Tony Romo haters take heed: Dallas Cowboys QB is underrated

Last week, I innocently penned an article on the most overrated/underrated Dallas Cowboys of all time. Somehow, I overlooked safety Roy Williams in the overrated section. Somehow, I overlooked that placing a certain quarterback in the underrated section would blow up my Twitter account.

Man, do people hate Tony Romo.

So, where does the negativity come from? How do people not see that Romo is, in fact, one of the most underrated players in our game?

Merriam-Webster -- the entity, the book, the all-knowing word channel that hovered over our fifth-grade year like Us Weekly over all things Lohan -- has this to say about "underrated": to rate too low; undervalue.

Undervalue. That's the key here.

How valuable is Romo? Well, the Dallas Cowboys just deemed that he's worth $108 million. And it's no wonder why: Considering how poorly the offensive line and defense played last season, the 'Boys should've considered themselves lucky to reach four wins, let alone eight.

Romo also is highly valued in sports television, where any big-time mistake he makes often becomes the lead highlight on "SportsCenter." You see, it's just not cool to show Romo tearing it up, like he did several times last year en route to a 4,900-yard campaign.

How did we get to this point with Romo? There are many factors to be considered, but dropping that fateful field-goal snap in Seattle has to be the opener. No doubt about it: That was a terrible botch by the Cowboys' starting quarterback. But don't overlook the operative word in that sentence: starting. How many first-string quarterbacks are asked to hold kicks (in the playoffs, no less)? Bingo. This reeks of the Tuna.

Dallas lost that day -- now over six years ago -- and, of course, critics love to cite Romo's 1-3 career mark in the postseason as evidence of his overall inferiority. Incidentally, Matt Ryan, 1-4 in the playoffs, isn't held to the same standard. Truth is, NO quarterback should be held to that standard. Here's a cliché you can wrap your arms around: Football is a team game.

Critics hold Romo accountable as an individual, which is funny, because none of them want to hear his individual statistics. They don't want to hear that he owns the fifth-highest passer rating in NFL history at 95.6. Or that analytics haven Pro Football Focus rated him as the 11th-best quarterback in football last season, 10th in 2011 and eighth in 2010.

Rather, Romo is singled out for faltering in big moments, late in games. But what if a fair-minded person understandably points to the fact that Romo has the highest fourth-quarter passer rating of any active quarterback in the NFL?

Nah, that's not valid, either. Romo just sucks.

Of course, those who watch the Cowboys closely know that not to be true. They know Miles Austin runs hot and cold, DeMarco Murray spends much of his time in the cold tub (oh, those injuries) and the defense just changed coordinators for the third time in four years (because that side of the ball is failing, having averaged a 23rd-place finish in points allowed over the past three campaigns).

In fact, it's Romo not sucking that generates much of the venom. What's the simplest explanation for rampant anti-Romoism in the world today? People love to hate the Cowboys. And thus, being a Dallas quarterback is The Clapper for the light bulb of animosity. But if that's the case, why don't people hate Chad Hutchinson? Or Drew Henson? Or the immortal Quincy Carter? Because you couldn't even make those guys good in Madden.

The bottom line is this: All those people who bag on Romo, or think his complete omission from the "Top 100 Players of 2013" was justified, don't want to hear any comparisons. Well, unless they go something like Eli has two Super Bowls and Romo has none. Makes sense on some levels, as they are division rivals and about the same age.

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Then again, it makes no sense. Such proclamations are constantly yelled from the mountaintops to support the notion that Romo folds under pressure. Never mind that you can count on one hand the number of quarterbacks who were under as much pressure as Romo last season. Even league analysts who don't like Romo much acknowledge that no one has better pocket mobility, or is tougher to sack (save maybe Ben Roethlisberger).

Oh, and then there's this: Romo finished last season tied for third in the NFL with four game-winning drives, and the Cowboys finished second in the league with eight come-from-behind victories. Say whaaaat?

Of course, all anyone remembers is the interception Romo threw to Washington Redskins LB Rob Jackson with the division title on the line in Week 17. No question: This was a critical error. The Redskins had blitzed from that side all night, so defensive coordinator Jim Haslett shrewdly had Jackson feign blitzing before dropping back into coverage. Romo was fooled, and the rest is history.

Obviously, that pick emboldened the haters. It should be noted, however, that Peyton Manning's back-breaking interception in the divisional round two weeks later was a far worse decision. Romo threw his ill-fated ball with a split-second to consider it. Manning rolled out, thought about what he was doing and tossed the ball across his body into coverage.

Hey, even the best quarterbacks are human. There's a reason it's the toughest position to play in sports. It's just that some guys are held more accountable than others.

That's why it was nice to see Kurt Warner rank Romo among his top 10 quarterbacks -- a list that purposefully excluded the young stars at the position. Warner certainly knows what it takes to sustain a high level of play in the NFL, year after year. And he's not unfamiliar with harsh criticism, either (or benching, for that matter).

Robert Griffin III is one of those young stars left off Warner's list. Although RGIII hasn't experienced much (if any) criticism in his fledgling career, he understands that the Cowboys quarterback is unfairly judged. That's why he approached Romo after the aforementioned Week 17 tilt, embraced him and said: "Hey, Tony. I just wanted to say to you don't listen to what anybody else is saying about you. You're a great quarterback, man."

If he's not great, he's certainly very good. And while, yes, he gets talked about a lot, that doesn't make the Cowboys quarterback "overrated" -- or even properly rated. When you're famous for people belittling you, nitpicking your every mistake and calling you a "choker," that makes you something else entirely.


Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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