NEW ORLEANS – The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in an undesirable position: Good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but clearly not good enough to do any damage if they actually reached the postseason.
That's why the decision to bench Drew Bledsoe in favor of Tony Romo for Sunday's game against Carolina – and possibly the rest of the year – is the right move. As both New England and Buffalo found out before, there is no future with Bledsoe.
That point was underscored in the first half of Monday night's 36-22 loss to the Giants as Bledsoe struggled for the third time this season against a quality defense.
This kind of decision was brutally difficult and potentially divisive. On Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was at the NFL owners meeting and talked about the pending decision. His tone favored playing Bledsoe, but it was a tepid endorsement.
"I guess this is therapy to be here [Tuesday] to talk to nine or 10 others who had a rough Sunday," Jones said a day after his quarterbacks threw a combined four interceptions. "Normally, I'd be on Dallas' tallest building contemplating.
"We know the benefits of an experienced player like Drew Bledsoe, but we also know the benefits of a young player, a developing player for our franchise and that's a real dilemma … We've got to win games."
With Bledsoe, the Cowboys can win enough games. They are currently 3-3 and have a playoff-caliber defense, in the right circumstances. Against the likes of Houston, Tennessee and Washington, Bledsoe and the Cowboys have looked fine.
But against teams that can force wide receivers to run longer routes and then rush the passer, Bledsoe is an albatross. He has no internal clock and little sense of where the pass rush is coming from, the kind of key element that separates the talented from the great.
Jacksonville adjusted against Bledsoe in the opener and won going away. Philadelphia kept the pressure coming and the Giants followed suit. Furthermore, Bledsoe's tendency to hold the ball too long while reading the defense only highlights how poorly the Cowboys' offensive line protects him.
Then again, this is nothing new. The same thing happened in New England and Buffalo. It's the very reason that Bill Belichick, Parcells' friend and former pupil, decided to stay with an emerging Tom Brady even after Bledsoe had overcome injuries in the 2001 season.
Of course, this is not to say that Romo is the long-term answer. His performance on Monday was spectacularly good and bad as he threw two touchdown passes and three interceptions. He also suffered from a lack of protection, but deserves the fair test of not playing from behind.
In short, the Cowboys must find out what they have with Romo so that they can properly address the position as quickly as possible.
- Drew Bledsoe