As far as the NFL’s alignment of franchises is concerned, the Cowboys and Texans aren’t rivals. As far as the people living in Dallas and Houston are concerned, they are. And that reality could be one of the reasons for the decision of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to slam the brakes on the plan to release Romo.
From the moment the news emerged that Romo would be released (the post-hoc spin is that he was only told he won’t be on the roster in 2017), the reaction among the Dallas media was swift and intense and it became clear that the release wouldn’t be the end of a new era of Romo-centric coverage in the Dallas area but the beginning.
So spin it forward. Romo exits Dallas and lands in Houston. And then every outlet in Dallas assigns at least one reporter to cover Romo’s year(s) in Houston, forcing America’s Team to share eyeballs and ears in its own hometown with the other team from Texas.
Spin it even farther forward. The Texans surge with a healthy Romo, becoming one of the best teams in the AFC. The Cowboys, defense drained by free agency and offense undermined by possible sophomore slumps of Dak Prescott and/or Ezekiel Elliott, regress to the mean. Cowboys fans would be tempted to set aside their silver and blue for the balance of the year and become temporary fans of Romo and the Texans.
That wouldn’t be good for business. And Jerry Jones is all about making good business decisions.
Couldn’t his concerns be handled via the wink-nod “do-right” approach that the team and the player are supposed to be adopting? This would require Jones to ask Romo not to play for the Texans. And there’s a good chance that request eventually would make its way to the media. Which would prove that Jones is worried about a Houston uprising diluting Dallas interest in the Cowboys.
For Jones, creating the impression that he actually cares about the Texans becoming more popular in Dallas and more successful overall could be worse than either thing happening. So he has instead squatted on Romo, waiting for a trade offer that may never materialize, and perhaps hoping an offer never comes from Houston.
I’ve believed for the last week that Jones hopes an offer will be made to him at the upcoming league meetings in Arizona. The truth could be that Jones plans in Phoenix to make a team like the Broncos a low-ball, face-saving offer that gets the Cowboys some marginal value for Romo — and that ensures he’ll never play for the Houston Texans.