Unless he’s a superhero, Tony Romo won’t be suiting up to play against the Eagles on Sunday to decide the NFC East title.
Dallas’ three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who was having his best season, underwent surgery Friday morning to repair a herniated disk in his back and has been ruled out (obviously) of Sunday night’s showdown against the Eagles at AT&T Stadium, coach Jason Garrett announced Friday. Garrett said Romo is "finished" for the season.
Sunday's winner will be the NFC East champion. The loser will be eliminated from postseason contention.
Veteran quarterback Kyle Orton will get the ball for Dallas, which is playing for the division title in the season finale for the third straight season. Orton has taken the first-team reps at practice this week.
Orton, in his second year with Dallas, has started 69 games in his career. He has a 35-34 record, along with a career 58.4 completion percentage and 79.7 passer rating. He hasn’t started a game since the 2011 season finale, a 7-3 win over the Broncos as Kansas City’s quarterback.
"We've been operating as if Kyle Orton is going to be our starting quarterback," Garrett said. "At the same time we were trying to do whatever we could to see if we could help Tony and get him back as quickly as possible. We just felt like this was the best course of action."
Cowboys tight Jason Witten praised Orton in during a conference call with Philadelphia-based reporters on Wednesday.
“Kyle, I can’t say enough positive things about him," Witten said. "He’s a veteran backup quarterback, he’s had a lot of starts in this league, a lot of success in this league. He’s constantly communicating with Tony and the other guys on the offense about the coverages and the fronts and plays, even when he was the backup.
"We've had two good practices so far preparing for the Eagles."
Romo’s status is hardly surprising. He injured his back in last Sunday’s game against the Redskins. Although he finished the game, reports surfaced Monday that he’d be unable to play against the Eagles.
"He might have had his finest hour against the Redskins last week, what he did at the end of that ballgame under the circumstances," Garrett said. "Pretty special."
On Thursday, Garrett said Romo hadn’t attended team meetings and that the coaches wouldn’t do anything to jeapordize Romo’s long-term health (see story).
The 33-year-old Romo, in his 11th season, was headed for his fourth Pro Bowl. His 31 touchdown passes are tied for third-most in the NFL and his 96.7 passer rating is seventh-best among starting quarterbacks. He was completing 64 percent of his passes and had thrown for 3,828 yards.
Garrett said Romo, who's already had one prior back surgery, is expected to make a 100 percent recovery, but the coach wasn’t sure if Romo would be ready by the start of training camp next summer.