Does Tony Romo Choke in Nationally Televised Games?

There's been a fair bit of chatter about Romo, as always. There was a recent fanpost by Useful Idiot and a few front page articles. As usual, a great discussion about Romo ensued, in which many arguments are made for and against Romo. But there is a specific comment about Romo that is always made that I want to touch on with this fanpost. I'm sure most of us have heard something along the lines of "Romo always seems to save his biggest goofs in games where the whole country is watching." There is a perception out there that Romo is such a lightning rod because a national TV audience always sees his biggest mistakes.

But is that true? As most people probably know, I'm not the biggest Romo fan. I like the guy and I think he's a very good QB. But I don't trust him anymore. I fear the worst when the game is on the line. And, frankly, I feel that when push comes to shove, Romo will fold like a cheap suit. So, naturally, I'm very curious about Romo in nationally televised games. Does he really stink it up when the whole country is watching? With an unbiased mind, I dived into the data to figure out if there is any truth in the myth. All stats were pulled from Pro Football Reference.

I was able to compile the stats for the nationally televised games since Romo took over in 2006. Romo has played in exactly 47 nationally televised games since taking over from Drew Bledsoe. Man, we sure do play a lot of nationally televised games, don't we? For comparison, the poor Buffalo Bills have played just 7 nationally televised games in the same time period. We've played the Giants 9 times in the span! Poor Bills. Anyways, the methodology: all games played with a national audience are games where it is on with no other games competing against it. So that's games on Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, Thanksgiving, and the playoffs. I included the first Giants game when Romo replaced Bledsoe and I excluded the brief start he made against the Giants when he broke his collar bone. Basically, Romo attempted at least 20 passes in all 47 games. I compiled all the usual QB stats and compared them to his career averages. Then I examined all 47 games to see if there were any of the classic Romo choke games. Here's the statistical results (on a per game basis):

Comp Att Comp % Yds Y/A TD Int Win %
Primetime Avg 21.70 33.79 64.31% 263.34 7.98 1.85 1.09 63.83
Career Avg 22.58 34.95 64.60% 273.75 7.80 1.93 0.94 58.33

First, let's look at the cold, hard facts. Romo's averages in the nationally televised games are virtually identical with his career averages. His primetime averages are slightly worse, except for Y/A and his Win %. Based on stats alone, you can't really make any hard arguments against Romo. Sorry guys, no ammunition there. Hey, I said I was unbiased, right?

But RTDT, I hear you ask, I know I've seen Romo pull some choke jobs on a nationally televised game. Well, that's where we have to venture into the murky world of subjectivity. The stats failed any Romo haters, but stats by themselves tell you nothing without some kind of context. I have, with an unbiased mind, examined all 47 games and concluded that Romo "choked" (based on public perception) in 5 of those games. They are, in order: the bobbled snap in the Seattle playoff game in 2006, the atrocious showing in the Jerryworld opener in 2009 (13 for 29, 127 yds, 4.38 YPA, 1 TD, 3 INT), the 2011 season opener against the Jets (fumble, late INT in 4th qtr), the Bears Monday Night Football Debacle in 2012 (5 Ints), and the Redskins choke job to end 2012 (3rd INT of game on drive to win).

These are the games that I feel the public said Romo choked. That's 5 out of 47 games for a percentage of 10.6%. So 10% of the time, Romo has choked before a national audience. You know, I don't think it's that bad. The stats show you that he hasn't done anything differently from his career. You would think his stats took a big dip, judging by the perception. So, as much as it shocks me, I am forced to admit Romo performs no better or worse before a national audience.


Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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