Published November 20, 2014
With time running out on this season, the Dallas Cowboys told injured quarterback Tony Romo he might as well rest up for next season.
Romo went on injured reserve Tuesday, eliminating any chance of him playing Saturday night at Arizona or in the season finale at Philadelphia. He's been out since breaking his left collarbone Oct. 25.
"When you just start doing the math on it and say, 'Where is he with this injury? Where is he physically functioning? Where is he being able to take a hit? And then, how much practice time you need to have any player be ready to play in a game?'" interim coach Jason Garrett said. "We just felt when we factored all those things together, it just made sense to make this move."
It seemed silly for the Cowboys to take any chances since they can't make the playoffs and are guaranteed a losing record, though they kept the option open by carrying him on the active roster the last eight weeks. Garrett said having this weekend as a target for a return helped Romo with his recovery.
On Sunday, team owner Jerry Jones said Romo was "still having sensitivity there" and not ready to play. Garrett indicated Romo would try to practice Tuesday, but the move was announced before the club even hit the field.
Jon Kitna will start the final two games. Garrett said he wouldn't use second-year backup Stephen McGee unless Kitna is hurt.
Kitna is 4-4 since taking over for Romo, including 4-2 since Garrett replaced fired coach Wade Phillips. Record aside, Kitna's statistics are quite similar to Romo's this season.
"Our team has certainly responded to him," Garrett said. "He's a very driven guy. He loves to play football. He's very competitive. He'll look at the positive things and build on them and try to correct some of the things he doesn't like. It's an ongoing process. He embraces it every day."
There's no threat of a QB controversy because Kitna will be 39 next season and Romo remains the face of the franchise. Kitna knows the drill.
"I signed a contract to be the backup to Tony and that's my job," he said. "I'm supposed to play as well as I can if I get a chance to play. We've been consistent the last six weeks. That's what you want."
Kitna didn't take a single snap last season and lost all four games he started for Detroit the previous season. So while this has been hailed as a career revival, Kitna doesn't see it that way.
"Honestly, it's not that satisfying for me because I knew that this was who I was," he said. "What's exciting to me is that I got to be in a place that the guys around me make my job very easy."
Romo completed 69 percent of his passes (148 of 213) for 1,605 yards with 11 touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 94.9 was a shade below his career average. His seven interceptions in six games was a big step back after having nine in a full season last year.
"I think if you look at the body of work, him individually and how our offense functioned, there were a lot of good things but there were obviously some areas to improve upon," Garrett said.
Romo has spent every game on the sideline, wearing a headset and consulting with Kitna. He'll continue doing that.
"He's played in this offense more than anybody has, so he has a real understanding of what we're trying to get accomplished," Garrett said. "He and Jon have a really great relationship. ... There are some productive things that go on during the game and Tony is a big part of that."
The Cowboys promoted Teddy Williams from the practice squad to take Romo's place.
Williams hasn't played organized football since he was a senior in high school. A gruesome ankle injury scared off recruiters, so he turned to track and became an All-America sprinter while at Texas-San Antonio. But he never gave up on playing football and signed with the Cowboys during training camp in San Antonio.
He played cornerback from the summer until last week, when he was switched to receiver because of a series of injuries. While he's a long way from learning his new duties, his speed could make him a threat as a returner. Garrett said it remains to be determined whether Williams will be active against the Cardinals.
"My whole thing is that I just want to be on the field and play," Williams said.