As if the pressure of being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys wasn't enough, now Tony Romo has bigger issues to deal with this offseason.
Following the Cowboys' third consecutive 8-8 season and, more importantly, failure to earn a playoff berth, Romo is dealing with more than just expectations. After an enormously difficult offseason, the franchise quarterback has now been dealt a more difficult scenario than last season's.
Let's look at a quick breakdown of how the last six months have gone for Romo in Big D:
- A back injury in Week 16 kept Romo out of the final game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Romo would ultimately have surgery, and the Cowboys would miss the playoffs following the loss.
- In early March, Dallas released DeMarcus Ware, who signed with the Denver Broncos.
- Leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, rumors swirled that the Cowboys might take Johnny Manziel in the first round. Dallas decided to take Zach Martin, adding more protection for Romo.
- Romo participated in OTAs just six months after back surgery. On the same day, Sean Lee suffered a torn ACL and will reportedly miss the regular season.
While it's debatable which of those is more detrimental to Romo, each one certainly puts more weight on the quarterback's shoulders. And if the past has proven anything, the last thing Romo needs is more pressure.
Let's start with the defense. Just a season removed from surrendering the most yards per game (415.3), being seventh-worst in points per game (27.0) and ranking 25th in total sacks (34), Dallas is now down two linebackers from that corps.
Ware might have been a bigger fan favorite over the last several seasons, but the loss of Lee is arguably more important for the 'Boys. Pete Damilatis of Pro Football Focus and ESPN Stats & Info each provided a look at Lee's impact on the game when he's on the field:
In the last 4 seasons, Sean Lee is 5th among NFL inside linebackers in @PFF grade, but 27th in snaps played.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) May 27, 2014
No linebacker has more Int than Sean Lee's 11 since 2010 (Lee's rookie year). Lee is expected to miss the 2014 season with a torn ACL.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2014
Tack on the fact that Anthony Spencer might also start the season watching from the bench, and Dallas' defense looks even more out of sorts than it did last year. And that's hard to do.
Apart from the defensive woes, Romo was also nearly dealt a huge blow in the draft when Jerry Jones was rumored to take Johnny Manziel. While the now-infamous Johnny Cleveland is visiting Vegas as a member of the Browns, the claims no doubt put added pressure on Romo for the upcoming season.
Even through all of the woes of the offseason, the 34-year-old is still confident about the upcoming year. Romo spoke about his back surgery and how it will affect his season, per David Moore of The Dallas Morning News:
Anytime somebody goes through surgery, it’s always that sort of talk. You have to just go out and play. When you play and all of a sudden the season is over, then that kinda goes away just like a lot of other things that get talked about from year to year.
People can make predictions. Some are proven right, some are proven wrong. It’s all going to be shown on the field when it’s all said and done.
Can the Cowboys make the playoffs this season?
That wasn't all. Before returning to OTAs, Romo made a proclamation on KRLD 105.3 The Fan (h/t Star-Telegram): "There’s no question in my mind, not only am I going to be able to make it through 16 games, I’ll make it through another five years. I'm going to come back a better player than I've ever been."
While he's clearly oozing confidence as to how he'll perform, it's the team around him that makes the outlook appear ominous. From Lee's injury to the fact that Dallas is facing potentially it's fourth straight season without making the postseason, Romo's 10th year as a starter will be a difficult one.
If one thing's for sure, there's no hiding failure in Dallas. Regardless of how well Romo's back might hold up, the pressure mounting on his shoulders is enough for anyone to crumble.
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