By some, Tony Romo may be a bit overrated, but the reality is that the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback is easily the most underrated in the NFL.
Romo has been tagged as a choker unable to perform in the most demanding moments when his team truly needs him to shine. He is scoffed at as a leader and considered the furthest thing from a winner. Yet, few have performed as consistently and as impressively as Romo has been able to since becoming the starter in Dallas during the 2006 season.
Romo has compiled a 47-30 win-loss record—a 61 percent win percentage in his six seasons as the Cowboys starter. He has eclipsed 4,000 yards in three of those seasons and has been within the top 10 in touchdown passes in four.
As it stands now, Romo’s career passer rating is 96.9. That number is better than all but one man—Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Certainly, passer rating is admittedly not the best measure for quarterback play, but it signifies how strong a performer he can be to be in the same company as the likes of Steve Young, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning—one Hall of Famer and two locks who will be there soon.
And what about Romo dwindling under pressure in the fourth quarter?
Romo’s passer rating actually sees a boost to 102.9 in the fourth quarter, according to Jonathan Bales. In the past four seasons, Romo’s passer rating is 99.8 in the fourth quarter of one-score games. Yes that’s right—his passer rating is actually higher in critical moments with the game on the line.
In 2011, a year Romo has gotten a lot of criticism for in the Cowboys’ failure, he threw 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
In the final five games of the season, during the time Romo and the Cowboys really needed to sharpen up and play to the best of their ability, Romo was spectacular, passing for 1,158 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception with a 115.9 passer rating and 71.1 percent completion percentage. Despite his strong play, the Cowboys lost four of those games, two in which the defense gave up over 30 points and another which saw Romo knocked out in the first quarter.
Not much of a choker, is he?
The reality is that Romo’s choker label links to one single performance which was truly a disappointing moment in an otherwise admirable NFL career. That performance, of course, came in the Cowboys’ playoff matchup with the Seattle Seahawks in 2007 in which a simple 19-yard field goal stood in the way of the franchise’s first postseason victory since 1996. Romo, unfortunately, mishandled the snap and the rest is history.
The Cowboys’ inability to win a playoff game has not helped Romo’s argument. To add to the matter, the Cowboys have failed to even make the postseason in three of Romo’s six seasons as a starter, and the talented gunslinger appears even worse. But Romo is not an entire team—though certainly the impromptu leader by way of playing quarterback—and the Cowboys would likely be the first to tell you their defensive play has not been up to par, especially, ironically enough, in crucial, game-changing moments when they must clamp down and keep their opponent from scoring.
But as the 2012 season inches near, the Cowboys, the NFL and its fans should know that there is no better quarterback to get Dallas back to the Super Bowl than No. 9. Few could handle the scrutiny of being the signal-caller for America’s Team as Romo does, and few could do so every week with a pleasant smile on his face as he does.
As Romo prepares for another rough season as the Cowboys quarterback competing in a division as difficult and fierce as the NFC East, his expectations couldn’t be higher and yet, they couldn’t be lower all the same. They demand a title in Texas, but few believe the Cowboys are capable of accomplishing such a feat this season.
The offensive is underwhelming and depleted. No one knows if Miles Austin will be available this season, and Dez Bryant is always a question mark you must caution your excitement for. On paper, the defense has improved dramatically, but this would not be the first time such lofty expectations were weighed upon them. The depth is lacking across the roster and it doesn’t appear that many believe Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the Cowboys coaches can handle the task at hand.
In some many years past, the Cowboys were the popular choice to win the NFC East and go to the Super Bowl. It was as certain as The Swami’s pick or the Buffalo Bills year after year. And every year, they have failed to deliver.
This season, it appears folks are much more unsure about the Cowboys and their prospects for the upcoming season. Their roster and the vast amount of injuries that have struck their offensive line and receiving corps have fewer people high on their chances in such a competitive NFL.
However, one thing is for certain: if the Cowboys are going to appear in a Super Bowl any time soon, it will be with Tony Romo at quarterback, leading the way for America’s Team.