The Dallas Cowboys are all but certain to cut ties with Tony Romo this offseason, ending his 13-year run with America’s Team.
When he does inevitably move on from Dallas, he’ll have a handful of suitors, but the most likely landing spots by far are the Texans and Broncos. Both have a need at quarterback and have the cap space available to fit Romo’s salary. By landing him, each team would become an immediate Super Bowl contender, assuming he can stay healthy.
So which team is the better fit for Romo? We broke it down in 10 parts.
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Offensive line: Texans
The Texans didn’t have a great offensive line in 2016, but it was far better than Denver’s. The Broncos struggled to protect their quarterbacks last season, surrendering 40 sacks, which was the ninth-most in the NFL. The Texans, on the other hand, allowed just 32 sacks – 12th fewest in the league. Denver also let Russell Okung walk in free agency, leaving a hole at left tackle. The Texans have Duane Brown, who allowed just one sack all season. That’s the type of protection Romo needs. Not what Denver has to offer. With his injury history and fragility, Romo has to be able to stand upright in the pocket, otherwise he’ll be in danger of missing significant time.
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Both teams have terrific defenses. The Texans were first in yards allowed last season while Denver was fourth, despite Houston allowing nearly two points more per game. The loss of cornerback A.J. Bouye significantly hurts the Texans, even if they are getting J.J. Watt back in 2017.
Denver’s defense is elite from the defensive line all the way back to its safeties. And at cornerback, the Broncos are more loaded than any team in the NFL. Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby give them arguably the best trio around.
The defense doesn’t have a direct impact on Romo’s play, but if you watched the Cowboys for the past five years, you’ll understand how much it can help a quarterback. Remember the shootout Romo lost to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in 2013 when the Cowboys put up 48 points? Dallas had no defense.
Wide receivers: Toss-up
This is a coin flip. The Broncos have savvy veterans in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but Houston’s core of young receivers includes DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. The Texans have more explosive playmakers on the outside, but Fuller and Miller are relatively unproven as consistent receivers up to this point.
The potential is greater in Houston, but Romo knows what he’s getting in Denver. Thomas is a big possession receiver with good speed, whereas Sanders can win on underneath routes out of the slot. Regardless of which team he (potentially) goes to, Romo is going to have a strong group of receivers.
Coaching staff: Texans
Had Gary Kubiak still been in Denver, the Broncos would have gotten the nod here. Unfortunately, he suddenly stepped away from coaching, giving way to Vance Joseph as the new head coach. It’s not that Joseph isn’t a good coach, but he’s a defensive guy. Coordinator Mike McCoy has a strong grasp of the offense, but he’s also in his first year with the Broncos.
Bill O’Brien will call plays for the Texans this season, which would be a good thing for Romo. He has a good understanding of Houston’s offense and has a track record of getting the most out of quarterbacks – with the exception of Brock Osweiler, of course.
Ultimately, it comes down to Romo being more comfortable with a veteran offensive coach over a rookie who’s only been on the defensive side of the ball.
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Fan base: Broncos
When it comes to fan bases, there’s no doubt Houston’s is growing. However, there are far fewer Texans fans than there are Broncos supporters. The Broncos have a huge following all across the country, which is something the Texans don’t have. Heck, there’s often a great deal of Cowboys gear being sold in Houston throughout the year.
Romo would bring more fans to Houston, but he would be revered in Denver much like the way Peyton Manning was when he came over from the Colts. Broncos fans would fall in love with Romo and support him through thick and thin. Texans fans would probably do the same, but on a far smaller scale.
Romo has roots in Texas. He has two kids with a third on the way, and uprooting them to flee for another city will be hard enough. Moving his family to Denver would be infinitely harder than it would be to move them four hours away to Houston. Keeping his family in the Lone Star State would be a huge win for Romo.
In addition to staying close to his current home, Houston’s conditions are far better than Denver’s. The Texans play in a dome, as do the AFC South rival Colts. The Titans are a fair-weather team, and the Jaguars play in sunny Florida. That’s 11 games Romo will play in relatively good weather, compared to having to play in snowy Denver and freezing Kansas City nine times a year.
Romo isn’t young anymore, and playing in ideal conditions could certainly lengthen his career.
Front office: Broncos
The Broncos have one of the best front offices in the league. John Elway is the mastermind behind it all, consistently showing the ability to lure big-name free agents. Elway would make sure Romo had the supporting cast he needed to succeed in Denver, and though I don’t doubt Rick Smith would do the same in Houston, Elway has a better track record. This probably isn’t as important as the other factors because of the fact that Romo’s stay would likely be short, but it is worth mentioning.
Path to the Super Bowl: Texans
This comes down to which teams Romo will have to face on a potential path to the Super Bowl. It was also the easiest category to choose. The AFC South consists of the Colts, Jaguars and Titans, who combined to win 20 games in 2016. The Broncos, on the other hand, have to go through the gauntlet known as the AFC West.
The Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders won 29 games combined last season, which doesn’t even include Denver’s 9-7 record. It was arguably the best division in the NFL, and it’s only going to get tougher. The Raiders are loaded again with Derek Carr coming back from injury, the Chargers will be healthy again, and the Chiefs are always contenders out West. It’d be far easier for Romo to nab a division title with the Texans than it would be with the Broncos, and it’s not even close.
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Running game: Texans
When C.J. Anderson went down with an injury last season, the Broncos’ offense took a hit. They finished 27th in rushing compared to eighth for the Texans, who have Lamar Miller as a staple in the backfield. Anderson is expected to be healthy next season, but he’s never rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season and has just 19 career starts. With Denver’s offensive line looking a bit suspect, there’s no guarantee he’ll be a consistent threat out of the backfield.
In Miller, the Texans have a do-it-all back. He can be a home run threat, run between the tackles and catch passes as a receiver. He rushed for 1,073 yards in just 14 games last season after surpassing 1,000 yards in 2014 with the Dolphins. If he gets a consistent workload, he can be a perennial Pro Bowler for the Texans. He’d help Romo greatly, much as DeMarco Murray did in 2014.
What was Peyton Manning’s legacy before he went to Denver? He was often viewed as a surefire Hall of Famer who failed in the postseason. With the Broncos, he made it to two Super Bowls, winning one, and cemented his place as an all-time great. That second championship did wonders for his standing in NFL history, putting to rest the claims that he couldn’t get it done when it mattered most.
If Romo were to go to the Broncos and win a Super Bowl, it might be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. That doesn’t mean his legacy would be diminished by winning one in Houston, but there’s a certain aura about winning a ring with the Broncos under the watch of John Elway.
Matthew EmmonsMatthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
By this scientific breakdown, the Texans are the better fit for Tony Romo. All that's left is for the Cowboys to set this whole thing in motion. Your move, Jerry.