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How Cliff Avril changed the Dallas Cowboys and CBS broadcasting forever on a single sack

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NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril did not intend to hurt Tony Romo in the 2016 preseason when he took the quarterback down on the second play of the game. The butterfly effect results from that hit though have reached farther and wider (like off the field of football) than Avril, Romo, or anyone watching could have ever expected.

Most of those ripples are showing themselves on Tuesday, as Romo has announced his retirement from the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, while CBS confirmed that Romo will be replacing Phil Simms as the number one color commentator for the network alongside play-by-play veteran Jim Nantz. And for that we say: Thank you, Cliff.

A broken bone in Romo’s back from that play forced him to miss the first part of the season, at which point the Cowboys were fully behind rookie Dak Prescott, who started the season 11-1 and finished with only four interceptions against 29 total touchdowns. Dallas’s offense ranked fifth in points and yards, and while they were not going to throw it nearly as much as they would under Romo, why should they even want to? The Cowboys had 2016’s leading rusher in rookie Ezekiel Elliott (1,631 yards, 15 touchdowns) and their defense finished fifth in points allowed because they weren’t having to take the field constantly because of turnovers or inefficiency on offense. By midseason it was apparent that Prescott should be Dallas’s quarterback for the next decade, so it was time for Romo to find another home.

Houston? New York? Denver? To the benefit of all other AFC teams, Romo’s final answer was: In the booth.

Though it sounds like Romo is open to a return to football at some point, and especially so if the Cowboys are the team that needs him, for now it looks like the last memory most will have of him on the field will be Avril’s meaningless preseason sack against an offensive line that was never supposed to allow those types of things to happen. Romo entered a Week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles and went 3-for-4 with a touchdown, but that’s a memory probably stored solely for the Dallas faithful and not the lasting image most will have. Most will remember what should have been or could have been, but a career that ultimately ends with a 2-4 playoff record and him being seriously injured in three of his last seven seasons.

Romo, fourth in career passer rating (Russell Wilson is second), was one of the best of his era. Now he just needs to surpass Phil Simms as a broadcaster, and to that I think we all say: He already has.