With his team's season hanging in the balance, it's a tricky little call that Bill Parcells faces in Dallas. But from this vantage point, the Cowboys head coach has cast his lot for the foreseeable future with Tony Romo at quarterback. Turning back to veteran Drew Bledsoe now would only serve to further muddle the situation and possibly render both passers devoid of any remaining confidence.
Parcells chose to play his long-awaited move to Romo for maximum potential impact, inserting the fourth-year backup into a Monday-night nationally televised home game against the Giants, who entered the game tied with Dallas, and with first place in the NFC East going to the victor.
But the switch to Romo at the start of the third quarter, while perhaps not backfiring, certainly didn't work in the short term. He threw three second-half interceptions, leading directly to 17 points for the Giants, and turned a five-point halftime deficit into a 14-point margin of defeat.
That said, Romo's mobility clearly gave the Dallas offense a dimension it lacked under the statuesque Bledsoe, and that's darn near imperative given the shoddy state of the Cowboys' pass protection these days. Thrown into a pressure-packed situation, with little in the way of a Dallas ground game to lean on, Romo produced 15 points and 227 yards passing, which is nothing to sneeze at if he can extrapolate those numbers over the course of a full four quarters.
One also wonders what Romo might have done had Terrell Owens not dropped a fourth-and-two pass in Giants territory midway through the third quarter, with New York up 19-7 but the Cowboys on the march. Romo seemed to have found some rhythm on the drive, which reached the Giants 32, and any score there might have sent his confidence on the uptick and kept Dallas within striking distance.
Bottom line? Romo deserves the chance to try his hand at something other than a relief role, with a full game to either make or break his case that he should be the Cowboys' starter going forward. The problem? Dallas is about to embark on a three-game road trip, with the first leg being by far the toughest assignment: a Sunday-night date at Carolina, with the Panthers no doubt smarting from a three-point loss at Cincinnati on Sunday that snapped their four-game winning streak. Games at Washington and Arizona follow the trip to Charlotte.
But the reasoning Parcells should use to make his quarterback call is fairly obvious: With Bledsoe, the Cowboys already know what they are. They're pretty decent when they give him protection from the pass rush, and pretty horrible when they don't. That hasn't changed throughout his entire Dallas tenure, and won't.