Football is a funny game sometimes. I can’t think of any other spectator sport that is so popular, yet so misunderstood by so many who follow it.
It’s been said that quarterbacks, in general, get too much credit for victories and too much blame for defeats.
Why is this?
Well, that second sentence in the first paragraph above is why.
When you stop and think about it, the idea that just one guy out of 11 should take all responsibility for his team’s performance is pretty weak. This sad, tired approach to grading quarterbacks is blatantly perpetrated by some in the media that actually played pro football and certainly know better, but this is not what they are paid to do.
It’s a given that most people watching a football game on television only watch the quarterback up until he throws the ball—handoffs are often missed by those not familiar with football or by those who just don’t watch closely enough.
Try this if I just described you—and be honest, because nobody will know:
The next time you see Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo drop back to pass, instead of focusing just on him, watch the line of scrimmage to see how many opposing colored jerseys close in on Romo. Usually, it’s more than one and this happens before most routes can even develop.
Can’t blame quarterbacks for this.
Following the Cowboys’ season-ending loss to the Washington Redskins on the final weekend of the regular season, much blame has been placed on Romo—and it’s not the first time.
I’ll be the first to admit that Romo’s third and final interception of 2012 was possibly the poorest pass he’s ever thrown. Even I can’t understand what made him think that that toss to the flat with a defender standing right there was a good idea.
But the reality is that Romo is the best passer in Cowboys history. Check the numbers, because they certainly don’t lie.
And if we could further indict the quarterback for poor play-calling, then Romo might have been out of a starting job already. But since quarterbacks almost never call their own plays outside of audibles, which are still assigned options, this can’t happen either.
So when pondering whether or not Romo should stay in Dallas, it’s important to absorb the volume of work where the entire team is concerned as opposed to just one guy. It doesn’t matter that the signal-caller touches the ball on just about all offensive snaps.
Romo has shown two characteristics as a quarterback that are rarer than you might think.
The first is fearlessness.
Romo has no fear of throwing the ball downfield at a time when the NFL seems to be trying to cram as many passes as possible down the people’s throat every week. Romo throws and completes passes at a downfield rate that few ever have. Romo, like Troy Aikman before him, will stand in the pocket and read defenses while knowing that a huge hit is eminent, especially behind his offensive line.
He will also take some chances that can show up in a negative light from time to time, but this is true of all quarterbacks.
The second quality is Romo’s ability to improvise when needed. If it wasn’t for this completely uncoachable trait, the Cowboys would probably be selecting in the top 10 this April in the NFL draft.
Unlike Aikman, Romo can recover from some of the most inconsistent pass blocking ever seen in Dallas. While certainly not as mobile as quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III with Washington or Michael Vick with the Philadelphia Eagles, Romo has enough to buy time and opportunity to find an open man.
Whether or not Romo is better in the pocket or not is a complete unknown as far as I’m concerned. Romo has played behind some really bad offensive lines since becoming the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, and he’s never had a true offensive coordinator since Bill Parcells in 2006.
Sorry, but head coach Jason Garrett’s “offensive genius” has never been seen anywhere near Dallas/Fort Worth or any other NFL city I know of.
Romo will get a well-deserved contract extension not just because of salary cap relief but mainly because he’s just steps away from dissolving the greatest misconception of his career—a Super Bowl win.
The quarterback class of 1983 was easily the best ever seen. You had John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelley, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien all drafted in the first round.
While Blackledge was a total bust and O’Brien never found postseason success like his other counterparts, 11 Super Bowls featured appearances by Elway, Marino, Kelley and Eason—all representing the AFC.
But the AFC, despite Hall of Fame passers, would wait 15 years before a single one of those passers from ’83 would win a Super Bowl.
Elway finally bucked an amazing stretch of NFC dominance in the Super Bowl in 1997. After failing miserably in three tries during the late 1980s, Elway finally got a dependable running back in Terrell Davis and won two straight Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.
Well, so much for Elway not being able to win the big game.
Not only can Romo not be held completely accountable for his team's fortunes but he can’t even be held solely responsible for his offense’s performance.
The proof is in the pudding if you could ever get Garrett out of the kitchen where he’ll just burn it up on the stove.
Romo’s stats also show that when he’s getting yards on the ground, his performance is always better—and Dallas generally wins.
Beyond his repeated injuries behind some of the most expensive and overrated offensive lines in franchise history, Romo has been outstanding. Without him in 2012 the Cowboys might have won four games, especially with all those injuries.
But before you get the idea that Romo needs to go prematurely, thus leaving the biggest hole imaginable for the Cowboys, I’ll leave you with some names that were all quarterbacks chosen in the first round. You might ask yourself after exactly how bad you want to get into the business of trying to replace the Cowboys' most profound passer.
The names above are quarterback busts taken in the first round—and bust is not applied equally to each player. But considering your expectations of Romo, look at how other guys with better “pedigrees” than Romo fared as first-round selections. Whether they all should have been first-round selections is obviously debatable, and that’s putting it mildly concerning a couple, like Schlichter and Russell.
But Romo was undrafted and has outperformed each of them as a year in, year out franchise quarterback.
Just food for thought.
Are there better quarterbacks than Romo? This could be true but it’s much, much harder to find another quarterback who’s better than Romo—and available—than it is to find one who’s worse.
If you remember Quincy Carter, a move that should have made owner and general manager Jerry Jones fire himself, then you know exactly what I mean.