Tony Romo 2013 Season Evaluation: "Mental Toughness Is Suspect"

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL GM Jerry Angelo took a shot at evaluating the 2013 season of every NFL QB.

It's always fun comparing your football scouting acumen with an NFL professional's opinion. Recently former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo took the time to evaluate all 32 NFL QBs for the 2013 season. Angelo was the GM in Chicago for over a decade and was candid as evidenced by his comments about Jay Cutler, a QB he brought to Chicago. Saying Cutler lacks poise is a biting indictment, QBs are always supposed to be poised. So I wondered what he had to say about Tony Romo. He may be candid, but is he correct?

The first thing I thought about the article is that it says he's evaluating the 2013 season but it mostly reads like a career evaluation for the QBs. At least that's what it seemed to me. His rating of Romo reads:

Tony Romo -  He has a blind spot. His instincts are just average and his accuracy is not consistent enough given the amount of times they let him wing it and that’s what he does...wing it. His mental toughness is suspect and physically he is the danger zone given his two back surgeries.

I would think the first thing you would say about Romo in 2013 is that he was hurt. Experienced Cowboys-watchers can tell you that Romo looked different last year in two main areas. First, his deep passes lacked any oomph. Romo has never been considered a rocket-armed QB, but he has always been plenty strong to hit the longball, just look at his career YPA (7.8 yards, tied for 9th best all time) and the dramatic drop in 2013 in that same number (7.2, the lowest of his career by a good margin). He just couldn't get any zip downfield and badly underthrew plenty of bombs. Second, Romo collapsed to the ground in the fetal position plenty of times when the rush came through on a jailbreak. Normally on a good majority of those plays he would try one of his patented magic escapes. The biggest thing affecting Romo in 2013, in my opinion, was the injury to his back. The Cowboys can deny it but Romo was playing hurt last year.

2013 was Romo's  third worst year in accuracy (63.9%) and that was with Romo using a shorter passing game that should have helped that number. Normally, Romo is very accurate (ranking 6th all-time). So that part of the eval rings true if you're stating it just for 2013. But was that due to injury? He definitely lost some accuracy in his completion rate because of those long throws referenced above. But he wasn't always on underneath, either. The real test to evaluate whether Romo's physical skills are truly in decline, or if it was mainly his back that has hopefully been corrected with the second surgery, will come in the next year. You can check his YPA and completion % in 2014 to see if his arc is heading downwards in any significant way.

But Angelo saying that Romo lacks mental toughness is questionable to me. While that's a pretty nebulous term to evaluate (Wikipedia tries), it seems to mean that if things start going against him, he will fold. He will become a lesser player if you mentally stress him. That hardly seems to be the case to me. Romo thrives under pressure more times than not as his comeback totals and final-drive-wins have shown. I wonder if this evaluation has more to do with Romo's tendency to have some high-profile fails? That bobble in Seattle set off a snowball of perception that Romo chokes, that he's not clutch, lacks mental toughness. Romo has had some very high-profile mistakes. As I've termed it to writers from other NFL sites, Romo doesn't fail as often as you'd think, it's just when he does fail he usually does it in grand and memorable style. Since most writers/fans of other teams are already predisposed to Romo being a "choker", when he does fail it just reinforces that, even though most other QBs fail just as often. In fact, using the adjusted net yards per pass attempt metric, which is a pretty good measure of how good a QB is truly playing, Romo ranks fourth all time. And the top 10 QBs in history using that metric are Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Romo, Tom Brady, Steve Young, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino. Not too shabby a list.

So when I read Angelo's evaluation I think, did he really watch Tony Romo play all of the 2013 season? I know I watched all of Romo's games, every pass in every game. I know many of you did, too. Angelo's evaluation really didn't hit the spot for me.

If I had to evaluate Romo for 2013, I'd say - Obviously, in retrospect, was playing hurt. The long ball, usually a staple of his game was absent as he couldn't make the throw consistently. Still was mobile when choosing to be but gave up on more plays than usual, perhaps trying to protect an aching back. Was more careful with the football, only throwing 10 interceptions on the year. Despite playing behind a much better line than in past years, still took roughly the same number of sacks as the past few seasons. Long-term outlook is dependent on his back and the recent surgery.

How would you evaluate the 2013 version of Tony Romo?

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