If history shows us anything in football, it’s that you ride the hot hand at quarterback, regardless of who lost their starting job.
Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady, Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, and now in Dallas, they’ve got Dak Prescott and Tony Romo.
Only five games in yes, but the talk has already started- Will Tony Romo regain his starting job once he’s cleared to play? And the bigger question- Should he?
It was the same question fans and pundits argued back in 2001 with Bledsoe and Brady, and again in 2012 with Alex Smith and Kaepernick. In both cases, valid arguments were made for each side, going something like this:
1- Starters don’t lose their jobs to injuries
2- Don’t fix something that isn’t broken
Back in the day, that was the purpose of the backup quarterback, to backup the starter. The only time a starting quarterback lost his job was because of poor play (like Todd Marinovich-remember him?), or because of injury of the season ending kind (Donovan McNabb back in 2006 and being replaced by Jeff Garcia). But other than that, his job was simple.
I’ll give you an example of just how much the NFL has changed thanks to Tom Brady’s heroics in 2001:
In 1995, the defending champion 49ers lost their MVP quarterback Steve Young to an injury, and backup Elvis Grbac stepped in and immediately helped San Francisco pull off a major road win at the newly relocated and 1st place St. Louis Rams franchise. Back-to-back home losses to the Saints and Panthers were followed up by two huge road games- a rematch of the conference championship game at Dallas and then a Monday Night matchup at Miami.
The 49ers pulled off the improbable and won both games, with Grbac suddenly lighting up both teams to the tune of six touchdown passes and no interceptions. The 49ers, who were sitting at 5-4 prior to the Dallas game, suddenly left Florida sitting with a nice 7-4 record thanks to Grbac’s back-to-back heroics on the road.
But it ended right there. The following Sunday, Steve Young was back in the lineup and Grbac back to the bench. That was the old NFL, back before a 6th round pick came out of nowhere and led his team to a Super Bowl victory in 2001.
Now, the feeling is that you ride the hot hand. Where fans were once split in situations like this, the tide has seemed to turn. Very few Cowboy fans seem happy to have Tony Romo coming back and immediately taking over the job that was already his. They want to ride with Dak Prescott as long as possible and see where it goes.
Maybe a Super Bowl appearance like 49er fans experienced when Colin Kaepernick took over a concussed Alex Smith? Or maybe at some point, the magical ride of Dak finally evens out, and the turnovers start happening and a loss here or there is enough to convince fans to go back to Romo, but for the meantime, the debate is going on strong.
In reality, it’s a debate that seems much more relevant than the two currently running for president, but that’s another blog for another time.
For now, the return of Tony Romo, if ever, is a couple of weeks away. As the saying goes, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there”, but still, it’s a conversation that will eventually consume the airwaves in Texas, it’s just a matter of time.