On paper, Tony Romo would appear to be a competent passer. During the 2012 regular season Romo completed 65.6 % of his passes, which is superior to both Drew Brees and Tom Brady who completed 63% of their passes during the same time span. While this would seem to indicate that Romo is an underappreciated quarterback given this accomplishment, there is one glaring issue with his game that has prevented him from being as favorably respected as the two aforementioned future hall-of-famers; Throwing Interceptions.
Last year Romo threw for 19 interceptions and tied for the highest rate he acquired during his third year with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Although Brees’ interception rate was tantamount to Romo’s, he was able pass for 15 more touchdowns to somewhat offset this game-alerting mistake (43). However, even with this astronomical scoring accolade, the Saints still went 7-9 during the regular season and ultimately missed the playoffs (mainly because of their atrocious defense).
While Romo’s interceptions definitely prevented his team from reaching their full potential, the offensive woes extended past this one statistic. Rather, Romo’s insurmountable turnover rate was indicative of his lack of consistency as opposed to him being a lackadaisical passer overall. In week fourteen of the regular season during a game against the Eagles, Romo completed 81.5% of his passes for 3 touchdowns against a team that was ranked 9th in the league at preventing passes. However, the next week Romo appeared to regress significantly in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He completed only 58.1% of his passes and only one touchdown paired with a single interception. The very next week Romo completed 71.4% of his passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers who were the best in the league at stopping the pass. Two weeks later, Romo had one of the worst performances of the Cowboys’ 2012 regular season in a decisive game against the Washington Redskins. Romo completed a mere 54.1% of his passes and three interceptions, costing the Cowboys a coveted playoff berth once again.
What these numbers appear to suggest is that Romo isn’t a terrible quarterback or even just an adequate passer in his own right. In one instance, Romo appears to have the passing capabilities of an elite quarterback that go up against any highly touted defense that stands in his way. In the next, Romo goes through an athletic mid-life crisis and transforms into a Busch league rookie who looks completely distraught rather than a role model for quarterback excellence.
Initially, it could be assessed that Romo’s inconsistent mishaps are the result of a finicky receiving core. However, this appears to be a minimal blemish at best as Romo’s most talented receivers (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant) and his 8x pro bowl tight end (Jason Witten) had a combined total of just 3 fumbles throughout the regular season.
It could be fair to postulate that Romo’s quarterback lapses are the result of a non-existent running game that averaged only 79.1 rush yards per game. The defense is also responsible for putting undue pressure on Romo, as the Cowboys were mediocre at stopping both the pass and the rush (19th and 22nd in the league respectively).
Ultimately , Romo’s unusual inadequacies are the result of one underlying factor; Confidence in himself. While it’s impossible to confidently diagnose Romo’s mental state when it comes to playing the game of football, it would seem that whenever he puts the complete onus on himself to win a game or whenever game time pressure is at its peak, Romo struggles emphatically. Yet, when Romo is confident and in sync with the rest of his team, he performs at an unprecedented level that at times is arguably superior to what any other quarterback is capable of.
With that said, Romo still has a huge mental hurdle to overcome before he will be recognized as not only a legitimate quarterback but ultimately as a leader who can lead his team to the playoffs and beyond. Without question, Romo has the tools and the potential to be recognized as one of the greats. Nevertheless, in order to reach that pinnacle Romo must find the confidence within himself to prove to the critics and more importantly to the die hard Cowboys fans that he can revitalize his career while giving the city of Dallas a title that it has been striving for since 1995; To be America’s team.