I've always considered my view of Tony Romo somewhere south of a Romo Hater and somewhere north of a kool aid chugging "Romosexual". Certainly Romo gets an unfair shake in the national media almost every time he's brought up, not getting the credit he deserves in a lot of positive areas. But many on this blog and elsewhere, seem to counter the over the top national criticism with over the top support, ignoring any of his faults along the way. It seems there's two camps with Tony Romo, and there's not much room for folks like me who find themselves somewhere in the middle. The biggest dividing line between the two groups seems to be this notion of Romo having too many meltdowns (and the timing of them) vs. the multitude of good things that he does the rest of the time. What I aim to accomplish with this article, other than alienating myself from both factions, is to lessen the gap between the two sides a little bit, largely by digging into this meltdown issue. I intend to establish a third group, where we are free to express our slight criticism and reserved support without persecution from our peers. Where ALL men are created- ok, I'll stop myself. Let's get into it.
Let's start with some positives. If you haven't read this article by Scott Kacsmar, don't come back until you have. I keep it bookmarked just in case I find a Romo Hater going a little too far with the nonsensical, national media inspired Romo bashing. As a stark contrast to the national media's repeating meme of Romo being a choker, can't win the big game, etc., Scott brings to light many of Romo's positives that you rarely if ever hear about in even the bluest of Cowboys sites. Some of those include the following:
- Led nine fourth-quarter comeback wins (2nd behind Eli Manning’s 10) since 2011.
- Led nine game-winning drives (3rd behind Eli’s 11 and Matt Ryan’s 10) since 2011.
- Since 2011, a record of 9-10 (.474) at game-winning drive opportunities (would rank No. 8 among active players with a minimum of 10 games).
- Dallas had a fourth-quarter lead or tie in eight of those 10 losses.
But he's not done.
The only reason they were in playoff contention in Week 17 was a league-high five comeback wins in the fourth quarter in 2012.
Let’s not forget Romo’s 100.7 career passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime (playoffs included) is the highest among all quarterbacks since 2000 (minimum 150 attempts).
I could go on, but listing all of Tony Romo's positive attributes would be an article unto itself. So I'll leave that up to the link I provided, and the multitude of responses I'm sure to garner from questioning Romo's invincibility starting with the next paragraph.
Ok, now for the flip side, and the side that I tend to receive flak for around these parts whenever I touch on it. Maybe one of Romo's only flaws, certainly the most noticeable, the focus of this article, and really the only one that concerns me: the meltdowns. We've all seen them. 4 picks here, 2 fumbles there. Granted he has far more good games than he does bad, of course, but it seems every time I bring up the topic of Romo having too many meltdowns, I'm met with a chorus of responses that include "every quarterback has a bad game" or "it's still less than average" or "don't buy into the media, you only notice it because it's in a big game" or something along those lines. Well, since rarely are such rebuttals followed with statistical support, I did some homework of my own.
First, some qualifiers. As this sort of bulk data can be difficult to get a grasp on, I broke it down a little bit, so stick with me. I went back to 2006, Romo's first year. I've designated a "meltdown" as 3 turnovers or more, be they any combination of fumbles lost or interceptions. I then looked at the quarterback's games started, rather than games played in order to not get too messy with guys coming in off the bench or taking over (or leaving) in garbage time, etc. To avoid including a game in which the QB threw maybe one pass and was out for the rest of the game (Brady), I threw out any starts with less than 10 passing attempts when totaling my number for games started.
To give a better perspective, I divided the number of games started (regular season and playoffs) by 16 to provide a comparison of the number of meltdowns per season. Of course for some quarterbacks, a "season" of 16 games may span three or four years (Vick) and for others, they may play in more than one "season" if they reach the playoffs, but nonetheless, we are looking at meltdowns per 16 games.
I came up with Romo's number fairly quickly. For those who care to walk through it, follow along. For the few of you out there who trust my fact gathering (mom), skip to the next paragraph.
Romo's games with 3 or more turnovers since 2006:
2012- Week 3 (1 INT, 2 FMBL)
2012- Week 4 (5 INT)
2012- Week 8 (4 INT)
2012- Week 17 (3 INT)
2011- Week 4 (3 INT)
2010- Week 5 (3 INT)
2009- Week 2 (3 INT)
2009- Week 19 (1 INT, 2 FMBL)
2008- Week 14 (3 INT, 1 FMBL)
2008- Week 17 (1 INT, 2 FMBL)
2007- Week 5 (5 INT, 1 FMBL)
2007- Week 15 (3 INT)
2006- Week 17 (1 INT, 2 FMBL)
In case there's any Eagles fans following along, that's 13 total. He's saved from another one in 2006, Week 7 with 3 picks, a game which he didn't start and I'm not including, as explained above. Romo has started 95 games where he's had at least 10 passing attempts since 2006. Divide that by 16 and Romo has played in 5.9375 "seasons". And finally, divide 13 meltdowns by 5.9375 seasons and you get 2.19 meltdowns per season.
But I couldn't possibly make the assertion that he had "too many" meltdowns without something to compare his number to. So I ran the same exercise for all 32 current starters for some perspective. I know there's some starters yet to be named, but this is the list I'm rolling with. All stats from NFL.com. Here are the results. Again, this is meltdowns per 16 games, between 2006 and 2012.
Griffin III 0
P. Manning 1.34
A. Smith 1.83
E. Manning 2.62
Amongst all current starters, in totaling all the games started, all the meltdowns, and doing a little math, the average number of meltdowns per 16 games is 1.35. Not too much of a stretch to say Romo's 2.19 is about 1 more meltdown per year above the average of the current starting QB's. I feel confident in my assertion that Tony Romo has "too many" meltdowns. Roughly 1 too many meltdowns a year would seem to mesh nicely with my eyeball test as well. But fret not Romosexuals, you'll be happy to see Eli Dumb Face ranked well below Tony Romo, and even the likes of Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman. With Mike Vick 1 spot below Romo, that puts only RGIII's one injury shortened year ahead of him in the NFCE. Why Matt Stafford doesn't get more flak than Romo from the national media can only be attributed to their respective teams, and Aaron Rodgers goes 2 seasons without turning the ball over 3 or more times in a single game. Wow. Anyway, are there quarterbacks who deserve more flak than Romo? Definitely, even within his own division. But that still doesn't mean his number is a good one. It's below average by a pretty good margin.
But wait a second. Some of these guys have only played a year (or less). While most of that washes out in the 1.35 average, the ranked list may be a little deceiving at first glance. So, of the current starters, let's drop any quarterbacks that have played in 48 or fewer games (3 full seasons) since 2006. Here we go:
P. Manning 1.34
A. Smith 1.83
E. Manning 2.62
The average raises a bit, to 1.67, and we get a little bit of a clearer view of the landscape. As a side note, I can start to see why guys like Schaub and Flacco are loved by their coaches so much, with generally unremarkable TD and INT and rushing numbers and all the things that a casual fan might qualify a "great" quarterback with. Secondly, Eli's miracle super bowls may be one of the only things keeping him a starter in the league, if these numbers are anything to go by (Ah, that felt good to write). Bad news for Romo, though, only 4 quarterbacks with at least 48 starts since 2006 average more meltdowns a year than he does, and 11 average less.
To narrow it down even further, let's look only at current starting quarterbacks with at least as many starts as Romo since 2006.
P. Manning 1.34
E. Manning 2.62
The average now becomes 1.80, still placing Romo with "too many" meltdowns, but now less than 1/2 a meltdown per year more than he should have. Better I suppose, but still more than the average current starting quarterback with at least as many starts as Romo since 2006, and 2nd worst of the 8. Take the slobbering neanderthal in NY out of the equation and the number gets even uglier.
So there you have it. I like almost all of what Romo does, and certainly agree that he doesn't get a fair shake in the media. He keeps us in games that we shouldn't have a chance at, he's capable of putting up elite (no, not ELIte) numbers, but my one problem with him has been this whole too many meltdowns thing. That being my only problem with Romo, it is the only negative metric that I care to make a case for, as I don't believe you'll find too many others. And while I didn't take the space here to make a stronger case for his multitude of positives, those certainly outweigh this single negative. You'll find far more of those positives than I've referenced, if you don't already know about them.
A touchy subject in these parts, I'm aware. But the numbers don't lie and Romo does indeed have "too many" meltdowns. You won't get an argument from me, saying that they're outweighed by his positives, but I hope I've done my part to at least put to bed some of the comments I consistently hear like "you only notice them because they're in big games" or "he has just as many meltdowns as other quarterbacks" and the like. Compared to the other quarterbacks in the league, Romo does indeed have too many meltdowns and the margin is significant enough to pay attention to.
I will now accept my beating from both sides. BUT MY VOICE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!!!