By request, I am collecting some comments I made yesterday into fanpost form for a handy reference guide for those who wish to spend (waste) their time trying to counter the incessant cascade of drivel spoken about Tony Romo. One must bear in mind that this is a losing battle-- about the best outcome is the opponent mumbling about believing it when Tony actually wins something, how he "fails the eye test", or claiming he can't lead because of the in-depth personal body language study of 6 separate sideline shots (representing a total of about 30 seconds of Tony's life). But those arguments have no teeth at all and only come from people who simply need a straw to grasp lest their worldview change.
The real issue is this: Tony Romo does throw 4th Qtr interceptions. Tony Romo does have a poor record in December and the playoffs. Tony Romo has lost 3 of his 4 play-in games. These are the facts that cause the "choker" label. The problem is people build those facts in to a cohesive narrative when they are, in fact, almost completely unrelated. That's why it's essential to get the Romo-hater to define his terms. Do NOT under any circumstances allow the person to use weasel words like "Big Game" (code for "any game Romo loses"), "unforced error" or "mistake" (code for "4TDs and 0 INTs weren't enough, Romo should've done more"), or "elimination games" (code for "we're going to ignore any games Romo did well in to get them there"). Make them define their terms unambiguously: December/January, Playoffs, Week 17, Interception, Fumble, 4th Qtr, final 2 mins, final 4 mins, etc.. The one exception to this is "Romo can't elevate/carry his team to victory" because saying that in 2013 is so ludicrously wrong that even though it's classic weaseling it's still the sweetest little softball you could possibly ask, and the crushing shot that can be delivered is well worth the allowance.
Then you bring the facts:
Argument -- "Romo loses too many games by turning the ball over in the 4th quarter/Romo plays poorly in the clutch/Romo costs his team more than he helps."
- Romo has a 4th Qtr Turnover Loss (defined as a game lost where the QB had a turnover of any kind in the 4th qtr while the score differential was +/-8 points) in 12.9% of his starts putting him neatly between Drew Brees (12.4%) and Joe Flacco (13.7%) with Roethlisberger (14.3%), Schaub (12.3%) and E. Manning (11.9%) in the vicinity (+/- 1.5%).
- If you take the percentage of 4th qtr comebacks and subtract the percentage 4th qtr losses above, Romo is 4th among active QBs behind Ryan, Stafford, and Peyton Manning.
- In the 4th quarter of one score games (+/- 8 points) since 2000, Romo has the 3rd highest TD%(5.7%) behind Rodgers (6.5%) and E. Manning (7.0%), 3rd lowest INT% (2.6%) behind Rodgers (2.1%) and P. Manning (2.4%), tied for 1st in YPA with Rodgers (8.5), and 2nd in passer rating (98.4) to Rodgers (104.1). In summary, the only people who are in any way better in the 4th qtr of close games are named Rodgers or Manning. <source>
Argument -- "Romo plays poorly in December/January/Week 17 games/Romo makes mistakes in 4th qtr of December/January/Week 17 games"
- For his career, Romo has 2 INTs in the 4th Qtr of week 17/Playoff games. One of those was a 4th down play with 16 seconds remaining. In the same time frame other QBs have as well. The list: Brees -1, Rodgers -1, E. Manning - 2, Romo - 2 , P. Manning - 3, Ryan -3, Flacco - 5, Brady - 7. It's notable that Brady is both the only QB to throw 2 in 1 game and the only one to win 2 week 17/playoff games in which he threw a 4th qtr INT.
- Romo was the highest rated passer in the 2006 playoffs
- In 2007, playing his second playoff game ever, with Patrick Crayton and a Terrell Owens 2 weeks removed from a high ankle sprain, Romo acquitted himself as well as, and scored more points than, 50 TD Tom Brady did against the same defense with his "unfair" offense throwing to Wes Welker and 23 TD Randy Moss.
- In 2009 he won the division championship in week 17 and then his first playoff game, but those don't count because it was the Eagles.
- In 2011, with an epically swollen throwing hand, and taking as many sacks (6) as he did in the infamous jailbreak playoff game against Minnesota, Romo threw for 289 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT and a 106.0 rating against the Giants. In an exact repeat of 2007, both the Packers (at Lambeau) and the Patriots in the super bowl, with 1st ballot HoF QBs at the helm, fell to the same defense. Unlike 2007, Romo didn't just match their performance, he exceeded it.
- Overall Romo has, since 2009, played 16 full games in December, January and the playoffs (if you ignore the two throws he made against Philly in 2011 before injuring his throwing hand). His record in those 16 games is 8-8. However, 3 of the wins were 4th qtr comebacks. In 6 of the losses, Romo had a rating of 95 or better. In 5 of the losses Romo had a rating of 100 or better. Also in 5 of the losses, Romo had 0 turnovers. In only one game did Romo have more than one INT. Also, one of the losses includes the only time in NFL history a QB threw 4 TDs, 0 INTs, for a 140+ rating, and lost. People still (to this day) blame Romo for this game despite the fact that (on top of everything else he did) with 46 seconds and no time outs from the Cowboys' 20 yd line he drove the team for a game-tying field goal attempt that was blocked. That right there tells you all you need to know about the whole debate.
- If those 16 games were an NFL season, Romo's stat line would be 400/593 for 4696 yds, 33 TD, 8 INT 104.2 rating. That is basically a top 30 all-time season in every category, across the board, from completion percentage, to TDs, to low INTs, to rating.
Argument - "Romo can't carry a team/Romo doesn't elevate his team to victory"
The stunning fact: At the halfway point of 2012 Dallas was decimated by injury, 2 games below .500 and looking dead in the water. They had lost their starting RB, top 2 centers, 2 of the top 3 safeties (one starter and the top backup), starting NT, starting LDE, 2 of top 3 ILB (again, one starter and the top back up) and had hobbling injuries to their #2 WR, #2 (now starting) RB, and ace pass rusher. Over the final 8 games they would go on to lose games from remaining starters at NT, ILB, S, C, OG, #2 WR and LT as well as have their #1 WR break his finger. The defense was so decimated that with their #1 QB, RB, and WR sidelined, the 4-12 Eagles still put up 33 points. The offensive line was so poor at blitz/stunt recognition that Romo was literally dodging ghosts on the field simply due to pavlovian conditioning. It's pretty safe to say the team was done.
Except that Tony Romo (and, to be fair, Dez Bryant, who was phenomenal in this time period) weren't finished. Over the final 8 games of 2012, with a bunch of guys off the street and every game essential to their meager playoff hopes, Tony Romo put the team on his back in spectacular fashion. Over that 8 game stretch, Romo went 214/330, for 2509 yds, 18 TD and 6 INTs, with a 98.4 rating, which projects to an MVP-quality 5018 yd, 36 TD, 12 INT season. Oh, and 4 of his 5 wins in those 8 games were 4th qtr comebacks. He would've had a 6th win/ 5th 4QC had it not been for a horribly unlucky bounce in overtime against the Saints. That's right: in the back half of 2012, playing with a shell of a team, Romo had more 4th Qtr Comebacks than he had total losses. Had it not been for the unintentional fumblerooski the Saints pulled off in overtime, he may well have had twice as many 4QCs as losses.
"Inability to carry a team" my muscular buttocks.