We have seen this before:
What we hadn’t seen before, in response to an apparent Tony Romo injury, was a sort of sanguine fatalism. A sense not that the Cowboys’ season and future hinges upon Romo’s questionable bone density or soft tissue malleability, but that for the first time in a long time, Dallas has a contingency plan. That plan’s name is Dak Prescott, and it’s been just three preseason games into his NFL career, but he looks like he might be ready for this. The fans are certainly ready.
Romo, as he put it, “tweaked” his back on the third snap, scrambling and sliding as Seattle’s Cliff Avril clipped him from behind. He immediately reached for his back as he lay on the field, and looked pained on the bench, and did not return—though he says he could have.
“You almost feel a sensation as if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder,” Romo said of the sensation he felt upon being hit by Avril. “It just feels hot for a second.
“That dissipates after a minute and you’re, ‘OK, all of those things you felt before with back injuries, those are all fine.’ Then you’re strength comes back and you’re like, ‘OK.’ It just takes a little bit. Then it was a coaching decision to not go back out.”
Romo didn’t get X-rays, and a decision will be made today whether an MRI exam is necessary. He doesn’t think it is. He also believes this was a full-speed test of a frequently injured body part, and that he came away from it relatively unscathed he views as a bright spot. “In a weird way,” Romo said, “I feel good about the fact that was probably as tough of a hit I’ve taken on the back as I’ve had in the last five years.”
For a decade now, as Romo goes, so go the Cowboys. In the Romo era, games have been started by Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, Stephen McGee, Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore. It’s no longer so grim. Dak Prescott, the fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State, acceded to the backup role when Moore broke his leg in camp earlier this month, and has shined.
A big, solid dude with a strong arm and a quick, efficient delivery, Prescott’s perceived failings are that he relies on his legs a little more than you’d like, and that he takes a little too long to make his reads, and that he can be shaken by pressure. Those are all things that can be helped by reps, and since Romo is Mr. Glass from Unbreakable, reps are what he’s going to get.
Prescott is now 39-of-50 for 454 and five TDs (no INTs), with another two rushing touchdowns. Preseason stats obviously don’t matter all that much on their own, but he’s looked confident and the Dallas offense hasn’t missed a beat when he’s slid in under center. He looks, for lack of a better word, legitimate.
Romo is 36 years old and frangible. Prescott, without having played a regular-season snap, has engendered more confidence in the possibility of his being forced into action than any other Cowboys backup in the last 10 years. Ezekiel Elliott is here, and finally giving glimpses of what he can do. The Cowboys, for the first time in a while, have a future.