Suddenly, he's gone.
Planning to pursue a career in sports broadcasting, Romo will spend next season analyzing an NFL landscape vastly changed by his exodus. His retirement marks a pivotal moment in Cowboys lore, with the ripple effects coursing through the state of Texas and beyond.
Let's take a look at some winners and losers on the heels of Romo's big decision:
1. Dak Prescott: Nobody expected Romo to remain in Dallas, nestled behind the wunderkind who stole his starting job away last autumn. Prescott owns the gig, with one caveat: Stay healthy. NFL Network's Jane Slater reported that if the "Cowboys ever really needed (Romo), he'd consider coming back." That would require Prescott to suffer a catastrophic injury. If he continues on his current path, though, the second-year signal-caller now heads into the summer minus a major distraction. The greatest job in sports is Dak's alone.
2. Jerry Jones: Quarterback breakups rarely go well, but Jones has maneuvered this split with a masterful touch from wire-to-wire. The Cowboys owner never wanted to see one of his favorite players go elsewhere -- and especially not 240 miles south to Houston. Romo is out the door and Jones is sitting pretty atop a rare quarterback transition that resembles Green Bay's switch from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers and the Colts flipping from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck.
The Cowboys saw the possibility of this as early as last August, when team COO and director of player personnel Stephen Jones told TheMMQB: "I can't imagine a scenario where Tony's not our quarterback when he's ready. But things happen. You know that. You know what happened to (Drew) Bledsoe and (Tom) Brady. I'm sure Tony's aware of that."
If Romo wasn't then, he is now.
3. CBS: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport confirmed Tuesday that Romo will land with CBS Sports. Following in the footsteps of former Cowboys greats Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, Romo is widely viewed as a heady talent set to soar behind the mic:
Sat next to Tony Romo on a plane a few years back. Talked football for an hour. His depth of knowledge is incredible. A natural in the boothâ Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 4, 2017
4. Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch: The Broncos are now "moving forward" with their two young quarterbacks, per Rapoport. The Broncos displayed little, if any, overt interest in Romo, choosing instead to hoist up Siemian and Lynch as the primary players in Denver's upcoming quarterback tussle. Barring Elway making a wild, surprise pitch, Romo's shot to wear Broncos' orange is kaput.
5. Tom Savage: Are the Broncos better off without Romo? No, and neither are the Texans, but Savage has seen his career arc glitter over the past month. After trading away Brock Osweiler, Houston is now forced to publicly smile about a Romo-free depth chart. A once invisible backup, Savage becomes the clear favorite to ride into September as the Week 1 starter.
6. This year's quarterback prospects: Romo landing in Houston would have massively lowered the need to draft a passer. Now the Texans are a strong candidate to fish for a signal-caller with the No. 25 pick. They could also add help at No. 57 or No. 89, but coach Bill O'Brien is running out of time to spin myths about his quarterback room. The Texans are under pressure to find a better-than-serviceable answer immediately. One name to watch: Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes, who met with the team on a recent visit.
1. The Texans (obviously): Losing out on Romo does major damage to a team that would ride as a legitimate Super Bowl contender with a viable quarterback. The Texans eternally play second fiddle to the Cowboys in their own state, making this even more painful. Houston could have rolled out the red carpet for Romo and stolen the show away from Jerry Jones. Now the Texans are stuck with Savage, Brandon Weeden and a rookie-to-be-named. It's a ghastly scenario for a club that can't get out of its own way.
2. Phil Simms: Replaced in the booth by Romo, Simms is suddenly out of a high-profile TV gig with his old pal Jim Nantz. Fear not, though, hope remains:
I hear the Browns are prepared to absorb Phil Simmsâs guaranteed salary if CBS will send them a draft pick.â Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) April 4, 2017
3. The uber-competitive, risk-taking half of John Elway's brain: No matter what the Broncos say out loud, there was always a sense that Elway, the team's ingenious football czar, could be compelled to make a last-ditch play for Romo. That scenario is dead, placing the Broncos in a perilous position in the rowdy AFC West.
4. The prime-time football schedule: Losing Romo, a centerpiece player on Sunday and Monday nights, equates to a sucker punch for football fans. Getting way more Savage-In-Prime-Time than anyone asked for doesn't help, either. The saving grace here? With Romo set to announce high-octane fare on a weekly basis, you know where to get your fix.
5. The Tony Romo Redemption Story: There's an alternate universe where Romo signs with the Broncos; leads Denver to a Super Bowl victory; turns Elway, by default, into a glowing god; and changes the way we view the former 'Boys passer forever. We don't live in that world, though, meaning Romo will unfairly be remembered as the guy who couldn't win the big game. He deserved a better final chapter.