The data suggests that Romo the gunslinger is Dallas’ best chance to win.



Tony Romo has been the biggest story this NFL season.  It will be a relief not to hear about him as much this week, since the Cowboys have a bye week.


The moratorium on Romo-bashing will likely be lifted by Wednesday October 12th.  That is when unfounded opinions, backed by violent emotions will once again surface.


Here are a few facts: 32 different quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl.  There is about a 98% chance that Romo does not join them.  People bashing Romo (talking to you Deion…) saying he will not win a Super Bowl have better than a 98% chance of being right.  Way to go out on a limb.


There are currently only five quarterbacks playing that have won a Super Bowl since 2001.  Peyton Manning is obviously out following his cervical fusion surgery; leaving Tom Brady as the best quarterback in the NFL (he has won three Super Bowls).


Following this latest weekend, there is little doubt that Romo (and perhaps nobody currently playing outside of Aaron Rodgers) compares favorably to Tom Brady.  Since Brady has been playing much longer than Tony, Tom’s data was not included to reduce bias secondary to his longevity and in a way, his excellence recently. 


Rather, data from several of what can be considered Romo’s contemporaries: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning were included in this quick study.  Those quarterbacks have won 5 of the last 6 Super Bowls (Peyton Manning won the other).


Tony Romo has played significant time in 70 games after the first four games of the 2011 season.  Rodgers is the only quarterback from this list to have played in fewer (56), while Brees has played in the most (148).  Ben and Eli have played significant time in 116 and 115 games respectively.


Playoff games are included in the totals, since Super Bowl champions are being compared to Tony Romo on wins in respect to the number of interceptions per game.  Fumbles are not included since it is difficult to consistently assign blame to the correct individual for a fumbled handoff, fumbled snap (or premature snap), a fumble caused by a blindside hit, and so forth.


Note: I will not be examining fumbles anytime in the near future, so if someone else would like to add this with all of the appropriate explanations, please feel free to do so.


While Tony Romo has the fewest percentage of games played without throwing an interception, Romo has the second best (only behind the unbelievable Aaron Rodgers) in the percentage of games played in which one interception or less was thrown.  In other words, Tony has only played in 24 games where he did not throw an interception (only 34.3%).  Eli was the next lowest, only completing 41 games without throwing an interception (35.7%).  Rodgers is tops, registering an incredible 53.6% of games in which he did not throw an interception.  Neither Brees nor Roethlisberger are over 50% (43.2% and 43.1% respectively).


In games where one of those quarterbacks throws no more than one interception, however, only Rodgers is better than Tony Romo.  Aaron has completed that goal in an amazing 83.9% of his games, while Romo is a relatively close second (80%).  Eli has thrown no more than one interception in 70.4% of his games, which is last on this list.  Ben and Drew accomplish the feat 75% and 73.6% of the time respectively.


Now how does this relate to wins?


The four afore mentioned quarterbacks (not including Romo) win games as follows:

0 interceptions: .811 chance of winning

1 interception: .583 chance of winning

2 interceptions: .432 chance of winning

3 interceptions: .207 chance of winning

4+ interceptions: .000 chance of winning


Oddly enough Romo is undefeated when throwing more than three interceptions.  Go figure…


Romo, on the other hand has a much different chance of winning:

0 interceptions: .708 chance of winning

1 interception: .719 chance of winning

2 interceptions: .143 chance of winning

3 interceptions: .000 chance of winning


Three things jump-out about those numbers.

  1. When Tony Romo does not throw an interception, the Cowboys do significantly worse than the teams sporting Rodgers, Brees, E. Manning, and Roethlisberger.
  2. When Tony throws one interception, the Cowboys are remarkably successful.
  3. When Romo throws more than one interception (but less than 5), the Cowboys almost always lose (the exception was a 14-10 win versus Washington in 2008, when Tony returned a little early from the broken hand he suffered at Arizona).


It is interesting how poorly the Cowboys do when Romo throws two interceptions.  The modern Packers, Giants, Steelers, and Saints win almost half of their games when their respective starting quarterback throws two interceptions.  Obviously the Cowboys are not able to overcome two interception games (1-6), while the other teams still find a way to win almost as often as they lose.


Those other teams also win one out of every five games when their respective starting quarterback throws three interceptions.  The Cowboys are 0-6 in those games.


Conversely, when Romo throws one interception, the Cowboys are the most dangerous team of the bunch.  The other teams win just over half of those games, while Dallas almost wins three out of every four of those games.


This data would suggest that when Romo takes chances down the field and pushes the limits (resulting in one interception) the Cowboys win much more often than teams led by Super Bowl champion quarterbacks.  Combine the finding with the fact that Dallas does not win nearly as often as those other teams when no interceptions are thrown, and several other conclusions can be drawn.


Most likely is that the Cowboys are not a good team when Romo does not take enough chances down the field.  Considering the number of penalties Dallas used to incur, the dropped passes, and the countless mental mistakes seen since 2007, it is not hard to see why a conservative passing game does not suit this team.


Another conclusion could be that this Dallas Cowboys team is really not that good if Romo is not taking chances and making plays.  Emmitt Smith is not in the backfield, Deion Sanders is not in the secondary, and none of the interior offensive linemen will be confused for Nate Newton, Larry Allen, or Mark Stepnoski.


When Tony Romo takes one too many chances, and gets intercepted twice, this Cowboys team is unable to overcome it.  That is a tough position for Tony Romo: make one mistake or fewer while taking chances down the field, and there is a better than 70% chance that the team wins.  Make more than one mistake, and a loss is almost inevitable: something that is not the case for Romo’s contemporaries.


According to Romo’s statistics, Tony will probably have one or two more games where he throws two interceptions.  Just as Dallas lost to Detroit on Sunday, the Cowboys will lose those two games.  Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Green Bay, and New York will manage to win at least one of those games.


So according to the statistics above, even if Tony dials it back and throws zero interceptions in several games, Roethlisberger, E. Manning, Brees, and Rodgers would win one more of those games than Romo’s Cowboys.  That means that Tony Romo is working from a two game hole if he either makes one too many mistakes, or plays too conservatively.


That is being a little harsh…isn’t it?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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