I have tried to come to terms with the frustration and anger veered at one Tony Romo since the Sunday Night Football loss to one Washington Redskins team, the quarterback of whom is now the best thing since sliced bread. Romo threw a fateful interception on 1st down and the rest is history. The sinking pit I felt in my stomach is the second worst feeling I've had ever in my short tenure as a Cowboys fan- The worst was that dreadful loss to the Vikings in the 2009-2010 Playoffs.
Now, not unexpectedly, this shook the faith of many Dallas Cowboys fans in Tony Romo. I can't say I'm shocked but I don't think I'll ever quite understand. You see, unlike many, I don't value the Quarterback position that highly. What good is a quarterback when the receivers can't catch? What good is he when the Offensive Line cannot run block.
I've often heard it said that watching a good quarterback play is like watching an elaborately coordinated dance. The defense can try all it likes but he still carves it up. Is that true though? With the exception of Peyton Manning, the best quarterbacks in the league rely on a coordinated offensive gameplan that exploits the weaknesses of the defense while focusing on the strengths of the offense to reach their full potential. You have a receiver who cannot run routes? Let him stretch the defense on Go routes. You have an offensive line that can't run right? Run left. Their linebackers are hurt? Target the middle of the field. These are extremely simplistic versions of the gameplanning that offensive coordinators go through every week to get ready for the game.
What do you do with a Quarterback like Tony Romo? Over the course of his career Romo has averaged 13 interceptions a season. Romo threw 18 interceptions this season and going by 2012 we should've only won 6 games this year because of it. If Romo had thrown his career average we were projected to win 8.8 games. A record of 9-7 that may have gotten us into the playoffs, or it may not have.
However let's examine his interceptions more deeply. Over the course of his career Tony Romo has a 2.8% interception rate. Romo has averaged 463 passing attempts per season since 2006. That means every time he goes back to pass there is a 2.8% chance he'll throw an interception. In 2012 he had 648. Romo throw nearly 200 passes more than usual this year. Consequently his projected number of interceptions when he throws 648 passes is 18.1. Romo did throw a higher than average number of interceptions this year than compared to 2011. However given these numbers this is more likely due to a regression to the mean than him having a bad year.
This year Romo tended to throw interceptions in clumps. 14 of Romo's 18 interceptions came in 4 different games. Dallas was 0-4 in those 4 games. Over the course of his career Romo has had 10 3+ interception games. The Cowboys have lost 9 of them. We can rightly say that Romo loses the game for the Cowboys when he tosses 3 or more interceptions. Romo has played 94 games with the Cowboys and has lost 9 of them with interceptions.
I bring up interceptions because there is a belief that Romo somehow tends to choke and fold throwing inopportune interceptions in closeout games. Would you believe that 2012 is the first year that Romo has thrown more than one interception in a Week 17 game? This is the first closeout game that Romo has "lost" by throwing interceptions.
But, there is more to an offense than not throwing interceptions. Yards per attempt and Touchdowns contribute greatly to winning. The Dallas Cowboys offense with Romo in stead have had both in spades. 25 passing touchdowns and 7.18 NY/A has become the norm around Dallas. Romo has a 5.4% career touchdown rate. Romo tossed 28 more touchdowns this year and had a 6.8 NY/A. This season his touchdown rate was 4.3%
The offense was worse than a normal Dallas Cowboys offense this year, although Romo's numbers remained consistent. Romo's passing attempts were up and so too were his Touchdowns and Interceptions. His Interception Rate remained stable. However his NY/A and TD% were down.
Why do I go through these statistics? It's fairly simple. We can argue all day that Romo is unclutch and that's the reason the Cowboys can't do anything but it flies in the face of reason. Romo's interceptions/attempt remained stable but the potency of the Dallas Cowboys offense decreased. They could not score as easily and were less efficient. Romo was asked to throw for more in what became a dink and dunk passing attack but it didn't help the offense at all. Combine this with one of the worst rushing attacks in Dallas Cowboys history and the offense's lack of an efficient attack starts to make sense.
Tony Romo had, by all accounts, an average (for him) career year. He was a little shaky early but had some nice numbers and was part of the reason they were in a position for the playoffs this year. But, you say, my problem with the reason I don't like Romo is because he can't win in big games, not because he doesn't put up big numbers. Regardless of all of the circumstances of a down year for the offense, or a terrible year for the defense he had 3 minutes to drive down the field and win the game for the Cowboys. And he did throw an interception.
Well, that's true. But what does that mean? Do we check our brains at the door because of this. Do we ignore the other 15 games and 57 minutes because of one singular drive?
The Cowboys were 8-7 going into the Redskins game. They were on the outside looking in of a playoffs fielding one of the worst defenses and rushing attacks in franchise history. All 8 of their wins were come from behind victories. You cannot sustain that. You say that Romo had 3 minutes to prove himself a legend. I say that close games are a 50-50 affair and that it says something about the team that we were even in that position in the first place. This team couldn't get it done in the regular season. We had multiple opportunities against the Seahawks, Bears, Ravens, Giants Falcons and Saints. If we win any of those 2 this game is meaningless. Yet we didn't. We came out flat in the biggest game of the year and the Redskins outplayed us. Romo may have thrown that interception, but the team was the reason we were 8-7 before the game.
The saddest comment I heard after the loss is from a poster who said his heart told him that Romo was good enough to win the Superbowl but his head told him it wasn't. With all due respect I think it's the other way around. Romo has proven time and time again that he can play well enough to be one of the best QBs in the league. It's only the gut-wrenching losses and our overreactions which tell us he can't.
I've said my piece.