The Dallas Cowboys are surely a team in transition heading into the 2016 season. More than the latest injury to franchise quarterback Tony Romo, the transition exists on both sides of the ball.

Rookie No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott will be tasked with leading the charge on offense. Selecting a running back that high anticipates that he’s going to perform up to the level of the Adrian Peterson’s of the world.

Elliott himself expects this, even as a rookie.

That’s only magnified in an NFL where running backs have become marginalized to an extent.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s more a crap shoot than anything else. Sure Dallas has some youngsters, but none of them have carved out a niche at this point.

Is Byron Jones best suited to play safety or corner?

Will rookie second-round pick Jaylon Smith rebound from the devastating knee injury he suffered late last season at Notre Dame?

How will the team’s pass rush perform with both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended to start the season?

Even if Romo were to return healthy prior to the midway point of the season, Dallas simply doesn’t have the look of a true contender in the NFC. Heck, with how much the New York Giants and Washington Redskins improved in the NFC East, a division title seems like a long shot.

What’s the point in keeping up with a facade that’s seen your team earn a playoff spot once in the past six seasons?

It’s readily apparent — no matter the talent these players possess — that the Cowboys’ aging core isn’t going to compete with the big boys in the NFC.

This isn’t a knock on Romo. He’s been a tremendous quarterback and leader for an otherwise fledgling franchise.

It’s also unfair to place the blame on Dallas’ lack of playoff success on Romo. Sure he’s contributed to some damning losses, but football is a team sport. The entire use of “quarterback wins” is absolutely absurd in a sport where 22 individuals are on the field at a given time.

None of these excuses should change the direction Dallas decides to head moving forward. We can be Romo apologists until the day we leave this planet. That doesn’t disable our ability to understand that the jig is up here.

Dallas isn’t contending in 2016. Dallas likely won’t be in contention next season. Is there really a point in continuing to throw an injury-plagued 36-year-old quarterback to the wolves?

Following Romo’s latest injury, our very own Jesse Reed called on him to retire. In that excellent piece, the scribe made a couple valid points.

“This is the third time in four years that Romo’s back has been a problem, and it’s been four straight years now in which he has been seriously injured,” Reed wrote.

This is when you have to start looking past the football player and stop with the on-field critiques. Romo has dealt with multiple back and collarbone injuries in his career.

Football isn’t a requirement. Players are free to retire when they see fit. We’ve seen it a great deal in recent years — players under the age of 30 calling it quitsto preserve their long-term health.

Not that Romo himself is willing to put an end to his football career. Here’s a guy that came back from a fractured collarbone much earlier than he should have last season. He then re-injured the collarbone in his first game back.

It’s time Dallas makes the decision for him. Place the veteran on season-ending injured reserve and release him this upcoming spring.

Should Romo then decide to latch on to another team, he’d be the only one to blame for another serious injury.

From a Cowboys perspective, moving on from their all-time leading passer makes a ton of sense. Give the keys to the kingdom to Dak Prescott.

Deal with the learning curves that come with starting a rookie mid-round pick. Improve your ability to contend into the future. Think about the long term.

It’s an MO that has not necessarily defined the Cowboys’ philosophy under aging owner Jerry Jones. That makes sense. Jones has given everything to this organization. He definitely wants to see his team have success before he parts this life.

But at what point does that mentality lead to continued on-field struggles? Are the Cowboys there yet? We’d argue they surely are.

In order to move forward, you need to forget about the past. It’s in this that Jones has failed his organization.

With Prescott, Elliott, Bryant and an elite offensive line, the Cowboys could contend in short order.

Rebuild that defense from the ground up, and the future might very well be bright. It’s a future that should not include throwing Romo out there to be injured once again under the guise of short-term contention.

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