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Randy Hollis: Cowboys wisely keeping Prescott at QB, and Romo on sidelines

And now, for the four words that most Dallas Cowboys fans had feared to hear the most this season:

Tony Romo is back.

And the four words they thankfully heard from the Cowboys' brain trust this past week: He's our backup quarterback.

Yes, Romo, their franchise QB who held the reins to the Cowboys' offense for a decade, has returned to the team's active list after suffering a fractured bone in his back during the preseason and missing their first nine regular-season games.

Typically, any NFL team would love to have a guy like Romo — a four-time Pro Bowl pick who has thrown for over 34,000 yards and nearly 250 touchdowns in his career — back under center, running their offense.

But the Cowboys were faced with a quandary.

Dak Prescott, an unheralded rookie QB who stepped in as their starter after Romo's latest injury — the veteran signal-caller missed 12 games last season with a broken collarbone — has been downright dynamic in helping lead Dallas to an NFC-best 8-1 record entering Sunday's game against Baltimore.

So the burning question arose and grew in intensity with each passing week: When Romo returned, did Dallas owe it to him to give the aging QB back the starting job he'd held since 2006?

This would be based on that age-old sports adage that insists no player should ever lose his starting spot because of an injury.

(It's in that same dust-covered book with such well-worn sports sayings as "the best offense is a good defense," "it was a total team effort" and "we'll take 'em one game at a time.")

Or, in defying that sports adage, would the Cowboys stick with the hot hand and keep Prescott, whose passer rating ranks among the NFL's best, as their starting QB?

Obviously, Prescott's experience and resume pale in comparison to the 36-year-old Romo's. But with the way the Cowboys have been playing, would they dare gamble on messing with their momentum by making a change at the most important position on the field?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was once adamant that Romo would get his job back once he was healthy again, began waffling about the situation when his team continued to win each week.

And as Prescott continued to guide the Dallas offense to victory after victory, eight straight entering Sunday's game, Jones finally came to his senses and announced a few days ago that Romo would indeed be the team's backup QB.

Upon his return, Romo himself showed a great deal of class by saying that keeping Prescott in the starting lineup was definitely the best thing for the team to do.

And Cowboys fans everywhere let loose with a huge sigh of relief.

"With the way Prescott was playing, I thought there was no way that Romo was going to get his job back,” said Northern Utah resident Tyler Charlesworth, a lifelong Cowboys fan who as a second job officiates Snow College and weekly high school football games, including Friday's East-Springville 4A state championship matchup.

"Prescott has been amazing with what he's done so far as a rookie. I mean he's in the top two or three in the MVP talk. He's just a smart football player who plays within his means, and he uses that big offensive line and that new running back (fellow rookie star Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for a league-leading 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns) to take care of him and the team."

Along with a possible Super Bowl championship for "America's Team," Charlesworth hopes things will work out for the best for both Dallas quarterbacks.

"If it was a perfect world, I would love to see the Cowboys go deep in the playoffs," he said. "I don't want to see Dak get hurt, but have something happen where maybe he gets dinged up and can't go, and Romo comes in and leads the team to victory. Then he could sign somewhere else if he wanted, and we'll have the new Tom Brady.

"One thing for sure is Romo is such a class act. The way he has handled this entire situation, and his speech last week, should be taught and shown to all young athletes. Not just athletes, but all of us could learn some things from him about how to deal with adversity in our lives.”

It's not the first time an NFL team has had to deal with this delicate dilemma, and it certainly won't be the last.

Back in 2012, the San Francisco 49ers faced a similar situation. Alex Smith, the former University of Utah star signal-caller, was having the best year of his NFL career when he was sidelined midway through the season with a concussion. The Niners' record stood at 6-2 at the time of Smith's injury.

Collin Kaepernick — who was still willing to stand up for the national anthem at that time — took over at QB, and the Niners continued to win.

Because I'd gotten to know Smith a little bit while covering the Utes' team when he led them to an undefeated BCS-busting season in 2004, I was hoping he'd get his starting job back when he was cleared to play. But it never happened.

When Smith returned a couple of weeks later, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh chose to keep Kaepernick in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season, and the 49ers wound up reaching the Super Bowl before losing.

Smith was subsequently traded during the offseason to the Kansas City Chiefs, where his career has since flourished.

Hopefully, the Cowboys' situation will work itself out in similar fashion.

Prescott will continue to show what he can do in a career that's seemingly destined for stardom. And Romo will get one last chance to play again in a Dallas uniform and do something terrific — maybe even contribute to a playoff win or a Super Bowl title — before he hangs ’em up for good.

Yeah, I know. That type of fairy-tale ending usually only happens in … fairy tales.

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com