Many high-profile athletes have a tough time avoiding controversy. Sometimes, no matter how good a player and person someone is, drama just seems to be attracted to them like a magnet. Such was the case with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
There is no doubt that Tony was one of the most talented players to ever play the position. His accuracy cannot be questioned and his elusiveness was as good as anybody who has ever played (just ask J.J. Watt). However, that hasn’t stopped people from debating just how good he was.
When it comes to individual statistics, Romo’s numbers speak for themselves. He is currently the holder of just about every significant Dallas Cowboys passing record and currently fourth in all-time career passer rating behind only Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers, and ahead of hall of famers like Kurt Warner, Steve Young, and the one who many believe is the greatest quarterback in league history, Joe Montana.
Individual stats, however, only tell part of the story.
Where Tony Romo came up short was when it came to the ability to be clutch when it mattered the most. Certainly, he led the league in fourth quarter comebacks during the 10-year stretch that he was the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, but being a clutch performer is more than just leading game winning drives. The six above mentioned quarterbacks all have one thing in common and that is they are all Super Bowl champions. That is where Tony Romo does not measure up.
Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News and Talk of Fame Network mentioned speaking with Steve Young a few years back about this very subject.
Young was the NFL’s leader in passer rating from 1991-93, and was voted the league MVP in 1992. Young posted an impressive 34-14 record as a starter during that stretch but lost consecutive NFC title games to the Dallas Cowboys in the 1992-93 seasons.
Joe Montana won Super Bowls for the San Francisco 49ers. Steve Young didn’t – not until 1994, anyway, when his 49ers finally defeated the Cowboys in an NFC title game and then went on to crush the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29.
Clearly, Steve Young understood how important it was to win the Super Bowl.
“Super Bowls define us,” said Young. “You can spend the rest of your career playing terrific football, even MVP football. But it won’t do what a Super Bowl does.”
When someone is quarterbacking a team that is talented yet flawed, something that Romo found himself at the center of on a number of occasions, that quarterback must possess the skills needed as a passer, as a decision maker, and above all else, as a leader, to overcome whatever deficiencies his team has. This was another area in which Tony Romo did not prove that he deserved to be regarded among the all-time greats.
During his time as the Cowboys starting quarterback, though, he did provide Dallas fans with moments they will never forget.
Some might argue that there were extenuating circumstances that prevented Romo from achieving greatness such as questionable coaching decisions, key injuries not only to himself but to teammates as well, and of course, sharing the huddle for three seasons with Mr. Drama, Terrell Owens. But these circumstances, in their own way, presented Romo with a chance to elevate his game to another level and help bring his team along for the ride. Instead, what we saw was a talented team underachieving year after year and that is what will ultimately keep Tony Romo from being remembered as one of the best ever.
There have been examples of quarterbacks overcoming certain weak spots on their team and still come away with a World championship. A prime example of this would have to be Peyton Manning and his 2006 Indianapolis Colts. During the regular season that year, the Colts possessed one of the worst defenses against the run the league had ever seen, surrendering an average of 173 yards on the ground per game. Things got so bad that during a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars late in the season, the Jags managed to plow through the Colts for a crazy 375 rushing yards. Despite all that, the Colts still posted a 12-4 record, worked their way through the playoffs, and came away with the Lombardi trophy. An argument could be made that superstar safety Bob Sanders returning from injury at the start of the postseason helped the Indy’s run defense, and that is a valid argument, but would the Colts have still been a 12-4 team had Tony Romo been their quarterback with that defense?
His track record says no.
This is evidenced when one looks at the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. That team finished the regular season with an 8-8 record despite being ranked fifth in the NFL in total offense. Their troubles were on the defensive side of the ball. They were ranked last in the league in total yards, and who could ever forget a Sunday Night Football loss at New Orleans when the Saints picked up 40 first downs. Romo put up stellar number that year, starting 15 games and throwing 31 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions and a 96.7 passer rating. However, he did not do enough like Peyton Manning had seven years earlier to overcome his team’s issues on the other side of the ball and unfortunately that was the story of his career.
So, is Tony Romo an all-time elite NFL quarterback? The individual stats alone say yes. But the accomplishments of his team while he was at the helm say otherwise, and when everything is said and done, that is all that matters.
[Featured Image by Elaine Thompson/AP Images]