Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Romo has had his up and down moments this season, but over the latter half of the season, he's been electric and has carried the Cowboys to a 5-1 record over the last six games. A big reason for that is his accuracy as a passer.
Very few topics in football generate as much debate as discussions comparing one quarterback to another or - the ultimate pot-stirring topic - a quarterback ranking.
An interesting side aspect often observed in these discussions is that fans of a particular team will always value whatever characteristics their current quarterback has much more highly than the characteristics of another quarterback.
For example, just a little while ago, Eagles fans thought that a quarterback who was a threat running ball was the greatest thing since sliced bread. That that same quarterback could also get injured when tackled while running the ball only dawned on those fans very late. Today, not many fans in Philadelphia are talking about Nick Foles' ability to run. As such, they're already a step ahead of Redskins fans, who still believe in the concept of the never-injured running QB. Oh wait...
Fans in Denver or New England just chuckle and turn around when other fans talk about the need for a QB to be a running threat.
We Dallas fans tend to think that a good QB has to be able to avoid rushing linebackers with a deft spin move, and that the ability to improvise plays on the run is a great trait in a QB. Why? Because Tony Romo does those things.
Other fans think a HOF-worthy QB has to play like crap for three quarters before connecting on a game-winning pass in the fourth quarter. Others yet think that the most important trait in a QB is that QBs with cool nicknames are better than QBs without such monikers, or even that a QB's value is directionally proportional to his height - and in some instances his weight as measured in units of lardbuckets.
But at the end of the day, of all the skills a quarterback should have, none is as important as the ability to accurately throw the ball. Accuracy is the single most important trait for today's NFL quarterback, not arm strength, not running ability, not improvisation talent, not the amount of shouting directed at teammates and not the amount of commercials featuring that QB.
In the NFL, accuracy is measured by completion percentage. And it just so happens that Tony Romo had a completion rate above 70% against the Steelers on Sunday. That marks the 30th time in his career that he's passed that mark, and is also the eighth time this season that Romo passed for a completion rate above 70%. That ranks Romo second in the league behind only Peyton Manning, who has nine such games to his credit. Here's an overview of the leading QBs in that accuracy metric so far this season:
|Games with CMP% > 70%, 2012|
|Robert Griffin III||WAS||6|
The NFL record for such games was set in 2011 by Drew Brees, who recorded a completion rate of 70% or higher in 11 games. Some of the more notable names absent from the list above are Michael Vick (1), Eli Manning (1) and Cam Newton (1). You can review the full list of NFL QBs by following this link to Pro-Football-Reference. And in case you were wondering, Tony Romo's previous season best in this metric was five games in 2007.
The three guys at the top of the list all have good records in games with 70%+ completion rates: Peyton is 8-1, Romo is 6-2, Bob Griffin is 5-1. In sum, all QBs on that list have a 91-30 record in their high percentage outings. That's the equivalent of a 12-4 record. Wouldn't you like to have that?
At the end of the day, having an accurate QB often kills opposing defenses. Conversely, an inaccurate QB often kills his own offense. Outside of two truly bad and interception-riddled games, Tony Romo is probably playing the best football of his career right now. But it'll likely take no less than a Super Bowl for the majority of football fans to realize this, as Phil Simms noted last week when asked to give a one-sentence summary of Tony Romo:
How about one word: Fantastic. I hate when people fall into the trap by saying he doesn’t win big games. He does. The only thing that will change some people’s minds is winning a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have won Super Bowls. I put him in the same category.