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Tony Romo: The most underrated and underappreciated QB ever

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It's official: Tony Romo has left the playing field for the CBS broadcast booth.

Thus, it's official: Tony Romo, the ultimate Horatio Alger story, was the most underrated and underappreciated quarterback in NFL history.

And chances are, it was your fault.

Cowboys fans, a large number of whom flood my SiriusXM Radio phone lines, never fully gave Romo his due, comparing him to ghosts of Dallas' past, focusing on turnovers and not franchise chaos. Football fans who hate the Cowboys couldn't wait to attack the quarterback of "America's Team." The media elite seized opportunities to write the wrong Romo narrative.

The Tony Romo story -- from undrafted afterthought to face of one of the most prominent franchises in sports -- is a great one, a fun one, a unique one. If you don't get it, you are blinded by bizarre hate or warped expectations.

I've been accused of being a Tony Romo apologist. Nope. I'm a Tony Romo realist. I've never argued that Tony Romo carved out a Hall of Fame career. And I won't do that now. But I will argue that Romo was misunderstood and wrongly maligned in the court of public opinion.

I get it: Romo won just two playoff games in six opportunities. I remember what happened with the hold in Seattle. I also don't care. I think it is lazy, shortsighted and foolish to hold that one miscue against Romo -- and continually use it as the foundation of an ill-conceived "choke artist" label -- until the end of time.

And please, save me the faux outrage over the Cabo trip before the Giants loss in January of 2008. That was a total non-story, and I defended Romo at the time. The media had a field day as Romo was dating pop star Jessica Simpson, but Romo was on a bye week. That's normal behavior. He lived for being the Cowboys' quarterback and winning. That trip should have no effect on his reputation. Jason Witten and his wife took the trip with Romo. Wanna say anything about Witten's commitment? Exactly. Yes, the Cowboys lost that Divisional Round Game as the No. 1 seed -- but if Patrick Crayton had caught that pass, he's still running.

Enough with the nonsense. Let's look at the facts.

From the time he took the starting reins in 2006 through his last full season in 2014, Romo was consistently one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. During that period -- a golden age of quarterbacking -- Romo ranked third in yards per attempt, fifth in passing touchdowns, sixth in passer rating, sixth in completion percentage and seventh in passing yards (among qualified quarterbacks). He made four Pro Bowls and established himself as a consistently clutch performer. "Wait a second," the haters cry, "You're saying Tony Romo was ... clutch?!" Um, yes. From 2006 through 2014, he had the most fourth-quarter comebacks in the NFL (23) and tied for the most game-winning drives (28).

Still, people complain about the lack of overall team success in Dallas during the Romo era. Well, first of all, Romo ranked seventh in QB wins from 2006 through 2014, so let's not pretend he was chopped liver. But, more importantly, what kind of support did the quarterback have in Dallas? During that nine-year span, the Cowboys fielded just two top-10 rushing attacks. When it came to scoring defense, Dallas cracked the top 10 a grand total of one time. In fact, the Cowboys ranked 20th or worse in scoring D five times in that span.

There was constant drama and chaos around Romo in Dallas. The defense was neglected. Jerry Jones The General Manager didn't give Romo a support system, so the QB had to constantly carry a flawed roster. Romo gets knocked for the three straight 8-8 seasons from 2011 through 2013. I'd argue that the quarterback was the only reason why those Dallas teams were even able to reach .500.

Perhaps the game that best displays Romo's genius -- and Dallas' overall flaws -- during those years was the early-October showdown against peak Peyton Manning and the juggernaut Broncos. Romo was the best quarterback on the field. It was a majestic signal-calling performance that included 506 passing yards and five touchdowns. Of course, the Cowboys lost 51-48. Romo critics will point to the QB's lone interception, which came late in the fourth quarter, and call No. 9 a goat. Wrong. I wrote a column about that game the morning after. Romo was the star, trying to compensate for Monte Kiffin's horrendous defense. (Yeah, remember the one year Monte Kiffin ran the Dallas defense?! The 'Boys ranked dead last in total D.)

Here's the bottom line: Tony Romo was a fantastic quarterback who never got his proper due. He retires with a career passer rating of 97.1 -- the fourth-best mark in NFL history. He retires as the Cowboys' all-time leader in passing yards (34,183) and passing touchdowns (248).

And, quite simply, I just loved watching the guy play football.

Sadly, I think many of you missed the entire thing.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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