When I was much younger, my father purchased a milk cow for our farm. He was a country boy at heart and missed fresh milk. The cow didn't take to feeling new hands and gave dad a couple of kicks the first morning he set to milk her.
My dad was not the patient sort, and had less tolerance for a cow. He swung the pot he took for collecting the milk and brained the cow. The blow was so hard it put a permanent dent in the metal pot. He said the cow staggered a moment, rolled its eyes, and quickly got the message.
Dad got his milk, and never again got trouble from the cow.
It may be time for Jason Garrett to take a similar heavy swing at Tony Romo's thick head. Last night the Cowboys milk cow showed how thin the line between winning and losing can be. In his case, it's one pass.
There are plenty of numbers to crunch and debate, but on offense, this line glows in angry red:
- 29 attempts, 2 bad decisions, 6.9 bad decision percentage
Gunslinger QBs have a higher risk-reward ratio than the dinkers and dunkers. They throw down the field more and take more chances. The good ones make more big plays and commit more mistakes as a by-product. K.C. Joyner has put the bad decision fault line for down-the-field types at roughly 3.5%.
In other words, for quarterbacks who average 30 attempts per game, one bad throw per game can usually be tolerated and overcome. It's the service charge for big plays.
Romo has criss-crossed what I'll call the Favre Line in his still-brief career. In '06, his rookie starting season, Romo posted a phenomenal 1.9 bad decision percentage. In '07, when the wins came, that number nonetheless mushroomed to 4.0%. It's been on the bad side of 3.5% since.
Last week, Romo's number was just on the line. He had one questionable pass against the Bucs. Last night, he had two howlers. One was returned for a touchdown. That came in a 3rd-and-10 situation, when Romo overthrew Roy Williams and found a Giants cornerback instead.
That throw didn't particularly bother me. I've seen lots of good QBs fail at this pass, guys named Namath, Marino, Elway, Favre and Warner. They trust their arms and sometimes miss those tiny boxes they hit more often than not. That was within the quota.
It was the second pick which had me wondering if that old dented pot is still around. If I find it, Jason Garrett may get it express delivery, if he hasn't purchased one already. This came on a 1st-and-10, when Dallas was in position to finally seize control of the game. Romo forced a deep pick into double coverage and didn't come close. This is the type of unforced error he made against Baltimore, Seattle and other teams last year.
It's the difference between one bad decision and two. It's the difference between 3.4% and 6.9%.
It's the difference between winning and losing.
It's a lesson that hasn't taken, despite the talk of "Romo Friendly."
Romo doesn't have to shoulder the load. He's running an offense that put 31 points and nearly 400 yards of offense on one of the better defenses in the league. It stampeded a front seven that's supposed to be the NFL's deepest. Dallas has averaged 32.5 points thus far, and if they can gash New York this way, the points should come against nearly everybody. Don Meredith used to have this same problem. If you've ever read the '69 book Next Year's Team, you'll know it quotes a chastened Meredith, emerging from a film session with Tom Landry, chanting, "I will not throw deep on double coverage," as a mantra. That lesson never fully took, and that failure got Dandy booed out of town.
The next time Romo addresses the press, look at his scalp. See if that backwards baseball cap is concealing a lump. If Romo wants to make the move from his flat at the corner of Meredith and White to the penthouse on the corner of Staubach and Aikman, his coordinator Jason Garrett may have to employ the type of "Romo persuasive" methods my dad would have endorsed.