Tony Romo and the 10 Least Clutch Quarterbacks in NFL History
Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys led the Detroit Lions 27-3 in the third quarter.
Detroit had just gone three-and-out in their first possession of the second half, when Romo dropped back to pass and found Bobby Carpenter for a quick touchdown pass.
This would be fine, except Bobby Carpenter wasn't the newest Dallas Cowboys tight end—he was the Lions linebacker.
On the next drive, Dallas is now facing 3rd-and-2 from the Lions 48. Romo is in the shotgun formation, takes the snap, then rifles a touchdown pass to Chris Houston.
Normally this would be fine, if Chris Houston was the Cowboys' latest practice-squad call-up at wide receiver. But he isn't—instead, Chris Houston is Detroit's cornerback.
Later on in the fourth quarter with 4:22 remaining as Dallas led 30-27, Romo dropped back to pass on 1st-and-10 from his own 20 and completed it Stephen Tulloch at the Dallas 40.
But not only was Tulloch not the intended receiver (Jason Witten was), but Tulloch isn't even Romo's teammate.
Stafford and the Lions would then march down the field and score what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown, as the Cowboys completed the biggest choke of Week 4, losing 34-30.
To think that based off of his gutty performances against the 49ers in Week 2 and Washington in Week 3, I actually thought of Romo as an MVP candidate. I was mistaken.
Romo only further solidified his reputation as one of the least clutch players in NFL history.
But who else is on that list?
We'll start with Romo's full resume on the next slide.
We start with Romo not only because he's the inspiration for this list, but also because his resume reads as a what-not-to-do in clutch situations.
Romo has had numerous opportunities to prove himself as a great quarterback and not just simply a good one. But he's managed to find ways to sabotage himself.
In 2006, his first year as a starter for the Cowboys, Romo set the league on fire leading Dallas to their first playoff appearance in three years.
Then in the Wild Card Round against Seattle, the Cowboys had a chance to win and move on to Round 2—all they needed was for Martin Gramatica to hit a 19-yard field-goal attempt. Should be automatic, right?
Well it would be, except Romo mishandled the snap. Dallas would go home losing 21-20 in one of the most bizarre games in NFL memory.
The next season Dallas would go 13-3 and clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs and a first-round bye.
However, Romo spent the bye on vacation with his then-girlfriend Jessica Simpson.
The next week the Cowboys would lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions and Dallas' division rivals the New York Giants, 21-17.
The next season Dallas would start off hot, going 8-4 in the first 12 games of the season.
But disasters towards the end against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and finally a 44-6 thrashing in Philadelphia against the Eagles would keep Dallas out of the postseason festivities.
Romo's had a knack of throwing the wrong place and at the wrong time, and this came to a head on Sunday afternoon.
In fact, his 2011 has so far been a mixed bag. Despite two great efforts from him against San Francisco and Washington, currently it's his two losses against the Jets and Lions that stick out, especially since both of those games turned on interceptions thrown by Romo.
"I don't think anybody could have followed Roger and done as well as Danny, Danny was a solid winner."—Tom Landry
Who am I to argue with one of the greatest football coaches of all time?
Oh yeah, a writer with the Internet and access to pro-football-reference.com. In other words I'm nobody, but will still attempt to do so.
Danny White did quarterback quite a few very good Dallas Cowboys teams in the early '80s. After following Roger Staubach, at the time the toughest job in the NFL, White produced great numbers for the Cowboys and led them to three consecutive NFC championship games where the Cowboys were favored in each of them despite being on the road each time.
Now here's where I'll say Danny wasn't a "solid" winner: The Cowboys lost each time.
In the 1980 NFC title game against the Eagles, White went 12-of-31 for 127 yards and an interception. The Cowboys lost the game 20-7.
I can't really pin the 1981 NFC title game against the 49ers on him; most of that was the genius of Montana, especially when it was punctuated with "The Drive." White did put up decent numbers going 16-of-24 for 173 yards, two touchdowns but one interception and a key fumble at the end of the game that sealed the victory, and trip to Detroit, for San Francisco.
The next year in a strike-shortened season, the Cowboys would again return to the NFC title game, this time in Washington against their division rivals the Redskins.
In this game White would split time with Gary Hodgeboom after White suffered a concussion thanks to a hit by Dexter Manley. Because of that I can't really pin this one on White.
While quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Danny White was a success, but not after considering his predecessor as well as the always-high expectations expected of Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks.
When your most legendary performance is in the greatest game in NFL history, then you have to be considered clutch, right?
Well, that's the thing. The Epic In Miami between the Chargers and Dolphins read as the first and last chapter of Dan Fouts' greatest playoff performances.
That game brought the Chargers to their second consecutive AFC championship game, however the Chargers would lose the Freezer Bowl to Cincinnati 27-7. In that game Fouts went 15-of-28 for 185 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Let's go backwards though to the 1980 AFC championship game against the underdog Oakland Raiders.
Fouts would go 22-of-45 in that game for 336 yards and two touchdowns. However, he also included two interceptions.
For his career, Fouts would go 3-4 in the postseason and never reach the Super Bowl.
We should've known that Testaverde's lack of clutch was coming back on January 2nd, 1987.
As the Heisman-winning quarterback for the heavily favored University of Miami Hurricanes (and likely the only member of that team anybody would likely be willing to invite into their home), Vinny was expected to lead the 'Canes to their second national championship in four years.
The yardage was there, with Testaverde going 26-of-50 for 285 yards, but not only were there no touchdowns to go with it, there was also five interceptions.
Miami would lose 14-10.
Fast-forward to Vinny's NFL career, and there's a lot that he can hang his hat on.
Remarkably durable, Testaverde lasted for 21 seasons and started 214 games after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But his best years were not with the Buccaneers; they would come later on.
His first playoff game was in 1994 while starting for the Cleveland Browns. Testaverde would lead the Browns to what is still to this day their last playoff victory but head coach Bill Belichick's first playoff victory, a 20-13 win over the New England Patriots.
But the next week against Cleveland's heated rival Pittsburgh, Testaverde would go 13-of-31 for 144 yards, threw one touchdown but also threw two picks in a 29-9 defeat.
Vinny wouldn't return to the postseason until 1998, then as the quarterback for the New York Jets. In his first year with the Jets, Vinny would take over as their starting quarterback in Week 3, and after the Jets started off 0-2, would win 12 out of their last 14 to lead them to their first-ever AFC East championship, including a sweep over Miami, their closest rival that season (New York went 12-4, Miami went 10-6).
In the playoffs Vinny would lead the Jets to a 34-24 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, the next week saw a trip to Denver to take on John Elway and the defending and eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Vinny and the Jets would get off to a good start and would lead Denver 3-0 at halftime, however thanks in part to six turnovers by the Jets, with two of them being Testaverde interceptions, as well as Terrell Davis having a field day on the ground (obviously not Vinny's fault), the Broncos would come away with the victory and trip to Miami winning 24-10.
Vinny Testaverde is a borderline Hall of Famer. Whether he gets in or not is up for debate. You can't deny his durability over the years as well as his toughness, but his clutch abilities leave much to be desired.
As we should've seen from the time he was in college.
Editor's note: The author of this piece is a huge Dan Marino fan, grew up with a Dan Marino poster hanging from his wall and always wore his Dan Marino jersey on his birthday. He even had a Miami Dolphins-themed birthday party when he turned eight, and much worse, at nine years old convinced his mother to take him to the grand opening of Dan Marino's first of many overpriced restaurants when it opened.
After realizing that he couldn't write a "Least Clutch NFL Players" slideshow without mentioning Dan Marino, the author fainted and hyperventilated while attempting to write this slide. He knows it's the truth, as do you, but he's still a huge Dan Marino fan, so we won't technically be the one to write it.
It is worth mentioning though that Marino only made it to one Super Bowl, where he went 29-of-50 for 318 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions as the Dolphins were destroyed by the 49ers 38-16. Also of note is that Marino's first road playoff victory came in his second-to-last game, a 20-17 victory over a Seahawks team that practically won their division by default and had Jon Kitna as their starting quarterback.
Also worth mentioning are the massive choke jobs he pulled in his last two AFC title game appearances, like in 1985 when Miami was heavily favored over New England, yet managed to lose at home 31-14, thanks in part to six turnovers by the Dolphins, two of them being Marino interceptions. Or the 1992 AFC title game against Buffalo, again at home. Then again, from what I recall, Jim Kelly and the Bills owned Miami during that entire time, so it's not like that wasn't expected.
So while I know the author of this piece might make the excuses of how Marino never had a solid running game or defense, or how Shula was terrible at drafting from the mid-'80s until 1991, or how Jimmy Johnson kept screwing up the Dolphins offense once he got there and wouldn't leave it be while building up a defense that needed massive help—facts are facts, and Marino was as clutch as his other boy LeBron James.
So much so that LeBron might want to consider changing his number to 13 next season. Yeah, that would make total sense.
And hey Tom, serves you right for putting Vinny Testeverde on your list! Go Knicks, and go Jets!
Truth hurts, doesn't it?
Wait, what the hell just happened? What's Dan Marino, who finished third only to Montana and Elway in come-from-behind victories, doing on this list? And what's with the LeBron mention? Jesus, now I have to deal with the LeBron haters coming after me...precisely why I write about the NFL—to get away from them!
Fitting that I could find a picture of Drew Bledsoe next to Tony Romo. It's like the passing of the torch of lack of clutch.
Bledsoe had one of the best arms I've ever seen in a quarterback. He was also very intelligent on the field and seems like a nice enough guy off the field.
But his performance, especially in clutch situations, left much to be desired.
Let's start with the good. In only his second year in the NFL, he led the New England Patriots to the postseason for the first time since 1986.
In his fourth year, New England would go to the Super Bowl.
He came close to rejuvenating the Bills when traded there prior to the 2002 season, then was a decent enough quarterback once he got to Dallas in 2005, leading them to a 9-7 record.
Drew Bledsoe had a fine career, make no mistake about it, to the point where now we know how dumb the whole Rick Mierer vs. Drew Bledsoe, "who should be picked No. 1" argument really was (not as dumb as Manning vs. Leaf in 1998, but still fairly dumb).
He can also say he has a Super Bowl ring.
However, the Super Bowl ring Bledsoe has? Tom Brady. The Patriots started that 2001 season with Bledsoe at quarterback. In a somewhat related story, New England started the season 0-2.
Brady took over, the Patriots would go 11-3 with Brady under center and we've all seen what has happened since.
But let's go backwards because Bledsoe did lead New England to a Super Bowl while Brady was still in high school.
Desmond Howard is responsible for the fact that the Packers left New Orleans with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, however Bledsoe has some responsibility as well—going 25-of-48 for 253 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Those numbers you would expect from his opponent that day, not from Bledsoe.
After that game, Bledsoe would only win one other playoff game (evil editor's note: against Tommy's boy Marino), then that was it.
So nice enough career, however not only was Bledsoe not clutch, but it was exposed to everyone in the worst possible way—with a 23-year-old second-year quarterback leading a team that was supposed to be Bledsoe's team to the Super Bowl.
If there's any consolation for Drew, that 23-year-old did go on to become one of the most clutch players in NFL history.
Since we mentioned Tony Romo, the inspiration for this article, we haven't really looked at any current players.
Cutler's a nice place to start.
Despite being a high draft pick that Denver traded up to receive, Cutler's postseason record stands at 1-1.
Mind you, this wasn't while playing for Denver; this was while in Chicago, which is where his lack of clutchness, and toughness, have come into play.
But first, let's look at his career in Denver.
In 2008 the Broncos started off the year at 8-5. All Denver needed was one victory and they were AFC West champions.
The victory never came. In those three clinching games, Cutler went 79-of-127 for 847 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Denver missed the playoffs, Shanahan was fired and Cutler was traded to Chicago.
Which of course brings us to last season's NFC championship game.
We all know what happened—most questioned his toughness.
But I won't do that because in reality, Cutler wasn't really any good in that game.
Prior to leaving with his injury, Cutler was 6-of-14 with 80 yards and an interception. It wasn't that he was missing receivers, it was how bad he looked while doing so.
It was almost as if from the time the starting gun fired, Cutler just didn't want to be out there. He didn't want the moment.
This season he knows his mission is to redeem himself, but because of issues having nothing to do with him (Chicago's terrible offensive line for one), he will likely not get that second chance in the playoffs.
Our third and final current player on this list, how could you make a list like this without Donovan McNabb?
We know the numbers: five NFC championship game appearances, one NFC championship. We also know the story of his one Super Bowl appearance, how he reportedly threw up prior to the final drive.
Then there's the story of him not knowing that an NFL game could end in a tie.
Really there's no need to elaborate more on McNabb's lack of clutchness. Just know he's on this list.
Craig Morton holds a place in history for being the first quarterback to lead two different franchises to the Super Bowl. Only Kurt Warner can say that he's done that as well.
However, Morton is also the first quarterback to lose the Super Bowl with two different franchises.
In his first Super Bowl appearance with the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, Morton was 12-of-26 for 127 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions as the Cowboys lost to the Baltimore Colts 16-13.
The next season Roger Staubach took over as Cowboys quarterback as Dallas claimed their first Super Bowl victory, a 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Morton would then bounce around the league, first to the New York Giants in 1974, then the next season he would wind up with the Denver Broncos.
With the Broncos, Morton would rejuvenate his career, and in 1977 would lead Denver to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
However, there to meet Morton and the Broncos was his former team led by his successor Staubach.
The Cowboys would defeat Denver 27-10, and Morton would go 4-of-15 for 39 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.
Y.A. Tittle could be considered the father of the no-clutch quarterbacks, a trendsetter if you will for the Romos, McNabbs and Cutlers of the world (editor's note: Don't forget Marino).
Tittle's numbers have him in the Hall of Fame. A 17-year veteran who started his career with the old Baltimore Colts of the All-American Football Conference (no relation to the current Indianapolis Colts), Tittle made his mark playing for the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants in the '50s and '60s.
Despite the big numbers, Tittle wouldn't make it to the postseason until the 1957 season with San Francisco. That season his 49ers would finish short of NFL championship game, losing in the divisional round to the Detroit Lions 31-27 despite leading Detroit 24-7 at halftime (hey, sounds familiar doesn't it Cowboys fans?).
In that contest Tittle would go 18-of-31 for 248 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions as the 49ers were outscored 24-3 in the second half.
His next three playoff appearances would come as a member of the New York Giants in 1961, 1962 and 1963.
In 1961 and 1962, Tittle and the Giants would run into former Giants assistant coach Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers in the NFL championship game.
In the first game Tittle went an abysmal 6-of-20 for 65 yards and four interceptions as the Packers crushed New York 37-0 at Lambeau Field
The next season would see a closer game, as the Giants defense was at least able to contain the Packers offense. However the Giants offense, led by Tittle, was still anemic. Only scoring seven points, Tittle went 18-of-41 for 197 yards and one interception.
In his final appearance in the NFL championship game, Tittle didn't have to face Lombardi, Starr and the Packers.
Instead it was a trip to Wrigley Field against George Halas and the Bears.
Tittle was awful in a game whose 14-10 score was closer than the game actually was. Going 11-of-29 for 147 yards, again Tittle would finally throw a touchdown in an NFL championship game. However, to go with that touchdown was five interceptions.
Tittle would retire after the next season never winning a playoff game in his career.
Thomas Galicia is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist who also writes about music, movies, the Miami Heat whenever this stupid lockout ends (and he's praying it's soon), the Chicago Cubs and the WWE. He also knows that most of you will disagree with him on this subject. That's what the comments are for, tell him he's wrong, or if you agree with him, tell him he's right. Then visit www.thomasgalicia.com and follow him on twitter, @thomasgalicia.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!