So Pro Football Reference recently accumulated and published fourth quarter passing data for all NFL quarterbacks since 2007, and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo statistically sparkles in crunch time when compared to his peers. The data is telling, but won’t move anyone – Romo “haters” still think he’s a choker who looks good on paper; Romo “apologists” still shake their heads and wonder how a quarterback this good got such a bad rap.
The “Romo Is Actually Pretty Clutch When It Counts” story line, complete with statistical support, has been done before. ESPN did a pretty good one back in 2012 here. USA Today took the baton in 2013 here. This most recent entreaty is part of what has become an annual tradition among less reactionary NFL observers: Trying to convince the simian-browed Romo haters that the Cowboys have an excellent quarterback.
This newest statistical breakdown can be viewed in its entirety here, and it’s well worth it if you’re a Romo supporter. I have busted out some of the data below for selective comparisons. We’ll start with the Top 5 fourth quarter performers over the past seven seasons, as measured by quarterback rating:
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Interesting that this list includes the four quarterbacks generally considered to be the best in the game – New England’s Tom Brady, Denver’s Peyton Manning, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Romo is in good company here. Anyone who actually watches Cowboys games (and not just Cowboys highlights) isn’t surprised that he rounds out the Top 5.
But Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings in Pittsburg. Yeah, and both times he had a Top 3 scoring defense supporting him. What’s more interesting about Big Ben, is that he’s played with three other No. 1 scoring defenses and didn’t win a Super Bowl with any of them. What a waste. Romo’s never had that kind of support.
But Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings for the New York Giants. Yeah, and he didn’t have to score more than 18 points to win either of them. In 2007, when Eli’s Giants beat the undefeated Patriots by a field goal, New York held the most prolific offense in the history of the league to just 14 points. That Eli sure knows how to win, huh?
But what about Russell Wilson, and his reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks? A fine quarterback. He has two years as a starter in the league, and both years he played with the top-ranked scoring defense in the league. We’ve seen how Romo stacks up against his veteran peers, now let’s look at how he stacks up against some of the league’s young guns.
I broke the data down further to look at “per game” statistics based on how many starts these quarterbacks have had over the course of their young careers.
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Interesting how little is asked of guys like Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick in the fourth quarter. Each is averaging only about six fourth quarter passing attempts per start. Of course, both teams feature a dominant running game and are led by a Top 3 scoring defense. The Cowboys haven’t had any of that. When they’ve won in the fourth quarter, it’s been on the arm of Tony Romo. They’ve needed him to make plays.
Again, the stats show Romo makes more plays when it counts than most NFL quarterbacks. Old news. And if the haters didn’t get it in 2012 and 2013, they’re not going to get it now.