FanPost

Romo vs. The Clutch

I joined this blog about two months ago, enjoy it immensely,  and have been checking in almost daily ever since. One thing that has surprised me is the amount of flack Romo is getting on this site, a Cowboys site no less. While often entertaining, and sometimes flat out ridiculous, this love/hate relationship with our Pro Bowl QB made me go back and take an in-depth look at the stats, trying to figure out in my first fanpost which side of the 'argument' has more merit.

Romo vs. the Clutch

First off, how to define Clutch? Well, I looked at four different stats that come close to describing clutch situations in a game, and together add up to a pretty good clutch performance overview. Three of the four rely QB rating, and while that stat is getting a lot of criticism, in is also widely accepted as a valid measure of QB performance

  • 4th Quarter QB Rating: How efficient is a QB late in the game?
  • 4th Quarter QB rating with the score +/- 7 points: Late game, high pressure situations. If not now, when?
  • Red Zone QB rating: How does a QB perform in the Red Zone throughout the game?
  • 3rd down conversion: How efficient is the QB at maintaining drives throughout the game?

                      2008 Regular Season, QBs with most starts per team

Quarterback Team 4th Q. Rating
Rank 4th Q: +/- 7 pts Rating Rank Red Zone Rating
Rank 3rd Down Conversions (Passing) Rank AVG
1 T. Romo
DAL 114.7 1 114.7 4 97.7 9 45.3 6 5.0
2 P. Manning
IND 87.3 14 96.3 8 110.3 3 48.9 1 6.5
3 P. Rivers
SD 111.7 2 94.7 9 99.5 8 45.1 7 6.5
4 T. Edwards BUF 106.3 3 127.5 2 100.6 7 39.4 17 7.3
5 D. Brees NO 95.3 6 78.3 20 101.3 6 47.9 4 9.0
6 E. Manning NXG 93.8 9 132.6 1 90.9 16 43.7 12 9.5
7 K. Warner ARI 84.8 16 82.6 17 104.4 5 47.9 3 10.3
8 A. Rodgers GB 87.8 13 93.7 12 106.8 4 42.2 13 10.5
9 S. Hill SF 101.3 4 86.6 15 82.9 27 48.7 2 12.0
10 J. Delhomme
CAR 97.8 5 116.1 3 87.2 23 38.1 18 12.3
11 S. Wallace SEA 95.2 7 87.0 13 117.8 1 27.9 32 13.3
12 K. Collins TEN 90.9 11 86.9 14 110.3 2 34.6 26 13.3
13 M. Schaub HOU 79.6 20 99.7 6 90.9 17 40.6 16 14.8
14 J. Cutler DEN 94.2 8 86.2 16 74.1 31 44.8 8 15.8
15 D. McNabb PHI 93.2 10 72.8 24 90.7 18 43.9 11 15.8
16 B.Roethlisberger PIT 74.7 23 77.4 22 97 11 44.3 10 16.5
17 J. Campbell WAS 84.1 19 100.4 5 91.5 15 33.6 28 16.8
18 M. Cassell NE 73.4 25 94.4 11 83.2 26 47.1 5 16.8
19 C. Pennington MIA 84.2 17 79.1 19 97.6 10 37.2 23 17.3
20 J. Flacco BAL 89.8 12 94.7 10 77.7 29 37.8 20 17.8
21 G. Frerotte MIN 86.8 15 77.8 21 95.8 13 37.5 22 17.8
22 M. Ryan
ATL 84.1 18 82.5 18 83.7 25 41.9 14 18.8
23 B. Favre NYJ 75.0 22 56.4 29 85.0 24 44.5 9 21.0
24 JaM. Russell OAK 78.9 21 97.7 7 80.0 28 29.1 31 21.8
25 J. Garcia TB 63.9 28 40.8 31 94.9 14 40.6 15 22.0
26 K. Orton CHI 65.7 27 68.2 27 96.0 12 36.3 25 22.8
27 R. Fitzpatrick CIN 50.9 32 74.1 23 89.7 20 37.7 21 24.0
28 T. Thigpen
KC 62.6 29 58.5 28 90.2 19 36.4 24 25.0
29 D. Garrard JAC 74.3 24 68.5 26 66.8 32 37.9 19 25.3
30 D. Anderson CLE 56.6. 30 68.9 25 88.2 22 34.4 27 26.0
31 D. Orlovsky DET 73.2 26 53.9 30 89.0 21 30.3 30 26.8
32 M. Bulger STL 52.6 31 33.8 32 75.8 30 31.9 29 30.5

Stats from iWon-sports and ESPN.

The stats show that Romo has performed exceedingly well in "clutch" situations. And 2008 is no fluke. He has similar stats for both 06 & 07. So why is he being called out by fans and media alike as a choker? Geth13 provided some insightful comments in response to a recent fanshot, showing that much of the criticism is based on 'circumstantial' evidence like a bobbled hold, a dropped pass or a stumbling tight end.

One of my favorite 'circumstantial' football stats is the so-called 'fourth-quarter comeback' which is often taken as a mark of true greatness for QBs. Puuhleease! Has anyone ever considered that in order to make a fourth-quarter comeback, you have to be behind?

Arguably, most quarterbacks are not much affected by clutch situations. Are you really surprised at the names you see in the Top 7 or the Bottom 7 on the list? Top QBs (and Brady would be right up there) play at a very high level in both normal situations and clutch situations. The same is usually found on the bottom of the list. Most mediocre quarterbacks remain that way in the clutch. They don't become good, nor do they shrink and become terrible.

So what gives with the Romo bashing?

Rightly or wrongly, the QB gets way too much credit for winning, and blame for losing, games. Credit that, either way, properly belongs to the whole team - and the impact of chance, injuries and contingency are also greatly underestimated.

Romo may not (yet) be Staubach or Aikman reincarnated, but he's a lot better than anything we've had since - or does anybody want to talk about Bledsoe, Testaverde, Carter …. He's winning games for us, and in my book that beats 3 consecutive 5-11 seasons hands down.

Romo is clearly one of the best in the league when he has protection and/or is able to move outside the pocket. The key to getting the most out of Romo this year will be improved playcalling and passblocking. The team has improved in several areas vs. who we had last year, and yes that explicitly includes our WR’s. From what I can see right now, if Romo doesn't have to force the ball to any particular receiver (*coughterrellowenscough*), Garrett finds ways to exploit the run game a bit more and Wade keeps running the D all season long to live up to the recent OTA hype, this team looks dangerously good. If we can stay moderately healthy at the key spots, especially on the OL, then I see a minimum 11-5 easily, and playoff glory beckoning.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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