Tony Romo is headed to the broadcast booth, at least temporarily, and he won’t be coming to the rescue of the Houston Texans. He won’t solve their long-standing quarterback problem and he won’t be the final piece of their Super Bowl puzzle.
So what do the Texans do now?
[The Texans are the loser as Tony Romo heads to the CBS broadcast booth]
They could stand pat at quarterback. That would mean making an inconsequential move or two to round out a roster that now includes a pair of QBs, Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. It would mean entering the season with the hope that Savage, who has some promise but zero career touchdown passes, develops into a quarterback worthy of a team with a Super Bowl-caliber defense and some decent ingredients on offense.
But that’s not good enough. The Texans need to do more.
They can’t continue to waste the best years of J.J. Watt’s career without giving him a quarterback capable of making this a Super Bowl team. They can’t waste the efforts of a defense that was outstanding last season even without Watt, and could be as good or better with him back.
That could mean signing Colin Kaepernick or Jay Cutler, the most prominent quarterbacks still available in free agency.
Yes, the Texans took their shot last offseason and it didn’t work out. They signed Brock Osweiler to an $18 million-per-season contract, only to bench him in favor of Savage late in the season, hand him back the starting job for the AFC playoffs after Savage suffered a concussion, and then part ways with him last month by trading him to the Cleveland Browns. That was an admission they’d made one of the biggest free agent blunders in history.
Even so, the Texans have to take another shot at getting a quarterback capable of getting them to a Super Bowl. That guy probably is not Savage, not yet. It almost certainly is not Weeden. It’s probably not Ryan Fitzpatrick or Robert Griffin III, also available as free agents.
Could Kaepernick or Cutler get the Texans to the Super Bowl? Perhaps not.
It shouldn’t be about politics with Kaepernick, it should be about football. It’s still a difficult evaluation. He was decent last season for the 49ers, with 16 touchdown passes, four interceptions and a passer rating of 90.7.
But he has not demonstrated clearly that he can return to the level that once made him a Super Bowl starter. He had trouble unseating Blaine Gabbert from the starting job in San Francisco. He played for a team that went 2-14.
[Are NFL teams on their way to blackballing Colin Kaepernick? Perhaps. But it’s too soon to know]
As for Cutler, the Chicago Bears finally had enough of his inconsistency and moved on. He never has fulfilled the promise of his ability and arm strength, and now he’s about to turn 34 and coming off shoulder surgery.
But he was a pretty decent in 2015 in Chicago with Adam Gase as the Bears’ offensive coordinator. If the Texans somehow could coax a 2015-like performance out of Cutler, who threw for 3,659 yards and 21 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions that season, that would be plenty good enough. That would be an upgrade, presumably, over what they would get from the quarterbacks currently on their roster. But could they get that version of Cutler?
It’s not an easy decision. It’s not the ideal situation for the Texans, but it’s what they now face. It says here that the Texans should decide which of the two they prefer, sign him and at least give him a look through the offseason, training camp and the preseason. There is much at stake.
… AND TEN
1. Broncos’ QBs … The Denver Broncos were also denied a chance to pursue Romo but they should be okay with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.
Siemian actually was decent last season with 18 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, an 84.6 passer rating and 3,401 yards passing in his 14 starts. If he makes reasonable progress in his second season as a starter, he’ll be a playoff-caliber quarterback.
The Broncos traded up to get Lynch in the first round of last year’s NFL draft. Few — if any — observers thought he’d be ready to start as a rookie. But plenty like his potential for Year 2 and beyond. If he develops as expected, the Broncos will have an interesting decision to make.
2. Romo’s next task … Romo is being handed a very high-profile job, with CBS having pushed aside Phil Simms for the game analyst position on its No. 1 team with Jim Nantz.
What Romo will be doing isn’t easy. He will be a rookie broadcaster working high-profile games. If he struggles to make the adjustment, that will happen in front of the entire football-watching country. There will be no coming along slowly, as Romo did as an undrafted rookie. As a broadcaster, he is a No. 1 overall draft choice, with the accompanying expectations of immediate success.
[Tony Romo’s waffling on retirement means there will be Favre-like speculation whenever there’s a QB vacancy]
Romo has not completely ruled out a return to the field. Since he was released by the Dallas Cowboys, he’s a free agent if he does opt to come back from retirement.
Much could depend, it seems, on how quickly and seamlessly Romo adjusts to his new job, and whether there are any attractive starting jobs that become available during the season.
3. Opinions needed … One thing that Romo will need to learn quickly, it appears, is to offer an opinion when prompted. He was asked during last week’s conference call with media members what he thinks the Texans should do at quarterback now that he’s not an option.
“I would love to pretend that I’m the GM for the Houston Texans,” Romo said. “But since I’m not, I’m gonna let you ask him that question.”
[Amazon reaches $50 million deal with NFL to stream Thursday night games]
The quarterback of the Cowboys should pass on that question. The lead NFL analyst for CBS shouldn’t.
It just goes to show that the transition might not be quite as easy as some think.
4. Jones’s role … So Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as it turned out, did right by Romo, after all.
As the Romo saga dragged on without the Cowboys releasing him, it appeared Jones was intent upon trying to get a draft pick from the Texans or the Broncos in a trade. But as it turned out, Romo was weighing much more than which team would be a better fit for him. Jones’s delaying tactic gave Romo the time and space to make that decision.
And releasing Romo — at his request, according to the Cowboys — gives his the option to pick his team if he does return at any point.
5. On Simms … There was a certain euphoria by some fans, it seemed, at the CBS decision to oust Simms in favor of Romo. The dislike for Simms as an analyst was odd. He was perfectly competent, and no one should be applauding his professional misfortune.
[Phil Simms offered lead analyst job (for a day) by minor league baseball team]
6. What about Fitzpatrick? Last offseason, remember, Fitzpatrick’s free agent status was a big story. He was coming off a productive season for the New York Jets and he didn’t re-sign until the eve of training camp.
Now, no one seems to care that Fitzpatrick is available. He almost certainly will be forced to sign a modest contract. But he could be a viable veteran backup whose availability shouldn’t be forgotten or completely dismissed.
7. What about Griffin? Griffin, too, has been out of sight, out of mind since the Browns opted not to bring him back for a second season. The former offensive rookie of the year for the Washington Redskins almost certainly will not land in a spot where he can vie for a starting job.
But a year or two out of the spotlight might serve Griffin well. He could try to learn how to make the transition from improvisational quarterback in a gimmick offense to reliable NFL pocket passer without the pressure of needing to start and be productive right away. He can sit and watch and learn.
Maybe Griffin’s days of NFL prominence are over. Maybe they aren’t. But he probably is down to one last chance as a No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback somewhere, and he’d better be ready to take advantage.
[Robert Griffin III, done with the Browns, probably is not quite out of NFL chances. Yet.]
8. Peterson’s situation … Running back Adrian Peterson, still a free agent, has visited the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. He reportedly will visit the New Orleans Saints next. But with the draft nearing and a highly regarded class of running backs available, it might make sense at this point for him to wait to see which teams remain needy at the position.
9. Pats’ RB situation … The Patriots hosted Peterson without immediately signing him to a contract. They have not re-signed LeGarrette Blount, at least not yet. Their group of running backs at this point includes Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James White and Brandon Bolden. There almost certainly is another move to come. But it’s clear that the Patriots are willing to wait and add a prospective centerpiece runner for the right price whether it’s Blount, Peterson or someone else.
10. Lynch and Raiders … Marshawn Lynch remains retired. He remains contractually tied to the Seahawks. He remains, therefore, not a member of the Oakland Raiders, at least at this point. But don’t the Raiders, headed for Las Vegas for the 2019 or 2020 season, need to make this happen if they’re going to continue to be “well supported” by fans during their remaining time in Oakland, as owner Mark Davis predicted?