When the Cowboys and Saints kickoff tonight in the Superdome, remember this: There isn’t a quarterback in the league who is asked to do more for his team than Tony Romo.
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees? Their offensive lines actually work – they aren’t asked to be “elusive” on nearly every designed passing play. Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco have Top-10 defenses to help them out. What about Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson? They all have top-10 rushing attacks to ease the play-making burden.
Andrew Luck can lean on the league’s 12th-ranked rushing attack and 7th-ranked scoring defense. Matthew Stafford has the fifth most pass attempts in the league, and has been sacked fewer times than any other quarterback in the NFL.
Romo doesn’t have any of that. With a porous offensive line, a leaky defense, and no running game to speak of, the game is squarely on his shoulders every time he takes the field.
Eli Manning has never had that kind of pressure – until now. Until this year, Manning could always count on a reliable running game, a road-grader offensive line, and an elite pass rush to make game-changing plays. Eli Manning has two Superbowl MVP trophies, and he didn’t have to score more than 18 points to win either of them.
Now those luxuries have abandoned him. Welcome to Romo’s world, Eli. Your team is 2-6.
Matt Ryan in Atlanta had eclipsed Romo in many TV expert QB rankings after earning a playoff win last year. Now that his banged up offensive line can’t protect him or run block? He’s also 2-6 and fighting for relevancy.
And what about Russell Wilson in Seattle? Playing behind two backup offensive tackles in a 14-9 win against the Rams, Wilson went 10 of 18 for 139 yards – 80 of which came on one busted coverage. A week later he was sacked three times and picked off twice against the winless Buccaneers, who took the media-darling Seahawks to overtime. In Seattle.
It’s hard to be elite when you’re playing behind Tony Romo’s offensive line, right Russell? Good thing you were playing the Rams and Bucs – two teams with three wins between them.
Romo is branded by the TV experts as mistake prone, but he’s not any more likely to make a bad mistake at the wrong time than any other quarterback in the league. It only looks that way because he’s asked to make more plays than any other quarterback in the league. With an unreliable offensive line, a non-existent running game, and the 31st ranked defense in the league, Romo naturally has a larger sample size of “the quarterback needs to make a play” moments.
The past two years, Romo has had a patchwork defense, a porous offensive line, and no running game – and still TV experts blame Romo because the Cowboys lost win-or-go-home games in Week 17. Romo’s elite play was the key reason his team had those win-or-go-home opportunities. These past two years, the Cowboys are no better than 5-11 with nearly any other quarterback under center. Guys like Eli, Ryan and Wilson are proving that.
Whatever happens tonight, know this: Romo’s rare skill set has masked a multitude of bad personnel decisions by the Cowboys front office over the course of his career. He’ll be asked to do a lot tonight. Whatever he delivers, it’ll be more than Jerry Jones deserves.