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Tony Romo: Debunking myths and determining whether he’s “elite” – Pt. 1

Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve long been a supporter and fan of Tony Romo.  It’s safe to say, that if he hadn’t fallen into the lap of Jerry Jones 10 years ago, we’d still have a sh*t-stream of worthless quarterbacks auditioning for a spot on America’s team.  Sean Payton (more than Parcells or Jones) was a fan of the Eastern Illinois product, and went as far as assuring Romo that the Cowboys interest in him was sincere during the draft.  The “GM” and owner had little, or nothing, to do with Romo donning the star.

Romo has fallen victim to a lot of unwarranted and baseless criticism of his play in Dallas.  A lot of which comes from “fans”.  When I hear “ROMO SUX BRO, SRSLY BRO” or “MAN, WE SHOULD’VE GOTTEN VICK” from “fans”, it’s highly likely that I have no respect for you as a Cowboy fan and/or person.  You’re an idiot, and you should know that.  Read my first paragraph, and remember who owns the Cowboys — you want Ryan Leaf again? No? Then sit down and shut up.

My unwavering support for Romo since he’s been at the helm is not of the “fanboy” variety.  I go on fact and numbers.  Do I like the guy and want him to succeed? Sure.  But my support isn’t unwarranted and baseless like a lot of the chatter that goes on around him.

Anyway, whether you like him or not, he’s one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL.  There’s a ton of debate on whether he’s an “elite” quarterback — something that can’t be tangibly measured or defined (what is “elite”?).  Let’s go through some of the stigmas and assumptions the “career-arc”-obsessed ESPN and other media outlets/experts have made of Tony Romo, as well as determine whether he’s in the league of the “elite” or not:

1.  “He doesn’t play well in December.  He’s a November quarterback, and can’t elevate his play when it really matters.”

Here’s are Romo’s numbers in the past 3 Decembers in which he’s played.

’12: 103/155 (completions/attempts), 1328 (yards), 10(TD), 1(INT) – 112.0 (QB Rating)

’11: 72/105, 869, 8TD, 1INT – 119.1

’09: 107/157, 1239, 7TD, 1INT – 104.0

Overall, thats:

282/417, 3436 YDS, 25TD, 2INT with a QB Rating of 110.7

The team’s record in these 3 seasons, over 13 games, is 6-7.  Look at the numbers above.  Romo is doing his part in December.  For a QB to throw 25 TD’s and 2 INT over 13 games AND STILL have his team lose 7 is unfathomable.  That says more about the coaching, preparation, personnel and overall failure of the team — not Romo.

The idea that a quarterback elevates his play by month is slightly ridiculous.  The idea that Romo hasn’t performed in December, is asinine.  Could Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady have won with these teams? Maybe. Could they have put up better numbers?  Maybe.  But I’m not sure what else you could ask Romo to do that he hasn’t done, especially in December.

Sources: ESPN.COM, ProFootballReference, Brucey.net

2.  “He throws a ton of interceptions, and turns the ball over too much”

Let’s start by stating the obvious.  Romo has had his fair share of follies, ill-timed turnovers, and careless play.  If you look at the NFL on a whole, you’ll see a lot of the same from almost all 32 teams.  No one’s saying he hasn’t turned the ball over — it comes with playing the position.  You have the ball in your hands more than anyone on the field — it’s likely you’ll lose it from time to time.

But the idea that he’s somehow the worldwide leader in giving the ball back is a myth.  Let’s look at the last 3 full-seasons that Romo has played versus various “elite” quarterbacks, and some not so “elite” quarterbacks.  Stats:

Romo: 35 INT, 12 Fumbles Lost, 47 turnovers (47 games) – 1.0 Turnovers/Game

Pretty significant, even considering a lot of those turnovers have come in clusters.

Let’s look at quarterbacks who are often considered “elite”:

Rodgers:  25INT, 5 FL, 30 Turnovers (45 games) – 0.67 Turnovers/Game

Brady: 24INT, 2 FL, 26 Turnovers (47 games) – 0.55 T/G

Eli Manning – 56INT, 9 FL, 65 Turnovers (47 games) – 1.35 T/G

Brees – 54INT, 4FL, 58 Turnovers (47 games) – 1.23 T/G

Peyton Manning – 44INT, 3FL, 47 Turnovers (47 games) – 1.0 T/G

Ryan – 35INT, 9FL, 44 Turnovers (47 games) – 0.94 T/G

Roethlisberger – 27INT, 12FL, 39 Turnovers (39 games) – 1.0 T/G

Let’s look at a few quarterbacks who are often compared to Romo, in terms of skill-level:

Cutler – 37INT, 13FL, 50 Turnovers (39 games) – 1.28 T/G

Rivers – 48INT, 16FL, 64 Turnovers (47 games) – 1.36 T/G

For fun, let’s look at Mark Sanchez:

Sanchez – 48INT, 17 FL, 65 Turnovers (46 games) – 1.41 T/G

Again, this isn’t a list of every quarterback that’s considered “elite”, nor is it a list of every quarterback that are comparable to/worse than Romo.  It’s a sample size — and this sample size tells us that he’s closer to playing at an “elite” level (purely in terms of turnovers) than anything else.

Eli Manning, who is almost always picked or ranked ahead of Romo, is a turnover machine.  But, he’s won two SuperBowls.  That should tell you, it isn’t always the quarterback that determines the outcome of a ballgame.  The team has a lot to do with that as well.  Eli Manning has made some enormous, well-documented plays in big games — but he’s had some help along the way.

In breaking down this list, there are some intangibles of note.  Drew Brees has a substantially high turnover rate — this is likely attributed to him being the Saints’ entire offense.  In a similar vein, I didn’t include Alex Smith because of the opposite reason — he is (was) a considerably smaller part of the offense.

Sources: ESPN.COM, ProFootballReference, TeamRankings

It’s not a perfect list, and wasn’t intended to be.  So don’t yell at me for not including the likes of Stafford, Alex Smith, etc.

In the next post, we’ll look at more myths, numbers and comparisons of Romo to “elite” quarterbacks.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

(*Since we looked at abbreviated seasons of Rodgers and Roethlisberger, here are Romo’s stats in ’12, ’11 in an abbreviated ’10:

Romo – 33INT, 6FL, 39 Turnovers (37 games) – 1.05 T/G)



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