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Is This The Year The Cowboys' Tony Romo Will Finally Remove The Monkey From His Back?

Ever since the Seattle playoff loss under Bill Parcells, Tony Romo has had to deal with the dreaded "can't win the big one" mantra. Is this the year he finally silences his critics?

Tony Romo - Finally a team around him.
Tony Romo - Finally a team around him.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Aikman once said that the quarterback gets too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when the team loses. While the quarterback may be the most important player on a team, the offensive line is the most important group and it may, as a group, have more to do with wins and losses than the quarterback. There are several factors that influence being able to win the big one.


When the offensive line can open holes to where the running back does not get touched until far past the line of scrimmage, and when teams put eight and nine in the box and the running back still has a big hole to run through, then third and short becomes the norm and those teams can convert a high percentage of third downs.

And when a team can convert a high percentage of third downs, a team can sustain drives. And when a team can sustain drives, it keeps the defense off the field and it can run the clock out to hold leads in the fourth quarter.

Everyone knows that success at running the ball has two components; the running back and the offensive line. Over at Football Outsiders we find out just how much the offensive line has to do with the running backs success.

One thing to keep in mind is this statement from that article:

"However, it is important to understand that these ratings only somewhat separate the offensive line from the running backs. A team with a very good running back will appear higher no matter how bad their line, and a team with a great line with appear lower if the running back is terrible."

Of all the cliches that abound in football, the one that is the best of all is "The game is won in the trenches." All others may be true to an extent, but the offensive and defensive lines are where the games are won or lost.

In the NFL the difference in talent from the top team to the bottom team is not that much because it has been orchestrated to be that way from:

  • Making the strength of schedule an equalizer by having the teams that finished the previous year with the better records face other teams that finished with the better records
  • By having the worst teams draft first
  • By having a salary cap so the rich markets/teams won't be able to horde talent
In the case of Tony Romo, he has been faced with playing on inferior teams and therefore has been labeled "unable to win the big one." Ron Jaworski once explained why Romo has gotten a bad rap and he called it trying to play "hero ball". Jaworski went on to explain that instead of being able to have his team run out the clock when the Cowboys were ahead in the fourth quarter, he had to always try to carry the team on his back when the other team knew he did not have the offensive line necessary to run out the clock, nor did he have an offensive line that could be counted on to keep him upright long enough in the pocket so he didn't have to force a throw in order to keep drives alive.

The pundits will often trot out their meme that certain quarterbacks are just "winners" and others are not. The counter is that it takes a team to win in the NFL and even the best quarterback can't win if the other team is superior enough, and that was proven this last Superbowl when clearly the best quarterback did not win, the best team won. Eli Manning was not the best quarterback in those two Super Bowls against the Patriots, and once again the best team won. Tim Tebow is always called a "winner" but perhaps he was always on the better team?


Tom Landry as a coach lived with that same mantra because he had teams that were just not quite as good as the Green Bay Packers, and just not quite as good as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sometimes you can be great but just not as good as the one guy or one team in front of you. Carl Malone and John Stockton were winners, but had to always face a Michael Jordan Team and therefore missed out on championships just because of having the bad fortune to be born in the same era as Michael Jordan.

But a point to not forget is how many years Jordan was not able to climb by the Detroit Pistons until Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson joined the Chicago Bulls. Also note that the number of rings should not be the measure either, otherwise Eli Manning must be considered a better quarterback than Peyton Manning, and the Boston Celtics Sam Jones must be better than Michael Jordan because they have more championship rings.


We should compare individuals to other individuals and teams to other teams.

When we look at individual stats, we see that Tony Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in the fourth quarter, and in fourth quarter comebacks.

Over at ESPN we find this article about Romo and his fourth quarter passer rating and this comment from that article:
"Fact: Romo has the highest fourth-quarter passer rating among active quarterbacks. And it’s not even close. His 102.1 rating is more than five points higher than the second man on the list, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers."
And from this article from USA Today Sports last December titled "Indisputable proof that Tony Romo is clutch after all"
"As Fox graphic shared on Sunday, Romo’s 102.9 passer rating in the fourth quarter is the the highest of all time. All time — as in, better than Elway, better than Montana and better than Brady."  And this....

"In the past three seasons, Romo has 11 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. That’s the most in the NFL."

Perhaps this year he has a team, or more specific, an offensive line and a team that is good enough to get that mantra, ( Monkey ), off his back.

What do you guys think, will Romo ever get the monkey off his back?

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