Since Tony Romo snatched the starting quarterback reigns from Drew Bledsoe in Week 8 of the 2006 season, the success of the Dallas Cowboys has been closely tied to his annual performance. During his 7 years as field general, Romo has been selected to 3 Pro Bowls (2006-07, 2007-08, and 2010-11).
Attached to these 3 Pro Bowl seasons were the most successful recent outcomes of the Dallas Cowboys as a team. Romo started 42 games during this time, while the Cowboys overall team record was a stellar 30-12. Not to mention gracing the playoffs all 3 years.
Quite an unusual stretch of proud, winning football from a team consistently battling with mediocrity for well over a decade. This anomaly got me to thinking what precisely were the surrounding offensive conditions that allowed Tony Romo to excel at his highest career levels.
TONY ROMO – CAREER TOTALS
Let’s take a look at the 3 Pro Bowl seasons turned in by Tony Romo, and dive into some of the correlating stats within.
The first season Tony Romo assumed the starting QB role. For the 7th game of the season, Parcells gave Romo the starting nod over Drew Bledsoe and the rest is Cowboys’ history.
In his first 10 games as a starter, Tony compiled a 6-4 record, led his team to the playoffs, and also was selected to his first Pro Bowl. Aside from Romo’s strong play as the signal-caller, there were other defining characteristics of this team.
One of the most eye-popping qualities of the offense was a highly dominant running game. The Cowboys ran the ball for 1,936 yards, 121 yards/game, 4.1 rushing avg., and a superb 21 rushing TD’s.
Julius Jones and Marion Barber provided a lethal 1-2 punch of speed and power behind a stout o-line. With the run a major threat in yardage and scoring, Romo was allowed to flourish and grow without all of the offensive pressure on his shoulders.
The cowboys did surrender 37 overall sacks which seems poor on the surface. Yet when we dig a little deeper, the human statue Drew Bledsoe absorbed 18 sacks in 6 games, while Romo was charged with 19 in 10 games. Roughly the same amount, yet Romo started 4 more games. Romo’s pace stretched over an entire season would lead to a respectable 30 sacks.
Needless to say, the offensive line was busting heads, gashing holes, and doing a solid job protecting the QB once the new guy with even a shred of mobility took over.
Tony Romo’s first season as a 16 game starter. Again Tony had another outstanding season leading the Cowboys to a whopping 13-3 record, playoff berth, and Pro Bowl honors for the young QB.
While the running game slightly declined from the previous season due to less attempts, it still remained very productive.
The increase in yards per carry from 4.1 in 2006 to 4.2 in 2007 shows running efficiency actually increased with the lessened number of attempts.
Rushing TD’s dipped from 21 to 14, also due to less run attempts and more passing scores. Romo produced his highest passing TD total of 37 in all of his career.
While the running game made room for the aerial firestorm of Romo, Owens, and Witten…by no means did it lose potency. The current Cowboys would give a lung to score 14 rush TD’s next year, which is 1 more TD than the last 2 seasons combined.
As for pass protection, this group was simply excellent while surrendering a mere 26 sacks in 520 attempts. Now that’s pass protection at its finest.
Romo fell short of postseason honors while Dallas also missed the playoff field the year prior in 2008-2009.
Following a year off from accolades, the 2009-10 Cowboys cranked it back up a notch and marched into the playoffs at 11-5. They even collected their lone shining playoff win in the last 16 seasons (1996-97), while Romo once again graced the Pro Bowl roster.
A successful season for a proud organization with rich, winning history like the Dallas Cowboys, is at the least measured by ONE playoff victory.
What President/CEO would still have a job if he produced 1 successful year in the last 16 attempts?
Well 2009 was one of the finer years and Tony Romo led the way. Along with Romo’s quality play was an outstanding offensive line. Dallas finished 4th in rushing yards with 2,103. They also notched a commanding 4.8 yards per carry and 14 TD’s.
Talk about forcing opposing defenses to fear the run so your QB can operate at maximum levels. Sacks allowed were still respectable at 34.
THE 8-8 RUT
So what separates these 3 playoff bound, Pro Bowl honored seasons from the last 2 mediocre, playoff-barren productions turned in by the Dallas Cowboys? Offensive Line, Offensive Line, and more Offensive Line!
2011 Key O-line Stats:
1,807 rushing yards, 4.4 per carry, 113 per game, 5 TD’s, 39 sacks
– Not all that bad in total yards and nice yards per carry total. However, DeMarco Murray injury limited what could have been. A large amount of yards came from a 3-game stretch from Murray. Rushing TD’s were atrocious, while sacks allowed rose above average.
2012 Key O-line Stats:
1,265 rushing yards, 3.6 per carry, 79 per game, 8 TD’s, 36 sacks
– Pathetic. Rushing yards total, per carry, and per game were absolutely horrid. 8 TD’s was 29th in NFL. Jerry Jones should be ashamed for fielding this line. By the grace of God and Romo’s feet, offense avoided another 15+ sacks. A miracle Dallas went 8-8 with these stats.
Looking at these last 2 seasons and o-line production, it’s easy to understand the difference in 8-8 and the 3 playoffs bound, Pro Bowl years of Tony Romo.
Incoherent babble from the owner/GM about the Cowboys being fine with a mediocre offensive line due to Romo’s elusivity is simply absurd.
You paid your superstar a king’s ransom recently Jerry Jones, now why don’t you let him be the star you believe he can be by providing the support to perform at his highest levels?
There are 3 solid years of documented proof that with a formidable running game and protective offensive line in front of him, the guy will lead the team to the playoffs and post Pro Bowl numbers. In contrast, there are 4 years of team mediocrity and sitting home in January when Romo was surrounded by incompetence.
All 3 of Romo’s Pro Bowl seasons involved nearly 500+ more rushing yards than last season, almost double the rushing TD’s, at least 0.5 yards more per rushing carry, and fewer sacks. So how is this not computing for Dallas management to aggressively address the real issue?
The dilemma has now elevated from the competence of Jerry Jones’ football personnel decisions (which we know is lackluster), to unconvinced the GM is really even committed to winning these days.
It’s painfully obvious and also confirmed through the past elevated performance of his team and QB…the Cowboys must run the ball productively and protect Tony well to conjure his best mojo and reach the playoffs.
The only way to do this is to re-commit to a solid offensive line. I guess all of our commitment answers will have to wait a few more weeks for the NFL Draft. If the Cowboys hang their 2013 hopes on anymore than 3 returning starters from last season’s o-line flop, realistically expecting a playoff run is nothing more than naive foolish pride for a 3rd straight year.
Einstein’s brilliant definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The current o-line strategy in Dallas is simply football-ignorant.
Without a real shake-up in the trenches when all is said and done this offseason, expecting different results in 2013 is insanity at its finest.