Romo: Neither Hero nor Villain

He is the only quarterback who has not only gone pass-for-pass with Peyton Manning this season but outplayed him. He has the NFL’s second-best passer rating this season, behind only Manning, and his overall statistics are stellar: a 71.8 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions.

Yet something inside of you just knew as that ball spiraled in slow motion late in the fourth quarter of the Broncos Cowboys game that it would somehow manage to land in the position that would make Tony Romo look like an imbecile.

You had a feeling how this would end. Whether good or bad, Broncos fan, Cowboys fan, or ambivalent, you’ve watched it too many times not to know.

Tony Romo is extremely talented and capable of making clutch plays but he is also susceptible to the worst case of “terrible mistakes at critical moments” in all of the NFL. And it happened again on Sunday. Another interception at the WORST possible moment, another Cowboys loss that could’ve been avoided.

Which leads to the onslaught of chatter from critics and fans, claiming him a failure despite the fact that Romo, by many measures, is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

According to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics, Romo ranked fourth in QB efficiency in 2011 (behind only Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady) and  seventh in 2012, and he was fifth this season before Sunday. And after the game and interception? Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of +8.9, the highest of any Quarterback so far in the season.

And although he passed for 506 yards and five touchdowns on Sunday, the narrative of Romo’s game was edited down to that one interception

Romo is a complex figure. Elite on paper yet downright maddening in his glimpses of bad luck and dumb choices. He is neither a hero nor a villain. Yet he somehow always manages to be the scapegoat.

Of course, Romo never should have been throwing to inexperienced rookie Gavin Escobar, thrown into triple coverage no less, with less than two minutes to play. But Romo also never should have been in the position of having to drive the Cowboys to victory Sunday night.

Jerry Jones appears to be team Tony saying, “Tony played the best game that I’ve ever seen him play in his career, not only from the standpoint of how he executed, not only how he created plays but his leadership, “Jones continued. “That was unfortunate that it came down to that at the end, but you can see the very best over on the other side of the ball, it can happen to them, too.”

If there is a scapegoat anywhere on the Dallas team, should it not be the defense? Why not talk to Monte Kiffin, who’s defense gave up 14 points early, then a 17-7 lead, and finally the 73-yard drive by the Broncos to tie the game late in the fourth quarter where they faced just one third down. And although it was Peyton Manning they faced, the Cowboys failed failed to record a single sack in 42 pass attempts.

“The fact that we weren’t able to win when the offense scored 48 points is absolutely unacceptable,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We have to find a way to be a better defense. Right now, we’re not a good defense. Two weeks in a row, we’ve given up way too many points and way too many yards.”

The Cowboys have allowed an average of more than 27 points pergame, and they’re 31st in the NFL  having surrendered 326.4 passing yards a game. This past Sunday, the defense was whistled seven times for penalties, including one the Broncos declined.Although a trait of a GREAT quarterback is making plays in critical conditions, conducting winning drives through their leadership and high football IQ.

Romo was clicking on all cylinders against the Broncos and outplayed Manning in the game, but it was the one costly interception at the wrong time that people will remember.  Romo is having the best season of his career and that didn’t change against the Broncos because of one pass. If Romo continues to play at this level, he’ll continue to have opportunities to change any perception out there of him and if that doesn’t release him as scapegoat, maybe the bad play of the defense will.


3 thoughts on “Romo: Neither Hero nor Villain

  1. bpatbend

    I like your piece. I agree that the Cowboys defense got off way too easy in that Broncos game. Regardless of the fact they were facing Manning, they still gave up over 51 points.

    But I thought your facts you used were great to back up the fact that Tony Romo really is better than most people make him out to be. I liked the Jerry Jones quote too; having an owner like Jones back you up can’t hurt.

  2. cpace2016

    I would say that the lede is editorializing a little. Considering Romo threw the game away at the end, I’m not sure that you can definitively say that he outplayed Peyton. Also, if you’re going to say, “he is also susceptible to the worst case of “terrible mistakes at critical moments” in all of the NFL” then you should substantiate it with other examples or a statistic. Just one example doesn’t qualify as susceptible.

    Otherwise, you hit the nail on the head. Romo is a guy who will forever be scapegoated in Dallas regardless of whether he is the one to blame. I believe that you put it best: “Romo is a complex figure. Elite on paper yet downright maddening in his glimpses of bad luck and dumb choices. He is neither a hero nor a villain. Yet he somehow always manages to be the scapegoat.” I’m not a Cowboys fan, but its almost enough to make you feel bad for the guy.

  3. kfairbanks22

    As far as editorial comments: Put a dash in between “Broncos Cowboys game”. Avoid contractions like “could’ve”. In the 10th paragraph, there should be a space between the ” and Jones. There should be a space between “pergame” and “declined.Although”. I think you have a good point! It seems as though once someone has success and becomes popular, people will only focus on mistakes to tear them down. I think the defense should have taken more of the blame for that loss than Romo.


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