Tony Romo Will Beat Eli Manning in 2012: Here's Why
Manning vs. Romo—if you were going to bet on one of these QBs to have a great 2012, at first glance it would seem like a no-brainer to go with the guy who just won a Super Bowl.
However, (did you sense there was a however coming?) Manning also proved to everyone in 2011 that he was also a very lucky QB.
Many, many things fell into place for the Giants in order for them to make the playoffs and advance to the Super Bowl.
Conversely for Tony Romo, many things out of his control conspired to keep him out of the postseason.
If that sounds like a loud Cowboys-centric whine, then allow me to dazzle you with some numbers to back up this statement.
Here is a list of some of the unfortunate things that occurred to the Cowboys in 2011:
Their own coach accidentally iced his own kicker, negating a made-field goal that would have won the game in Arizona. Instead, they lost.
Miles Austin inexplicably took a bad angle on a timing pattern that led to a ball being just inches off his fingertips instead of being a touchdown. At that moment against the Giants, all the Cowboys needed was a first down to win the game. This would have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, it was an incompletion resulting in a punt and a come-back by Manning to win the game.
During training camp, the Cowboys were certain they had Nnamdi Asomugha coming to Dallas as a free agent. He would have started in place of Terrance Newman.
Instead, Asomugha chose Philadelphia and Dallas rolled into 2011 with a horrible secondary—the very secondary that lost several fourth quarter leads that Tony Romo had built. These included what would have been wins over the Jets, Lions, Cardinals, Giants and Patriots.
Yes, it is true that Romo threw a couple of terrible picks in a two of those games, but he finished the year with far fewer picks than some of the best QBs in the NFL, including Manning.
If his secondary could have just held the leads against the Giants and the Patriots, Dallas would have finished 10-6, winning the division. And Manning would have watched the playoffs from home.
So those are just a few things that went wrong for Romo that were out of his control.
Here are a few things that went right for Manning that he had nothing to do with:
First, Dallas’ loss in the quest for Asomugha was a huge bonus for Manning. In the first Cowboys-Giants matchup, Dallas gave up 400 yards through the air and Terrance Newman, (starting only because Dallas did not get Asomugha) dropped a pick that hit him perfectly in his hands. Newman was graded by PFF with a negative 1.7 for the game
In the second matchup, Newman was torched early and often. PFF graded him at a negative 3.7 for that game. That was the worst grade given to any Dallas player, offense or defense, for the game.
In their last nine games, the Giants were fortunate enough to face a slew of poor pass defense teams. Here is the list of pass defenses the Giants faced in their last nine games, including the Super Bowl: Packers, 29th in pass rush; Cowboys, 26th in pass coverage; Redskins, 22nd in pass coverage; Jets, 28th in pass rush; Cowboys, 26th in pass coverage; Falcons, 18th in pass coverage; Packers, 29th in pass rush; 49ers, fourth in pass coverage, but gave away the win by muffing two punt returns; Patriots, 27th in pass coverage.
It would be difficult to hand pick a better list of victims for Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning, than that list of opponents.
Aside from the 49ers, there was no one in that last string of games that could hope to slow down the Giants vertical passing attack.
And of course the 49ers would have won that game had their rookie not muffed two punt returns, the second one in overtime. The poor kid had no business being out there in a playoff game.
Manning was the beneficiary of more near-misses in the pocket from linebackers and defensive linemen than any other QB in 2011.
The great Tom Brady was pressured 173 times in 2011 and he was sacked on 18.5 percent of those occasions.
Similarly, Tony Romo was pressured on 174 drop backs and was sacked on 20.7 percent of them.
Aaron Rodgers was pressured on 158 occasions and was sacked on 22.8 percent of those pressures.
Yet Eli Manning was pressured a whopping 244 times and only sacked 11.5 percent of the time, for a total of 28 sacks in 2011.
Had Manning been sacked at the same percentage as Rodgers, he would have been sacked 53 times.
Had he been sacked at the percentage of Brady, he still would have been sacked 45 times.
Had he been sacked at the percentage of Romo, he would have eaten 48 sacks.
Are we to believe that Manning is somehow that much better at avoiding sacks than Brady, Romo and Rodgers, three of the best QBs in the league?
I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. Instead, what most likely happened was that he got lucky. Every pressure that occurs for a quarterback looks different. Some come from two sides simultaneously, some come up the middle, some come from the blind side.
There are plenty of pressures that occur during a season that the QB escapes by sheer, stupid luck. Some QBs will have luckier seasons than others. That does not diminish Manning's talents. He is immensely talented and he deserves to be called elite.
But with the offensive line the Giants have given him, he needed more than elite skills, he needed plenty of luck to pull off what he did in 2011.
The most likely scenario in 2012 is that Manning’s luck will run out. His offensive line has not been significantly upgraded. In 2011, he was pressured on 244 drop backs.
At an average sack percentage for pressured drop backs, Manning would be sacked 48 times.
Manning will find fewer wide-open receivers in 2012, thanks to Dallas’ secondary upgrade and the fact that the schedule is tougher. Manning will also face better pass rushing teams. And again, the Giants have not upgraded their offensive line.
Even if Manning avoids the 48 sack total, due to some uncanny skill for slipping tackles, I doubt he will avoid a 40 or 42 sack season. And no QB who took more than 40 sacks in 2011 avoided injury.
- Mark Sanchez took 39 sacks and suffered a broken nose and a neck injury.
- Ben Roethlisberger certainly was beat up by the end of season, he took 40 sacks and the high ankle sprain he suffered in the Cleveland game led to an elimination in first round of playoffs.
- Alex Smith took 42 sacks. He suffered a concussion when he played the Cowboys.
- Tavaris Jackson took 42 sacks and missed time with a sprained pectoral muscle and in another game injured his shoulder.
- Romo was sacked 36 times, and suffered fractured ribs and a punctured lung.
The point is, if your line is bad enough that your QB ends up with 40 sacks or even, close to that number, the odds favor him getting a significant injury.
And even if he plays through that injury, as Romo did, the constant pressure typically diminishes the effectiveness of the passer.
There are too many statistics in which Romo is superior to Manning to fully discuss here but I will list several of them anyway.
In 2011, Romo beat Manning in: completion percentage, TDs, avoiding interceptions, TD/INT ratio, deep passing accuracy, TDs on deep passes, completion percentage under pressure and TD/INT ratio under pressure.
Unlike the Giants organization, the Cowboys have actually put much effort into improving their offensive line. They brought in perhaps the best offensive line coach in the NFL: Bill Callahan. They added two veteran guards in free agency and they signed several additional linemen as UDFA’s to facilitate strong competition this offseason.
All of this points to a banner year for Romo in 2012. Maybe Manning will be lucky again in 2012, but I would not bet on it.
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