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Feltman’s Football Focus: The Dak Knight Rises, Challenges Romo’s Reign

By JOHN FELTMAN

The Dallas Cowboys are on fire. After the team lost their home opener back in Week 1 against the New York Giants, the team finds themselves riding a five game winning streak heading into their Week 7 bye. Rookie fourth round draft pick quarterback Dak Prescott, and rookie first round draft pick running back Ezekiel Elliott have played at an elite level, leading the way for their team.

Elliott leads the NFL in rushing yards, and is on pace to rush for over 1,500 yards. Prescott has totaled 10 touchdowns with only one interception thrown. That brings upon the question that every sports media outlet is asking: Should Tony Romo or Dak Prescott start at quarterback after the team’s bye week?

Romo has been sidelined this season due to a fractured bone in his back, an injury he suffered back in the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks, but he is on track to return in Week 8 after the bye, or in week 9. There has yet to be an official announcement on his return. But, with Prescott playing at such an elite level, how can the Cowboys just pull Prescott and replace him with Romo when he’s lead the team to five straight wins?

Jerry Jones has gone on to say that this is still “Tony’s team” and that there will not be any controversy when Romo is eligible to return. Prescott has stayed humble throughout the games he has started, and even he has told the media “This is Tony’s team, I’m just trying to lead this team and win football games until he returns.”

After Sunday’s impressive 30-16 win on the road at Green Bay, this controversy has certainly heated up quite a bit. Prescott turned the ball over twice, but he threw three touchdown passes and passed for over 300 yards. Lambeau Field is a tough place to play, but Prescott made it look like he was throwing the ball around in his backyard. Green Bay’s No. 1 ranked rushing defense going into the week looking gassed as the Cowboys rushed for over 190 yards on the day. The biggest turning point of the game was Prescott leading the Cowboys on a five play, 97 yard drive right before half extending the Cowboys’ lead to 17-6. It is tough to say if any other rookie quarterback would’ve been capable of doing that.

This is a good problem for the Cowboys to have. Last season, the Cowboys were 1-11 in games not started by Romo. Back-ups Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore looked lost under center as opposing defenses ate them alive. Once Romo was injured again in the pre-season, panic started to circulate around Cowboys nation, as it looked like it was going to be another season of brutal back up quarterback play. But, Prescott, 23, has erased all doubt of the Cowboys quarterback future, once Romo decides to hang up the cleats.

However, we may never see Romo at quarterback again for the Dallas Cowboys. Even when he is healthy enough to start, Prescott might have sealed the starting job up this past Sunday. Pending injury, Prescott might be the man for the Cowboys for the rest of the season, and years to come. Regardless of what Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones decide to do, Prescott will 100 percent be the Cowboys quarterback of the future, which gives fans of the Cowboys a lot to be excited about.

This is a tough decision for Jones or Garrett to make. Romo has been a very successful quarterback for the Cowboys since he replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe back in 2006. Romo has accumulated over 34,000 passing yards, 247 TD passes, and 117 interceptions throughout his career, all as a Dallas Cowboy. When healthy, he is considered to be one of the best quarterbacks throughout football, but key word “healthy.” He has had the injury bug the past two years, suffering at least a broken bone in three out of the last five games he has played in. So at age 36, we question how many more big hits Romo could take until he’s forced to retire.

A lot of analysts have been comparing this situation to the Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe dilemma back in 2001. Bledsoe was a star quarterback of the league for the New England Patriots at the time of his injury, as he signed an at the time record 10 year deal of $103 million dollar contract. Brady was just some no-name kid drafted in the 6th round out of Michigan.

Brady replaced Bledsoe during a week 2 game against the New York Jets, and started off with a 5-3 record as the starter. This was very similar to Prescott’s level of play thus far. The Patriots decided to keep Brady as the starting quarterback, leaving Bledsoe on the bench. Brady led the Patriots to an AFC Championship game, but was forced to leave the game due to injury. Bledsoe would rally the Patriots and defeat the Steelers 20-7. But, Brady would start the Super Bowl and lead the Patriots to their first ever championship. As we all know by now, Brady has four super bowl rings, and will probably be a first ballot hall of famer. History may speak for itself here, as it may be time to give the throne to Dak Prescott.

This is really tough decision for a team to make, but the NFL is a business and teams need to make crucial decisions in order to compete for a Super Bowl. The Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1996, and have registered only three playoff wins in the last 20 years. Romo has not been the problem as to why they haven’t been successful, but maybe it is time for a change. This kid from Mississippi State University has shown nothing but poise, composure and professionalism. He believes in himself, and believes in his football team.

It is time to move on from Tony Romo. It pains me to say this, as I have been a huge Romo supporter since the day he stepped on the field. He’s produced tremendous numbers, and has lead the Cowboys to some terrific seasons while he has been under center. If Prescott continues to play at this level, you can’t replace him. You truly just can’t take the ball out of this kid’s hands. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

The Cowboys are playing great football right now, and Prescott has yet to show any signs of slowing down. Prescott should continue to start as long as he keeps performing at an elite level, and remains healthy. The momentum this team has built thus far will be eliminated if Romo starts once he’s back from injury. Prescott has earned respect, and trust in the locker room, everyone knows that he’s capable of accomplishing special things.

Let’s see what Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett decide to do when Romo is eligible to return. There is no speculation on what they are going to do yet because Romo simply isn’t ready to return to the field. An MRI of Romo’s back came back clean last week, as his bone is fully healed. Now it’s a matter of Romo getting into game shape, and being able to sustain big hits. Romo is on track to be ready to play after the bye, but all of these determining factors are still in the air. Once he’s healthy and ready to play, all of the questions, rumors and controversy will be solved.

John Feltman can be reached at john.feltman@theminaretonline.com

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