When Should the Dallas Cowboys Consider Looking for Tony Romo's Successor?

Brad GagnonFeatured Columnist IVMarch 18, 2017

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field following the Cowboys 28-18 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

I asked this very question in regard to Eli Manning and the New York Giants on Tuesday, so it only makes sense that we throw it out there to Dallas Cowboys fans in regard to their team's franchise quarterback today. 

Tony Romo will be 33 years old this April, which means the Cowboys would be smart to begin thinking about who might eventually replace Romo when the time arrives for a transition to take place.

This one's a little more complicated because some fans want to chase Romo out of town right now. The Cowboys have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and have just one postseason victory in the seven years since Romo became the starting quarterback.

Looking at Romo's numbers during that time period, it's hard to suggest he's at fault for Dallas' failure to win. After all, he has the league's fifth-highest passer rating and second-best yards-per-attempt average since becoming a starter in 2006. He also ranks in the top seven in wins, yards and touchdowns, despite the fact he missed 10 games in 2010 and didn't start until Week 8 in '06.

The problem is that the 'Boys are 1-6 with Romo at quarterback in must-win games. He's imploded in the spotlight on a few specific occasions and his three picks in the season finale against the Washington Redskins dominate our short-term memory. 

I've made it clear that I believe Romo remains the best option this team has at the quarterback position. The Cowboys were ravaged by injuries this season and Romo kept his team in the race far longer than anyone expected. This year's draft class is lacking so-called blue-chip quarterback prospects and you really can't pick up potential franchise signal-callers via free agency or the trade market unless you really luck out. 

That said, considering how critical the quarterback position is in this league, I firmly believe that teams have to start mining for their next franchise pivots well before their current quarterbacks begin to decline. 

Here's what I wrote when making the claim that even the Giants should start thinking about who might be capable of replacing their two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback: 

Bill Walsh gave up a second- and a fourth-round pick for Steve Young when Joe Montana was just 30 years old. Ted Thompson used a first-round pick on Aaron Rodgers despite the fact a 35-year-old Brett Favre was coming off of a 4,000-yard season. Those two successors spent a combined seven seasons as heir apparent backups.

Two years after Montana left, the 49ers were Super Bowl champions again. Three years after Favre left, the Packers won another championship. Neither team had to rebuild. 

The Cowboys have a lot of urgent needs to address in this year's draft, but it's a worthwhile gamble to spend a mid-round pick on a guy who might have the ability to become the next Russell Wilson. And it wouldn't be completely wild for Jerry Jones and Co. to take a chance on the man who was supplanted by Wilson in Seattle, Matt Flynn. 

They might not do it this year, but the Cowboys have to be proactive here. The goal should be to find someone they can confidently start under center before they lose confidence in the abilities of their current pivot.