One of the biggest off season questions has finally been answered: After 14 seasons in Dallas, and with speculation looming that quarterback Tony Romo would be traded or released to continue his NFL career, the quarterback will instead retire, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who also reports that the Cowboys were set to release Romo on Tuesday.
Instead, Romo, 36, will reportedly go into broadcasting. Via Schefter, Romo has received interest from “CBS, Fox and NBC, and can choose to be a color commentator where he wants.”
As recently as nine months ago, the expectation was that a healthy Romo would be the beneficiary of the league’s best offensive line and some of its best skill-position players in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and rookie Ezekiel Elliott. A preseason back injury changed all that -- and the trajectory of Romo’s NFL career. He spent the season watching Dak Prescott go from fourth-round afterthought to the face of the franchise, leading Dallas to 13 wins, the NFC East title, and the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Schefter reports that Romo could solidify his life-after-football plans as soon as Tuesday but that his decision to quit playing football has been made. That decision was based in part valuing health and family at this point in his NFL journey, just a few weeks before his 37th birthday. He took several weeks coming to this conclusion, and Romo has already informed Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who said from the owners meetings seven days ago that the deadline for trading Romo was training camp. That point is now moot.
In the weeks and months since the Romo Hype Train began gaining steam, the thinking was that the four-time Pro Bowler would follow the path blazed by Peyton Manning five years ago, when he was released by the Colts, signed with the Broncos, and eventually led that team a Lombardi Trophy. With Manning retired and youth and inexperience at the position, the Broncos were thought to be in the running for Romo, as were the Texans, a team that could only endure one year of the Brock Osweiler Experiment before shipping him and a second-round pick to the Browns.
But the start of free agency came and went, and Romo remained on the Cowboys with no sign of progress in sight. He reportedly took Jones’ perceived foot-dragging personally, though Jones denies this. Either way, it’s Jones’ words from early March, when he was discussing that he and Romo had an understanding that the quarterback would not sign with the rival Redskins, that have proved most prophetic, even if accidentally so.
“What I’m really saying is that I do not know how, what we will end up with -- whether it will be a trade, whether it will be a release, whether it will be neither,” Jones said at the time. “I do not know at this time. All scenarios have been well-considered and thought out. Now we’ve just got to see where the reality is.”
For Dallas, that reality lies with Prescott. For Romo, it’s with his family.
And while Romo is gone, Jones -- one of Romo’s biggest supporters -- won’t soon forget what he did for the organization.
“I feel so fortunate to be where we are as a team and have the team and have Dak,” Jones said last month. “I feel very fortunate. But a lot of what this team is about, I thought that on a personal basis Tony would have been the benefactor. When I look at our relationship, for all the right reasons it was to win and win big, win a Super Bowl. We might not have the decisions we made in the offensive line had we not been so focused in on protecting Tony, and then having the running game.”
Of course, never say never. Even though he won’t be on an NFL roster, Romo will remain one of the league’s best players. Which, technically, means that he’s just a phone call away...
One NFL exec texted now: "Romo is now every teams emergency backup qb in case your starter gets hurt, pay him to come out of "retirement.' "
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2017