Tony Romo: Can 1 Great Game Rid Dallas Cowboys QB of Choker Label?
Tony Romo sucks. He's a bum. He's not a winner. He's un-clutch. He's terrible in the fourth quarter. He can't win the big one. If it's a big game, he's going to come up small.
At least that's what most people believe.
Contrary to prevailing public opinion, Romo has actually performed like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since becoming a full time starter for the Dallas Cowboys in the middle of the 2006 season.
For his career, Romo completes 64.1 percent of his passes and averages 8.07 yards per attempt.
By way of comparison, Peyton Manning has completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 7.60 yards per attempt; Tom Brady completes passes at a 63.6 percent rate and averages 7.41 yards per attempt; Drew Brees throws for a 65.2 percent completion average and gets 7.33 yards per attempt; Aaron Rodgers comes in at a 64.7 completion percentage and averages 7.92 yards per attempt; and Philip Rivers completes 63.9 percent of his passes and averages 7.99 yards per attempt.
Of these signal callers, Romo ranks fourth in completion percentage and first in yards per attempt.
Romo also holds Cowboy records for passing yards, touchdowns and completions in a season, 300 yard games in a season as well as the ream record for 300 yard games in a career.
He also has a 40-23 record as the starter, good for a 63.4 winning percentage. Of current quarterbacks, only Manning, Brady, Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have a better winning percentage as starters.
In his first year as starter, Romo and the Cowboys knocked off the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, spoiling their bid for a perfect season. Romo completed 19-of-23 passes for 226 yards in that game.
Can one big game erase Tony Romo's choke label?
The following season, Romo threw four touchdowns in a Thursday night win over the Green Bay Packers to set the Cowboys up with the number one seed heading into the postseason in what would later become known as "the day we all found out Aaron Rodgers would be pretty good."
In 2009, Romo led the Boys to a 24-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on the final day of the regular season to clinch the NFC East title, and then beat them again the following week at home.
Many of Romo's detractors like to talk about how he always under performs in the fourth quarter. USA today even compared his fourth-quarter maladies to those of LeBron James. This is another fallacy, at least statistically speaking.
Romo's 58.4 Total QBR (ESPN's new quarterback ranking statistic) in the fourth quarter is strikingly similar to his 58.6 in the first three quarters.
In addition, as detailed by Todd Archer this week on ESPNDallas.com:
"Since 2006 no quarterback -- not Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers -- has a better fourth-quarter passer rating than Romo (100.0). Only Brees (39) and Philip Rivers(39) have more fourth-quarter touchdown passes than Romo's 34. Only Brees (5,905), Manning (4,886) and Rivers (4,751) have more fourth-quarter yards than Romo's 4,712.
Romo has thrown 17 fourth-quarter interceptions, which is fewer than Brees (25), Brett Favre (25), Eli Manning (27), Jay Cutler (22) and Ben Roethlisberger (22) among others. Brady has just 11. Peyton Manning has 13 and is not likely to add to that total this year because of neck surgery.
Romo has led nine fourth-quarter comebacks."
So, maybe Romo doesn't actually suck. And maybe he doesn't suck in the fourth quarter either. So what gives?
Why is Romo thought of by very few people as being on the same level as the rest of those elite quarterbacks? The reason why basically boils down to his last pass attempt in three different games.
In his first season as a starter, Romo led the Cowboys to the playoffs where they squared off against the Seahawks in Seattle. Romo led the Boys down the field on what should have been a game-winning drive, but instead he bobbled the snap on the game winning field goal attempt and was tackled at the one yard line when he tried to run the ball in.
The following year, with the Cowboys trailing 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Romo threw a fourth down pass right into the arms of New York Giants cornerback R.W. McQuarters to seal his second straight playoff loss.
And last week, with the Cowboys looking to be headed to overtime against the New York Jets, Romo under threw Dez Bryant and was picked off by Darrelle Revis, leading to a Cowboys loss on a field goal by former teammate Nick Folk. Earlier in the quarter, Romo tried to scramble toward the end zone on a broken play with the Cowboys up by seven points, and was hit from behind and fumbled the ball.
Romo has also had some nightmare games on national television.
He had a six-turnover game against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football in 2007, but he even overcame that disaster and actually led Dallas for a come-from-behind win that evening.
Against the Baltimore Ravens in the last game at Texas Stadium, Romo threw two debilitating interceptions in an embarrassing loss.
In the Cowboys Stadium opener, Romo threw three interceptions on Sunday Night against the Giants.
Later that season, when all the Cowboys needed to do to make the playoffs was beat the Eagles, Romo and the Cowboys came out flat and were drubbed 44-6 and went home early.
Realistically, can one good game from Tony Romo change the public's perception of him?
The short answer is: probably not. The long answer is: only if that game is the Super Bowl.
Romo likely got the media off his back for at least one week with a gritty comeback performance against the San Francisco 49ers. Romo was thought to be out for the game with a fractured rib, but he came back in relief in Jon Kitna and led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind victory on the road after being down 10 points in the fourth quarter.
It was the 10th fourth quarter comeback victory of his career.
In overtime, Romo found Jesse Holley, who coming into this game had a grand total of zero career catches, for a 77 yard catch and run to set up the game winning field goal.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Romo completed 11-of-13 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown.
However, for Tony Romo, the quarterback of America's Team, nothing short of a Super Bowl victory will make him legitimate in the eyes of either the Cowboys' faithful, their legion of detractors across the world, or the mainstream media.
Danny White was a quarterback who had nice numbers and a good record (62-32, good for a .659 winning percentage), but rather than bringing home a Super Bowl, he came back to Dallas with three straight NFC Championship Game losses, so he's not thought of on the same level as legends Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.
Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, John Elway and others were also thought of as very good quarterbacks who could never win the big game, until of course, they actually did. Now they're all considered winners and great champions.
Super Bowl victories can erase a lifetime of bad performances in big games—it's that simple.
You can follow Jared Dubin on Twitter: @JADubin5
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