Breaking Down the Flaws in Tony Romo's Game

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Breaking Down the Flaws in Tony Romo's Game
Rob Carr/Getty Images

In case you haven't heard, the Dallas Cowboys made quarterback Tony Romo the highest-paid player in team history when they agreed on a six-year contract on March 29, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The deal for Romo is very interesting not only because he's widely considered one of the better quarterbacks in the league despite his pitfalls, but he also brings out a variety of emotions among fans.

He is one of the league's most polarizing players. He's considered overrated by many because of his unnecessary turnovers in crucial situations, when he absolutely cannot afford to have them. However, he has a career passer rating of more than 95, nearly a double touchdown-to-interception ratio, a career 7.9-yards-per-attempt average and a completion percentage of more than 64 percent.

Any way one slices it, that's tough to top, and those are quality numbers.

However, one can make a valid point that Romo does indeed have serious flaws in his game. Despite being one of the most statistically talented quarterbacks, he has a penchant for turning the ball over late in games when the team is on his shoulders. Oddly enough, he also tends to turn the ball over early in games.

He's not entirely at fault for his mistakes. We've all seen the issues that he's had with his wide receivers and offensive line. Dez Bryant doesn't run the proper "hot" route and, of course, Romo gets blamed for the thrown interception. Then there's his offensive line failing to protect the A- or B-gap, forcing the quarterback to climb the pocket and get rid of the ball earlier than expected.

Those are tough mistakes to overcome by the supporting cast, especially considering how many variables there are in the sport of football. Yet Romo gets blamed the majority of the time.

Sometimes the blame is correct, though. Against the division rival New York Giants last season, Romo threw five interceptions in two games, an unacceptable number.

Not all of the turnovers were his fault but some were, such as the one he threw early in the second quarter of Week 1. The ball was just outside the 40-yard line with the down and distance reading 3rd-and-8.

This is a very important down and distance for any NFL quarterback. It's the one that separates the average from the good and, in some cases, the good from the great, regardless of when it takes place in a game. For Romo, this was taking place with 10:52 left in the second quarter. Very early and too early for a mistake to be made.

It was an "empty" set, and the Cowboys quarterback was all alone in the backfield. Three pass-catchers were to his left, including favorite target and tight end Jason Witten. To the right, two receivers were lined up in a tight set. Witten was going to be running a "pin" route while the perimeter receiver would run a "dig" route behind him. This was a staple in the Giants playbook, but on this play, it would be the Cowboys' play call.

Defensively, the Giants were in their base coverage, Cover 2. Middle linebacker Michael Boley was responsible for covering the seam. He would be responsible for the dig route.

Once Romo caught the football from the center, he dropped back and was immediately faced with a heavy pass rush from the Giants. The Giants utilized a stunt (often called "games" by defensive line coaches) that caused some confusion on the interior line's assignments. As a result, the defensive line threatened Romo's pocket and forced him to step up.

There was little room to climb the pocket, however. That made it difficult for him to properly step through his throw with his lead foot and accurately place the ball to his intended target, the receiver coming across the middle of the field on a dig route.

He launched the ball anyway, attempting to rocket it through a very tight window between Boley and the nickel cornerback. Boley, reading the throw as it was made, flowed with the football and stepped in front of the dig route for an interception.

It was an easy play to make for the middle linebacker. Although Romo was pressured, he shouldn't have made the throw.

If he made a throw at all, it should have been to Witten, who ran a pin route underneath and was open for potentially a first down. If it wasn't a first down, it was still better than an interception.

Interceptions are the worst kind of turnovers for a quarterback to make and an incomplete pass is always better than a turnover.

Perhaps the latter is considered managing the game, which is a label that is often ridiculed but it's a vital one. A quarterback who can manage a game is important to a team simply because he doesn't lose it. When a quarterback turns the ball over, it's extremely difficult to come back in a game and even harder to win one.

If Tony Romo's going to live up to his grand deal and make an even greater mark in Cowboys history, he's going to have to manage games better. Interceptions like above are simply not acceptable, because even though he isn't getting much help from his teammates, he still can't afford to turn the ball over in that down and distance and territory.

It's precisely why he's one of the most polarizing NFL quarterbacks.

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