It’s August again and thus, the perfect time to begin our wild speculation about the prospects of our favorite NFL team- The Dallas Cowboys.
One of the greatest things about sports is the passionate and opinionated fans, endlessly debating every piece of minutiae regarding the sporting news of the day.
Last week, in an otherwise polite conversation, a Cowboys contrarian informed me that the beloved Silver and Blue will never win anything of importance until we are rid of Tony Romo. I sighed deeply, unfortunately familiar to this line of argument, even from otherwise die-hard Cowboys fans, and one by one, we went through his objections.
Tony Romo throws too many interceptions.
Without looking at any stats, what would you say Romo’s TD/INT ratio for last season was? I mean, we all know how much Romo loves to give the ball away to the other team, right?
*Romo had the 2nd fewest INT for QB’s with 500 or more Pass Attempts, behind only Aaron Rodgers.
Wait. He threw 3 TD’s to every 1 INT in 2011?
He was 4th in the NFL in QB Rating, which is a statistic that has long been decried to favor dink and dunk passers, had the 2nd fewest interceptions of all full-time starters, and yet he was still 7th in yards per completion.
Tony Romo has been repeatedly compared to Brett Favre over his career because of his ability to improvise when plays break down and his predilection for breathtaking scoring plays. This comparison was also made to invoke the absolutely ridiculous and bone headed mistakes Favre became infamous for at the end of his career. Surely he must be pretty good if he’s able to average almost 2 TD passes per game and still take care of the ball.
The reality is that Romo found a balance between the home run play and managing the offense. Despite having a young and unproven offensive line, Romo put up excellent numbers last year.
Ok, so he pads his stats in the first half and then blows it in the 4th Quarter, right?
Wrong. I’ve been guilty of wrongly assessing this part of the argument as well, because a loss by last minute turnover is a truly heartbreaking affair and has the profound and instantaneous effect to turn the most jacked up fanatic to a jaded one in moments. Let’s set the emotion aside and refer to the facts.
He only threw 2 interceptions in 152 attempts in the 4th Quarter and Overtime combined. That gives him a 5-1 TD-INT ratio, which is even higher than his already gaudy 3-1 average for the whole season. The stats just do not bear out the perception that Romo blows games in the 4th Quarter.
So why do we think that? This misconception is largely due to untimely turnovers early in his career and the two 4th Quarter interceptions last year did come in meltdown losses to the Jets and the Lions, but you also need to consider that both of those games occurred in Week 4 or earlier. That means from Week 5 and on, he didn’t throw a single interception in the 4th Quarter. Next.
Tony Romo always falls apart in December and January.
*The Cowboys only played 1 game in January; 1/1/12 VS. The Giants
I wonder if you’re beginning to notice a pattern emerging here. How long have we been hearing these same arguments? Are they relevant anymore?
I want you look very carefully at that table. The month of December was Romo’s highest rated month of the whole season last year. In the last month (including the Giants game on 1/1) of the season, he threw 10 TD’s and 1 INT, but that’s not the only statistic that sticks out to me.
In December and January combined, Tony Romo was sacked on 11.3% of his Pass Attempts. Despite this alarmingly high rate, let’s remember that he had a 10 to 1 TD/INT ratio during this same timeframe. Despite repeatedly ending up on his back play after play, he still took care of the ball and scored prolifically.
What do all these stats mean? It means that many of the hard feelings and reservations about Romo’s performance are antiquated and only derived from emotion. Earlier in Tony Romo’s career, some of the knocks on him may have been true, but as he’s gotten older and more experienced, his performance late in the game and deep into the season has improved to an elite level. It is very difficult to be quarterback for America’s Team, but I think the undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois has done remarkably well.
Tony Romo is a good quarterback statistically, but he is not a great quarterback/leader.
Unfortunately for this one, I don’t have a table to dispel the idea. The concept of what a leader is, and its corresponding importance to football productivity, is so nebulous as to be rendered virtually meaningless. I think that those of us that are in love with the sport have been weaned on the larger-than-life epic presentation of NFL Films, and have romanticized the quarterback position.
From the dawn of humanity, we have passed on tales of heroics against all odds and revered the men who seize the day at its most crucial moment; that transcend their own mortal constraints. They become larger than life, emblazing their legacy into the annals of history, and freezing that momentary triumph forever. Football is a game of inches and seconds, and those that rivet us and reward our attention with greatness live on forever… until they don’t anymore. Talent fades. Moments pass.
I don’t think the ever-discussed closing window has closed on Tony Romo just yet.