Why Is Tony Romo The Most Criticized Sports Figure in America?


As the quarterback for “America’s Team”, Tony Romo probably expected to receive his fair share of criticism when he took over the starting role for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. A franchise, so beloved by many and so hated by so many others, can always expect a certain amount of negativity.  But why is Romo the most “hated on” sports figure in America?

December 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) waves to fans after the game against the at Paul Brown Stadium. Dallas won the game 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Is it because Romo is simply the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback? That he’s somehow unworthy of replacing the other legends who have worn the star on their helmets? As we look back at the history of the position, no other Dallas’ quarterback, or player even, has ever received as much criticism and hate than Romo. Even Danny White, who had the unfortunate luck to try and fill the shoes of a legend in Roger Staubach, never received as much criticism as Romo. There have been plenty of more disappointing players to fill that position.

Most recently, Quincy Carter comes to mind. After being selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Carter was expected to fill the vacancy left by Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. After two 5-11 seasons, Dallas hired coaching legend Bill Parcells in 2003 and he took Carter and the team to the playoffs in his first season. Carter was promptly released the following off-season for allegedly failing a drug test. So, why wasn’t he more criticized or hated than Romo? He never won a playoff game and was out of the league after four years. Still, the current level of hate for Romo far outweighs the disappointment that Carter ever was. Names like Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, and Ryan Leaf all probably deserved more criticism then Romo when they were in the same position.

But it’s just the amount of negativity thrown towards Romo and expressed on a daily basis that’s the most disturbing. There are players who have allegedly committed crimes who are less hated than Romo. Some unfortunately, are still currently on the Cowboys’ roster. It makes no sense. Romo hasn’t ever been charged with a felony or arrested for drunk driving. Off-the-field, Romo lives a seemingly quiet life filled with family, friends and golf. He prefers privacy over publicity. Romo is not Terrell Owens exercising shirtless in front of the cameras in his driveway. Romo doesn’t do splashy national endorsements. You don’t see his face plastered all over commercials, buses and billboards. Still, everyday you can find a media story, in print and/or on television, criticizing him for something. Why do they hate him so much?

Here are the haters, and the national media’s, three favorite criticisms of Romo:

3. Romo plays too much golf in the off-season. Seriously? How can you criticizes a man for playing golf in the off-season when 99% of all the other players in the NFL are doing the same thing. They are relaxing. Athletes relax differently then we do. They don’t sit at home, eat a bag of potato chips while crying to the end of the Biggest Loser finale. How many football camps are there put on by NFL players in the off-season? How many celebrity softball games? Basketball games? Golf tournaments? Bottom line: Athletes stay active in the off-season to stay in shape. Michael Jordan was and is a huge golfer. Never once did I hear him be criticized for playing too much. Of course, winning championships turns haters into lovers, especially in the media. (See LeBron James)

2. Romo doesn’t put in enough time. This has been a pretty recent criticism sparked by the comments of owner and general manager Jerry Jones. The exact quote was:

"“Tony is going to have more time, more presence, not only in the off-season but when the season starts, beginning Monday, assuming we played Sundays. He’s going to have more time on the job. A part of what we agreed with was extra time on the job, beyond the norm. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a lot of time on the job, but extra time on the job, Peyton Manning-type time on the job.” (From the Dallas Morning News)"

It seems a part of the agreement surrounding Romo’s $108 million contract extension, that he signed in the off-season, was that he would spend more time on the job. Regardless of the workplace, every raise in salary comes with more responsibilities. Everyone knows that. But Jones described this extra time as “Peyton Manning-like time”.

First off, I’ve never meet Peyton Manning. But I imagine he’s the type of guy who would have a workout bench and weights in his living room where a couch and a flat screen should be. The guy is a football freak. Is there anyone in the league that puts in Peyton Manning-type time other than Peyton Manning? Not even his brother Eli puts in that kinda time. …and he has more Super Bowl rings! (Rim-Shot) Obviously, Jones just wants to see more out of Romo, especially when his pouring out over $100 million. But let’s not question his work ethic in front of the national media! How about a little support, Jerry? Romo is hated-on enough without you adding fuel to the fire.

Nov 22, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) on the bench after throwing an interception in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving at Cowboys Stadium. The Redskins beat the Cowboys 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1. Romo chokes in the clutch. My response is: who doesn’t? Until they overcome whatever obstacle that is in their way, who isn’t consider a choker or under-achiever? LeBron James was considered a choker just two years ago.  The same media outlets who said LeBron was too scared to take the game-winning shots now proclaim him “clutch”.

Michael Jordan was considered a selfish big-time scorer who couldn’t win the big games until his team beat their rivals, the Detroit Pistons, in 1991. His Chicago Bulls finally got to the NBA Finals after two straight seasons of being eliminated by the Pistons in the playoffs. It took the “greatest player in NBA history” seven years to win his first championship.

One of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino, never even won a Super Bowl. The great John Elway couldn’t win the big one until his 15th season. Everyone is a choker until they win.

What has Romo done so far? Well, for one, he’s statically the greatest quarterback in Cowboys’ history. Since taking over in 2006, Dallas has posted just one losing record in seven seasons. And the Cowboys made the playoffs three of those years.

Obviously, what transpired in those playoff games, and in the final two games of the last couple 8-8 seasons, has added more voices to this criticism of Romo over the years. But here are the other veteran NFL quarterbacks with only one playoff win under their belts: Jay Cutler, Matt Schuab, Matt Ryan, and Alex Smith. Do any of them receive the amount of criticism and hate that Romo does nationwide?

Has Romo under-performed at times? Yes. But who hasn’t? Is Romo the only under-achieving quarterback in the NFL? No. Does his off-the-field life style undermine the team in anyway? No. So why is there so much negativity aimed at him? Romo has never self-proclaimed to be the Cowboys’ savior. He keeps to himself and has grown as a leader between the lines and in the locker room.

Romo is doing it right. He wants to win a Super Bowl in Dallas and he’s committed to that goal. He has the respect of his teammates and coaches. And here’s the greatest thing: Romo doesn’t ask this question. He doesn’t ask why fans, the media or people in general why they call him a choker, criticize him on a daily basis or just out-an-out hate him. He simply puts on his pads and goes to work. Keeping his eyes on the ultimate prize. And when he finally does win a Super Bowl, he’ll never be the guy that says I told you so. That’s what makes Romo…Romo.