One of the biggest failures of the season that was 2011 was the inability to capitalize on the incredible season had by our gun-slinging Sheriff, good ole #9. Despite overwhelming waves of pessimism and adversity crashing down around him all season, Romo was able to put together a marvelous 2011 campaign in which he compiled his 2nd most yards in a season, 2nd most TDs, and a career best in QB rating. Yet, as soon as the season came to an abrupt end against the Giants, the doubters came charging in. One of the most focused upon aspects of the scrutiny revolved around nothing that Romo failed in, or didn't do, or did too much of, but rather in the one inevitable fact of life we all face: He is getting old.
3 more years. That's what the professional pessimists give us. Just like a terminal death sentence hanging over our heads, Dr. Football Pundit and Nurse Know-It-All tell us that in 3 years Romo will be plugged into the respirator, holding on for dear life. Father Time will ravage the superb skill set relied upon by Romo. He will be a reincarnation of Vinny Testaverde in a Dallas helmet, throwing out his back trying to bend down for a snap and drinking metamucil on the sideline instead of Gatorade. According to Dr. Sports Illustrated and Dr. BleacherReport, the results are conclusive. We must accept this inevitable fact, and it is time to start making funeral preparations.
But hold on my friends. I believe it is time for a second opinion. Why must we say goodbye, with utmost certainty, to our dear friend Tony. He after all is the man who rescued this franchise from the depths of 5-11 and 6-10 and mediocrity. Why must it be so set in stone that Tony will crumble to the ever advancing age monster by the age of 35. After examining the facts and trends of the NFL and Tony's career, I have come to a wholly different conclusion. One you may be interested in reading.
The proof is in the pudding...or at least that's where I found it. Mmm Chocolate.
So, the facts. Tony Romo is 31 right now, and will be 32 by the time the 2012 NFL season kicks off. As seems to be the trend for professional athletes, the mid-30s start to see a decline in performance, no matter the talent level (unless you're Barry Bonds and have an office at BALCO). But let me lay out for you my thoughts, and offer to you three main reasons for the support of the longitude of the career de Romo.
Reason 1: Lack of Wear and Tear
First things first. Tony Romo is the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, so naturally he plays half of his games in Dallas. This is a good start in preserving his body. The warm weather and lack of destructive elements saves his body from harsh conditions, and he is subjected to only 3 or 4 truly cold weather games per year at most.
Also, as we all know, Tony was not a highly touted top-5 draft pick handed the keys to the Cadillac straight out of the draft. He didn't even see the field for the first 3 years of his career. Romo is 47-30 in his career, playing in only 77 games. For comparison, Tom Brady has played in 159. Drees Brees has 153 under his belt. Even Eli Manning is at 119. His body has not taken the toll that most other quarterbacks his age have had to endure, and is surely better off for it.
Finally, Tony is an elusive player. I realize this is one thing most likely to deteriorate with age, but this has also allowed him to avoid all of the earth-shattering hits (OK not all) he would have taken already without this skill. He does not take the bone-crushing hits like Mike Vick or the head-rattling smashes like Eli Manning (I particularly like that second one). Instead he makes plays like this and avoids the big hits.
Reason 2: NFL Built for Quarterbacks to Survive
It doesn't take a genius to realize the game of football is changing. It has transformed from a smash-mouth defensive league into a high-flying offensive game, and the biggest benefactors are the quarterbacks. If a mosquito lands on a quarterback's throwing shoulder it is a penalty. The precedent has been set so that the pass-throwers are the most protected players on the field, and hitting them even slightly wrong will earn you a guaranteed 15 yard penalty. This is good news from Romo.
For more evidence, lets look at the the modern quarterback. Players such as Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and Carson Palmer are all within plus or minus one year from Romo. Do you think other teams spend all their time planning for the impending downfall of their QBs? I bet the Saints don't. Other players like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Kurt Warner all extended (or continue to extend) their lavish talents well into and past their mid-30s. Brett Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game at 40 years old. Kurt Warner was 37 when the Cardinals took on the Steelers in Super Bowl 43. John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls at the ages of 37 and 38. The precedent has been set that older quarterbacks can win in the NFL.
Reason 3: DeMarco Murray
This one is the most speculative, possibly wishful of the group. Yet, even in such a small sample size, we have seen the effect DeMarco Murray can have on the Dallas Cowboys. He has the ability to run through a tackler or past them, being both a home run hitter and consistent slap hitter at the same time. If DeMarco can continue to take the load off of Tony's broad shoulders, the passing game will thrive even more. Pass rushers that would normally be flying off the edges with the singular goal of making Romo bleed will now be held in check by the threat of a top-tier running back flying past them. If Murray can be a 1200 or 1300 yard rusher for this team, Romo will reap the benefits. He will see secondaries more empty than he ever has, with teams moving people into the box to stop the run. This opens up play-action pass and causes more man coverage, two things our receivers excel with.
The rise of DeMarco is contingent on our offensive line. If this group can continue to improve through either the draft or free agency, we may be in store for great things. If DeMarco is in store for great things, Tony will be also.
Tony Romo is one of the most polarizing figures in sports. People love him and love to hate him, just as they do the team he plays for. He has put up numbers that rival the elite players in this league year in and year out, but never seems to get the respect he seemingly has earned. Maybe Tony does start to decline at age 35. But who is to say he won't get better from now until then? He played one of the best seasons of his life this past year, and it was accompanied by likely the least talented team he has had to work with. It would be surprising if he didn't continue to progress. It is a scary thought for NFL defenses to think he has not yet reached the pinnacle of his game.
Like it or not, Tony Romo will be the quarterback of this team for a long time still. By examining important factors in Romo's game, environment, and team, it looks to be that he will be the QB for even longer than most expect. And he will continue to play at the highest of levels. This makes me a happy fella. It should make all of you happy, too.