Just as talented. Deal with it.

Tony Romo: Comeback King, Part I

Tony Romo is a schmuck who chokes in big games. That’s a fair assessment, right? After all, we’ve seen him botch the Seattle hold, throw picksixes, and most recently hand the 2012 division crown to the Redskins. So it’s not like we can blame the media or a vocal minority of microcephalic fans who sit around wondering why light bulbs burn out. It’s all verifiable; we see it with our own eyes!

Back in the off-season leading up to 2008, I made a nine-part video treatise stating Tony Romo was a franchise quarterback. Hey, I was right. I know that Norelco did the same thing on CBS 11 the next season, and I know it’s the article de jour for writers hither and thither when they’re facing a deadline and have writer’s block. But I feel I need to do it again, because Cowboys fans just don’t realize what a treasure we’ve got at quarterback.

Why do I say this when he’s only got a 1-3 playoff record, and this is a franchise with multiple Super Bowl champion quarterbacks? First off, playoff games and Super Bowl wins are team accomplishments. I know that appears as a copout, but following that line of logic would then put bus drivers like Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Jeff Hostetler, et al above guys like Dan Marino and Fran Tarkenton. Only someone who licks lead paint might come to that conclusion.

The fact of the matter is Tony Romo is as talented as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. For a career, Romo has a higher completion percentage, most touchdowns, most 300-yard games, and not even 100 picks. He’s set single-season records in completions, attempts, touchdowns, and yards. Yes, I know: stats don’t win championships, but stats are a scientific, quantitative indicator of the talent at the position.

I’m not going to preach to you about Tony Romo’s franchise best 95.6 career quarterback rating, which is 12.2 higher than Roger Staubach’s. Rather, we’re going to look at another statistic Romo is about to set a franchise best at: fourth quarter comebacks.

In this study, I looked at five Cowboys quarterbacks: Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Danny White, Troy Aikman, and Tony Romo. No one else has started more games in franchise history than these two. Each one of them has a minimum of 25 comeback attempts, which is a large enough sample size to gauge how “clutch” a quarterback is.

I went through every box score of the five quarterbacks mentioned, along with 24 other quarterbacks for comparison. How I determined whether a fourth quarter comeback was possible is if the final score was within 1-7 points in games from 1960-93 and 1-8 points from 1994-present. I made exceptions. Overtime games automatically counted as comebacks due to their sudden death implications. If a game ended with the opposition scoring as time expired or the quarterback was knocked out of the game, then I struck that from the quarterback’s count. So, for instance, I didn’t count the Immaculate Reception against Ken Stabler. However, I did count Super Bowl XXV against Jim Kelly because he failed to lead a comeback. His offense had to settle for a field goal rather than scoring a touchdown and beating the Giants. That’s on him, in the scope of this study.

If there was a picksix or defensive touchdowns that led to the team gaining and retaining the lead, then the quarterback wasn’t credited with a fourth quarter comeback attempt or win.

So how does Romo shape up?

 

MOST COMEBACK ATTEMPTS IN A SEASON

Tony Romo – 11 (2012)

Roger Staubach – 9 (1974)

Troy Aikman – 9 (1997)

Tony Romo – 9 (2011)

Don Meredith – 7 (1963)

 

MOST COMEBACK WINS IN A SEASON

Tony Romo – 5 (2012)

Roger Staubach – 4 (1975)

Roger Staubach – 4 (1979)

Danny White – 4 (1980)

Tony Romo – 4 (2011)

 

Did you catch that? In the past two seasons, Tony Romo has set top-5 performances in comeback attempts and comeback wins. If you knew your history, you would recognize 1974, when Roger Staubach set a personal best for 9 comeback attempts, as the year the Cowboys didn’t qualify for the playoffs. When you’re putting your quarterback in positions to pull out the win contest after contest, it’s unsustainable when trying to go deep into the playoffs. Look at the comeback attempts in a season table again. None of those teams qualified for postseason play.

In 1971, Roger Staubach only had to pull off a comeback twice, and twice more in 1977. On Troy Aikman’s Super Bowl teams, the most he had to pull off a comeback was four times in 1995. If the Cowboys had won Super Bowl X at the 1975 season’s conclusion, then Staubach would have had 8 comeback attempts for the season, the most for a Cowboys Super Bowl-winning team. But even Super Bowl X was a comeback attempt. You can’t keep asking your quarterback to pull off comebacks without him inevitably failing. And when you do ask, don’t say he’s a “choker.” It’s a team game. Here’s how Romo’s comeback attempts and wins compare career wise:

 

MOST CAREER COMEBACK ATTEMPTS

Troy Aikman: 48

Roger Staubach: 44

Tony Romo: 43

Danny White: 32

Don Meredith: 28

 

MOST CAREER COMEBACK WINS

Roger Staubach: 19

Tony Romo: 18

Troy Aikman: 17

Danny White: 16

Don Meredith: 7

 

Another element to my research was I looked at the leads given up by the Cowboys defense. The results probably won’t surprise Romo rooters, won’t convince Romophobes, but are nonetheless startling in a franchise context:

 

MOST LEADS GIVEN UP BY DEFENSE

Don Meredith – 5 (1963)

Tony Romo – 5 (2011)

Roger Staubach – 4 (1975)

Troy Aikman – 4 (1989)

Troy Aikman – 4 (1997)

 

This one right here is disgusting and proof positive of why Rob Ryan should have been fired. His defense gave up five fourth quarter leads, which tied a franchise best with a team that was four seasons removed from its inception. Play more:

 

LARGEST LEAD MARGIN SURRENDERED PER GAME

Troy Aikman: 6.2

Tony Romo: 6.2

Don Meredith: 6.2

Danny White: 6.1

Roger Staubach: 4.9

 

HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF LOSSES BEING BLOWN LEADS BY DEFENSE

Don Meredith: 57%

Danny White: 56%

Troy Aikman: 55%

Roger Staubach: 52%

Tony Romo: 52%

 

MOST 10+ LEADS BLOWN BY DEFENSE IN A SEASON

Tony Romo: 3 (2011)

Troy Aikman: 2 (1989)

Troy Aikman: 1 (1997)

Danny White: 1 (1984)

Roger Staubach: 1 (1976)

 

Again, another disgusting statistic: that’s one more game than the hapless 1-15 Cowboys.

Now, this is just trivia, in case you like that sort of thing:

 

MOST ROAD COMEBACKS

Roger Staubach: 11

Tony Romo: 10

Danny White: 8

Troy Aikman: 8

Drew Bledsoe: 4

 

BEST COMEBACK PERCENTAGE

Danny White: 50%

Roger Staubach: 43%

Tony Romo: 42%

Troy Aikman: 36%

Don Meredith: 25%

 

MOST 10+ LEADS BLOWN BY DEFENSE IN A CAREER

Tony Romo: 4

Troy Aikman: 4

Danny White: 1

Roger Staubach: 1

Don Meredith: 1

 

BEST OVERTIME RECORD

Tony Romo 5-3

Troy Aikman: 5-4

Roger Staubach: 3-1

Danny White: 2-2

Drew Bledsoe: 1-1

 

MOST OVERTIME GAMES IN A SEASON

Tony Romo: 2-1 (2012)

Tony Romo: 2-1 (2011)

Drew Bledsoe: 1-1 (2005)

Troy Aikman: 1-1 (2000)

Danny White: 1-1 (1987)

 

MOST OVERTIME GAMES IN A TWO-YEAR SPAN

Tony Romo: 4-2 (2011-12)

Troy Aikman: 2-1 (1999-00)

Roger Staubach: 2-0 (1977-78)

Troy Aikman: 1-1 (1993-94)

Danny White: 1-1 (1986-87)

 

When compared to franchise greats like Staubach and Aikman, Tony Romo has proven his worth as a clutch quarterback. He’s had the most comeback attempts in a season and also the most comeback wins in a season. He’s five comeback attempts away from tying Troy Aikman, and only one more comeback win from tying Roger Staubach. Tony Romo has also been systematically worked against as he’s trying to pull off his comeback magic, as evidenced by the 2011 Cowboys defense surrendering 5 fourth quarter leads and three leads of 10+ points, both franchise records.

But how does Romo compare to his peers? We’ll take a look at that next week in Part II.

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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Roger Staubach The Landry Hat Tony Romo Troy Aikman

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