One of the most persistent storylines continuing to dog the Dallas Cowboys is the notion of the December swoon. If you've been following the Cowboys headlines over the last couple of years, you'll know that the story has gained an almost mythic quality: as soon as the calendar turns to December, the Cowboys are expected to collapse.
More specifically, the Cowboys' high profile quarterback is expected to collapse come December. By now, you'll know that Tony Romo owns November but has struggled in December - or so you may have been led to believe.
It is true that Tony Romo has done exceptionally well in November. Over his career, he has accumulated a 21-4 record and a 108.5 passer rating in November. But December is a different story, right? One of the more nefarious allegations that live on like the undead in the darkest recesses of a prison compound in Georgia is that Romo sucks in December. Irrefutable fact or vicious slander?
Yesterday, our own KD Drummond pointed out via Twitter that "Tony Romo has thrown 18 TDs & only 1 pick in his last 8 Dec games (09-current)... but you know what the meme is."
That made me sit up, because I wasn't aware of that particular stat line. And when Carlos Mendez from the Star-Telegram replied to KD's tweet saying that he was writing a story on that exact topic for today, I decided to set the stat hound loose to sniff out the truth.
As KD pointed out, Romo has played eight full December games since 2009: four in 2009; none in 2010 as he sat out with a broken collarbone; three in 2011 (plus two pass attempts against the Eagles before injuring his throwing hand); and one more last Sunday against the Eagles. Over those 8 games and two pass attempts, Romo has thrown for 2,411 yards, 18 TDs and 1 INT on 201-for-289 passing (69.6%). That gives Romo a passer rating of 114.1 for December from 2009-2012.
Want to know how that compares to the other QBs across the league? Here you go:
|December Passer Rating 2009-2012, min. 250 pass attempts|
Tony Romo has the best quarterback rating of any NFL quarterback in December over the last four years. That's indisputable. And just like we did in our look at QB Trifecta performances yesterday, we once again find the usual suspects (Peyton, Brees, Brady and Rodgers) at the top of the leaderboard - right behind Tony Romo.
The December meme is such a convenient hook that many pundits and fans alike have taken it at face value without giving the matter further thought. But a closer look at the stats shows that as good as Romo has been in November, over the last four years he's been even better in December.
Yet as good as Romo has been - and let's be very clear here: no QB has been better - the Cowboys only managed a paltry 4-4 record in the eight full December games Romo played from 2009-2012. That's pitiful. And it's also a clear illustration that as good as your QB may be, football is still a team game.
And just for perspective, here are some more December records, this time for QBs who had between 100 and 250 pass attempts in December between 2009 and 2012 (and are still on an NFL roster).
|December Passer Rating 2009-2012, 130-250 pass attempts|
In his story for the Star-Telegram, appropriately titled "Romo strong in December, Cowboys not so much", Mendez quotes Tony Romo:
"Statistics? It's about winning and losing," Romo said. "Stats are just there for people to talk about. I understand that. My team does. As long as we keep winning, that's a good sign."
So let's talk about it: The Cowboys have four more games left in December this year. They are entering those four games with a QB who has outperformed every other NFL QB down the stretch over the last four years - and that includes future HoF locks like Manning, Rodgers and Brady, as well as Dilfer-type Super Bowl winners like Roethlisberger and Eli Manning - but will it be enough?
Can and will the rest of the Cowboys play up to Romo's standards?