Each year sports analysts take a look at quarterback stats and what accomplishments they have made in previous seasons in order to make a list of elite quarterbacks. The list is always in flux. There are always those quarterbacks who make the list each year like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. Then there are those that play their way on or off it depending on the year. Elite quarterbacks are those that make the team around them better, are constantly under the microscope, and each year put their team in the best possible position to succeed. Without an elite quarterback on your team you usually go from year to year hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst. Another surefire way to know if you have an elite quarterback or not is if they go down with an injury and are lost for an extensive period of time, the team as a whole suffers greatly and wins are hard to come by. We have seen great examples of this in recent seasons. Let’s take a look at what exactly an elite quarterback is and if our own Tony Romo falls under the described categories.
The question of whether Tony Romo is an elite quarterback or not is one that causes all kinds of rifts with analysts and fans alike. Being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys puts you in the spotlight, and in turn you are subjected to all kinds of ridicule and over-analyzing. Romo is a good sport about all the prying questions and the constant leadership questions he endures each season. I think both of these things comes from his natural cool-headed nature, which could, or could not, be characteristics of an elite quarterback.
So what is an elite quarterback? How do you know if you have one or not? What stats or characteristics determine if a quarterback is elite or just really good? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves before deciding if Romo is elite or if he is just good or average.
In order to properly classify Romo as elite or not we’ll need to define what elite is. The term elite is defined as the best or most skilled members of a group. Pretty basic definition, and Romo is by far the best quarterback on the Cowboys’ roster as well as one of the top ten in the league, so let’s dig a little deeper. In order to be elite it takes more than one key characteristic. A quarterback can be a good passer, but if he isn’t orchestrating comebacks, winning games, or even winning division titles, he can never be considered elite because without doing these things obviously you’re not in playoff contention. Check, check and check for Romo. On the reverse side of the coin you cannot be considered elite if you fail in crunch-time, loose games, or finish in the division basement on a consistent basis. I hate to say it, but Romo has failed in crunch-time and has been the blame for certain games that were well in hand in the second half that ended up in the loss column. In Romo’s defense, this is a team sport, and without 10 other guys on offense and the defense doing their jobs on a consistent basis, it doesn’t matter how well the quarterback performs, the team as a whole will most likely lose.
Because of some of these obvious flaws, I cannot give Romo the “elite” tag. He is a very good quarterback, and one of the top in the league, like I’ve stated before, but he is missing one key attribute. He fails to perform in the December and January big games. For this reason I would classify quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, and it sickens me to say this, Ben Roethlisberger as elite quarterbacks, and Romo would fall in the rung right below them. These three (Flacco, Rivers, and Roethlisberger) have taken their teams to the playoffs, won games, made it to conference championship games, and in the case of Roethlisberger, won championships. Romo has failed to any of these. He has one playoff win in three attempts and he owns a 11-21 record in December and January, playoffs included. Not very flattering statistics when you’re looking for an elite quarterback.
There is still hope for Romo though. Look at what he does on the field and the numbers he puts up regularly. Last season he completed 66.3% of his passes, he passed for 4,184 yards and threw 31 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions which gives him a 102.5 passer rating. These numbers put him fourth in the entire league in terms of overall quarterback rating. Only Brady, Brees, and Aaron Rodgers performed at a higher level. If stats were the only thing we took into account, Romo would be a shoe-in as an elite quarterback.
Along with the numbers, Romo has the intangibles. He is elusive, he has a strong arm, a quick release, and he has all the weapons in the world around him. With talented, young players like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and DeMarco Murray, and a savvy veteran tight end in Jason Witten, Romo should be putting up big numbers like he does each year. Along with the weapons around him, we’ve seen in the past he has the ability to come from behind and win games. Obviously this needs to be shown on a more consistent basis, but the skills are there and I believe by building the defense line, secondary, and offensive line into proficient units, we will be able to see more wins in December and January, and less collapses in winnable games.
So Cowboys fans keep the faith. The skill set is there and Romo still has time to turn things around and become the elite quarterback we’ve all been craving since Troy Aikman hung up his helmet in 2001.