Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts has not only been called the best Quarterback of this era, but the best Quarterback of all time. How does the Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, stack up when compared to this football icon? This is the question that drove me to write this article.
Why should you continue reading this analysis when you just read a Tony v Peyton article not a week ago? Well, because, simply put, not too many people know how to fairly compare statistical data. The problem with statistical data is not all of it is equal. You have to find an apples to apples comparison.
Comparing a Quarterback in his first season as a starter to a Quarterback in his ninth season as a starter isn't exactly an apples to apples fair comparison, I think everyone would agree. (Unless of course you're a Peyton Manning fan.) If you want to read an article that compares Peyton Manning’s 9th, 10th, 11th, and partial 12th seasons as a starter to Tony Romo's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and partial 4th, here is the article you should read:
When I tell you what's being compared it is pretty obvious who's going to win that comparison, is it not? As Samuel Clemens (Better known as Mark Twain) once said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." What he meant by this is that any statistical analysis or comparison can be manipulated to show what the author wants, and without putting the data into some sort of context the reader cannot possibly know what any of it truly means.
In my original article I put the statistical comparison last, with the defense and explanation (context) of what was being compared first. The problem with this is that you have to wade through a plethora of explanation before you can actually see what you came to see, which would obviously be the stats. Realizing this I decided to switch it around and put the stats first, and then explain (and sometimes defend) my methods and findings afterwards.
The data for this comparison is taken from Tony Romo's 2007-2009 seasons (2nd, 3rd, and 4th season as a starter) and Peyton Manning's 1999-2001 seasons (2nd, 3rd, and 4th season as a starter). I will explain why I chose those seasons to compare later in the article.
*Tony Romo was out for three games in the 2008 season due to a fractured little finger on his right (throwing) hand.
In three fewer games Tony Romo wins in every single statistical category kept by the NFL for passing. Completion percent and yards per attempt are almost identical, with Tony Romo having less than a 1 point lead in each of those categories. Touchdowns are also very close, with Romo only edging out Manning by three (or 0.18 per game). Where the big difference comes into play is in interceptions. Tony Romo has six fewer interceptions over the course of three seasons than Peyton Manning.
Peyton averages over one interception per game (1.10 INT/G) and Romo averages less than one interception per game (.93 INT/G). A total difference of .17 interceptions per game. Due to Peyton's higher interception rate his overall Passer Rating is over four points lower than Romo's (4.56 to be exact).
Keep in mind this is a comparison between data taken from the same points in their careers, which is a lot more revealing than comparing statistical data between a 9th year vet and a guy who's been riding the bench for three seasons.
I figure a fairly common response to this is going to go something like "Okay, so Romo has been slightly better thus far in his career in the regular season. So what? Romo buckles under pressure and the playoffs are where it matters. Romo can't win a big game, Peyton can, let's see playoff comparisons!" To head off this criticism of my fine work I decided to include playoff comparisons.
Tony Romo started his playoff career in his first season as a starter (2006) when he took over from Drew Bledsoe as the starter and played out the last ten games of the season. Peyton Manning had 32 regular season games under his belt when he first entered the playoffs in his second season as a starter. Tony Romo has since played in four playoff games, so that's what we'll compare. His first four playoff appearances to Peyton Manning's first four appearances.
There are a freakish number of similarities between their first four playoff appearances.
1. They both lost three and won one.
2. Both of their first and second games were losses by less than seven. (One possession games.)
3. They were both blown out in their third game. (The Colt's loss was a shutout, Cowboys scored three.)
4. Both threw for four interceptions total.
5. Their teams both scored exactly 74 points in four playoff appearances.
6. Which means the same total number of touchdowns and field goals were scored. (No safeties or conversions in any game.)
7. Their one win to come out of their first four playoff appearances were not even close. (Peyton won 41-10, Romo 34-14.)
Same winning percentage, Romo with an edge in Completion percentage, but Peyton edging him out by 26 yards per game, 1.4 yards per attempt, and 2 touchdowns for an overall passer rating of 2.12 points higher than Tony. Keep in mind here that we had to reach a little further into Peyton Manning's career to find four playoff games.
Experience going into each playoff game:
• 1st Game: 53 and a half games on the bench and 10 starts.
• 2nd Game: 53.5 Benches, 26 Starts, 1 Playoff Loss
• 3rd game: 53.5 Benches, 55 Starts, 2 Playoff Losses
• 4th Game: 53.5 Benches, 55 Starts, 2 Playoff Losses and 1 Playoff Win
• 1st Game: 28 Starts
• 2nd Game: 48 Starts, 1 Playoff Loss
• 3rd Game: 80 Starts, 2 Playoff Losses
• 4th Game: 96 Starts, 3 Playoff Losses
Tony Romo got his first playoff win with almost half as many regular season games and one fewer playoff game under his belt. That's a pretty big difference in experience. Of Peyton's first four seasons he only made it to the playoffs twice, losing in the first round both times. Romo has made it three out of four times, advancing once. The one time he didn't take the Cowboys to the playoffs was when he was out for three games during the regular season.
The common theme amongst Romo's detractors is that he can't win a big game. As you can see, Tony Romo actually has attained an equal level of success in a smaller amount of time with less experience in his first four years as a starter at Dallas than Peyton Manning had in his first six in Indianapolis.
I hope this can at least attempt to calm some of Romo's detractors into seeing reason.
That ends the comparison portion of this article, but since I figure there could be a lot of argument about the seasons I chose to compare, I explain my reasoning for my decisions below. Please note that this section isn't nearly as polished as the first. The following reads more like a forum post than an actual article, but I figured it was important to include the thought process behind the comparison within the article itself.
By far the most difficult thing about a fair comparison is taking into account all the mitigating factors that make it difficult to get an apples to apples comparison, while trying not to be biased. Some of the things I took into consideration are:
Romo's injury. It's fairly easy to take this into account, I simply don't use overall season statistics, I use per game statistics. This is accurate, but not completely. The game that his injury occurred in was against Arizona in week six of 2008. It is documented that the injury affected Romo's play in the last drive where he had two missed passes to Terrell Owens. As these plays resulted in a punt that was blocked and returned for a score, in over-time, it is easy to conjecture that had his hand been okay they might have won the game. Had they won that game they would have made the playoffs. I won't go into how painful breaking a finger is and how long it takes to heal completely.
If Peyton's 2008 and 2009 season were included in this comparison I would take out the last two games of the '09 season and the last of '08 because they didn't matter and Peyton got benched to save him for the playoffs, since home field was secure. These seasons are not included so these games are not a factor.
Romo didn't start a game until game 8 of his fourth year, and only passed in two previous games. This is probably the hardest thing to account for. Romo undoubtedly gained experience being on the bench behind Bledsoe, Testaverde, Henson, and Carter for the first 55 games of his career.
How much experience is difficult to account for, Romo not starting the first 55 games of his career undoubtably makes it unfair to compare Romo's first 55 games with Manning's first 55 games. Especially since for the first 55 games Romo has no passing statistics, and Manning started all of his first 55 games.
So what should be compared?
Should it be the first 55 games? Obviously not. It would be Manning's impressive numbers versus Romo's nill.
Should each season be compared to each season? (Romo's 2006 to Peyton's 2006, 2007 to 2007, etc) I still don't think that's a fair comparison, considering Romo only started his first game in week 8 of 2006, plus it was his first season as a starter. The gap in starting experience is 8 years, even the gap in NFL experience is 5 years.)
I can't compare season-to-season (9th as starter versus 1st as starter), or rookie-to-rookie (No. 1 overall draft pick placed on the first string versus undrafted free agent placed on the third string). Both of those would be extremely unfair to Romo.
It would be slightly unfair to Peyton to compare Romo's 2006 (1st season as a starter) vs Peyton's 1998 (1st season as a starter) because Romo did have three years on the bench to learn from veteran QB's, whereas Peyton was thrown straight into it as a rookie.
Comparing Romo's 4th season (1st as starter) vs Peyton's 4th (4th as starter) still seems a little unbalanced in favor of Peyton, because he started all the games previous to his 4th NFL season. Still a difference of three years as starter versus three years on the bench.
How do I assaign some value to Romo benefiting from sitting on the bench and practicing with two veteran QB's (Bledsoe and Testaverde)
Now, because of these difficulties, I compared Romo's second year as a starter (2007) 3rd year (2008), and 4th year (2009) to Peyton's second (1999), third (2000), and fourth (2001) years starting.
Why not include Romo's 2006 campaign, when he was a Pro-Bowler, and Peyton's rookie year when he had 3739 total yards?
Well, I chose to exclude their first seasons because Romo sat for 52 games in a row, came off the bench and played 2 downs in another, then came off the bench and took over the starting job for Bledsoe in another, then started the last 10 games in 2006. I'll count the game with two downs as a benched game here since two plays is insignificant. (Although he went 2/2 with 30 some yards, a TD, no interceptions, and had a perfect passer rating.)
So that's 53.5 benched games and 10.5 started in 4 seasons. That's the experience Romo has coming into the 2007 season (his second as a starter and the first season used in this comparison).
Peyton's experience going into the 1999 season was 16 games as the starter. So, since Romo has 10.5 games under his belt going into the comparison, we subtract that from Peyton's 16, which then compares Peyton's left over 5.5 games to Romo's 53.5 benches. That equates one full game played to about 10 games on the bench. I think 10 games watching from the sidelines would probably be a quite a bit less beneficial than actually playing five and a half games as a starting QB, but this is about as fair as it can get, taking into account that there is probably experience gained from sitting on a bench.
Also, for you Peyton Manning fans out there, Romo's 2006 season versus Peyton's 1998 season, Romo wins every per game statistic, except TD/game, even if you count the two games he didn't start. (Romo wins: TD/Int ratio, Yards/Game, Yards/Attempt, Completion percentage, Rating, Int/Game, literally every stat other than TD/game, usually by a large margin.)
You wouldn't want to add their first seasons to the comparison; Romo would only gain a further advantage.
Edit: I'm known as Jaster83 on most forums.