ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's time to move on.
The Dallas Cowboys need to plan their exit strategy from quarterback Tony Romo today or they're going to be stuck in the same situation they were in when Troy Aikman retired after the 2000 season.
After Aikman retired, the Cowboys turned to guys like Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe to lead them.
Bledsoe and Testaverde were past their primes. The rest weren't good enough.
The Cowboys had a flawed plan.
That can't happen again.
Romo is a good quarterback, but Sunday's game against the New York Giants was an example of why you can't rely on him long-term. Romo rallied his team from a 23-point deficit to take a lead that would have been the biggest comeback victory in franchise history. Instead, the Giants won 29-24.
Romo threw four interceptions. It took him a career-high 62 passing attempts to amass 437 yards. His quarterback rating was 58.3.
He completed passes to five different players and targeted three others. For as good as he was, Romo was inconsistent, too. He missed open receivers James Hanna and Miles Austin in the end zone for scores. He was short on throws to Dez Bryant and Austin. But he made wonderful plays, too.
He tossed a touchdown pass to John Phillips while shaking off the defender. He found best friend Jason Witten 18 times for 167 yards to get the offense going. Romo kept fighting most of the day. He was knocked down a season-high eight times and sacked four times.
The turnovers are not completely on him, but he's got to do a better job with the football. On the season, he has nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He's regressing. The Cowboys won't admit it, and that's fine, they don't have to. The fans can see it, as they booed their quarterback when he came back onto the field in the first half after one of his turnovers had resulted in a Giants score.
"I would've booed us, too," Romo said. "We deserved it at that time. We did not start the game the way we wanted to."
The Cowboys can't replace Romo right away. There is nobody on the roster -- nothing personal, Kyle Orton -- who can become the next elite quarterback.
Romo was working on a contract extension early this season and stopped the proceedings. He didn't want the contract talks becoming a distraction. It was a smart decision, but he's got one year left on his deal. The Cowboys should extend him, but give him no more than two years.
If he wants more, tell him to test the market.
Forget about getting someone who will become a free agent next spring. Draft a new quarterback.
The problem is that the Cowboys do just well enough to miss out on getting a high draft pick.
So there's no telling who's going to be around next April. Geno Smith? Matt Barkley? Landry Jones? Mike Glennon?
There are some juniors who could make themselves available. Logan Thomas? Tyler Bray? Derek Carr?
The NFL isn't easy. Not supposed to be.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked if he considered benching his quarterback in the midst of a maddening first quarter in which two of Romo's interceptions led to 10 points.
"Absolutely not," Garrett said.
What gives you confidence?
"Just watching him play football for the last five years," Garrett said. "He's an outstanding football player and I think everybody saw that. He did a great job of overcoming a lot of different things in this game. We became one-dimensional because of their commitment to stop the run, and I thought he did a great job giving us a chance to win the game at the end."
Despite all the turnovers, Romo had the Cowboys in position for a potential game winner. He made a terrific throw to Bryant in the end zone with seconds remaining. Bryant made the catch but was ruled out of bounds.
Romo didn't get outplayed by Eli Manning on Sunday. But Manning won the game for his team and has them in first place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys had the right man for the job in 2006 when Romo became the starting quarterback. But now it's time for a change.