What's Wrong with Tony Romo?

2,216 yards, 18 TDs, 5 INTs, 66.1% completion, 7.51 YPA, 101.7 Passer Rating

If I gave you this stat line through 8 games before the season started, you would have taken this in a heartbeat, right? What about this stat line?

1,824 yards, 9 TDs, 6 INTs, 55.7% completion, 5.94 YPA, 74.9 Passer Rating

No comparison. All of us would easily take the first stat line. Now, what if I told you the first stat line has a 4-4 record and the 2nd has a 6-2 record? Change your mind? I would. Those stat lines are Romo and Tom Brady, by the way. Why do I point this out? To delve into my article about what is wrong with Tony Romo this season, of course. Stats need context or else they’re misleading, as illustrated above.

First, as has been mentioned several times before, the Denver game really makes Romo’s stats misleading. I think we can all agree that was perhaps Romo’s greatest game ever. He was as nearly flawless as a QB can possibly be. As he has shown over the other 7 games this season, this was definitely a season outlier, if not a career outlier. So let’s get that game out of the way, shall we?

To the naked eye, Romo has been off most of this season. His completion percentage was very high in the first 5 games, but we all know that completion percentage is not necessarily an accuracy gauge. A receiver can make a circus catch by pinning the ball to one shoulder with one hand. You know, for an example. Was that an accurate throw? Of course not. Many will point to Romo getting his ribs bruised in the 1st half of the 1st game as the culprit for why he has appeared to be off this year. That very well may be true. I think his ribs were definitely the cause of his erratic 4th quarter the next week against the Chiefs. But he’s played with fully broken ribs before, and still didn’t look like this. So what gives?

60%, 59.6%, and 46.6%. Those are Romo’s completion percentage numbers for the last 3 games, when his ribs shouldn’t be an issue at all. The only reason his great 66.1% on the year is so high, is because he averaged nearly 70% in the first 5 games. Why is he missing so much lately? Why, to the naked eye, does his passes appear to be so off? (There are many comments in the game threads that ask the same thing). Is he nursing a secret injury, despite the injury report the Cowboys are obligated to release? It would be simple, wouldn’t it, if that’s all it was. But I don’t think it is. Let me explain.

Even in his near 70% completion for the first 5 games, Romo still didn’t look nearly as sharp as he usually does (Denver game excluded, of course). The one big change, other than the rib injury in week one, was the decision by Jerry Jones to give Romo a big contract and increased responsibility, despite the lone playoff victory Romo has been able to achieve. Maybe Romo’s erratic play is simply psychological. He has taken the burden of the offense on to his shoulders, now more than ever. He has say in developing game plans now. He had that Redskins game to mull over in the offseason.

The Redskins game.

Is that it? Was that one critical mistake too many for Romo? Was that why he insisted on greater control during his contract negotiations? The more control a person has, the more he feels in control. Maybe Romo simply got tired of the national rhetoric of his 1-6 win or go home record. Maybe he was hard on himself for that last interception against the Redskins. Maybe he felt it was time for him to change his game. Not just a tweak to his mechanics that he talked about earlier this year, but a huge switch in how he approaches the game.

Was it really the coaches’ game plan to go to a more conservative, check down offense? Or was it at Romo’s insistence? Maybe he felt he can’t be the reason for them losing anymore. So, as a natural extension of that psychological change, Romo’s mechanics are off. His footwork shows hesitance to me, especially in the Lions game. He’s not stepping into his throws as much as he should be. His deep ball is way off. He’s had trouble hitting receivers in stride. Even in that magical Denver game when he was near perfect, Williams had to slow down for that deep pass. There was a crossing route yesterday where Romo threw way behind Dez, his mechanics very sloppy.

Romo doesn’t deal well with pressure. And I’m not just talking about off the field. Romo mentioned yesterday that the Lions game reminded him of the 2009 playoff beat down administered by Minnesota. That was the game, if you will remember, where Romo was almost buried underneath the turf by the swarming Vikings defense. If not for the 4 turnovers by the Lions, the game yesterday would have gone almost the exact same route as against the Vikings. As great as a QB Romo is, he can’t handle heavy pressure very well. His mechanics get sloppy and he gets happy feet. His throws start going everywhere.

Pressure. On the field, he struggles. Off the field…I’m no psychologist, but it sure looks like Romo struggles with expectations that come with being the Cowboys QB. He made a conscious decision this offseason. He wanted more control. He wanted to be safer and not cost the team anymore wins. In doing so, he might cost this average team the only chance they have at winning. For this team to succeed, they need a fearless QB (and coach, but that’s a subject for a different fanpost). They need the Denver Romo. They need the Romo who knew he had to outduel Peyton Manning, because this team had no shot otherwise. Tony Romo, this team, as mediocre as ever, needs to ride your shoulders one more time.

I hope, and pray, that Romo embraces this as he once did. I hope that he realizes he has a potentially potent offense at his disposal. One that he didn’t have in 2011 and 2012. Dez has fully matured into the 2nd best receiver in football. Williams has come on strong as a true 2nd option. And there’s always Witten. Time to let it go, Romo. This team is ready for the gunslinger now.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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