The “Good Morning Football” crew discuss Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s speech.

One of the toughest things Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has had to stomach in his NFL tenure was watching quarterback Peyton Manning win another Super Bowl elsewhere. It was something that spawned an awkward verbal dance for Irsay over the past few years, as he struggled with the reality that Manning wouldn’t retire as a Colt, and would wrap his career with a second Super Bowl ring that Irsay desperately wanted him to win in Indianapolis.


This is something that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will grapple with if Tony Romo doesn’t retire this offseason. And make no mistake, this is what some inside the organization are quietly hoping for – that if Romo finishes this season as a backup, he will choose to hang up his cleats rather than go elsewhere.

For Jones, there is a brutal reality inside of the joy of seeing Dak Prescott flourish and grow. Jones loves Romo like a son. And seeing him potentially go elsewhere – maybe to the Denver Broncos – would be extremely difficult to take. Moreover, possibly seeing Romo win a Super Bowl with someone else, like DeMarcus Ware before him, would threaten to gut Jones emotionally.

Even inside all the winning and rallying behind Prescott, that contemplation is real. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface in Dallas. Romo’s news conference on Tuesday didn’t shut down any feelings. In a way, it may have accentuated them because for the first time, it has given everyone a tangible moment to begin grappling with a relationship ending – and also raised the possibility that Romo’s biggest moment of leadership and poise in Dallas was taking a reluctant step backward.

That’s part of the reason why Romo’s statement this week was so difficult for everyone in the franchise. It was the first time that everyone – including many inside the franchise – were faced with a tangible moment suggesting that Romo could be finished in Dallas. That latter emphasis is important because those who are close to Romo are already suggesting that if he’s finished with the Cowboys, it doesn’t mean he’s finished in the league.

The bottom line: Romo still wants to play. And there’s a possibility he plays again for the Cowboys before this is all over. But if he doesn’t, there are going to be a lot of bruised feelings this offseason. Especially if Romo decides he wants to take another championship crack elsewhere.

None of this is meant to suggest that Romo wasn’t sincere on Tuesday. If anything, his words galvanized the admiration that so many inside the franchise have for him. His ability to be raw, forthcoming and vulnerable – but still remain supportive – speaks to why so many admire him. And those who understand Romo best have had one consistent message about him in recent weeks. He’s happy for the franchise. He’s happy for his teammates. He’s happy for Jerry and the fan base. He understands what this season means to everyone.

But he’s also dealing with a specific agony that only elite athletes can understand. One where they know the clock is ticking on their career, feeling they can still lead and play at the highest levels, but also understanding that their most beneficial sacrifice in this moment is exactly that – sacrifice.[/restrict]