To all the mouth breathers who snidely assert that the Dallas Cowboys will never win a Superbowl with quarterback Tony Romo at the helm: You’re probably right. All of your reasons are wrong, but you’re probably right.
It’s not because Romo is a “loser.” Right, right – he’s 1-6 in “elimination games.” Very clever. Here’s how weird people are about Tony Romo: They invented a stat – never cited for any other NFL quarterback, past or present – for the sole purpose of embellishing Romo’s losses. For every other signal caller in the history of the game, playoff record has been sufficient to gauge big-game prowess. Not for Romo.
Why? I don’t know. Romo seems so easy to root for. A guy nobody really recruited out of high school. Small college quarterback, totally off the combine map. An undrafted free agent who beat ridiculous odds just to make an NFL roster, and then again to become a Pro Bowler. He doesn’t get arrested or do drugs. He’s not a jerk to his wife. He’s quick with a smile, and seems good-natured. He doesn’t talk down to folks. He doesn’t throw teammates under the bus. He plays hurt. Man, does he ever play hurt. He’ll walk into your house and kick your butt with a busted rib and a punctured lung. In overtime. Tony Romo is tougher than you are. What’s not to like about this guy?
There are a wealth of legitimate stats that make Romo look awesome. Like these here. And here. Want more? Okay. But the Romo haters say those stats don’t matter. Only their invented stat counts. Tony Romo is a “loser” because he’s 1-6 in “elimination games.”
People call Vince Lombardi a “winner” for leading teams that featured 19 first-team All Pros, including 10 future Hall of Famers, to five world championships in the 1960s. That’s great work, and it’s not my intention to detract from it, but perhaps Lombardi’s most impressive accomplishment was in leading the hapless Redskins – who hadn’t had a winning season in 13 years – to a 7-5-2 record in 1969. Lombardi didn’t “win” without his roster of HOFers and All Pros. Winners win because they have great teams. When they don’t have great teams, winners don’t win anything.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is a “winner” because of a nice three-game run back in 2009 that made him a world champion. His playoff record before that run? 1-2. His playoff record after that run? 2-3. It’s never one guy. And it’s never just about being good. It takes a few breaks. Does Brees have his ring without that perfectly executed onsides kick to start the second half of Superbowl XLIV? Maybe. Does he have his ring without cornerback Tracy Porter’s 74-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter? Maybe. Here’s the interesting thing about both those plays: Drew Brees watched them from the sidelines. Football teams win football games.
Think back to those six “elimination game” losses: Were the Cowboys really the better team in any of them? You might argue the 2007 Cowboys were better than the Giants, but that was a different New York team than the one Dallas beat twice during the regular season. They’d gotten healthy along the defensive line and would eventually defeat the 18-0 Patriots in the Superbowl. Romo’s other two playoff defeats were on the road, where Dallas was the lower seed. Maybe they were better than Seattle in 2006. But they weren’t better than Philadelphia in 2008. Or Minnesota in 2009. Or New York in 2011. Or Washington in 2012. The better team won all those games.
The reality is Tony Romo has elevated this team to 8-8 over the past three years. The Cowboys wouldn’t have participated in any “elimination games” during Head Coach Jason Garrett’s tenure without the stellar play of their quarterback. One game away from the playoffs for three straight years, all while executing a comprehensive roster rebuild: That’s some special quarterback play. Tony Romo is a winner the same way Lombardi was a winner in Washington – they didn’t actually win anything, but they made bad teams respectable.
And now Romo is old by NFL standards. Body parts are failing. His defense is rebuilding. And even if all that weren’t true, it’s hard to win a Superbowl. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers – they have a combined 33 seasons as starters in this league, and one ring each. Tom Brady has three rings, but he hasn’t won one in a decade. And he’s been on some pretty damn fine teams over those years. A quarterback without a ring is not a loser. It’s not enough to be good – you gotta get a few breaks. Someone other than the quarterback has to make a play every now and then.
So Dallas probably won’t win a Superbowl with Romo under center. That would make the Romo haters right. But it doesn’t mean they’re not morons.