After three seasons, I have watched Tony Romo in countless pressure situations. And I have come to a conclusion: There is a new universal sign for choking, football fans. It's no longer Brett Favre. It's Tony Romo.
Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo is the biggest choker in the history of the National Football League.
Make no mistake. Tony Romo is a very good quarterback. You could even make the argument that Tony Romo is a great quarterback. A top-eight quarterback in the NFL—until the months of December and January.
Where did it begin?
The legend of Tony Romo began halfway through the 2006 season, following the benching of Drew Bledsoe (Dallas fans can thank the Eagles for that one).
Romo quickly led the Cowboys to four straight wins, including a beatdown on the previously undefeated and eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. He threw five touchdown passes on Thanksgiving Day, a game in which I still remember turning to my dad and saying, “Dallas is going to the Super Bowl.”
But the trouble began the very next week. Although the Cowboys defeated the Giants 23-20, Romo threw no touchdowns and two interceptions. The next week pitted the Cowboys against the new NFC-favorite New Orleans Saints. Romo completed less than half of his passes and again threw two interceptions, as the Saints dismantled "America's Team”, 42-17.
A narrow win over the Atlanta Falcons brought the Dallas Cowboys into a favorable situation against the Jeff Garcia-led Philadelphia Eagles with the division title on the line. Every Cowboys fan remembers this game. I call it the Christmas Day Massacre.
Just like he did against the Saints, Romo completed less than half of his passes and threw two costly fourth-quarter interceptions, as the Eagles clinched a playoff spot with a 23-7 victory.
Cowboys fans didn't panic. They knew they could still win the division. The Lions (2-13) were coming to town the next week. Yet, to the shock of the football world, the roar of the Lions was too much for Romo's squad to overcome. He fumbled four times, losing two of them, and threw an interception, as the Lions handed the Eagles their fifth division title of the millennium.
Dallas, losers of three out of four in the month of December, still earned a wild-card spot and traveled to Seattle for the first round of the NFL playoffs. Trailing 21-20 with under a minute remaining, the Cowboys attempted a 19-yard field goal—essentially an extra point. Tony Romo fumbled the snap from center, and attempted to run with the football to win the game. A diving tackle by defensive back Jordan Babineaux sealed an improbable victory for the Seattle Seahawks.
It was the happiest moment of my life as a Cowboys hater.
The 2007 regular season spelled success for the Dallas Cowboys. Winners of 11 of their first 12 games, Romo helped Dallas earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. He continued to struggle in December, throwing three interceptions, fumbling twice, and completing 13 of 36 passes as the 'Boys lost a home game to the 5-8 Eagles.
The Cowboys also lost their seventh consecutive season finale, as Romo threw an interception and completed 43 percent of his passes against the Redskins.
In the postseason, the Cowboys made history—dubious history. "America's Team" became the first NFC team with home-field advantage to lose in the divisional round. Romo completed just 50 percent of his passes and threw a game-sealing, fourth-down interception in the end zone with nine seconds remaining.
The 2008 season was an interesting roller-coaster ride for Tony Romo. A broken pinky on his throwing hand (reminder: Donovan McNabb played with a broken right thumb) sidelined the fragile Cowboys quarterback for three games, while the inept, immobile Brad Johnson struggled to run America's offense.
Following Romo's return, a pivotal December matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be a Super Bowl preview. Romo turned in his usual stellar performance, throwing an interception touchdown to Deshea Townsend with the game tied and under a minute remaining. Romo's four turnovers raised serious questions about the legitimacy of Dallas as a playoff team.
Two interceptions and another fumble resulted in a heartbreaking loss against the Baltimore Ravens in the last game in the history of Texas Stadium. Following a gift loss by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys needed just a win to reach the playoffs.
In a win-or-die situation, the Dallas Cowboys, led by their superstar quarterback Tony Romo, turned in arguably the most lifeless performance of the 2008 NFL season. Romo threw an interception and lost two fumbles in the worst beatdown in the history of the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.
I call it the Christmas Massacre Part Two. A third straight season for the Cowboys ended in the most heartbreaking situation imaginable.
He has some of the most incredible offensive talent to work with: Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber, six-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Owens, Pro Bowl wide receiver Roy Williams, and five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. Combined, his skill position players have been selected to 13 Pro Bowls.
Yet he cannot get the job done. Ever. He is 0-2 in playoff games. Both games came down to the final minute, and both times he choked in the most important, pressure-packed situation of the year.
Throughout his career in December and January, he has thrown a combined 16 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He has a 22-4 record in games played before December. He has a 5-10 record in games played after December. He is 0-2 when his latest Barbie doll girlfriend is in the stands, both courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Romo has absolutely no leadership ability. In yesterday's loss to the Eagles, he challenged his coach's authority in front of the entire football team by refusing to leave the field on a fourth-down situation. He has zero charisma in the clubhouse, ignoring the common notion that a quarterback should serve as a role model to his teammates.
Tony Romo was described today by Dallas newspapers as “gutless and pathetic.”
Plaxico Burress may have shot himself in the thigh, but Tony Romo shoots himself and his entire team in the foot in every single pressure situation imaginable.
There's no way to deny the inevitable. Tony Romo has become the laughingstock of the National Football League. He doesn't just lose. He embarrasses himself. He has completely humiliated himself and the Dallas Cowboys for the past three seasons.
His success in the regular season will forever be overshadowed by his glaring and continuous failures in any and every pressure situation.