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The current state of the NFL raises questions about college coaches, Tony Romo’s career and how his retirement impacts the Steelers

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There is a lot of stuff going on in the NFL, and believe it or not, Tony Romo’s retirement could impact the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Romo’s career is difficult to contextualize.

The defining moment of his career, arguably, was a botched snap against Seattle that cost Dallas a trip to Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs. And that’s a shame, because Tony Romo is one of the best quarterbacks of his generation.

His remarkable career statistics—34,183 passing yards, 248 touchdown passes, 97.1 lifetime QB rating (behind only Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady among active players)—are seemingly outweighed by his inability to deliver Dallas a Super Bowl.

It’s almost inconceivable to think now, but for the vast majority of Romo’s career, he played behind one of the NFL’s most porous offensive lines and was among the league’s most frequently sacked quarterbacks. After adding Zack Martin in the 2014 NFL Draft, Dallas had the final piece to its All-World line, and Romo flourished as a result. Aided by the NFL’s best rushing attack, Romo had an MVP-caliber season in 2014, posting career highs in completion percentage, QB rating, touchdown percentage and yards per attempt to go along with 3,705 yards and 34 touchdowns.

Then, just three quarters into the first game of the 2015 season, Dez Bryant, Romo’s top receiver, broke his foot. In the Cowboys’ very next game, Romo broke his collarbone after being sacked by Jordan Hicks. Romo missed the next six weeks, returning to face Miami in Week 11. The very next week, Romo re-injured his collarbone against Carolina, ending his season.

A healthy Romo was expected to lead a very talented Dallas team in 2016, but he was again injured, this time in the preseason. Rookie Dak Prescott seized that opportunity, which he never relinquished, effectively ending Romo’s career as a Cowboy.

It was a swift end to what had been one of the most polarizing careers in league history. Few players have encapsulated the hero and goat role quite like Romo, who has 117 interceptions and 33 game-winning drives (the 17th-most of all-time) to his name. I would argue that the only thing that sets Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger apart from Romo is the postseason success enjoyed by the former. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowls—maybe more, by the time his career is over—which should make him a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, perhaps even on the first ballot. Romo, meanwhile, could be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history to not make the Hall of Fame. His Hall of Fame candidacy will be a hot topic of debate over the next five years (assuming, of course, that Romo doesn’t return to the NFL).

Romo, for now, will ride off into the sunset to accept a presumably lucrative gig at CBS as a broadcaster, where he will reportedly replace Phil Simms on the No. 1 network team with Jim Nantz. This move has been controversial in and of itself, as Bonnie Bernstein, one of the most accomplished sports journalists of all time, took exception to Romo’s promotion.

Having studied journalism (albeit in print form; I’m not pretty enough for broadcast), I see where Ms. Bernstein is coming from. On the other hand, Simms was once the new guy, too, and nothing they teach you in college is suitable to effectively supplement more than a dozen years of on-field experience.

Maybe Romo’s broadcast career will bear even more fruit than his playing career. For now, though, I am going to miss Tony Romo the football player.

Brian Kelly pulled another Brian Kelly

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly believes that former quarterback DeShone Kizer, a potential first-round pick in this month’s draft, should have returned to school to improve “on and off the field.”

Kelly is probably right. But, vocalizing that to a very public audience—one that includes dozens of talent evaluators who are currently tearing apart every aspect of Kizer’s life in search of red flags—certainly isn’t going to benefit Kizer’s draft stock, especially the “off-field” remark.

I understand that college coaches aren’t paid to champion former players as blue-chip professional prospects, but, come on, Brian Kelly, at least be Kizer’s advocate.

Then again, this is the same Brian Kelly who once stated that “coaching had nothing to do with the outcome of today’s game” after a 38-35 loss to Duke before calling out Kizer specifically for his “unacceptable” play. You live by the gun, you die by the gun, I suppose.

For context, even Skip Bayless said that Kelly was probably speaking out of turn on this one. SKIP. BAYLESS.

Romo’s retirement, I think, is good for the Steelers

The draft hasn’t even happened yet, so it’s definitely too early to starting calling paper champions. With that said, however, I’m pretty excited that Houston and Denver won’t have an opportunity to sign Romo.

If Houston, for example, landed Romo (as they were expected to do, considering they were apparently first on Romo’s wishlist), I think they, not Pittsburgh, may have been the biggest threat to New England in the AFC. Houston already had the best defense in the NFL last season without J.J. Watt, and they still have some solid offensive pieces in place, including Lamar Miller, Will Fuller, and All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins. Adding Romo to that group would’ve given the Texans an incredibly well-rounded roster capable not only of slowing down New England’s attack, but also keeping pace offensively. Remember, Houston advanced to the Divisional Round and gave New England a game for like one full half with BROCK OSWEILER (!) as their starting quarterback.

Denver is constructed quite similarly to Houston in the sense that they have solid skill players and a dominant defense. Needless to say, I’ll take Roethlisberger over Trevor Siemien or whoever Houston trots out there in Week 1.

Some miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t deserve an entire paragraph

  • The Ravens sent DT Timmy Jernigan and a third-round pick to the Eagles for their third-round pick, which now gives Baltimore four of the top 78 picks in the draft. This is a brilliant move, because signing NT Brandon Williams to a long-term deal basically made Jernigan expendable. Knowing that keeping Jernigan after 2017 was probably unlikely, Baltimore cashed their chips and bailed.
  • The Seahawks are apparently open to trading Richard Sherman. The Patriots obviously inquired about Sherman’s availability because of course they did. Will the Steelers take a look? Probably not, but it is worth mentioning that cutting Sherman next offseason would only incur like $2 million in dead money. Just sayin’.
  • I read some of your comments on the last column. I think there will be some movement with quarterbacks after the draft, but I still don’t think Kaepernick finds work right away. Bold prediction: Jay Cutler signed a deal before Kaepernick. If that happens, it will become pretty evident why Kaep is still unemployed.
  • Former players and their families are getting screwed by the legal system. In addition to the $112 million set aside for legal fees as part of a landmark $1 billion concussion settlement, lawyers who battled on behalf of the players are cashing in on their individual retainers, some of which are as high as 40 percent. These lawyers put a ton of time and effort into these cases, so they are entitled to a payout, but so, too, are the players and families dealing with the fallout from concussions. It’s just a messy issue all around.
  • I’m not really a hockey guy, but Pittsburgh over Columbus in six.