Tony Romo: Perception, Perspective, and Reality

Phil BrennanCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2009

IRVING, TX - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys during play against the Baltimore Ravens at Texas Stadium on December 20, 2008 in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Here’s a fun exercise; mention the name of Dallas Cowboy quarterback, Tony Romo, and you’ll likely hear some of the following comments:


“Choke artist.”

Or the simple, yet poignant, “Romo sucks!”

What’s amazing is these are statements that have been uttered from the mouths of Cowboy fans, not just the fans of rival teams.

Harsh analysis and unrealistic expectations from analysts and fans are typically par-for-the-course when it comes to manning the quarterback position for an NFL team.

However, it’s fair to say that no other quarterback in the league has been unduly scrutinized the way Romo has the past two seasons.

The hyper-criticism leveled at Romo on regular basis teeters on ferocious to simply absurd.

By all accounts, most will agree that Romo (and by extension, the Cowboys) have struggled in December and in the playoffs, point blank.

During the last quarter of the past three seasons (2006-08), the Romo led Cowboys have sported a less than stellar record (4-8).  Romo’s subpar individual numbers fall in-line with the team’s overall poor performance during that same stretch:

W-L (4-8)
71.6 QB rating
14 TD/17 INT
58.10 completion pct.

This seemingly annual slide has helped lead to the general perception that Romo is your run-of-the-mill choker during crunch-time.

WARNING: Perspective required from this point on

The reality is that no stretch of bad play by a team can accurately be pinned to just a single player.  Conversely, it’s foolhardy to credit a team’s success on just one player.  For a team sport such as football, there are so many variables, circumstances and plays that are involved in helping to determine the fate of a game.

Can we talk about Jacquez Reeves’ facemask penalty at the end of the first half of the 2007 Divisional playoff game against the Giants?

Can we talk about Patrick Crayton’s infamous game-changing drop during that same game?

Can we talk about Terence Newman giving up a momentum changing first down after biting on a pump fake when they had the Steelers pinned back on 3rd-and-16 last season?

Take this past season’s loss against the Ravens as another example.

Despite Romo’s uneven performance during that game, he had the team in position to win at the end of the game, which outside of winning outright, is all you can ask your quarterback to do. 

Unfortunately, Romo could not control his defense’s tackling ineptitude during the game’s final four minutes in which they surrendered two touchdowns on two 77+ yard runs.

Yes, he did have some untimely interceptions (aren’t they always?).  However, if you want to exploit the improvisational talents of Romo, turnovers are simply part of that endeavor.  For every boneheaded deep heave that ends up in the arms of Ed Reed, you have far more plays in which Romo extends a play for a positive gain or points.

Should Romo be given a free license to go nuts in a Favresque manner?  No.  In fact, reports indicate the Cowboys will try to limit the number of opportunities Romo has to make decisions in the upcoming season by focusing on their strength at running back.

The point is critics have found it much easier to saddle Romo with the blame than to objectively watch and analyze the team’s overall play.


Romo’s Early Success

Romo has started a grand total of just 39 regular season games, which is slightly less than 2.5 seasons of professional football.  It should be noted that of the games in which Romo started under center, the Cowboys have won 27, while losing just 12.  For the stat lovers, that’s good enough for a .692 win percentage.

In those 2.5 seasons, Romo has helped lead the Cowboys to playoff appearances in both 2006 and 2007.  In 2008, Romo missed three crucial games due to injury, as the Cowboys limped to a (1-2) record without him.

Peyton Manning, a former first overall pick and anointed league golden boy, never received the type of criticism that Romo has.  This is despite the fact the Colts didn’t win their first playoff game under Manning until his sixth season (2003).

Yet, Romo, who came in as an undrafted rookie free agent, is held to a higher level of scrutiny, criticism and expectation of his play during his first 2.5 seasons?

Something doesn’t add up.

What Romo has been able to accomplish thus far in his career has been nothing short of outstanding.  Romo may already be 29 years old, but he’s a young veteran in terms of playing experience.  He may not be maturing physically, but his skills and game management are. 

Look for Romo to begin changing perceptions in 2009.


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