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Refocusing the criticism on another Eastern Illinois University graduate

As Cowboys fan should know, Tony Romo is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University. Romo set many school records while playing quarterback for the Panthers. In an odd twist of fate, there is much less than seven degrees of separation between Romo and the other three notable Eastern Illinois graduates with prominent roles in the NFL.

There are three other notable graduates of Eastern Illinois University in the NFL aside from Tony Romo. Presently, only Tony Romo is a player in the NFL, as the other three are coaches. Brad Childress was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings when he "coaxed" Brett Favre out of retirement (twice) and reached the NFC Championship game following the 2009 season (the 2010 NFC Championship Game). The Vikings first playoff game that post season was a 34-3 beating of Romo and the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Childress was fired from the Vikings in 2010 despite signing a lucrative extension in November of the 2009 NFL season. Brad is currently the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, which Romo and the Cowboys defeated this regular season, 23-20 in overtime. Unfortunately for Childress, the Browns look to be ready to overhaul the entire coaching staff, so Brad may be updating his resume as this season winds down (http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000117712/article/pat-shurmur-mike-munchak-ron-rivera-done-on-black-monday).

The 2010 NFC Championship Game, of course, has been the source of the bounty scandal that has the second Eastern Illinois graduate sitting at home watching games on his television set. Sean Payton led the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory after the catastrophe caused by Katrina several years earlier.

Sean Payton recruited Tony Romo to Dallas when he was the offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells. Sean offered the Cowboys a second round draft choice for Romo when he took over the reins in New Orleans. Notably, Sean made the trade offer to Dallas before actually trading a second round pick to San Diego for the rights to Drew Brees.

Of course, Sean Payton is now not coaching in the NFL due to the bounty scandal. He will be a free agent coach after this season and will likely be cashing in. While he lives in the Dallas area, he is expected to return to New Orleans.

Finally, the third notable NFL mover and shaker is Mike Shanahan. Mike won two Super Bowls in Denver with John Elway. Shanahan has played the Romo-led Cowboys five times leading up to the Sunday Night tilt. Mike is 2-3 in those meetings, winning the latest on this past Thanksgiving, 38-31.

But Mike has struggled since Elway retired following the 1998 season. Shanahan has only made the playoffs 4 times since the season Elway walked away 12 seasons ago (Mike Shanahan did not coach in 2009, so that season was therefore not included).

In comparison, the Cowboys have made the playoffs five times from 1999 through 2011: 1999, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2009. Like Shanahan, Dallas has also won one playoff game during that time, following the 2009 regular season versus the Philadelphia Eagles. Mike won a playoff game following the 2005 regular season.

Comparison 1999 through 16th week of 2012 season

Regular season wins

Post season record

Mike Shanahan

111

1-4

Dallas Cowboys (5 coaches)

112

1-5

Jerry Jones and the Cowboys organization draw more than their fair share of criticism for the failures experienced since 1999. Somehow Shanahan is still perceived as a "mastermind": go figure.

Jerry made four coaching changes from 1999 through 2008 because of poor performance. Somehow, Mike managed to keep his position in Denver for those 10 years with a similar record of success.

Tony Romo has accumulated 55 regular season wins in games that he started since 2006. The Cowboys are 57-74 in games not started by Romo since 1999. Dallas has a .435 winning ratio in those games, while Tony has a .598 winning ratio in regular season games he started.

This morning ESPN measured Tony Romo through his won-loss record in elimination games. In addition to playoff games, those games included the losses at Philadelphia in 2008 and at New York last season.

Person

Elimination game record

Post season record

Tony Romo

1-5

1-3

Mike Shanahan (since 1999)

1-7

1-4

For both Eastern Illinois alums, the game Sunday Night will be an elimination game. Neither individual has had great success in these games from a win-loss perspective. What the record does not show, however, is that Tony Romo has a passer rating of 80.76 in those games. For the sake of comparison, Eli Manning has a post season passer rating of 82.3 (two Super Bowl titles).

Shanahan's teams have been outscored 265 to 135 in elimination games: an average of 33.125 to 16.875 per game. In other words, the "mastermind" offensive coordinator has averaged less than 17 points per game in elimination games, never scoring more than 27 points, and scoring 3 touchdowns in one game only three times in win-or-go-home type games.

Maybe the national media is missing the real story: Mike Shanahan's teams cannot win big games.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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