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The Tony Romo Blame Game

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

While it’s so much fun to rag on Romo, he doesn’t necessarily deserve all of the blame all of the time.

The Tony Romo Blame Game

The problem with being an NFL quarterback is that a lot of expectation and responsibility gets put on your shoulders. A lot of these expectations and responsibilities are justifiable, but in the end, too much credit or blame goes to the quarterback. There is only so much that a quarterback can control on offense, and the quarterback has absolutely no control over how well his defense plays behind him. 

For these reasons, I think that the narrative surrounding Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a bit unfair. That doesn't mean it isn't fun to rag on Romo for his losses, especially late in the season, but it isn't always deserved. No one is scrutinized as much as Romo for his failures, and these tendencies that are drilled into us almost turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.

Yesterday's game, a 37-36 loss to the Green Bay Packers, is a prime example of this. Dallas led 26-3 at halftime due in large part to a great first half by Romo. The Packers went on to outscore the Cowboys 34-10 in the second half, including 20-7 in the fourth quarter. Romo threw two interceptions on the final two possessions for the Dallas Cowboys (including one that was overturned on the possession before that). All of those conditions seem perfect for skewering Romo and his inability to come out on top, but there's much more than meets the eye here.

Grantland's Bill Barnwell did an excellent job summing up where the blame should be handed out for yesterday's loss, and he looks at the entire trend of Romo and his culpability. For starters, Romo has about the same losing percentage as he does in October as he does in December and January and throw picks at a higher rate in October. Specific to the first interception from the Green Bay game and the misconception that Romo audibled out of a designed run play, the play was actually a packaged one with the option for either run or pass. Romo read the defense that would have swallowed up the run right from the point of attack. Instead, he went for the second option but made the throw long after the window had closed. Right play, wrong execution.

The most important thing that people neglect to talk about in the Romo narrative is his defense. The Cowboys defense gave up touchdowns on each of the first five possessions of the second half. This was the same offense that only mustered three points on the same unit in the first half. Suddenly, they couldn't stop the Packers, and that's not on Romo at all. They got terrific field position thanks to the first Romo interception, but other than that, Dallas' defense played a bigger part in that second-half collapse than Romo did. Because he's the quarterback, Romo has the moments (like turnovers) that stand out much more visibly than the overall disappearance of the defense. 

Does this mean Romo is without blame? Of course not. He just doesn't deserve nearly as much as he gets. Football is so much a team game despite the attention given to individual players. While the quarterback is a focal component of the offense, he can't control how the defense plays behind him. So while Romo might show plenty of choke tendencies and makes some very visible gaffes late in games (especially late in the year), he's not always completely at fault. But as long as it remains the easy thing to do, Romo will continue to be the punching bag.

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