Retiring jerseys is kinda a weird thing. Across all sports, each team has their own process. Some retire numbers liberally (ahem, ex-New York Yankees Nos. 1 through 10), and others have retired the numbers of seemingly unworthy players, like the Oklahoma City Thunder retiring… Nick Collison’s No. 4. Regardless, it’s the prerogative of each team to decide how it wants to handle this weird ideological “award,” and whether or not they want to bestow it on anyone.
More annoying than any other are the teams that choose not to retire any numbers, but have their own unwritten, hush-hush, cloak-and-dagger rules where they inexplicably don’t let players wear a number that once belonged to someone everyone loved, but they also won’t retire it. It’s like when a child is done playing with a toy and goes to watch a movie, but another kid starts playing with the toy, and then they get upset. Like… what the hell, kid?! You said you were done. Which is it?
The Cowboys fall into this category, because of course they do. America’s Team thoroughly enjoys drama and doing everything the hard way.
Enter Linebacker Jaylon Smith, who is changing his jersey to No. 9 after a new NFL rule went into place allowing linebackers to wear single digits. This marks the first that any Cowboy will have worn No. 9 since Tony Romo retired after the 2016 season. This, apparently, is a big deal to some Cowboys fans.
Everything here was done the right way. Smith was given permission by owner and general manager Jerry Jones to make the switch, and Smith also reached out to Romo as well. The guy just wants his old jersey number back.
“First and foremost, it’s a blessing and an honor to be able to carry on the 9 legacy,” Smith said. “Tony Romo did an amazing job of just being elite and putting together great success for the Cowboys franchise. As you know, [with] new players coming in, always getting an opportunity to sometimes carry on legacy… That’s the opportunity that the Jones family granted me with wearing No. 9, so it’s definitely a blessing.
“It’s been a part of my life. I’ve been wearing No. 9 since I was 9 years old, through pee wee, middle school, high school, college, All-American games, you name it. No. 9 is a part of me. It’s really just a blessing to be able to continue the legacy,” he continued.
Nothing, no matter how big or small, will ever make everyone happy. Someone will always complain. Hence, there is a good contingent of Cowboys fans yelling into the Twitterverse about the jersey change… but why?
I know Tony Romo was a good talent. He holds the Cowboys’ record for most passing yards (34,183) and passing touchdowns (248). In an era with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers, Romo was often overlooked. He made the playoffs six times, holding a 2-4 record, and never won a Super Bowl.
For a team as storied in history as the Dallas Cowboys are (although, granted, not really since the 1990s), he’s nowhere close to the pantheon of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His statistical accomplishments have more to do with the era in which he played than act as any indicator to high achievement. Sure, Romo has the most passing yards in Cowboys history, but he’s still only 34th all-time. Russell Wilson will pass him this year (only roughly 1,200 yards behind him), and career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is already in front of him by about 800.
Let’s not act like Tony Romo is some legend of the game who deserves to never have his jersey number worn again. He was a good — but not great — quarterback who fans loved, and let’s leave his legacy at that.