Tony Romo Is Out, No Doubt—and That Means Cowboys Are Dead

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 23, 2013

USA Today

This Sunday's game between Dallas and Philadelphia was supposed to be a referendum, in a way, for the Cowboys. A time to prove the doubters wrong, to wag their fingers, to change the narrative—the narrative that says the organization is run ineptly, coached ineptly and the quarterback is a practitioner of the Heimlich.

In one fell swoop, it could have all changed. A win against Philadelphia meant head coach Jason Garrett would keep his job. Tony Romo would no longer be seen as a choking dog. That defense, torched on and off the field, would see redemption.

Now, none of that will happen. The Cowboys are dead. They are dead because their hopes and dreams rest on the shoulders of one Kyle Raymond Orton, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

This is the organization that won championships with names like Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. The only thing they will win with Orton against the Eagles is an ass-kicking. The Eagles will go into Dallas, force Orton into a bushel of turnovers and smother the Cowboys. In doing so, the Eagles will also inadvertently redirect the future of the Dallas franchise.

Jason Garrett will be talking to the guy on the right, Kyle Orton, next weekend.
Jason Garrett will be talking to the guy on the right, Kyle Orton, next weekend.Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With Romo at the helm, the Cowboys had a chance. With Orton at the helm, the Cowboys only have a chance of staying within 30 points of the Eagles. We witnessed what Philadelphia did against Chicago on Sunday Night Football. This could be worse. This could be 60-10.

Jason Garrett said at his news conference that Romo is day-to-day. That isn't believable. It's likely that the report by Schefter is true and Romo is out.

One Cowboys team source confirmed another ESPN report from Chris Mortensen saying that Romo eventually will need back surgery to repair a herniated disc. The source said it's extremely unlikely he will play on Sunday. Translation: He's not playing.

When Garrett says that Romo is getting treatment on his back, what he really means is: Romo's out. When Garrett says he hasn't ruled Romo out, what Garrett means is: Romo is ruled out.

Coaches are deceptive about injuries all the time. They believe any leaking of medical info helps the opponent, but the fact is, the Eagles read the same reports we do. Philadelphia knows Romo isn't going to be ready.

The biggest giveaway that Romo isn't playing is that Garrett said the Cowboys would sign a backup to Orton. If Romo really was "day-to-day" as Garrett claims, Dallas wouldn't be signing a backup.

Garrett is playing poker, attempting to trick the Eagles into thinking that Romo might play, when Garrett knows good and well that Romo isn't. Unless Romo has a Willis Reed moment, he's done.

This game won't be about Romo. It will be about Orton.

Orton has had his moments in the NFL, but this is what you need to know most: He was beaten out by Tim Tebow. That pretty much says it all.

Go back to 2011 and Orton's Denver Broncos lose four of their first five. John Fox benched Orton for Tebow and Orton was made third string behind Brady Quinn.

Think of Orton as Matt Cassel. That's not meant as a compliment.

Orton has thrown just five passes this year. Five.

It's not that Philadelphia's defense is that good (it's not), it's that the Cowboys' defense is putrid. As choketastic as Romo has been, he is also so immensely talented, he covers up a great many holes in that roster.

With no Romo, Philly's offense will score easily on Dallas, forcing the Cowboys offense to keep up. All of that pressure on Orton will cause a herniated disc in his back.

"He's smart," said Garrett of Orton, "he's tough, he's accurate."

He's also your only hope.

Good luck with that.