Dallas Cowboys: 5 Reasons Tony Romo Will Be in the 2012 NFL MVP Race

Chris Hummer@chris_hummerAnalyst IJune 21, 2012

Dallas Cowboys: 5 Reasons Tony Romo Will Be in the 2012 NFL MVP Race

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    Tony Romo will lead the Dallas Cowboys to the NFC East title in 2012, landing him squarely in the middle of the NFL MVP race.

    Romo is coming off of the best statistical season of his career, and he will build upon that during the 2012 campaign.

    At 32 years of age, he's in his sixth full season as a starter and knows that his NFL clock is ticking. For Romo, the time to win is now.

    The Cowboys will field their most complete roster since the playoff teams of the 90's, and Romo will be the leader that spurs them back to the playoffs.

    So, here are five reasons why Romo will be in the MVP race in 2012.

Statistically He's One of the Best QB's in the NFL

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    Everyone knows that Romo puts up sensational numbers from year to year. But with all the criticism that he procures, I'm just not sure if the people that judge him appreciate how tremendous his stats have been.

    Not only is Romo a three-time Pro Bowler, but he has ranked in the top ten in almost every key statistical category since he became a full-time starter in 2007.

    He has the second highest active passer rating in the NFL at 96.9. Actually, he has the second best career rating in NFL history, behind only Aaron Rodgers. This means his passer rating—the stat that measures overall quarterback performance—is higher than legends Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Steve Young.

    He also throws the ball around the gridiron at a prolific rate. In every season in which he has played a full slate of games, he's gone above the 4000-yard mark.

    It's not just the yardage that piles up though; he excels at pushing the ball into the end zone. Romo has ranked in the top ten in the NFL in passing touchdowns every year except 2010—when he missed 10 games with a broken collarbone.

    Romo is also one of the most precise signal callers in the league. For his career he has completed 64.5 percent of his passes, which is the sixth best rate in NFL history.

    All of these numbers came together last year, and Romo had his best statistical season to date. He threw for 4,184 yards, 31 touchdowns and had a 102.5 passer rating. However,  it was the fact that he limited himself to 10 interceptions that was the most impressive.

    Romo has always been a high risk-high reward gunslinger, and his decision making has been the most questionable portion of his game. Last season he rectified that, showing an uncanny poise in the pocket while limiting turnovers.

    Romo should only build on this output in 2012. If he does, he will be in the middle of the MVP discussion all year.

The Cowboys O-Line Will Be Improved in 2012

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    All of the great quarterbacks have something in common—they never seem to hit the ground.

    Tom Brady hardly ever gets touched. Drew Brees just seems to glide around in the pocket and at times, Aaron Rodgers looks like he could read a book in the backfield.

    However, Romo has never been afforded the luxury of a dominant offensive line.

    This was never more evident than in 2011.

    Last season he seemed to be scrambling away from pressure as much as he was scanning the defense. Dallas' o-line allowed 39 sacks and 81 quarterback hits last year. It was the inability to stop the pass rush that contributed to the myriad of injures Romo sustained in 2011, including broken ribs and a punctured lung.

    The offensive line's ineffectiveness was one of the team's largest areas of need heading into the offseason, and Jerry Jones made addressing it a priority.

    First, Dallas parted ways with ineffective guards Montrae Holland and Kyle Kosier, who were both consistently beat in pass protection and overpowered in run blocking.

    To replace them, Jones turned to the free agent market. There he signed guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. While neither player is fantastic, both should be able to step in right away and fortify the line.

    However, the biggest move on the o-line, came in-house. The Cowboys decided to switch 2011 first round pick Tyron Smith to left tackle while moving Doug Free to his more natural position on the right side.

    Smith has the perfect build and the quick feet to be a force on the blind side, and Free has proven he’s dependable on the right edge.

    All of these changes benefit Romo, and he should see a clean pocket more often this season.

    The extra seconds to throw might be a little weird to him at first, but I'm sure he'll be able to adjust.

He Has Some of the Best Skill Players in the NFL Surrounding Him

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    A solid offensive line is great, but even the best quarterback needs first-class talent surrounding him to thrive. Fortunately for Romo, he has a number of prime skill players to assist him.

    This group starts with the Cowboys’ gifted duo of wide receivers, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

    Austin is a two-time Pro Bowler and can stretch the field with the top wide outs in the NFL. He is big player with great leaping ability, he’s very tough to bring down after the catch and, as Cowboys fans have seen, has a knack for making the big play.

    On the other side of the field defenses will have to contend with Dez Bryant. Bryant, the Cowboys' first round pick in 2010, is a premium talent. He is 6'2", 218 pounds and is a load to bring down. He can out-leap any corner he comes up against and is one of the supreme deep threats in the NFL. Early on in his career he has just been good but not great, but all indications this offseason are he's ready to take the next step in 2012.

    It's not just on the outside where the Cowboys have an abundance of talent. They also have a preeminent tight end in Jason Witten.

    For years, Witten has set the standard in Dallas for hard work and production, making himself the NFL's best all-around tight end. He is a force in the passing game and Romo's favorite target in crunch time. But it's his blocking that really separates him from the pack. Witten excels in run blocking and pass protection. When he's deterring rushers it's almost as if Dallas has an extra lineman.

    Dallas also has a gifted stable of backs, which will be able to keep defenses honest if they try to shade towards the pass.

    Demarco Murray broke out last season for 897 yards during his rookie year, and looks to be the most complete back the 'Boys have featured since Emmitt Smith.

    In addition, they have former first round pick Felix Jones to complement Murray. Jones—while injury prone—is one of the most explosive runners in the NFL and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the rock.

    Romo has an abundance of skill around him and he should be able to lead the team down the field at will in 2012.

Romo Is More Clutch in Crunch Time Than People Give Him Credit for

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    Tony Romo isn't clutch. Tony Romo is terrible in the fourth quarter. What do Tony Romo and LeBron James have in common? They both only play for three quarters.

    These are only some of the many insults from Cowboys' fans and critics alike about Romo.

    Thing is, these statements are way off base. Romo is actually very good in the final frame, elite in fact.

    Contrary to popular belief, Romo has the highest active career QB rating in the fourth quarter, at 101.8. That's means Romo is ranked ahead of "Captain Clutch," Tom Brady, better than NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and superior to Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who was all the way down at 10 on the list.

    He has also conducted a number of game winning drives during his career, and in 2011, he accomplished the feat four times. That number would have been even higher if the Dallas defense could have held Brady down for the last two minutes of their Week 6 match-up.

    Critics will also point to Romo's playoff performances as reason to doubt his abilities, but he’s actually been solid in the postseason.

    Romo's career playoff passer rating is a respectable 81.35. It's not as outstanding as his regular season numbers, but it’s solid.

    Then if the stats don’t convince his critics, they point to his fumble in the Cowboys' wild card round loss to the Seattle Seahawks in 2006.

    The thing is, he wasn’t even in the pocket for the play. He was actually the extra point holder, a job no top-flight quarterback in the NFL is forced to perform.

    Dallas may have had its struggles late in games, but Romo wasn't the catalyst for the losses. He was actually one of the team’s greatest strengths. 

Dallas Will Win the NFC East and Make a Playoff Run

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    Eight of the last 10 NFL MVP's have shared two important things in common.

    First, they were all quarterbacks. Second, their teams made the playoffs.

    Romo has the first aspect in the bag, but it will be the Cowboys’ finish in the standings that truly determines whether he will be a contender for MVP. 

    Because when it really comes down to it, the only real way for a player to garner MVP votes is to fuel a successful team.

    For Romo, this means that the Cowboys must make the playoffs. However, the best way to make an impression with voters would be to lead his team to the division crown.

    Fortunately for him, this team has the talent and the drive to not only make the playoffs, but to contend for a championship.

    The offense is set up to be explosive and Romo will be able to direct this group up and down the field. With the immense amount of skill on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys should have no trouble lighting up opposing defenses.

    The key to the realization of the Cowboys’ goals, however, is the defense.

    This was the unit that let the team down time after time in 2011. The pass rush had a tendency to disappear late in games and the secondary always managed to give up a big play at the worst time.

    Plus, there was a lot of confusion on that side of the ball, as the D adjusted to new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's complicated scheme on the fly. 

    All of these issues were addressed in the offseason, though. The secondary got a major upgrade with the additions of corners Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr and the defense should appear more fluid this year in its second spell under Ryan.  

    The defense has the potential to be a top 10 unit in the NFL. If that happens, the Cowboys should be able to claw their way to an NFC East title.

    With that accomplished, not only will Dallas return to the postseason for the first time since 2009, but Romo could be the Cowboys' first MVP since 1993.