As a lifelong Cowboys fan, you get used to every single story being blown way out of proportion and context. The Tony Romo contract, for example, got more media coverage than if Casey Anthony gave birth to the royal baby. Every single NFL expert offered up an opinion on the matter. "Did he deserve it?" "Will he live up to this contract?" "Will he ever win the big one?" "Will Tony Romo now retire from football, start a golf career and begin banging pop stars again?" Only one of those questions was fake, but ya, the Tony Romo contract was discussed ad naseum. Even Fat Donovan "weighed in" on the matter… yes offense. Well, I couldn’t help but notice the differences in media coverage as Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford signed their similarly monstrous contracts. It also should be noted that Ryan is tied with Romo in terms of playoff wins, and Stafford is still sitting on a goose egg in that column. I thought it would be interesting to look at the careers of the three quarterbacks, and see if the differences in their play actually reflect how differently their respective contracts were critiqued.
Note: I’m not going to go into the detailed financial parameters of these deals because all of that information is readily available online, and has been over discussed already on numerous websites. Also, the three year guaranteed averages of all three deals are relatively the same.
Stafford is the youngest of the three at 25, so he gets an edge there. He also possesses the smallest sample size of playing at an elite level. Stafford’s first two seasons were cut short by injuries, and he has only played two full seasons, 2011 and 2012. 2011 was a dream season for Stafford and the Lions. He completed 64% of his passes and threw 41 touchdowns, oh yeah, he also surpassed 5000 yards, and led the Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Stafford and the Lions both came crashing back to Earth in 2012. The Lions finished 4-12, Stafford’s completion percentage fell under 60%, and he was only able to get his team in the end zone 20 times. So the big questions has to be; which Stafford are the Lions getting over the 3+ years? Well, if you add in his first two partial seasons, those numbers suggest his performance should more accurately resemble his 2012 season (the bad one). He started 13 games over his first two seasons, completing 55% of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns and 21 picks. The fact that a majority of those passes were thrown during his rookie year has to be factored in, but so does the fact that Stafford plays with the best receiver in the game, hands down. Still, the Lions are paying for potential here, and you have to think that they would feel a lot better about the deal if Stafford was trending up instead of down over the past two seasons.
I’m giving Matty Ice an edge over Stafford, first of all, because he has a sweet nickname, and he goes by Matt instead of Matthew. Just a gut thing. He’s also been a better statistical quarterback over an extended period, but he hasn’t exactly lit it up throughout his career. Last season, Matt Ryan was sensational. He averaged almost 8 yards per attempt and completed 69% of his passes. Combine that high level of efficiency with Ryan’s 4700 passing yards and 32-14 touchdown/interception ratio, and you have a quarterback playing at the highest of levels. But last year was the first in which Ryan made the jump from good to great. The four previous seasons, Ryan averaged a little over 3500 passing yards, and just a 24/12 touchdown/interception ratio. His completion percentage was also much lower over that period, at 61%. These numbers aren’t terrible by any stretch, but they are not that of the 2nd highest paid quarterback in the NFL. Still, the Falcons have to be excited about Ryan’s potential moving forward, and unlike Stafford, Matt Ryan’s numbers have been trending up every year.
Tony is the oldest of the three, at 33, but almost all of the guaranteed money is in the first three years of his deal. So, if for some reason, Romo really did start playing a lot of golf and banging pop stars, Dallas could get out of this deal when Romo was only 36. There has been enough evidence of late to suggest that a quarterback’s prime can extend well into his mid 30’s – or at least a second stage career where the player reinvents his game a little, and still remains effective. One thing is for sure, of the three, Romo has shown the most evidence that he is, in fact, a franchise quarterback. Excluding Romo’s, 2010 season, which was cut short by injury, Romo is in the midst of an exceptional five season run. Over that timeframe, Romo has averaged a 29-14 touchdown/interception ratio. Romo has also been incredible efficient, boasting an average completion percentage of over 64%, and incredibly explosive, throwing for 4100 yards in every year except 2008, where he missed a few games due to injury. Best of all for Dallas, Romo has shown no signs of slowing down. Romo set a career high last year, throwing for 4903 yards, and he was actually more efficient than his interception numbers suggest. Out of his 19 interceptions, 12 of them came in just three games. So, while Dallas will be expecting more from Romo over the next few years, they have to feel like they know what they are getting, more so, than Atlanta and Detroit. Romo’s critics will always be there until he wins a Super Bowl, but the market and his performance dictated that he be paid like the franchise quarterback he is, and as usual, some members of the media stood on boxes and shouted about Romo in order to boost their ratings.