Tony Romo’s return from an in-game injury during Monday’s overtime thriller between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins could have cost the Cowboys more than just a win.
Romo, less than a year removed from back surgery and without warming up, returned after missing 20 minutes to replace backup Brandon Weeden after Weeden pulled the Cowboys even.
Romo’s toughness against a Redskins team that poses no real threat to Dallas’ NFC East lead is admirable from a football standpoint, though one can question the decision to replace a heating-up Weeden after an impressive drive. From a financial perspective, however, this was an unnecessary risk.
Pulling out a win with two minutes to go wouldn’t have directly impacted the value of the game. Seats had already been purchased – at 42 percent below Cowboys home game average due to the poor quality of the opposition – and it’s unlikely that Romo would have boosted the already impressive TV ratings; Monday’s game had a 12.1 rating, the highest since 2010.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated that the injury is not season-ending although pain management will affect the quarterback’s play for the duration of the season. Romo is key to the Cowboys’ success, so risking greater injury on top of continued pain was financially irresponsible. Romo and his teammates have playoff performance bonuses, with up to $180,000 guaranteed for a Super Bowl win, not to mention playoff exposure that could lead to endorsements or contract negotiation leverage.
The franchise, on the other hand, would lose even more if its playoff hopes died with a Romo season-ending injury. Playoff ticket sale revenue goes straight to the NFL, but continuing its winning ways could help the team sell out AT&T Stadium and keep seats away from visiting fans who are less likely to spend in-stadium than Cowboys fans.
Playoff games generate millions in concessions and parking, but the big value for “America’s Team” comes from merchandise sales. The Cowboys opted out of merchandise revenue sharing in 2002, so any sales boost is revenue for the team. More games means more opportunities to entice fans to buy merchandise in-stadium, and winning generates sales outside the stadium, too.
A winning season and playoff run would help guarantee sustainable popularity for the team, allowing it to raise ticket prices, sell more merchandise and increase the value of its sponsorship and media rights. That’s a lot more valuable than one win against the Redskins, which didn’t happen anyway.