Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo appears to have called it a career, leaving behind a successful career and a complex legacy.
Somewhere Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Dak Prescott are breathing a sigh of relief. Dallas Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones, on the other hand, is more than likely weeping whilst uttering “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
When news today broke from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has chosen to retire and more than likely replace Phil Simms as the top analyst for CBS (*somewhere, NFL fans are praising the lord with hallelujas*), many people began to ask this question: what is Tony Romo’s legacy?
Tony Romo fans and apologists will say he had quite the career considering his humble beginnings as an undrafted quarterback from Eastern Illinois. He signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys and three years later was thrust into the fray of the NFL in a Monday Night Football showdown with the New York Giants after then Cowboys starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe struggled. Once Romo entered the game, he never looked back, as he remained the starting quarterback from 2006 through 2015. He went on to throw for 34,183 yards, 248 Touchdowns, 117 Interceptions, and a passer rating of 97.1. He is the Cowboys all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns over Cowboys hall of fame quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. His career passer rating is fourth highest in NFL history, and has one of the highest fourth quarter passer ratings in NFL history. Considering the evidence, Tony Romo not only over-achieved during his career, one could say he dominated. His legacy should be he was best in the world at what he does. But what these stats don’t show you, however, is the truth. Tony Romo is a choker.
Flashback to 2006, where the Cowboys faced the Seattle Seahawks in the wildcard round. Down 21-20, the Cowboys were in position to kick the go-ahead field goal with just over a minute left in the game. Tony Romo was the place holder for the kick. When the ball was snapped, Romo couldn’t handle the snap, attempted to run into the end-zone, but was tackled before scoring. The Romo apologists would say as a starting quarterback, Romo shouldn’t had been in that position. It was his job at the start of the season, it was his job to that point. Romo literally dropped the ball.
Fast forward to the 2007 Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, where the Cowboys played at home against the New York Giants. The Cowboys went 13-3 that year and won the NFC East. They had dominated the Giants that season, defeating them in both meetings. The Cowboys had should-be hall of fame wide receiver Terrell Owens, future hall of fame tight end Jason Witten, running back Marion Barber, a team most quarterbacks would win a Super Bowl with. The Cowboys lost 21-17. Romo, however, threw a soul crushing interception in the back of the end-zone on 4th down and 11 with 17 seconds left in the game, finishing the day throwing 18-36 for 201 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Well in that case Romo had to go for it all, right? The game was on the line, and unfortunately Romo just didn’t get it done.
Many, including myself, said 2008 would be the Cowboys year to right the wrongs 2006 and 2007. The team remained in tact, and added new players such as wide receiver Roy Williams and troubled defensive stars Adam “Pacman” Jones and Tank Johnson. However, in the regular season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which the winner punched their ticket into the postseason and the loser would be watching the playoffs from their couch, Romo once again didn’t bother to show up. Romo went 21-39 for a paltry 183 yards and 1 INT, fumbled twice and both were returned for touchdowns, as the Cowboys were ran out of town with a final score of 44-6. There’s no defending Romo here. His epic collapse didn’t end there, however, as he supposedly collapsed in the shower after the game.
In 2009, Romo appeared to get over the hump, as the Cowboys finished 11-5 and won the NFC East. Romo won his first career playoff game in a 34-14 romp over the same Philadelphia Eagles that rocked them the previous year. Romo threw for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns. Romo finally won his first playoff game, and the Cowboys seemed primed for a deep playoff run. Those sentiments were met with a thunderous thud the next week, as Romo and the Cowboys were dominated by the Brett Favre led Minnesota Vikings 34-3. Romo threw for a meager 198 yards, 1 INT and fumbled. Once again, Romo couldn’t lead his team to win “the big one”.
Skip to 2011, where the Cowboys were once again in a win and in, lose and go home situation against the New York Giants on the road. The Cowboys fell behind 21-0 and didn’t score until the third quarter. While Romo manged to make up for an earlier interception by throwing 2 touchdowns to make the game 21-14, the Giants ultimately prevailed 31-14. Sure, the statisticians will argue Romo went 29-37 for 289 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT, but the Cowboys were never quite in the game, and Romo once again went home failing to deliver.
2012 presented the same stipulation for the Cowboys, this time on the road against the Robert Giffin III led Washington Redskins. Winner wins the NFC East and goes to the playoffs. The loser goes home. Romo once again choked the opportunity away, going 20-37 for an inadequate 218 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs in a 28-18 loss.
Six times did Romo have the chance to become a legend in Cowboys lore by leading his team to the Super Bowl. Six times he gagged. The seventh and closest time Romo ever got to winning a Super Bowl was in 2014, when the Dallas Cowboys went 12-4 and lost to the Green Bay Packers in the still hotly debated Dez Bryant catch or no catch game. Romo then went on to become more injury prone, as he played-in just 5 games over the next two seasons due to collar-bone and back injuries.
Romo’s career trajectory defied expectations. Most drafted quarterbacks haven’t accomplished even a fraction of what Romo managed to during his career. In the regular season, Romo was at his best. When it came to clutch situations, however, Romo failed to live up to his so-called elite billing.
Tony Romo leaves behind a complex legacy. In a sport where quarterbacks are measured by the amount of championships they’ve won and how clutch they were, we seem to give Romo a pass. We looks at his statistics and proclaim him great, one of the best and most talented the NFL has ever seen. Upon further review, however, Romo may have been wondrous in the regular season, but when it came to clutch situations, he was anything but. Not only has he never won a Super Bowl, his 2 career playoffs wins are in wild-card playoff games. If that qualifies for elite, then the standard to become an elite quarterback has been significantly lowered. He has more regular season finale win-or- go home losses than playoff wins. He is 2-4 in his playoff career. Romo should be remembered as an imposter. A quarterback that when presented with a situation that could have defined him as a legend, he crumbled under the pressure.