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Tony Romo: Perception Becomes Reality...

January 2nd 2013 16:17
Tony Romo: Perception Becomes Reality...

I would like to start by stating that I am a Dallas Cowboys fan and an even bigger fan of Tony Romo. I admit I am probably Tony Romo's biggest fan and apologist. That is what made this past weekend's 28-18 loss to the Washington Redskins just that much worse. It was the toughest loss for me to stomach that I can ever remember. The team had pushed aside their December troubles of the past and had played very good football in December 2012. This game was a game that they had a good chance to win.

The public perception of Tony Romo is that when the games matter the most he plays the worst. That he couldn't play in December or the 4th quarter of games. The numbers tell a different story. He has a career 97.1 passer rating in December and entered this season with the highest 4th quarter and OT passer rating in the NFL. in 2011 his December rating was 115.9 and this season it was 101.2! So he can play well. He just makes mistakes at the WORST times. This perception started in January 2007 when the Cowboys had a chance to beat the Seahawks in a playoff game and Tony Romo botched the hold for a chip shot field goal. I gave him the pass on that play because it appeared to be bad luck. When the Giants went to Dallas in the playoffs and won (and went on to win the Super Bowl) I gave Romo the pass because there were numerous dropped balls and he actually played pretty well. I gave him passes on the debacle in Philly because the entire Dallas team put up an egg and gave him a pass on the loss in the playoffs to the Vikings. But I can not give him the pass here. This one is squarely on his shoulders. 3 minutes and change to play, down three, and a chance to win the game with a TD and Romo throws a head scratcher of an interception to lose the game. This was Tony Romo's fault. Previously you could blame things on the offensive line, the poor running game, dropped passes, the defense giving up big plays, but not that night. And on Sunday night the perception that he chokes in big games became reality. He flat out choked that game away and it was crushing.

Tony Romo has essentially become Alex Rodriguez. Let me explain. From 2000 - 2009 you can argue that Alex Rodriguez was the best player in the game. The only knock on him was he choked in the playoffs. You can make a case that Tony Romo is a top 7 QB in the NFL but can't win big games. Eventually, in 2009, Alex Rodriguez finally broke through and was the reason the Yankees won the World Series. I believe that that can happen for Tony Romo. Romo will likely get a contract from the Cowboys and be back for the rest of his career. I still believe that one year it will click and he will win a Super Bowl. He'll never shed the choker label though. Just like Alex Rodriguez never will. Perhaps it's next year the Cowboys win a Super Bowl and then the rest of his career Romo goes back to choking. But Romo is the NFL's version of Alex Rodriguez. If he is Alex Rodriguez than Eli Manning is Derek Jeter. I am a believer in flat out talent and feel that for weeks 1-16 I'll take Tony Romo. And in the MLB regular season I'll take Alex Rodrigez (up to 2010). But in the playoffs for both sports I'd rather have Eli Manning under center and Derek Jeter in the batters box.

All I could think of Sunday night as I went to bed was that Dallas needs to get rid of Romo. I had people at work the next day tell me the same thing. But I stopped and thought about things and asked myself "Who are the Cowboys going to replace him with?" Let's look at the options...

The Cowboys pick 18th in the 2013 NFL Draft. Perhaps they trade up. But here are the QB options so far.

Geno Smith
Matt Barkley
Tyler Wilson
Mike Glennon

Those are your best bets and none of them project to me much better than a league average QB or slightly better than league average. And Tony Romo, for all his short comings, is a well above average NFL QB. Early I said he was a top 7 QB. Feel free to disagree but looking at his passer ratings and numbers he is a second tier QB. I am taking into account JUST REGULAR SEASON.

1) Tom Brady
2) Aaron Rogers
3) Peyton Manning
4) Drew Brees

Put the top four in any order you want...they are the top four.

5) Eli Manning
6) Tony Romo
7) Matt Ryan
8) Matthew Stafford
9) Ben Roesthlesberger
10) Robert Griffin III

Let me explain these. I give Eli a slight edge because last season he showed he can be great in the regular season and playoffs and this year he had a bad stretch of games but I won't hold it against him. But it's interesting that if Romo had had that same bad stretch all the talking heads would have said he's awful and can't play with the pressure (might be accurate). But when it's Eli he gets a pass (and because of his pedigree it's earned). So Eli ranks slightly above him and just out of the "elite" category. Then I put Romo because his numbers dictate he belongs. Matt Ryan is coming into his own with big numbers but the knock on him is still the same. He can't win in the playoffs and with home field advantage if it happens this season he will unfortunately be grouped with Romo in the "Doesn't Matter Until You Win in January" category. Stafford has a huge arm and last season put it all together. The Lions as a whole underachieved this season and I won't hold that against him. Still love his arm and ability. Big Ben is a poor man's Eli Manning. Does it when it really counts but until that moment he is nothing spectacular. Romo tends to be great until the big moments. And then there is RGIII. I was hesitant to put him there as a rookie but his ability to run moved him ahead of guys like Matt Shaub and Sam Bradford. But Griffin's numbers in the game against Dallas were mediocre. It was Alfred Morris who won Washington that game (other than Romo). Griffin reminds me of Cam Newton a little bit (I actually like Newton better). Last year Cam was the toast of the NFL and this year he almost forgotten. So we will see what Griffin does in the playoffs and next season.

I think Joe Flacco is overrated and is a glorified game manager who benefits from Ray Rice and a very good defense. Andy Dalton is good but has some work to do. Phillip RIvers and Matt Shaub are too inconsistent and the Texans won playoff games with their third string QB so I question if Shaub is really that good or like Flacco it's Arian Foster and great defense that makes the Texans go. During the Romo era you can't say it has been Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Julius Jones, Demarco Murray, and a great defense that has made them go. This is a decent Dallas team but certainly not great.

Half the teams in the league would probably trade their current QB situation for Tony Romo? Don't believe me?

YES:
Buffalo - Ryan Fitzpatrick
New York Jets - Mark Sanchez
Miami - Ryan Tannehill
Cleveland - Brandon Weeden
Tennessee - Jake Locker
Jacksonville - Chad Henne
Oakland - Carson Palmer
Kansas City - Matt Cassel
Philadelphia - Nick Foles
Tampa Bay - Josh Freeman
Arizona - Kevin Kolb, John Skelton
San Francisco - Colin Kaepernick
Minnesota - Christian Ponder

MAYBE:
Chicago - Jay Cutler
Baltimore - Joe Flacco
San Diego - Phillip Rivers
Houston - Matt Shaub

13 teams would definitely be better and 4 teams would be slightly better in the short term and long term (in my opinion) with Tony Romo instead of what they have. The jury is still out on guys like Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford but their age makes them worth the risk. Ditto for Andy Dalton and Cam Newton. So Dallas needs to appreciate what they have and work to build around it. I think too many people forget what it was like with Quincy Carter, Drew Bledsoe, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Anthony Wright, Vinny Testaverde, Ryan Leaf, and Brad Johnson. The grass is not always greener.

Before the season I predicted the NFC East to look like this -
Giants 10-6
Eagles 9-7
Cowboys 8-8
Redskins 4-12

Obviously I was way off on Washington but I didn't see Alfred Morris being this good. Just think now if Brian Orakpo and Adam Carricker didn't get hurt. But I had the records correct just with the wrong team. I was way off on Philly but just swap them and Washington. But I was spot on with Dallas. My favorite team. They are a .500 team. Good at QB, awful offensive line, slightly above average on defense when they're healthy, average WRs. Dez Bryant could be a #1. He has million dollar talent and a 10 cent brain. Jason Witten is still the best TE in at least the NFC (maybe Gronkowski is better). But other than that I think Miles Austin is average, Kevin Ogeltree is below average. Demarco Murray at RB is very good but can't stay healthy and when he is out of the lineup they have zero running game. So it's a .500 team. Tony Romo and Jay Cutler to me are very similar talent wise. I think Romo is slightly better as a leader and in big moments so he gets a slight nod. Cutler has a ton of ability but hasn't gotten it done in the clutch either. Compare the Bears and Cowboys...

Brandon Marshall vs. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten - EDGE COWBOYS
Matt Forte vs. Demarco Murray - EDGE BEARS
Offensive LInes are both awful and the Bears have a better defense.

Dallas is very close and I think there are bigger problems than Tony Romo. In Texas and New York there were bigger issues than Alex Rodriguez. Dallas needs a better offensive line and a better run game. Maybe a pass rusher (Osi??). But Romo? WHo are you going to replace him with? Mark Sanchez? Tim Tebow? Michael Vick? Alex Smith? Ryan Fitzpatrick? A rookie? I'll stick with Romo and try to improve elsewhere and make this current team better.

So in conclusion Dallas needs to keep Romo and hope and pray he can find a way just not be awful in big moments. A solid running game and a slightly better offensive line and Dallas is probably a 10 win team and going to the playoffs.

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