Mariucci: Not playing Tony Romo would be a mistake

The decision to play quarterback Tony Romo in the season finale Sunday against Philadelphia was initially viewed as a complicated one that involved injury concerns, ego, confidence and what it truly takes for a veteran to get ready after months away from the field. Romo is listed as active for the game.

But none of NFL Network's panelists from NFL GameDay Morning saw it as much of an issue. Romo needs the work, Dak Prescott needs to stay healthy and, regardless of stature, a backup quarterback's responsibility is to be able to perform at a moment's notice.

"It would be a bigger mistake if they played Dak too long and he got hurt," Steve Mariucci said. "This is the right thing to do. They have a banged up offensive line. To play Tony, to get the rust off, whatever you want to call it, they're going to protect him with the playcalls anyway. They're not gonna to let him scramble around like Fran Tarkenton and do all of these things. They're gonna hand the ball off, they're gonna throw it quickly, they're gonna run play action, they're gonna let him feel good out there, then get him out. And then he'll be more confident and ready to go if need be in the playoffs. ... I like their plan. Give Dak a little bit, Tony a little bit, finish the game with Sanchez, and let's go on to the playoffs."

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported this weekend that Dallas' top priority was keeping Romo healthy behind a patchwork offensive line.

"Every decision the Cowboys make right now has to be to try to grab a hold of that Super Bowl," Michael Irvin said. "You talked about it over there, playing Tony Romo today helps in that process. If anything happens to Dak in the playoffs, you're not going straight to Mark Sanchez, you're going to Tony Romo. So they're not making a mistake by playing him."

Added Kurt Warner: "I think there's so many angles that you can take this on play him, how much you play him. How about just looking at it for Tony Romo specifically. I think it's unfair to Tony to expect him, if you need him in the playoffs, to just throw him out there for the first time in who knows how long with significant playing time and go, "Okay here, go win a game for us. Go win a Super Bowl for us." He needs to play. Tony wants to play, he wants to get back into the flow."

Romo's desire to continue his career and potentially audition for other clubs vying for his services helps. Had Dallas' former franchise quarterback treated this situation differently and allowed his status to come in the way of his preparation, there's a good chance Mark Sanchez would steal the show on Sunday against the Eagles. Instead, the Cowboys are getting a newsy but practical dry run for Romo in the only way that makes any sense.

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