For Cowboys fans, last Friday was good, much to the incredulity of Donovan McNabb, ex-Eagles quarterback turned NFL analyst, who tweeted last week unfavorably about Tony Romo’s $108-million extension. McNabb cited Romo’s lone playoff win as undermining proof. Never mind that Joe Flacco’s deal drove up the price for all franchise quarterbacks.I wonder if McNabb will expostulate the Falcons next season when they have to extend their one-playoff-win quarterback.
When I saw McNabb’s tweet, only because one of those whom I follow retweeted it, not that I follow McNabb, I quickly went off on him:
After reviewing the facts, I got some of them wrong, because I was recalling them from memory as I tweeted back at stoplights and intersections. But the overall gestalt of my raving remains true: Donovan McNabb has no validity with which to criticize Romo’s extension using a metric that is used to evaluate a team. This isn’t the NBA where it’s half the players playing both ways. Football is the ultimate team game. You can be an accomplished individual and still get nowhere a championship, as Hall of Famers Dick LeBeau, Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Lem Barney, Jack Butler, Dan Dierdorf, Ernie Stautner, and Sonny Jurgensen all did. Each of those Hall of Famers either lost their lone career playoff game (i.e. LeBeau, Jurgensen) or never even played in one (i.e. Sayers, Butkus). So you can be like failed Cowboys beat writer Josh Ellis and say McNabb has “scoreboard” on Romo, or you can be an informed observer with depth and take a look at Romo in the clutch versus McNabb.
My information comes from that exhaustive three-parter I did a couple of weeks ago on Romo’s comebacks versus over 35 other quarterbacks’ comebacks, both historical and contemporary. How I retrieved it was by going through all of their game logs at Pro-Football-Reference.com and seeing whether or not a comeback was possible. I determined a comeback was possible if the final score was anywhere between 1-8 points.
How I determined who got credit for wins and losses was nuanced. For instance, Romo gets no credit for the Cowboys 11/11/12 win over the Eagles, because it was Dwayne Harris’ punt return and Brandon Carr’s scores that gave the Cowboys the lead. Similarly, I don’t blame the Eagles defense as having given up the lead in the Eagles’ 2005 home match with the Cowboys. They were ahead by 6. McNabb threw a picksix – his fault. He gave up the lead. Also, I lumped the defense and special teams together as a singular unit for the purposes of determining who gave up leads. That’s why there are bolded portions and numbers to the right of each season, indicating the margin gave up for the respective games.
There are three games of note I’d like to point out before showing you the statistics. Firstly, that’s Romo’s 2008 encounter with the Cardinals. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown in overtime was the cause for that loss, so it incontrovertibly can’t be blamed on Romo. Secondly, I am including the 2012 season finale, even though it breaks my 1-8 margin rule, just because it’s the most striking example for Romophobes of how he isn’t quality in the clutch or whatever mediot spin they’re parroting. Finally, Pro-Football-Reference lists McNabb’s 2008 tie in Cincinnati as a “comeback,” but I don’t because getting the win is what makes a comeback a comeback. Would NFL Films hail Roger Staubach as “Captain Comeback” if half of his comebacks ended in ties?
Without further ado:
2006 – @CAR, CLT, DET(L), @SEA(L) 1, 7
2007 – @BUF, @DET, PHI(L), NYG(L) 3
2008 – PHI, WAS(L), @CRD(L-OT), @WAS, @PIT(L) 10
2009 – NYG(L), @DEN(L), @KC(OT), @PHI, WAS, @NYG(L), SD(L) 4, 3
2010 – @WAS(L), TEN(L), @MIN(L)
2011 – @NYJ(L), @SF(OT), WAS, DET(L), @NWE(L), @WAS(OT), MIA, @CRD(L-OT), NYG(L) 14, 13, 3, 7, 12
2012 – @BAL(L), @CAR, NYG(L), @ATL(L), CLE(OT), WAS(L), PHI, @CIN, PIT(OT), NO(L-OT), @WAS(L) 1
1999 – WAS, @WAS(L-OT), @CRD(L) 10
2000 – @GB(L), WAS(L), DAL(OT), @PIT(OT), TEN(L) 1
2001 – RAM(L-OT), CRD(L), @NYG, NYG, @RAM(L) 6
2002 – @TEN(L), @JAX(L) 11
2003 – @DAL(L), NYJ, @GB, SF(L-OT), GB(OT) 1, 1
2004 – @CLE(OT), DAL, NE(L)
2005 – @ATL(L), @WAS(L), DAL(L)
2006 – NYG(L-OT), @NO(L), @TB(L), JAX(L) 17, 7, 1
2007 – @GB(L), WAS(L), CHI(L), @WAS, NYG(L) 3, 4
2008 – @DAL(L), @CHI(L), WAS(L), NYG(L), @SF, @CIN(T), @WAS(L), @CRD(L) 6, 1
2009 – @RAI(L), DAL(L), @SD(L), @CHI, WAS 3
2010 – HOU(L-OT), GB(OT), CLT(L), @TEN(OT), MIN(L), TB(L) 10, 1
Tony Romo’s comeback rate is 18/43, which is 42%. Compare that to McNabb’s 16/54, which is 30%. In order for McNabb to have a better percentage, he would have needed to win 7 more games. Maybe recognizing Kelly Rowland’s boyfriend in a Cover 3 would have helped. Similarly, for Romo to be as bad as McNabb, Romo will need to lose the next 17 fourth quarter comeback attempts.
Admittedly, Romo has only played in 95 games compared to McNabb’s over 170 games. Still, if you cropped it to include McNabb’s first 95 games, he would be 7/33, which is 21%. Even if you decided to start at the end of McNabb’s career and work backwards, it would be 9/26, which is 35%. McNabb’s fourth quarter comeback prowess is light in the loafers, no matter how you slice it.
Another glaring truth is McNabb was never tasked to do as much as Romo. You’ll notice in 2008 that McNabb had 8 comeback attempts. Compare that to Romo’s record-setting 11 in 2012. Furthermore, the most comebacks McNabb ever had in a season were 3 in 2003. Romo had nearly double that this past season, which led the league in fourth quarter comebacks. In 2003, Jake Delhomme had the most fourth quarter comebacks with 5, and never in McNabb’s career did he ever lead the league in comebacks. In fact, “Cheesecake Factory” led the league in fourth quarter comebacks in his wasted career.
“Well, it’s all about the playoffs anyway,” you, the neuron-deficient schmuck who chews on his shirt collar, may say. To that, you need to examine their playoff games, especially what the rest of the team was doing. For instance, in McNabb’s playoff wins, the Eagles defense forced two sacks and two turnovers on average. Compare that to the Cowboys defense forcing three sacks and only one turnover on average in “Romo’s playoff losses.” And I haven’t even explored defensive scoring either, which Jim Johnson’s Eagles did in the playoffs. You want to know the last time the Dallas Cowboys scored a defensive touchdown in the postseason? The 1996 wild card playoffs against Minnesota when George Teague picked off Brad Johnson; go watch that on the Cowboys history DVD sometime.
So the defenses have blame and have credit for these two quarterbacks’ respective careers. In Romo’s 25 failed comeback attempts, 13 of them have been the defense surrendering a fourth quarter lead. That’s 52%. For McNabb, 16/38 (42%) of his losses were due to the defense surrendering a fourth quarter lead. But six of those were due to coordinators not named Jim Johnson. Even when adjusted for Jim Johnson’s sole presence, McNabb’s “blown-leads-by-defense” percentage drops to 31%.
The one error I made, which was retweeted as fact, was Romo’s road comebacks versus McNabb’s. McNabb actually has 8 road comebacks, but Romo still has 10. Still, half of Romo’s comebacks were against teams with winning records at the time. Only three of McNabb’s road comebacks came against teams with winning records.
Then we’ve got overtime too. Romo is 5-3 in overtime, while McNabb was 6-5-1. In the past two seasons, Romo has played in 6 overtime games. It took the last seven years of McNabb’s career to play in 6 overtime games.
Here’s another interesting thread. Do you want to know what the Cowboys’ record is when Romo is out of the lineup or playing through injury? 6-9. McNabb was injured and missed games in 4 seasons. The Eagles were 16-20. They not only made the playoffs in 2002, but won a playoff game in 2006 – all without McNabb! The Dallas Cowboys have yet to make the playoffs in Romo’s injury-riddled seasons.
Romo deserved that $108-million contract because he is that valuable to this team, in spite of the paltry 1-3 playoff record that is solely attributed to him. Now that we’ve got our quarterback for now, let’s build a better team to go with him.