ARLINGTON, Texas – Jerry Jones spent much of the offseason expressing regret over not drafting Heisman winner Johnny Manziel when he had the chance in May. That was before his $100 million quarterback Tony Romo threw three interceptions in the first half of a season-opening 28-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a wonder he wasn’t in tears after the game.
It was a pitiful showing by an offense that was supposed the Cowboys’ only salvation. And just like last season, Romo appeared to be checking out of running plays at the worst-possible moments. The 49ers were the benefactors of Romo’s overbearing nature. Any thought that new playcaller Scott Linehan might rein in Romo was gone by halftime.
"I could’ve seen us playing like this on defense," Jerry said in a moment of honesty.
He chose his words carefully with Romo, but he doesn’t think his poor performance Sunday was related to his only taking 50 snaps in the preseason and skipping several practices in training camp. You could tell the Cowboys owner was shocked to see his team’s supposed strength go so horribly wrong. It also had to surprise him to see Niners fans pretty much take over AT&T Stadium, although he said he needed to gather "data" before making any comment.
"I thought we could be more competitive out there," Jones said. "We are not good enough to come back from that bad of a start. And we won’t come back from that kind of start."
Jerry made some comparison to falling behind to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (1994 season), but that team had the firepower to fight back. This 2014 outfit spotted the 49ers a touchdown early in the game and then watched its quarterback make three critical mistakes. The Cowboys were poised to answer the 49ers’ first score, but Romo checked out of a running play on second-and-1 from the San Francisco 2-yardline and was sacked for a 9-yard loss. After an incomplete pass on third down, the Cowboys settled for a field goal.
"Yeah, I don’t want to get into how the plays were called or not called," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "We felt like we tried to put our team in the best situation down there inside the red zone and we didn’t convert that opportunity early on."
Fortunately, the Cowboys’ owner was much more forthcoming. Trailing 21-3 early in the second quarter, the Cowboys had a first-and-goal at the 49ers’ 5-yardline. Despite his early fumble, DeMarco Murray had gashed the Niners on the drive. But Romo once again checked out of a run call and lofted the ball toward tight end Jason Witten. The ball hung in the air long enough for linebacker Patrick Willis to make an easy interception in the end zone. Dwayne Harris appeared to be wide open on the play.
"I was disappointed in the way I played in the first half," Romo said. "That’s not the way you want to play. I didn’t play well enough to have a chance tonight, and any time you play against a good team like that, you can’t give them extra opportunities. Three plays in the game can change the entire game, and that’s what happened tonight."
This was supposed to be a game where San Francisco was actually vulnerable. They’re playing without two of their top defensive players and starting defensive end Ray McDonald was recently arrested on domestic abuse charges. None of this mattered because Romo played so poorly.
Whether or not his poor play can be attributed to lack of preparation isn’t that important. When he plays like he did Sunday, the Cowboys don’t have any chance.
And if this offense doesn’t turn things around in a hurry, hopping back on the 8-8 train is a pipe dream. This had the look of a 4-12 team, and that might be generous.
Jerry knows that Johnny isn’t coming to the rescue. And while we’re at it, I’d rule out Brandon Weeden too.
Next up is a trip to Nashville to face a Titans team that just trucked the Chieft in Kansas City. Best of luck with that.