Tony Romo retires: Is the longtime face of the Cowboys a Hall of Famer?

After months of speculation about what's next for Tony Romo, we got an answer Tuesday morning: The longtime face of the Dallas Cowboys is leaving the field for the booth.

Yes, Romo is retiring from football and joining CBS this season to replace Phil Simms as an analyst with Jim Nantz on game broadcasts. While some already are speculating that Romo could return to the gridiron if the right situation were to arise, we'll have to cross that bridge if/when we come to it. For now, this is a time to reflect back on the quarterback's fascinating career ...

Undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo caught Bill Parcells' eye and joined the Cowboys on a $10,000 signing bonus. Eventually taking over the starting job in 2006, Romo went 78-49 (.614 winning percentage) under center for Dallas. He made four Pro Bowls and finishes with a 97.1 career passer rating -- the fourth-best figure in NFL history. But Romo remains a very polarizing subject among fans, and skeptics point to his 2-4 playoff record as a measure of his true value.

All of this begs a simple question: Is Tony Romo a Hall of Famer?

Tony Romo, Hall of Famer? It's admittedly a tough sell. I always thought he needed one more productive season -- and perhaps a trip to the NFC Championship Game -- for that to happen. The reality is that so much of a quarterback's general reputation is based on winning. It's a trash reality. But in the minds of Hall voters, his two postseason wins won't be enough.

We always talk about how pro football is the ultimate team game -- until it doesn't fit our narrative for a player. Archie Manning is loved for being on bad teams his whole career and competing his tail off. He missed more games to injury than Romo. That's OK, though. Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls, yet nobody thinks he is a Hall of Famer. In fact, Manning is more well-known. Catch my drift?

What matters most is how a player fared next to his peers. Among QBs who've attempted at least 2,500 passes, Romo ranks third all time in passer rating. The only guys ahead of him? Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, who both will breakdance into the Hall of Fame. Oh, yeah. Forgot. Winning is important. Wouldn't you say a 78-49 career record is slightly indicative of winning? And about that playoff record. Dan Fouts won all of three playoff games -- he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The "Romo chokes in big moments" narrative was always overblown, but most people have caught on to that nonsense by now. Heck, the first play they show is him dropping a snap as a holder, not a quarterback. And #DezCaughtIt should go with its corollary, #TonyThrewAPerfectDeepBallOnFourthAndTwo. I've always thought the most underrated quarterback stat is yards per attempt. It's a number not influenced too much by the passing era, as it represents bang for the buck. Romo is tied for sixth in that career category, despite the fact that three guys who played 60-something years ago sit atop that list. That's an underappreciated metric for the most underappreciated football player of his era.

But is all that enough to make him a Hall of Famer? You tell me. Yes, I feel Tony Romo belongs in the Hall of Fame. There will be a lot of discussion about him, centered mainly on the fact that he never got the Cowboys past the Divisional Round of the playoffs. But I think that had a lot to do with bad luck, as evidenced by Dez Bryant's famous non-catch in Green Bay and, yes, Romo's botched hold against Seattle. Based on his surplus of talent as a quarterback -- with his excellent accuracy, very competitive nature and strong leadership skills -- he's in the upper tier of all-time QBs, at least in my opinion. Romo played on some not-so-talented teams, but he was a great quarterback and is a tremendous person. He's every bit as good as Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, with playoff success being the one thing really separating the two.

This is a hard case to make, in light of his postseason failures, but I think you have to know the person. I felt so strongly about him that, when he came to Dallas as an undrafted rookie, I helped him get a shoe deal -- even though he was on the sidelines. He was the kind of guy you could look at and know was going to be good. It never fell into place in the playoffs, but he went above and beyond on the field to help the Cowboys win -- and in my book, he belongs in Canton. This won't win me any friends in the Metroplex, but Tony Romo is a first-ballot member of the Hall of Very Good. The " Tony Romo is underrated" chorus has been steadily growing over the past few years. And now, with his retirement, it's sure to get louder. His stats are good, but they came in an era when passing numbers became inflated across the board. While he shouldn't take full blame for Dallas' postseason futility during his career, it also shouldn't be overlooked in this instance.

Part of being a Hall of Famer means establishing yourself as one of the elites among your contemporaries. In that respect, Romo had the misfortune of playing in the same era as Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. It's hard for me to put Romo on a similar pedestal. I would not say so. When I watched Tony Romo play, I never thought of him as a Hall of Famer. Romo always had throwing talent, but he played his best football when he had a potent running game and stout pass protection. When he did not have those luxuries, Romo was an inconsistent decision maker as a QB.

He was good -- not great -- as a QB. And many of the Cowboys teams he led were underwhelming. A good, solid player whose talent was largely underappreciated. But not a Hall of Famer. Tony Romo was a great story, going from undrafted free agent to NFL star. I would stop short, however, of calling him a Hall of Fame quarterback. He was great, but not spectacular. He was like a quarterback version of the Toyota Corolla. Very serviceable. Pretty efficient. Nobody is ever going to think it was the best car ever. But pretty good.

Unfortunately for Romo, he's inevitably going to be compared to some of the great quarterbacks not only in NFL history, but Cowboys history. Maybe it's a little unfair, but that's football. Tony Romo is the third-best quarterback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. That doesn't mean he's the next Cowboys quarterback who is heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. True, he does have more passing yards and touchdown passes than Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. What he doesn't have is a Super Bowl ring, a Super Bowl appearance or even the opportunity to say he played in an NFC Championship Game.

Romo did have a pretty impressive career, one that saw Dallas win 61.4 percent of the games he started. Unfortunately for him, the bar for Hall of Fame quarterbacks has been set pretty high. If you don't have a Lombardi Trophy or a bunch of significant league records, you simply aren't making the cut.

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