Posted December 10, 2013

Is Tony Romo really losing games in December and January?

Dallas Cowboys, NFC East
Tony Romo has been handcuffed by his defense all season.

Tony Romo has been handcuffed by his defense all season. (MCT via Getty Images)

The #hotsportstake has been a part of the sportswriting landscape since Ring Lardner first jabbed a piece of paper into a typewriter, and despite the reams of statistical analysis and mounds of game tape we have on hand in the modern era, weird narratives still persist. One of the more popular farces in recent years is the idea that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is some sort of epic choker when the games matter most. Alleged “experts” will point to his win-loss record in November and December as anecdotal evidence that Romo will never get over that hump — that he will never have the kind of “clutch winner gene” that defines the greatest of the game.

After Dallas’ 45-28 Monday night loss to the Chicago Bears, the usual #hotsportstakes came hard and heavy.

With the loss last night, Tony Romo now has a career record of 13-20 in December/January.

— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 10, 2013

Tony Romo now has a career record of 13-20 in December/January.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 10, 2013

No doubt, Skip Bayless will blame Romo for that loss, unless he can somehow find a way to blame Troy Aikman and Tom Landry instead.

Morning talk bloviators aside, there is a pesky ding that dogs Romo wherever he goes. Never mind that Dallas’ defense is on pace to set the single-season record for yardage allowed, set last year by the New Orleans Saints. Never mind that the man who has clearly turned New Orleans’ defense around this year, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, was fired by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after the 2012 season because Ryan’s schemes were too complicated. Never mind that the drafts put together by Jones and son Stephen over the last few seasons have provided less-than-optimal starters at several positions. And never mind that the Cowboys’ offensive coaching staff has been sub-par since Sean Payton left in 2006.

Nope, it’s all Romo’s fault that the Cowboys have performed poorly when it really counts. He’s the quarterback, quarterbacks win or lose ballgames, and that’s all there is to it.

The weirdness of win-loss records for quarterbacks aside (football is, after all, the ultimate interdependent sport), Romo has actually performed exceedingly well in November throughout his NFL career, and his December numbers aren’t so bad, either. Overall, he has the most fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives since 2011, and while those who will not be moved from the narrative insist that Romo put his teams in those negative situations, the raw numbers tell a very different story.

Let’s start with the total team dynamic. Since 2009, the Cowboys have amassed a 29-32 record, and they have a total point differential of minus-35 (1,496 points scored, 1,531 points allowed). They have this negative point differential despite Dallas’ offenses finishing seventh, 15th, 15th, and third in points scored. Dallas’ defenses have finished 31st, 16th, 24th and 26th in points allowed. Focusing the microscope on the 2013 season, the Cowboys are third in points scored and 22nd in yards gained.

If Romo were unable to get things done when things were on the line (i.e., in the red zone), wouldn’t those numbers be reversed? From the opponents’ 19-yard-line and in, Romo’s stats this year are insanely good: 31-of-51 for 185 yards, 18 touchdowns and one interception. In the fourth quarter, when he’s supposed to dry up and blow away, his 2013 stats are quite impressive: 77-of-110 for 862 yards. eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

Now, the historical numbers. In November throughout his career, Romo has thrown 64 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, with a yards-per-attempt total of 8.15 and a passer rating of 105.5. In December, when he’s supposed to fall apart? He’s thrown 44 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions, with a YPA of 7.35. Yes, his numbers dip in December. You know whose numbers also dip in December? Tom Brady’s. Yes, the all-time cold-weather, postseason quarterback also experiences a slight decline in his numbers just as Santa is putting the finishing touches on his big annual ride. Difference is, he’s had more than a couple of postseason appearances because his teams have been built and coached at a very high level for the most part.

As for Romo’s January numbers, there isn’t much to go on, because the Cowboys are generally out of the picture after the New Year. In three games, he’s thrown four touchdown passes and two interceptions and has a 1-2 “record.”

Romo has heard this junk for years, and he’s been patient about it for the most part. But for those who want to try to tie a true correlation between Romo’s performances and the Cowboys’ late-season swoons, the stats will beat the #hotsportstakes … if you do your homework.

45 comments
mooltittle
mooltittle

Excellent article Doug. I eagerly await your next article, where you show that Quincy Carter and Mark Sanchez were statistically also great QBs.

Benjamin Disraeli was right: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Just for fun, what do the statistics say about the percentage of plays that actually succeed on which Romo calls an audible?

Jerry Jones is like the man who acts as his own lawyer: he has a fool for a GM.

kjfoto
kjfoto

No, those two interceptions at the end of this last game were someone else's fault entirely.

GregoryJoseph
GregoryJoseph

Is it too late to answer this article's question?


Good.


Yes.

MXWest
MXWest

So 20 fewer TDs and 6 more INTS is a "dip?" _ If you're Romo's brother I get it but just because the defense stinks doesn't mean Romo doesn't choke. Sorry.

Ole43
Ole43

Somebody help me out here, please.  The Bears scored 45 points...how much of that was Romo's fault?  I guess he's the same reason Dallas lost to the Broncos too.  He should find a way to switch to their defense, the he could choke his a$$ off and never hear anything about it.

nynotes
nynotes

An unnecessary article that I regret perusing. Those stats mean absolutely nothing. Wins in December translate to opportunities in January to early February. Romo has a $100M contract with one playoff win under his belt. He is rightfully scrutinized because no QB in my 50+ year life has gotten so much attention and made so much money without winning a thing. At least Dan Marino got into the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Romo still has a chance to redeem himself by leading the Cowboys to three straight wins to end the regular season. I just don't see that happening.

Granted, Dallas has a terrible defense, but Chicago's defense isn't much better.

The bottom line is the head coach and the quarterback are the first to get blamed for losses.

In this case, Jason Garrett will be the first to go and Romo with his fake gaudy stats will be the Cowboy quarterback for another few years.

RobertWiddoss
RobertWiddoss

Really, 8 Straight scores and they are looking at Romo... amazing.


PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

So the author, while claiming football is the ultimate TEAM game, goes on to blame the Dallas defense for the Boys poor December performance and absolves Romo and the offense.  You can't have it both ways bro. 

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

again manning justly get's blasted for his playoff record, because he's the quarterback and so should romo, as again one playoff win his entire career, and again the first image anyone remembers of romo in the playoffs is i believe 2008 wildcard round at seattle, chip shot field goal and he botches the hold

mutton_man
mutton_man

Everytime a Romo supporter comes out to his guy, they always trot out these numbers (this article is neither original or insightful).  You can make the numbers say anything you want.  Foles has a better QB rating than anyone else in the league.  Is he the best QB in the league? Don't be ridiculous.


Forget the numbers, just trust your eyes... Romo chokes when Dallas needs him the most.  These are the only numbers that should matter: In his career, Romo is 1-7 in "win-or-go-home games"

BrooksySpecial
BrooksySpecial

Just look to that 4th down play where Romo just threw the ball to the ground instead of trying to make a play. Sums him up pretty well. Yes his defense is terrible this year, BUT the one common factor through the years is Romo. Ok Jerrah is in the mix as well HAHAHA. 

grkorbel
grkorbel

gpellison and inthepresent: you are stupefyingly clueless.  


Romo has played in 14 December games since 2009. the Cowboys' record is now 6-8 in those games. 

In the eight losses, Romo has thrown 14 touchdowns and three picks. Two of those INT's came in the first half of the last year's week 17 game against the Redskins and lead to no scoring by Washington. Two drives by RGlll put the 'skins ahead  21-10. romo brought Dallas back to within three. The ONLY backbreaking INT Romo threw since 2009 occurred with 3:35 left in the game, Dallas within three points, all of it's time outs and the two minute warning--and yet the defense allowed the Redskins to run out the clock with three first downs.


Only one of those games turned on a Romo interception. The suggestion that Romo's picks "always come at the wrong time, when the game is on the line." is utter B.S. as I've shown. But you are going to see only what you emotionally need to see, not the facts. 


gpellison, you are pitiful. You admit you are not a causal fan of the team and my guess is you saw very few of the Cowboys December games between 2009 and last night and yet you make the doesn't-pass the-laugh-test assertion  "I can almost count on this guy throwing a late game interception while the game WAS still winnable.".


Romo has 14 t.d.'s and three picks since 2009 during the stretch game and all three came in one game. As of November 25th it was documented by the NFL that he had the highest fourth-quarter passer rating in the history of the NFL.


I would have bet the rent that you would hedge your bets by suggesting his play during September and October was the reasopn for Dallas' .500 play.


Since 2009 Romo has 15 game-winning drives; five have come in September and October. By way of comparison, tom Brady has 14 game-winning drives since 2009. By way of comparison, Peyton manning has 14, fourth-quarter winning drives since 2009 and six have come in September and October. If looked at in terms of percentages, 33% of Romo's winning drives have come in September and October while 42% of Mannings' game-winning drives have come early in the fall. That's a difference of .09--0r 1:10. Put simply, your contention that Romo blows games early in the season and rebounds in November and December is nonsense--if for no other reason than a season is on the line in December and that's when you would a quarterback to pull a rabbit out of his hat.


Again, you're clueless.


gpellison68
gpellison68

Yeah, his stats look decent, but one thing you fail to take into account is that the interceptions always come at the wrong time, when the game is on the line. I do not watch all the Cowboy games, as I am not even a casual fan of the team, but when I am saddled with watching them, I can almost count on this guy throwing a late game interception while the game WAS still winnable. I know it is a cliche, and I know I will get flack for this "generalization", but for as much money as Skeletor has spent (He is the true problem in Dallas by the way!!), this team should be performing better on Offense and Defense! Tony's numbers may be acceptable for November and December, but his play the REST OF THE SEASON is why they are very consistently around .500 for the last several years. 

Jerry needs to be an owner. Sign the checks, wave to the crowd, and make sure he hires competent coaches and a REAL GM, not buddies. His job is to come into the locker room every once in a while to meet some real men and then go off to his Owner's Box and watch the game. 

I agree with the majority of people that Romo does not have that Killer Instinct to close out games. He has shown that many times, especially when he has been fortunate enough to play in the playoffs, or in those annual showdowns with another NFC East rival when they are playing for their post season berth.


Dallas is in the race to be the next "Raiders" and it is neck and neck between Dan (I Kill Careers) Snyder of Washington and Jerry (I do everything right even though the results do not say so) Jones. Good Luck to Dallas... Romo's mediocre play, along with a defense that could not stop most College offenses, and a bunch of Diva (Ball Droppin') receivers will never get it done. 

joyer29
joyer29

The Cowboys secondary is (and has been for some time) the worst one can inagine.  That falls on Jerry Jones. 

megalodale
megalodale

Tony Romo doesn't give up 600 yards and 48 points a game.  I guess you need a story, though...and he is the easy target.  For those without even half a brain.

Michael85
Michael85

Cowboys will still win division. They will lose to Packers, with or without Rogers, & will beat Redskins & Eagles. They'll be 9-7, win the division on tiebreakers, and promptly lose their 1st playoff game.

jpb50
jpb50

Last time I checked Romo deosn't play defense! and unfortunately nobody else with a star on their helmet does either. They gave up 45 points to a team that won't make the playoffs! I don't know if it is Kiffin, a lack of talent or both, but they need to find someone who can cover an NFL receiver. Maybe they can trade Romo for a couple of cornerbacks and a safety?!!

Jed1
Jed1

He the only QB who gets all the credit when they win and none of the blame when they lose. How does that work?

killer44
killer44

Dang it.  I hate it when facts get in the way of a good story.

StephenGrange
StephenGrange

If you score 28 points in a game you can assume that 1. The offense did it's job 2. You probably should win and at least be fighting until the last few minutes and 3.Defense sucks wind...


I would take Romo in a heartbeat as the Cards. QB....Man can play but he needs a better organization to play for....

StephenCurtis
StephenCurtis

They have a point. i have always railed against the greatest qb all time debate because it puts to much emphasis on superbowl titles yet leaves out terry bradshaw who has 4 superbowls. The truth is team success comes down to alot of things. If u put romo on tom brady's teams his record woudl be better. If u put brady on the cowboys they would still suck in december. Truth is marino was every bit as good as montana and elway was better then both. The fact montana won 4 superbowls though makes people rave about him of course if elway had had taylor,rice, francis,roger craig and sf defense he would of won more then 4. 

BNick
BNick

Yah, I wondered how long it would be before a Romo-fanboy posted a "He's still amazing!" article about Romo, despite getting demolished by a Bears team with a terrible defense this year.

AustinRoth
AustinRoth

If JJ and Snyder switched teams, would anyone notice?

MarkA.Duckworth
MarkA.Duckworth

@kjfoto Interceptions aren't 100% QBs faults, you know that right? Tony threw the ball for a different route than was actually run. How do you know who's to blame for that one? You continue to look at what is seen, but ignore what is not seen. Cowboys defense making a stop, or Garrett/Callahan calling run plays. Yeah he audibled off one play, but last time I checked, they threw the ball 23 times in the second half, and ran it 7. Did he audible all those times too?

JamieDavis
JamieDavis

Dumb people shouldn't be allowed to speak. Jerry Jones is stupid Romo is a bad QB but they are both rich and that only happens if you are good at what you do or hold the winning lottery ticket. Bottom line Good teams win not just a QB Dan Marino will agree to that as well as Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and Trent Dilfer who won but no one would confuse him with a great QB.


 

dc21
dc21

so because tony romo was unable to score 47 points its his fault and i don't care how many super bowls you been to unless you actually win one you have the same number of rings as he does.

TomDeLarge
TomDeLarge

First I want to say that I am no Tony Romo lover, but you in no way can blame him for this lost.  Once again the Boyz coached their way out of a win by refusing to run the ball and the defense is nonexistent. 

Why do we continue to abandon the run!!!! Especially when it is successful: Saints and Bears games same results.

101philosopha101
101philosopha101

I'm an Eagles fan too, but what he's saying is: if the defense is on the field too much, gives up tons of yards and scores, that puts undue pressure on the offense, makes them one-dimensional as they can't run Murray as much.  So it s because this is a team sport that the blame goes to the defense.

TomJanky
TomJanky

Actually it's 1-6. But just to prove how romo is judged by a different set of rules, CAN ANYONE tell me the "win or go home" record of ANY OTHER QB besides Romo? Didn't think so.

airjesus023
airjesus023

romo is 1-7 or the cowboys are 1-7?  just wondering if he went out and played 1 vs 11?  havent watched the cowboys play since romo been the qb

TomJanky
TomJanky

There was a free blitzer and he would've been sacked regardless. He hasn't even fully dropped back before he had a chance to throw. That's literally impossible to do anything but take the sack on the play. And when you're down by 3-4 TDS late with the season is on the line it's better not to risk getting injured. The game was already well out of hand

anon76
anon76

@gpellison68


"when I am saddled with watching them, I can almost count on this guy throwing a late game interception while the game WAS still winnable."



From the article:  "In the fourth quarter, when he’s supposed to dry up and blow away, his 2013 stats are quite impressive: 77-of-110 for 862 yards. eight touchdowns and two interceptions."


I guess that means you've only watched two games this season, or in your opinion only two games were winnable in the 4th quarter.  Of course, the fact that he has the most game winning drives in the 4th quarter league-wide seems to undermine your argument.

AlanMiddleton
AlanMiddleton

your argument is crap, if that were the case and he always threw the INT when the game is on the line, how come since 2011 he has more 4th quarter comebacks / game winning drives than Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford, all of which are supposed to be the standard for clutch??

mutton_man
mutton_man

@Michael85 They aren't going to beat the white-hot Eagles... another 8-8 season for Jerruhs boys...

ArnoldNewman
ArnoldNewman

Cowboys will be 8-8 because they are an 8-8 organization.  That said, kudos for this analysis.  Romo is the lazy journalist's easy story but it's largely fiction.

SteveSmith3
SteveSmith3

@Jed1 You've got that backwards. He takes all the blame when they lose and gets little to no credit when they win


schmitty42
schmitty42

How is it on Romo that the Bears scored EVERY SINGLE TIME THEY HAD THE BALL (yes all caps was needed).

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@101philosopha101 No disrespect intended, but that logic is just as twisted as the author's.  Either the TEAM loses or you start pointing fingers at certain aspects/people on the team.  Can't have it both ways.

mutton_man
mutton_man

@schmitty42 you're right, in that probably most QB's would've lost that game, because the Dallas D was terrible...


But if you just swapped out Romo for, say, Peyton, Brady, Rodgers, Wilson, or Brees, would the game at have been competitive?  Those QB's might have lost Monday night as well, but at least we can make the argument that the game would've been interesting and probably come down to the last possession.  


Everyone is talking about how bad the Dallas D is, but the Chicago D isn't anything to write home about (right now, they are 27th in the league according to NFL.com).  Most QB's would've picked that D apart like has happened to them all year...