Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is tough to pin down. Is he the hero who can go toe-to-toe with one of the best offenses in the history of the game, or is he the perpetual goat who can be counted on to make the forehead-slapping mistake? That is to say, is he one of the Cowboys' greatest assets, or does he ultimately hold the team back?
In the latest episode of NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2014," it was revealed that Romo landed at No. 71 -- behind 11 other quarterbacks on the list. This raises a simple question: In your opinion, is Tony Romo a top-10 quarterback?
You don't know what you've got till it's goneIs this a trick question? Of course Tony Romo is a top-10 quarterback. Teams starving for a signal-caller would kill to have him. He's the only reason that the flawed Cowboys even made it to eight wins in each of the past three seasons. Last year's 51-48 defeat to Denver -- in which he was dominant but the defense couldn't make a stop -- sadly defines Romo's career. Yes, he threw a late pick, but as I wrote at the time, that game was lost by the Cowboys' D.
It's sad this even needs to be explored. Romo is clearly a top-10 quarterback, and fans in Big D won't realize what they have until he's gone.
Romo is in decline -- and ranked appropriatelyAfter replacing Drew Bledsoe as a complete unknown back in 2006, Romo quickly established himself as a top-10 quarterback -- and maintained this standing for years. But he's not that guy anymore. His ranking is fair. He's taking fewer chances down the field. Last season, his accuracy slipped and he posted a career low in yards per attempt (7.2). Plus, he's coming off back surgery.
Romo has been a misunderstood player for most of his career; he could have won Super Bowls if he'd played for an organization that knew what it was doing. But even Romo supporters -- myself included -- have to admit there are signs that the decline phase of his career has started. I'm worried that Jerry Jones has already wasted Romo's underrated prime as a difference-making quarterback.
No respect for a quarterback who deserves itI have gone on the record with this before: For Tony Romo to not be considered a top-10 NFL quarterback is laughable. First of all, he has the fifth-best career passer rating of all time. But even if you're not into that, and you think the late-game blunders define him, you might want to remember that no quarterback has more comeback wins in the fourth quarter or overtime since 2011. Sure, he has made some bad mistakes late, but what quarterback hasn't? When Romo stumbles, it's always the top highlight on the NFL postgame shows. When he brings his team back -- like he did while playing injured in Washington late last season -- it's never the lead highlight.
His reputation as a turnover machine is also ill-conceived ... he's thrown more than twice as many touchdown passes as he has interceptions in his career, and twice in the past three years, he's topped 30 touchdowns with no more than 10 picks. The playoff success hasn't been there, but neither has the defense. Speaking of Dallas' D, take a wild guess as to where it ranked in 2013? Last.
Some people feel Romo is hated on because he's the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback, but it's not because of that; he's hated on because he's Dallas' quarterback and he's good. Otherwise, why didn't people destroy Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson and Quincy Carter? All that said, I would rank Romo between sixth and eighth among quarterbacks in the NFL now.
He's in the mix ... but just short of the top 10I think you can make the argument that Romo is in the discussion to round out the NFL's top 10 QBs. He's been hampered in Dallas by the lack of a strong offensive line and an inconsistent running game, two issues that put a lot of pressure on him and accentuate his weakness: spotty decision-making outside of the pocket. In no particular order, I would rank these QBs ahead of him: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Eli Manning. I'd also take Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford before Romo, though I could hear a discussion about who's the best among those three. Ultimately, Romo falls just short of making my top 10.
Joe Flacco, Cam Newton and Jay Cutler, all for different reasons, might fall into the same tier as Romo, too. I left youngsters Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick off my list because I would like to see more from them over a longer period of time.
Top 15, sure, but not one of the 10 bestFor me, the ongoing debate regarding "elite" quarterbacks in the NFL starts and stops with Brady, Brees, Manning, Rodgers and Roethlisberger -- in no order other than alphabetical. In my opinion, these are the unquestioned five best players at the position. Luck certainly isn't far behind, but for now, he is the best of a secondary tier that includes Flacco, Eli, Rivers and Ryan. That's 10 quarterbacks right there, without having even mentioned young guns Kaepernick and Wilson.
With all that said, and not nearly enough space to justify my list, I'd put Romo, along with Cutler, Newton and Stafford, in a category just beyond the aforementioned 12.
His career stats don't lie, but neither does his recent playIt's hard to find a rational take on Romo's value. His supporters gloss over his crunch-time failures, an issue that has haunted the Cowboys for a half-decade now. His detractors ignore his placement among the top 10 all time in stats such as passer rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt.
Until last season, Romo was a top-10 NFL quarterback. He's now showing signs of decline, however, while Ryan, Newton, Wilson and Kaepernick are passing him by.
Just no way Romo makes the gradeTony Romo is a distinctive talent with loads of statistics to support his standing as one of the most productive quarterbacks of his generation. However, he's also a Shakespearean tragedy in pads -- and therefore, definitely does NOT rank in the top third among the players at his position.*
(*This is based on the assumption that the point of the football season is still to finish as a champion.)
Brass-tacks time -- here are 10 guys who are all better options for a team willing to devote a healthy chunk o' change to the most important player on the field (in order, no less!):
Romopologists can conjure up a good argument that their hero is better than Ryan, Cutler, RGIII, Flacco, Eli and Nick Foles, but there's just no way anyone on my top-10 list would take a back seat to a guy who's 1-6 lifetime in elimination games, someone who, since 2011, has thrown eight picks in the last four minutes of one-possession contests.
All that said, he is 34 and has a bum back, so I'm sure brighter days lay ahead! Then again, maybe Jerry Jones will regret not using the 16th overall pick on that Johnny Manziel kid ...