at night.

There's another factor potentially in play that occurs to me:  for the first time in his career, Romo is looking over his shoulder at a backup who seems (from an admittedly tiny sample of games) capable of replacing him and having success.  How does that influence Romo's thinking and his attitude?  It's well-known that he's had some issues in the past with his backups, especially Kyle Orton who, coincidentally or not, had been a capable starting QB before he arrived in Dallas.  And it's equally well-known that Jerry Jones went out of his way for years to make sure that the roster and the offensive system were "Romo-friendly" so as not to rattle Romo's apparently fragile confidence.  Whether or not Jones' ultimately unflattering words and actions were ever a true indicator of Romo's mindset, it certainly raised the presumption that his QB couldn't take the heat of competition (a notion that Romo himself never dispelled by saying "hey, bring in whoever you want--I'll beat him out").

Dak Prescott is no aging journeyman playing out the string with a cushy job in a famous organization.  He's the guy who's been specifically brought in as a potential successor to Romo, whose massive early preseason success has caught the attention of the coaches, players, fans, and pundits, and who is suddenly the darling of the Dallas sports world.

Is Romo familiar enough with Cowboys' history to know that a talented backup QB is always the favorite player in Dallas?  Does he hear echoes of the fans clamoring for Craig Morton during the Don Meredith era, or Roger Staubach during Morton's?  Does he remember how Drew Bledsoe was supplanted by a 6th round draft choice in New England and then replaced in Dallas by Romo himself?

History suggests that this is not a good time to be Tony Romo, that whatever pressure has been on him to bring a championship to Dallas has been ratcheted up a few more PSI by the passage of time, the physical toll of his style of play, and the emergence of a potential new star.

It's going to be interesting to see how he responds.  More to the point, it's going to be interesting to see how he will be physically and mentally able to respond.

It's not wrong to be concerned--very concerned--that we're seeing the beginning of the end of the Romo era, and that the end may come sooner than anyone wants or expects.

Anything else is just whistling past the graveyard.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by Cowboy1959 on Sat Aug 27, 2016 4:02 pm


And less than a half-hour after I posted this comes the news that Romo is out 6-10 weeks with a broken bone in his back.

Looks like it's time to find that veteran backup for Prescott...
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by MRich on Sat Aug 27, 2016 8:19 pm

You beat me to it, Cowboy. I was just about to post something about this.

I don't want to call this "the beginning of the end" for Tony Romo, but as much as I know it hurts to do, it might be time for him to hang up the pads. Spend time with his wife and kids. Get into coaching, or broadcasting, or analysis, or something.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by MRich on Sun Aug 28, 2016 8:50 pm

I do have to wonder at this point who's even available for them to pursue.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by Cowboy1959 on Sun Aug 28, 2016 10:39 pm


According to the DMN, pending roster cuts next week, here are the current crop of available QB.  Pick your turkey.

Trade Targets

Josh McCown, Cleveland Browns

Record as a starter: 18-39 (13 seasons)

Career stats: 77 games played (57 started) / 1,164-1,956 passing for 13,142 yards / 73 touchdowns, 63 interceptions

Notable: The Cowboys have shown interest in the past. He's been on three different teams the last three years and is coming off a shortened season where he, brace yourselves Cowboys fans, had a broken collarbone. He had thrown for 12 touchdowns and just four interceptions with the Browns last year before being injured.

Others

Josh Johnson, Ravens.  Has played well in the preseason, completing 23 of 33 passes.
Shaun Hill, Vikings.  He worked with Scott Linehan for four seasons in Detroit.
Alex Tanney, Titans.  Played in five preseason games for the Cowboys in 2013.

Free agents

Mike Vick

Most recent NFL team: Pittsburgh Steelers

Record as a starter: 61-51-1 (13 seasons)

Career stats: 143 games played (115 started) / 1,807-3,217 passing for 22,464 yards / 133 touchdowns, 88 interceptions

Notable: Fans may be intrigued, but the Cowboys don't appear to be interested. Vick has appeared on three NFL rosters in the last three seasons, starting no more than six games in that span. He doesn't have a winning record in any of the last three seasons as a starter going 2-4 with Philadelphia, 1-2 with the New York Jets and 1-1 with the Steelers. Vick was eventually benched in favor of Nick Foles, Geno Smith and Landry Jones. He also has more turnovers than touchdowns in those last three seasons (10 touchdowns to 13 turnovers).

Others

Jimmy Clausen.  The former second-round pick has started 14 NFL games. Appeared in games for both Baltimore and Chicago last season combining to throw two touchdowns and four interceptions. He's had only one season where he's thrown more TDs than INTs in his career (2014).

T.J. Yates.  Led the Texans to a pair of wins in his only two starts last season. Even though he doesn't have too many starts under his belt, he does have something that most quarterbacks on this list don't have: a victory in an NFL playoff game. Yates did collect a postseason win when the Texans topped the Bengals 31-10 in the 2011 playoffs when he was a rookie. His team would lose the next game to the Ravens while Yates threw three interceptions.

Matt Flynn.   Tyler native threw for 480 yards and 6 TDs in a 2011 win over the Lions. He's bounced around the league since signing that big free-agent deal with the Seahawks. Did not start any games last season.

Tavaris Jackson.  Jackson hasn't appeared in more than five games in four of the last five seasons he's been in the NFL (with the lone time being in 2011 when he started 14 games with Seattle going 7-7).

Josh Freeman.  The former first-round pick has had a very up-and-down career. His rookie year was a struggle throwing for 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He bounced back to have his best year as a pro tossing 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Then the cycle started all over again. He had a negative touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2011 and followed it up throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012.

Of these guys, I like McCown, Johnson, Hill, Tanney (yay!), Yates and Flynn.  I don't like Vick, Clausen, Jackson, or Freeman.

I would generally be reluctant to give up the middle-round draft choice it will probably take to get McCown, but in this case it might be worth it, even if it's only for this season.  However, with Romo's future very much in doubt you can make a good case that McCown will be very valuable down the road as well.  Nevertheless, I would not be wiling to give up anything higher than a 4th-round pick, and I certainly wouldn't trade Ron Leary for McCown.

How fun (and ironic) would that be to have Alex Tanney return?  Still, Hill might make the most sense since he worked with Linehan for 4 years and would have at least some insight into the offensive system.  He might have the shallowest learning curve.  I think the Cowboys can get any of these guys for a 6th or 7th rounder.

Yates and Flynn have always been intriguing to the Dallas media, but I have to wonder why neither of them is in a camp right now.  We don't need a guy who's going to take 2 months to get in shape and learn the system--by then, Romo should be back.  Even for free, these guys raise some red flags.

Vick has aged out.  Judging from what I saw of him last year, his arm is shot and he's nowhere near as mobile as he used to be.  Clausen and Freeman have character issues, and we don't need any more of that nonsense in Dallas.  Jackson has never shown me anything in the pros.

With this group, the Cowboys would be well advised to wait for some cuts and see who might be floating around.  It's not out of the realm of possibility that guys like Tanney or Hill might find themselves on the street after either of the cutdown dates, so the Cowboys have a little time before they'll need to make a decision.

No matter how this works out, it's not a good situation for the Cowboys to be in.  They've made some bad decisions in the offseason, but they've also had a nasty string of bad luck.  I mean, seriously, who else has lost both their starter and their prime backup this summer?  Jerry Jones keeps rolling snake eyes.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by MRich on Mon Aug 29, 2016 7:36 am

Yeah, he's definitely rolled Snake Eyes for sure this summer.

This might be a "growing pains" year for Dallas. But how many years in the past could we have said that, too?

I had to think about that last sentence of yours.

Primary starter was Romo. Lost 6-10 weeks with a back injury. Prime Backup was Dak.

Now the prime starter is Dak, and the prime backup is...Showers, I guess??
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by lgkehoe on Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:18 pm

I think the defense is the graveyard. I think the FO was not whistling past the QB graveyard, because they did not know it was a graveyard. I think they can't see that Romo's best asset, his escape-ability, is gone. Romo is slow, slow, slow. That first step he took to avoid the pressure is still happening as we speak in Seattle. That's how long he took to get moving.

I believe Romo is destined to forever be the best QB who was not drafted to never with a championship. Anyone who favors the player over the team, should be wondering what would have been had Romo went to New Orleans with Sean, or what would have been on Denver had he taken that first offer. This team's subpar front office wasted his prime and his chances at that championship, starting with the 2008 trade for Roy Williams, and the disastrous 2009 draft. People said that it set this team back five years. Guess what 2014 was? All they needed was one defensive line play-maker in 2014 and Romo likely finally gets his championship shot.

Anyone who really believed this defense could provide a run in the 2016-17 post-season is a bigger optimist than I. And anyone who thought Romo would be ready for a championship run in 2017-18 after another season of wear and tear and anther candle on his cake, wasn't removing their emotions from the analysis.

I am thrilled they didn't get a veteran "backup". It would be another progress stopper. And the way Dak has played, with this out of date version of Romo, we'd have witnessed a QB controversy for sure. And that is a terrible environment in which to indoctrinate your potential QB of the future.

Things are set up well for Prescott. It's time to let the sentimentality flow away and usher in the future of the Dallas Cowboys.

When Romo is healthy, he can be the veteran backup the team needs for a deep post-season run - next year.

(unless the defense shocks us this year)
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by Cowboy1959 on Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:09 pm


I don't think the defense will shock us, but I do think there's a decent chance that they'll be able to play above expectations. For one thing, I expect our secondary to be better than 2014's version, and if they can stay healthy I think we can get some good work out of our LBs. That leaves DL as the weak link, but perhaps they'll be able to put together enough of a rotation that guys will be able to play just long enough to contribute but not long enough to get exposed.

The suspensions of our twin morons on the DL will probably hurt more than we were anticipating now that Romo is down, and it won't surprise me if, in January, we look back at some unexpected loss in September as the game we ended up chasing all season. I really don't think it's fair to expect Dak to do much better than 4-4, no matter how good he's looked, and I'll be happy if he can keep us at 5 losses or better over that first half. Even at 3-5 we should have a good shot to compete for a division title (though, again, you have to wonder how deep we can go in the playoffs at, say, 9-7).

The wildcard, as always, will be how long Romo can last once he returns. The guy has clearly lost a step, and it's got to be worrisome that he's taken 3 big hits in his past 4 games and has been knocked out of action for several weeks every time.

If Dak starts the season the same way he's played in the preseason, we could well be seeing a Brady-Bledsoe situation. And somehow I think Romo's not going to be happy being the veteran backup on Dak's championship run. I mean, really, what's in it for him at that point? If the Cowboys win a championship with him riding the pine it does nothing to take the monkey off his back. His only incentive at that point would be money, and it's unlikely the Cowboys will pay him tens of millions to hold a clipboard.

Once Dak is the starter, Romo has to be gone. It just won't work the other way.

We may well be witnessing the changing of the guard--a lot sooner than we were expecting.

Maybe it's just time to move on and take our lumps with Dak. This team is young enough to keep its core intact until he's got enough seasoning to win (assuming he's not a Brady-esque prodigy). And if he is the genuine article and the Cowboys are competing for a championship this year, you have to like what the future looks like for this team.



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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by MRich on Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:29 am

I think I heard something yesterday about Romo's cap situation, and how if a certain thing happens (I'll have to look it up) then they can actually save cap money over the next couple of years, by only having something like $10 million in "dead" money per year for two years.

Something like that.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by lgkehoe on Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:19 pm

Agreed '59 - especially the part about taking our lumps. This just was not a championship season given the defense and Romo's decline. I think a lot of people with high hopes forgot that 2014 was two years ago and now three significant injuries ago.

And while I do not see Tony holding a clipboard next season, I can picture a scenario where he remains behind Dak ready to resume his role if Dak were to be injured. But I know this team will never do it. They will see an expensive backup with no ability to consider the cost sunk. Or, they will see their Bromance not getting the love he deserves.

MRich, I heard the same thing. Basically, if he retires, his base salary is not obligated. When the contract was first drafted, they put a huge portion of the salary on the back end. So next year, his $14mil base exceeds the prorated signing and restructure bonuses. Sprinkle in a post June 1 designation, and they end up saving something a significant amount against the cap.

It was a not the best contract overall, but it was structured in a way that anticipated this exact scenario. I always wondered why otherwise seemingly smart people could not see that.

2017 folks. This future is as bright as 2007. Plus, we don't have a Wade Phillips atmosphere.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by Cowboy1959 on Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:49 pm


Seems a shame to write off a whole season before it begins, but it may be worth some disappointment now to poise this team for a long run under a new QB. If we can buy 10 years of success with one more year of misery, it'll be well worth it.

And there's no guarantee that it WILL be a miserable season with Dak at the helm. Maybe this is exactly the kick in the pants this team needs to move into a new era. Dak may not exactly be Tom Brady, but he's not Brandon Weeden, either.

I'd be happy with an 8-8 season under Dak if he continues to show the natural talent and leadership we've seen so far. That kind of season would exceed expectations in certain ways, and would put this team on a new path. It would also shake up some of the old guard, who've counted on things happening a certain way.

If that happens, I think the Cowboys have to show Romo the door. Cut him if he wants to start over somewhere else, or ease him into retirement. I don't think Dallas will be big enough for two QBs at the top of the food chain.

Jerry wouldn't address it (and I don't blame him one bit), but if the Cowboys are sitting at 6-2 at midseason, it's almost beyond imagining that they could just switch out Dak for Romo without some sort of controversy. It gets even more unlikely if Dak is near the top of the QB leaderboard. Still, Jerry is a stubborn guy and he loves him some Romo, so I wouldn't lay any money against Romo coming back and stepping right in.

The Cowboys won't even rule out Romo for the opener. They're almost obsessive about keeping Romo under center no matter what. I get it, especially given how risk-averse Garrett has proven to be over the years (his biggest negative, in my opinion), but it doesn't make sense.

Things will get worse if the Cowboys are 6-2 and then start faltering under Romo. Then you'll have split the locker room, enraged the fan base, and disrupted your flow.

It's going to get mighty interesting around here if the Cowboys come out of the gate and play well. The best-case scenario for Jerry and Garrett will be for the Dak to play credibly and for the team to go 4-4. That way you get the best of both worlds: a positive showcase for Dak, and a great argument for putting Romo back in.

Anything better is going to give the front office headaches.

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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by lgkehoe on Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:26 pm

Let's see how we feel Sept. 12th.
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Re: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Post by MRich on Wed Aug 31, 2016 9:48 pm

Cowboy1959 wrote:
Jerry wouldn't address it (and I don't blame him one bit), but if the Cowboys are sitting at 6-2 at midseason, it's almost beyond imagining that they could just switch out Dak for Romo without some sort of controversy.  It gets even more unlikely if Dak is near the top of the QB leaderboard.  Still, Jerry is a stubborn guy and he loves him some Romo, so I wouldn't lay any money against Romo coming back and stepping right in.

On top of Jerry "loving him some Romo", I think the problem is at least twofold, from my perspective:

1. Romo is expensive salary-wise. Probably too expensive to be a backup to Dak.
2. Knowing #1, I think it's VERY likely that Jerry does make that change, or at least strongly suggests that Garrett make that change.

They brought in Austin Davis, but apparently haven't signed him. It doesn't mean that they won't, just that at this time they haven't.

Wait...WTF?? I'm reading that Cole Beasley is currently the emergency QB...

http://www.espn.com/blog/dallas-cowboys/post/_/id/4753577/cowboys-meet-with-austin-davis-still-looking-to-sign-quarterback

Nothing against Cole Beasley, but I figured it was someone else.
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