Visit the Facebook or Twitter timeline of any Dallas Cowboys fan on any given Sunday, and one is likely to read a listing of words that I am unable to use for this article. There will be great highs and very low lows.
When a fan’s favorite team has a 5-6 record and is in serious danger of missing the playoffs for a second year in a row, I believe anger is usually the first reaction.
Well, Cowboys fan or not, many will have the same reaction when it comes to quarterback Tony Romo.
Take his performance on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Redskins. His stat line was very good. He passed for 441 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the second half.
The Cowboys were down by 25 points at the half and Romo engineered a furious comeback for his team. They fell short in the end, losing 38-31, but he did his best to bring them back.
Romo also threw two interceptions, one in the second quarter and one in the third. His pick in the second quarter led to a Redskins touchdown, putting them up 28-3. Without that turnover, the Cowboys' road to recovery wouldn’t have been so rocky, but I digress.
As the Cowboys start their slow descent to missing another playoff opportunity, I want to take a look at Romo’s stats compared to the Cowboys' success in recent years. There are a number of fans who call for his release, departure or benching, and in some cases, rightfully so.
But is it the Cowboys who need a fresh start or Tony Romo?
Record Under Romo
For his career, Romo is 52-36 as the Cowboys starter. His best year, record-wise, came in 2007 when the team went 13-3 under his leadership.
Outside of that year and 2009, when he led the Cowboys to a record of 8-5 before getting injured, Romo has just two winning seasons and no playoff appearances.
Now, that is not to downplay what he’s accomplished in Dallas. In 2010, when Romo’s collarbone was shattered by New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley, Romo’s record as a starter was 1-5. That technically is his only losing season.
But delving a little deeper into Romo’s record in Dallas, it seems that the team—and quarterback for that matter—always seem to fall apart come December.
In 2011, the Cowboys were 7-4 entering the month of December. They won every single game in November and looked primed for a strong playoff run. Yet, as usual, Dallas found a way to mess things up.
The Cowboys went 1-3 in December and did not make the playoffs. In fact, for the month of December, Romo threw eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. He completed almost 70 percent of his passes in all four games and did everything he could to take Dallas to the second season.
Sure, there was an overthrow here or a risky throw there, but I don’t think one will find many pundits who will place those loses at the feet of Tony Romo.
Fast forward to 2012 and things are looking just as bleak. Not only that, Romo is also turning the ball over at an alarming rate.
At this point in 2011, Romo had thrown 21 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. For 2012, he has 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His yards are coming by the truckloads as Romo has two 400-plus-yard games and four 300-plus-yard games. He also ranks third in the league for yards thrown.
That has translated to a record of 5-6 for Dallas.
So the stats, in the end, mean absolutely nothing for Romo. Last season, he had 20-plus touchdowns at Thanksgiving and the Cowboys still missed the playoffs. This year, Romo and head coach Jason Garrett have launched an air assault on the Cowboys' opponents and it has just amounted to five wins.
Lastly, Romo is the eighth most sacked quarterback in the NFL. The Cowboys offensive line is average on a good day, and Romo can usually be found running for his life on any given Sunday. Going a little further, Romo is sacked about 2.5 times per NFL game.
No wonder he’s always injured.
Last Five Games of 2012
If the Cowboys want to make the playoffs, they will have to win their last five games. It is very doable as they face the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Redskins. The Cowboys have already beaten the Eagles and the Steelers just lost to the Cleveland Browns.
If they fail to make it past the regular season, this will be the third straight season that the Cowboys will be absent from the NFL playoff tree.
Here is the scary part for the Cowboys. The Bengals sack opposing quarterbacks 3.3 times per game, which is second best in the league. The good news for Dallas is that every team other than the Bengals ranks out of the top 15 in sacks per game.
The Eagles are the lowest, averaging just 1.6 quarterback takedowns each contest.
For Romo, he has to try and stay as mistake-free as possible, with no overly risky passes when the Cowboys could just settle for the field goal.
Romo also has a bad habit of trying to squeeze passes into tight spaces when he has open receivers on other parts of the field.
Getting back to the Cowboys' last five opponents, only two teams have winning records—the Steelers and Bengals. As of today, the Saints, Redskins and Eagles all have more losses than wins.
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are just 6-5, so there is ample opportunity for Dallas to make a move on both squads.
But I bring up these fives games and the Cowboys' chances to at least finish 10-6 because if they don’t, it may be time for Romo to move on.
Not because the Cowboys need a better quarterback, but because it just may be time for a change of scenery for Romo.
If the Cowboys fail to reach the playoffs, head coach Jason Garrett will likely have to find employment elsewhere and the Cowboys will face the same questions they did at the end of 2011.
Not much will change on the roster side for Dallas and the most drastic alteration will be head coach.
Will that help Romo lead the Cowboys to a championship? Better yet, will it ease the scrutiny for the controversial quarterback?
I say no to both.
For his time in Dallas, Romo has a winning record, three playoff appearances, a few Pro Bowls and all of the pressure that comes with being the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas has plenty of issues that stand as roadblocks in Romo’s way, like a “fluid” offensive line, a non-existent running game, an inconsistent receiving unit and a very unpredictable defense.
By no means am I absolving Romo from any blame in Dallas. This is more of a precursor to what we will eventually see in Dallas as I just don’t envision this Cowboys team, as it's currently constructed, as a Super Bowl team. Eventually, Romo will move on, we just aren’t sure when it will happen.
Romo has made his fair share of dumb throws and played some head-scratching football at times, but he is not the problem in Dallas.
Judging by his body language in many games this season, Romo may be ready to throw his hands up and move on anyway. He yells a lot, shows his frustration when things go wrong and just seems unhappy at times.
Maybe it’s not the Cowboys who need a change at quarterback, maybe it's Tony Romo that needs to change teams.