Turnovers are holding Tony Romo back
The price of fame. Tony Romo would know all about it. Fame came quickly for Antonio Ramiro Romo, born(officially) in San Diego, California but raised in Burlington, Wisconsin. While technically being born on the 21st of April in 1980, October 23, 2006 was the day of his inception. Ever since that faithful day, and following an untimely fumbled snap that would end a great run with a sour ending; Tony Romo has went from a Wisconsin kid undrafted out of Eastern Illinois to one of the most polarizing athletes in sports. Some of that he's brought on himself. Some of that is because of the team he plays for.
If you are thinking this article is about his turnovers. You are wrong. It's not about his turnovers that's holding him back. It's about his defense forcing turnovers. Sure, you can chalk this up as another one of those excuse-laden articles defending Tony Romo. No matter what you decipher this as, this isn't an attempt to get you on Romo's side. It isn't an attempt to justify that Tony Romo is elite. It is an attempt to bring your attention to some important information concerning Tony Romo and his Dallas Cowboys. Information that I found quite alarming and shows just how better off Romo would be if his defense stepped up.
- Tony Romo has a reputation as a gunslinger, yet he has never thrown more than 19 interceptions in a season.
- Aside from the one season he's thrown 19 interceptions, he's thrown no more than 14 interceptions in a season.
- His career Interception% is 2.8.
- Peyton Manning's career Interception% is 2.7.
- Ben Roethlisberger's career Interception% is 3.0.
- Eli Manning's career Interception% is 3.3.
- Tony Romo's career 4th quarter QB rating is 102.9.
- He's completed 63% of his passes for his career in the 4th quarter.
- He has 45 career TDs and 18 career Ints in the 4th quarter.
- With 2 mins left in any half, he has a 99.3 QB rating for his career.
- His completion percentage with 2 mins left in any half is 63% for his career.
- He has 26 TDs and 8 Ints with 2 mins left in any half for his career.
- The Romo-led Dallas Cowboys are 29-6 in games where the Cowboys' defense forces at least two turnovers.
- The Romo-led Dallas Cowboys are 14-2 in games where the Cowboys' defense forces at least three turnovers.
- The Cowboys have forced 30 turnovers in a season only once since 2007.
- That was in 2010, the year Tony Romo broke his collarbone.
- In the last eight games of that same season under newly appointed Jason Garrett, the Cowboys forced 20 turnovers
- In the five full games that Tony Romo played in that season, they only forced four turnovers in those games.
- The Cowboys' defense in games Romo has started, has forced at least two turnovers in 41% of his starts.
- The Cowboys' defense in games Romo has started, has forced at least three turnovers in only 20% of his starts.
- Joe Flacco has five times as many playoff victories as Tony Romo.
- In those five playoff wins, the Ravens' defense forced 21 turnovers. That averages out to just over four turnovers a game.
- In Flacco's playoff losses, the Ravens only forced a combined seven turnovers.
- Joe Flacco's career playoff QB rating is 70.4. His completion% is 54%. His TD-Int ratio is 8-8
- Tony Romo's career playoff QB rating is 80.8. His completion% is 59%. His TD-Int ratio is 4-2.
- In those four playoff games, the Cowboys forced six turnovers.
- In two of those playoff games, the Cowboys' defense didn't force a single turnover.
- In Tony Romo's lone playoff win, the Cowboys forced four turnovers.
- Tony Romo is 8-13(.380) in December.
- Eli Manning is 16-20(.444) in December.
- In 21 December games with Romo, the Cowboys have forced 26 turnovers.
- That is 1.2 turnovers a game.
- In 2010, they averaged 2.3 turnovers a game in December.
- In 2010, Tony Romo did not play in December due to injury.
- Last season, the Cowboys had the worst takeaways per game stat in the last three games with 0.7.
- The Cowboys were 1-2 in those games including a season finale loss in a winner-take-all NFC East title game.
- The Dallas Cowboys as a team rushed for five TDs last season.
- Tony Romo was one of those rushing TDs.
- Cam Newton rushed for 14 TDs last season.
- The Dallas Cowboys rushed for 10 TDs in 2010.
- That's 15 rushing TDs in the past two seasons combined.
- Arian Foster has 26 rushing TDs in the past two seasons combined.
- LeSean McCoy rushed for 17 TDs just last season.
- In the past two seasons combined DeMarcus Ware has 35 sacks.
- In that same time period, he's forced four fumbles.
- In 2009, DeMarcus Ware had 11 sacks.
- He forced 5 fumbles.
- In four playoff games Ware has one forced fumble.
- Romo has a 15:1 TD:Int ratio in his last two Decembers.
- The Cowboys are 3-5 in those games.
What the facts suggest
Before you start calling Romeo a choker, realize what he has up against him. He doesn't have a defense that saves him. He seemingly has no running game in sight most recently. His defense rarely shows up in the playoffs or makes game-changing plays in playoff games. After all, most playoff games are close, and one big turnover can impact the game substantially.
Look at Romo's record when he gets two or three turnovers. If the Cowboys simply give him at least two turnovers, they win 83% of the time. You give him three or more, it goes up to 88%.
This isn't open heart surgery. You give Romo help on the defensive side of the ball, you win most of your ball games. Which is true with just about any team with a great QB. Making stops on 3rd down just isn't enough. More often than not, you need a turnover or two that can help swing the momentum of a game. Romo just hasn't been getting that. Not when you compare him to some other QBs like Joe Flacco.
Tony Romo's Career Season Stats
Tony Romo's Career Playoff Stats
Tony Romo's Career Situational Stats
Big Games Won
@ Carolina Panthers
First career start
Defeated 9-0 Colts
@ Atlanta Falcons
Huge playoff implications
@ Chicago Bears
Beat defending NFC Champions on primetime on the road to show the world they were a contender
@ New York Giants
Huge divisional implications
Green Bay Packers
Huge homefield advantage implications. Locked up one seed with win.
@ Washington Redskins
Return of Romo from thumb injury. Had to win to keep playoff hopes alive.
New York Giants
Had to win in order to keep playoff hopes alive.
@ Philadelphia Eagles
Huge midseason divisional game
@ New Orleans Saints
After a rocky start to December, defeated the 13-0 Saints in a game nobody gave them a chance of winning. A game they had to have in order to have any shot at the playoffs.
@ Washington Redskins
Clinched a playoff spot against hated divisional foe in tough environment.
Winner-take-all game for the divisional crown and #3 seed in the playoffs.
After just beating the Eagles to clinch #3 seed and divisional title, had to beat them again for his first playoff win of his career.
@ San Francisco 49ers
Huge comeback clutch win on the road with broken ribs against a team that would eventually go 13-3.
@ New York Giants
Beat the defending Super Bowl champs, a team that is in their heads mentally, in a game they needed to jumpstart the season.
Tony Romo's fumbled snap
Patrick Crayton's critical drop
The perception of Romo has always been more leaned towards "choker" than anything. A perception that was brought to life after an infamous fumbled snap that has been sort of a stigma on his professional football career. The perception about him is just simply not true. No, this isn't about making excuses for Romo. These are just facts. If you want to win big games in this league, you need defenses that can make big plays and not fold when it matters most. It's hard to say Romo has ever had that aside from a few instances. Ironically, his team forced more turnovers a game when he was on the shelf after breaking his collarbone. Maybe Romo is just a little unlucky. Romo may not be an elite QB, and he may not always make the big play when his team needs it, but neither does his team.
He far too often has to bail out his team. When can you say Romo's teammates have ever bailed him out? Where is Ware? 19.5 sacks and you can only force two fumbles? Where was that critical turnover against the Giants in the playoff game? No, Romo wasn't great in that game, but where was the help? Why couldn't Patrick Crayton simply make those big plays for Romo? Why couldn't the defense give Romo one turnover?
As much that was made about the fumbled snap, does anybody remember the safety by Terry Glenn? The game is 20-13 with just under seven mins left in the 4th quarter, and the Cowboys have the ball in control of the game with a chance to drain some clock. And then the safety happens. On the ensuing possession, the Seahawks drive right down the field with ridiculous ease, and take the lead. By the time Romo gets the ball back, they are losing. Romo has a great drive, that was probably halted because of suspect play-calling, and eventually leads to the fumbled snap. Everyone remembers the fumbled snap, but not the little plays that led up to it.
All it took was one defensive stop or a turnover against the Giants in last season's meeting between the two teams in Cowboys' Stadium. All it took was one. But that doesn't happen, and the rest is history. Just another December loss for the Cowboys and Romo gets all the blame because he missed Miles Austin on one pass in a game the defense had no business blowing a 12-point lead in the first place.
If you are curious as to why the Cowboys fail so often with Romo, it's probably because Romo has way too much on his shoulders and doesn't get the necessary help. That was evident just less than two weeks ago in MetLife Stadium on opening night. When the Cowboys took a 24-10 lead with just over five minutes left, we were reminded of the game in Cowboys' Stadium where the Cowboys squandered a two possession lead with just over five minutes remaining. It really started to become scary when the Giants marched down the field and made it 24-17. It really became scary when on that following possession, all the Cowboys needed was one 3rd down conversion to seal it. A 3rd down and 2 that was picked up with ease by DeMarco Murray gets called back because of holding. So now it's 3rd and 10. Romo makes a big completion to Ogletree(who runs a great slant) for 13 yards to seal the deal.
But the point is, look at what Romo had to do. I didn't mention the fact that to extend a 17-10 lead to 24-10, the Cowboys converted a 1st and 30 into a TD after penalty after penalty seemingly trying to kill the drive. And another penalty(the one that negated Murray's first down run) literally almost gave the ball back to Eli with a chance to duplicate what he did in Cowboys' stadium. Given Dallas' history with Romo and Eli's ability in the clutch, that game surely goes into overtime.
The onus is on the quarterback to lead his team to the promised land. In some ways, Romo is at fault for the Cowboys' troubles, but he is far from what is holding the team back. If anything, his team is the one that is holding him back. Playing for an owner/GM like Jerry Jones is just one of many hurdles Romo has to overcome. He is almost solely responsible for scoring TDs for the Cowboys nowadays. The days of Marion Barber are over.
And seriously, was Tony Romo really supposed to win a Super Bowl with Wade Phillips? The same Wade Phillips that has one measly playoff in umpteen years of being a head coach? The same Wade Phillips who has never been head coach for at least four full seasons in the NFL? Yeah, he's supposed to win with that? Forgive Romo for not winning with Hall of Famer, Wade Phillips. Yeah, Romo hasn't had it so good. It also doesn't help that his defense rarely scores any TDs, the special teams rarely scores any TDs, and they barely rush for any TDs. Then there is the added pressure of having to deal with all that is being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. That's a pretty tough burden.
Romo has his flaws
Romo isn't without flaws. He sometimes does make boneheaded decisions. Seemingly most of those decisions happen in the biggest of games at the worst times on national television in primetime. Even though I believe it's unfair the amount of criticism he gets, some of it he does deserve.
He sometimes does make the bad reads and the big mistakes. I believe he's been taking a lot of unnecessary sacks instead of getting rid of the football. I am one of the few who believes his stats weren't as great as they looked last season. Last season was the first time in his career he had a QB rating over 100, and he had a sparkling 31:10 TD:Int ratio. Great numbers all around, but he left a lot to be desired in some games. Namely the games against the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets. Games where he played a big part in the losses. But even in those games, and especially the Detroit game, it goes back to the main point. All it took was one big turnover from the defense to help the Cowboys hold on to the game, and absolve Romo from blame. Because surely, that game wouldn't have been front page news had the Cowboys held on to win it. That still doesn't absolve him of blame. You just can't make the mistakes that he made in those two games. Romo needs to become better at his decision-making, and I'm sure he would agree with me.
Does this article change your opinion of Tony Romo as a quarterback?
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If the Cowboys are gonna win a SB with Tony Romo, the data suggests that he just needs a little help in big games, and a little luck. Certainly, when you are the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, expectations are expected to be met. If you don't meet them, a wave of criticism will ensue whether it is fair or not. Romo needs to become better at decision-making if the Cowboys want to win a SB. More importantly, Romo's teammates on the defensive side of the ball need to give him a little help. 3rd down stops are great, but they aren't enough. Give him some short fields. Score some TDs. Make some game-changing plays in big games. Turnovers are even more important in those big games on the road against tough opponents in tough environments. Usually when you see NFL games between two great teams, and the road team comes out on top, more often than not, they forced some key turnovers that helped them come out victorious.
It's not a coincidence that the Cowboys have such an outstanding record when they force multiple turnovers in a game. 29-6 is nothing to sneeze at, and that record is even better at 14-2 when they force at least three turnovers. It's also not a coincidence that in his lone playoff win, the defense forced four turnovers in a blowout win over the Eagles.
So the formula is pretty simple. Force a few turnovers for Romo, and the Cowboys will win way more ball games than they lose. It's simple, right? Well, the Cowboys haven't really made it that simple. The only time forcing turnovers for this team seemed to be simple was in eight games with Jason Garrett as the interim head coach, and Romo on the shelf with a broken collarbone.
Romo needs to cut down on his turnovers, but more importantly, his defense needs to improve on forcing turnovers. It wouldn't hurt to also have a running game that could punch it in the endzone, but that's beside the point. Romo puts up enough points to win ball games. He just needs a defense that can make some big plays for him in those close ball games when a few turnovers could all but seal the deal. That is what has really held Romo back.