As I was sitting in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains last Thursday, watching Game 5 of the NBA Finals while on vacation, I never thought of who would be next to have the pressure of winning the title in their respective sport. Yet almost immediately after the Heat wrapped up the NBA championship, chatter began about who now has the most pressure to win a title, and talk turned to Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
And the pundits are right. For a guy in his 7th season as a starter, and who is arguably the 3rd best QB in franchise history statistically, he only has one playoff win to show for it. Now granted playoff wins are team efforts, but a great quarterback is measured not on regular season success, but on how he guides his team through the playoffs. The ultimate goal of a QB is to get better, and make his team better, and there have been no consistent signs of that with Romo.
Yet, if you were to look at his stats, he is an elite QB, at least in the annals of Cowboys lore. Romo has statistics very similar to Staubach, Aikman, and Danny White. All 3 of those QBs led the Cowboys to conference finals, and two of them have multiple Super Bowl rings. Keep in mind though, that both White and Aikman played nearly twice as many games as Romo, so take these stats for what their worth. Romo leads all franchise QBs with a completion percentage of 64.5%. He trails Danny White for 3rd on the all-time franchise list by 1,100+ yards, which he will easily get this season, and he will eclipse both Staubach and White for TDs, as he trails them by 4 and 6, respectively. He trails Aikman by 16 in that department, so it’s even a great likelihood that he becomes the franchise leader in TD passes before the year ends. But considering the pass-happy nature of the league, it’s no shock that Romo is on the cusp of achieving such a milestone.
For all the costly interceptions he has thrown, he still trails all 3 of the elite Cowboys QBs by half. But he is on pace to also throw the most interceptions of any Cowboys QB in history. And here is where the detractors will say “I told you so” but remember, it’s a pass-happy league. The more passing attempts made, the higher the probability of getting intercepted.
All-in-all, the stats are there. But the intangibles aren’t. Romo isn’t the best leader, and he doesn’t make his team better. In fact, all of his miscues and turnovers in crucial situations put pressure on his teammates, specifically the defense, to perform better and bail him out. He seems to say the right things, but saying the same thing every year gets old and tiresome. Romo needs to show by his performance that he can get it done, and he hasn’t. 6 years as starting QB for the Cowboys, 4 playoff games, and a 1-3 record. All of that on a franchise that is one of the most scrutinized in all of sports, and that is always under a microscope. Worse yet, this is on a team that has a storied history, but that hasn’t won anything in nearly 20 years.
So the pressure is definitely on Romo. Most Cowboys fans, including me, want him out. And while his job is secure, the window is closing for this team as assembled. Romo still has a chance to get his name among the Aikmans and Staubachs of the world, but until then, he is mired among the Quincy Carters and Chad Hutchinsons of team history. No more excuses, no more turnovers. It’s time for Romo to put up or shut up.