Why Do We Root Against Tony Romo?

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IFebruary 6, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field following the Cowboys 28-18 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

As predictable as the sun setting in the west or death and taxes, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been named one of the most loathed athletes in the United States. 

According to Forbes, Romo came in at No. 10 on a public survey of disliked stars from the Nielsen sports and market research firm E-Poll. His appeal percentage was just 27, which put him just above Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (No. 4, 21 percent) and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (No. 7, 23 percent) among the NFL players who landed on the list. 

Cutler, with an apathetic look and cocky attitude, and Vick, thanks to his dog-fighting conviction and prison sentence, are understandable targets for outside criticism. 

But why is Romo included in this hatred? And why is that disdain so widely accepted?  

Romo has a rags-to-riches story, plays for the most valuable and followed franchise in American sports and possesses the fifth-best quarterback rating in NFL history. He's never been arrested or convicted of any crime. These are positives that most would attribute to a widely loved star.

However, Romo's story has more twists and turns than just that short summary.

From a lack of important playoff wins, to dating famous women and failures in getting the Cowboys to the postseason, Romo has become a convenient punching bag for those who harbor animosity toward "America's Team."

Maybe investigating how Romo went from feel-good story to universally loathed will give us a more clear answer. 

Certainly, few NFL quarterbacks can match Romo's humble beginnings.

Born and raised in a town of just 10,000 in Southeast Wisconsin, Romo received just two college scholarships to play football. One was from Division II Mankato State in Minnesota, and the other was a half-scholarship from Division I-AA Eastern Illinois, where Romo would eventually play.

At Eastern Illinois, Romo threw for 7,816 yards, 82 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. But despite being the best Division I-AA quarterback in the 2003 class and receiving an invite to the NFL combine, Romo went undrafted. 

He signed with the Cowboys shortly after the 2003 draft, and stuck on the roster throughout the years of Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson and Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. 

After three years of holding clipboards and kicks, Romo finally got his shot in 2006. 

When Bledsoe led the Cowboys to just seven points during the first half of a Monday night home game against the New York Giants, head coach Bill Parcells turned to Romo to start the second half. Here, Romo's NFL story really began. 

His first pass of the game was tipped and intercepted, but in throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns, Romo flashed the kind of qualities that would serve him well as the Cowboys starter for the next seven seasons.

He scrambled, improvised and threw to every level. Despite three interceptions and a loss to the Giants in his debut, Romo would start the final 10 games of 2006. After finishing 6-4 under Romo, Dallas qualified for the postseason. 

The rise to stardom help lead to a relationship with country singer and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood in late 2006.

However, the NFL postseason had heartbreak in store for Romo. Late in the NFC Wild Card Round in Seattle, Romo botched the hold on a 19-yard field goal that would have given the Cowboys the lead late in the fourth quarter. Many point to this moment as the start of Romo's big-game struggles.

A year later, Romo started to establish himself as one of the NFL's best young passers. He threw for 4,211 yards and 36 touchdowns, while the Cowboys won 13 games and secured the NFC's top seed. Combined with receiver Terrell Owens and running backs Marion Barber and Julius Jones, Romo and the Dallas offense finished second in the NFL in points and third in yards.

Also that season, Romo began a romantic and controversial relationship with actress/singer Jessica Simpson. She appeared at a Cowboys game in December, and it was reported before the NFC playoffs that Simpson and Romo were together in Mexico during the bye week. 

A week later, the Cowboys would go on to lose to the Giants in the NFC divisional round. Romo threw for 201 yards and the game-sealing interception. Some blamed Romo's excursion to Mexico with Simpson for the loss, although his receiver thought that was really unfair. 

Romo's reputation for being a big-game "choker" grew the next season. 

Despite the Cowboys losing two of the three games Romo missed in 2008, the Cowboys earned themselves a chance to make the postseason and only needed a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the season finale.

Instead, Dallas was thoroughly beaten on the road, as the Eagles advanced to the playoffs with a convincing 44-6 win. Romo finished with just 183 yards and three turnovers.

The next season, it appeared as if the Cowboys would finally get over the hurdles that kept Romo down during his first three seasons. 

Dallas finished 11-5 and won the NFC East, and Romo threw for 4,483 yards, 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. The playoff demon was momentarily silenced when the Cowboys sliced and diced the Eagles in the Wild Card Round, but horror was right around the corner.

In the divisional round, the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings beat the Cowboys 34-3. Romo finished with just 198 yards and an interception as his record in the playoffs fell to just 1-3.

Romo and the Cowboys haven't been back to the postseason since. 

A broken clavicle in 2010 cost Romo 10 of the 16 games, and Dallas finished just 6-10. 

A year later, the Cowboys started 7-4 but failed to make the playoffs after losing four of their last five games. Over that stretch, Romo threw 10 touchdowns against just one interception, but the team's collapse did little to change the perception of Romo failing when the games count most.

This past season, few teams were as up-and-down as the Cowboys. A 3-5 start was followed by a 5-1 stretch, but Dallas lost games in Week 16 and 17 to miss the postseason. Romo threw three picks in the season-clinching loss to the Washington Redskins

This summarized history provides reasons as to why most root against Romo. 

Despite being the small town kid who hit it big, he's still the starting quarterback of the Cowboys. With that title comes expectations from within both the organization and fanbase, plus disdain from everyone else who is sick of hearing about the self-proclaimed "America's Team."

If you're not winning Super Bowls as the Cowboys quarterback, the fanbase can obviously turn. The rest target you as the punching bag for criticism.

Almost certainly, Romo would be held in a higher regard if he wasn't starting games at quarterback for the Cowboys. 

Romo is essentially the first true franchise quarterback the Cowboys have had since Troy Aikman. During his Hall of Fame career, Aikman won 11 playoff games and three Super Bowls. Romo has just one playoff win, and he's never even been to a conference championship game.

Just succeeding statistically in that shadow has never been enough for Romo. 

And with the well-documented struggles in the postseason has come a reputation for "choking" in the biggest moments. Romo has certainly had problems in big games, but blame is almost always assigned too favorably or harshly toward the quarterback position. Romo is a victim of that reality. 

Sometimes, such a reputation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Without much doubt, Romo has the story and stats. He's climbed up from the abyss, dated attractive women, been to three Pro Bowls and set numerous team passing records. In most NFL locales, these attributes are enough for adulation. 

But for better or worse, his struggles in the postseason—combined with a growing reputation and the lack of sympathy toward the Cowboys—will always make Romo one of the quarterbacks who is easiest to root against. 


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