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Would Dallas play Tony Romo in a meaningless game?


Here's a question that, six or seven months ago, would have sounded absolutely absurd: Would Dallas actually use Tony Romo in a "mop-up" game at the end of the season?

The scenario: Dallas continues to roll and clinches their first-round bye. There is a game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field to close out the season which is otherwise meaningless and head coach Jason Garrett wants to rest his starters.

Romo is obviously next in line to take snaps behind Dak Prescott. The team also has Mark Sanchez.

What makes the most sense? There is a lot to consider...

Scenario 1: Play Romo because he needs live reps: The Dallas Cowboys have the best record in football but are not unbeatable. Prescott is on an incredible run, but sooner or later, every rookie gets figured out by defensive coordinators and goes through an adjustment process. The great ones adjust quickly. Let's pretend Dallas is struggling mightily against a good defensive line in the playoffs and Garrett, along with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, decide that reverting back to a two-minute version of Dallas' offense circa 2014 would be more effective.

The only problem is, Romo has not prepared as a starter once this season and has not taken any live snaps.

Owner Jerry Jones seemed to get at this Monday when asked about the situation.

"I want to do what gives us the best chance to have Tony contribute to a championship," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I do want Tony to be ready to go in case that Dak should have an issue, health wise. That gives us strength going into the playoffs.

"Not from the standpoint of necessarily protecting Dak ... but from the standpoint of having Tony the readiest to come in and play would be my quick assessment."

Romo simply cannot be ready unless he has at least one start under his belt, though this scenario obviously comes with some risks. Dallas wanted to get out ahead of Romo's return this season so as not to make Prescott feel like someone was lurking over his shoulder. If Romo performs well in mop-up duty, it could create just that.

Scenario 2: Let Prescott finish the season to maximize his reps and risk him getting hurt: Just like Romo needs time with the first-string offense, so does Prescott. He's been light years ahead of his rookie counterparts thanks to an incredible work ethic and understanding of the game. But in this stage of quarterback development, every experience is new. Every twist in the game plan and scenario is different than it was a week ago or a month ago. Dallas may decide that Prescott is still too green to take a week off.

Scenario 3: Start Mark Sanchez in any mop-up situation to avoid insulting Romo: Perhaps there is a concern over optics. While Romo doesn't seem like the kind of person who would get upset over starting in a meaningless end-of-season game, Dallas may fear that it will look disrespectful to their franchise quarterback. Romo has already handled the situation with aplomb and Dallas is treating him like franchise royalty. Franchise royalty, however, does not expose itself behind a group of second and third-string offensive linemen against a blitz-happy Jim Schwartz in the season finale.


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