Fraud. Choke artist. Overrated.
These are some of the words the average football fan might conjure when speaking about Tony Romo. Images of postseason fumbles and bungles flash through their minds; tales of mediocrity come to memory.
Are these truisms, or is Romo being treated unfairly?
Let's look at the facts and stats.
For starters, Romo's career record is 55-38—not too shabby for a loser. Incidentally, his winning percentage is higher than the infallible Tim Tebow's, though they have the same number of playoff victories to date.
Of course, wins are overrated as a statistic. Yes, you read that right—the ultimate goal in the NFL is to win, but victories are a product of team play, not just the quarterback's.
Consider that the Cowboys defense, coached by much-heralded Rob Ryan in recent years, has finished 31st, 16th and 24th in scoring defense over the past three seasons. It hasn't been able to produce turnovers consistently, either.
There is better context, however. Were it not for Romo, the Cowboys might have been far worse the past few years.
The embattled quarterback has 12 game-winning drives under his belt over the past three season, nine of which came in 2011 and 2012. He owns the third-most fourth-quarter comebacks in the NFL since 2006.
Given the Cowboys were 8-8 in each of the past two seasons, that means Romo is directly responsible for over half of those victories. Though, again, those offensive linemen and skill players had a little something to do with it as well.
Victories aside, Romo has quietly put up some pretty good statistics over the years.
Romo has been in the top 10 in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating in three of the past four seasons—four of the past five seasons in passer rating and touchdowns. Only a broken clavicle in 2010 kept him from the leaderboard that year.
The Cowboys quarterback came less than 100 yards shy of 5,000 last season, but that statistic has become passé because it has been attained so often in recent years. And his name is Tony Romo.
Stats aren't everything, of course. Vince Young is 31-19, after all. Dan Marino set a bunch of passing records without recording a Super Bowl victory.
Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon took a close look at Romo's big-game performances, and this is what he had to say about Dallas' quarterback at the end of his piece:
We lose sight of the fact that Romo is usually the kind of athlete we root for. Passed on 262 times in the 2003 draft. Rose from out of nowhere to become the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Statistically, he's one of the best in the game.
Is he a risk-taker who sometimes gets burned? Absolutely, but his all-or-nothing style is what we usually wish to see from our favorite athletes.
Gagnon points out that Romo has had mixed results in the clutch, not exactly the awful choker Twitter loves to mock.
Tony Romo signs 6-year interception deal with Cowboys— Evil Mike Tomlin (@EvilMikeTomlin) March 29, 2013
Somewhere in Dallas, Tony Romo just threw another interception.— SportsNation (@SportsNation) October 29, 2012
Romo throw a pick yet?— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) November 29, 2012
BREAKING: Tony Romo has now been nominated for choke artist of the year, decade, century, and eternity— NOT SportsCenter NFL (@NOTSCNFL) December 31, 2012
As if there wasn't already enough troll fodder, Jerry Jones gave Romo a massive extension last season.
Yes, Romo has choked in big spots, but the fact that he has led so many game-winning drives in the past couple of seasons could be an indication he is ready to shed that choker label.
Romo has come up big in some of those spots, too, but those moments are swept away in the avalanche of criticism he gets after every misstep.
Similarly, Romo doesn't "choke" at end of season...97.1 rating in December/January EXACT same as his rating in other months— Jonathan Bales (@TheCowboysTimes) May 27, 2012
It is hard to keep an eye on that ball when Romo has thrown some brutal interceptions at crunch time, but his clutch issues are clearly overblown.
The postseason failures dog Romo like they did LeBron James, though much more had been expected of the latter until he shattered the choker narrative.
In truth, Romo has only had a handful of postseason opportunities. The Cowboys have made the playoffs just three times with their current quarterback at the helm—a fate at least tied to Romo's performances, to be sure—and none since 2008. He has since entered his prime, which shows in his statistics.
Time is not on Romo's side. The Cowboys have been mediocre for several years now, and the 33-year-old might not have much of a window if the mediocrity continues.
Perhaps this is why he has cut back on his golf game.
It will be a shock to some if the Cowboys can muster a playoff run, and Romo will likely get less credit than he deserves if it happens. You may ask yourself, well, how did the Cowboys get there?
Same as it ever was.