I'm beginning to believe Romo is a classic tragic hero. What makes a tragic hero is that the thing which makes the hero great also keeps him from ever attaining his ultimate goal.
With Romo you can call this trait by a variety of names: courage, balls, confidence, arrogance.
A young Romo walks onto the field in a freezing Pittsburgh game in short sleeves. An innocuous thing in a football sense but it says a lot about him. He's a guy with the balls to play a freezing football game in short sleeves. That's who he is. In this case it manifests as just a little human quirk, unimportant, but this mentality extends to the football field.
Just as young Romo has the balls to wear short sleeves on a arctic football field, older Romo has the balls to fight through broken ribs on a football field. Broken ribs are an injury that leave many people completely immobile and yet this guy has the gumption to play a full-speed NFL football game with them. That's amazing, isn't it? This is Romo at his most heroic, a man with the courage to fight through debilitating injury to still win a football game.
That heroic quality extends to his play on the field. He has extreme confidence in himself. He throws into tight windows and has made many amazing plays because of this confidence. Every Cowboys fan has a play in their head where Romo has thrown it up for Miles or Terrell Ownes that they were sure was going to be an interception but the play gets made for a Cowboys touchdown. Again we celebrate this heroism, it wins us games!
But now we begin to see the turn. Romo can't stop himself, can he? Up by 24 points he can't just complete underneath stuff or throw the ball away. He has the arrogance to keep forcing passes where none need to be forced. With a lead on the Lions and only 4 minutes left in the quarter on a 1st and 10 play Romo has two defenders right in his face. The ballsy play-in-Pittsburgh-with-short-sleeves Romo can't bring himself to throw the ball away. Romo the hero who takes the field with broken ribs and a punctured lung doesn't just throw it away and depend on someone else to step up. He has to throw it up in the air for an interception or throw it to Derrelle Revis double-coverage, or throw it to Choice to fumble against Washington, and on and on and on.
Courage, balls, confidence, arrogance; call it what you will. This is the quality that makes Romo great, but also will keep him from attaining his ultimate goal. These aren't just poor decisions, they're an extension of who he is as a person. Some blame the coach but how can the coach "coach away" the same quality that makes a player great? Without that quality, what is Romo? This is your classic tragic hero.