With the announcement of his retirement, it is time to reflect back on Tony Romo’s career.
An era has finally ended for the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite being 36 years old and having sustained a laundry list of injuries throughout his career, everybody expected Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to be cut and picked up by a playoff-contending, quarterback-needy team such as the Texans or the Broncos. However, on April 4, Romo shocked the world by announcing his retirement from the NFL.
NFL (@NFL) April 4, 2017
While Romo’s legacy has been overshadowed by injuries and the rise of Dak Prescott, fans have not forgotten the career of a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time NFC East champion.
For an undrafted free agent, Romo sure made a name for himself. After beginning his career as a holder, he soon found success as a signal-caller. For an NFL player, two of the biggest factors of success are length and quality of play. So, I took the 15 undrafted quarterbacks who have started at least 50 games and plotted their number of games started against their career passer rating:
The hollow point in the scatterplot represents Romo. He leads all qualified undrafted free agents with a career passer rating of 97.1. In fact, he leads all retired quarterbacks too, trailing only Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady. The Eastern Illinois product outpaces the likes of Peyton Manning and Joe Montana.
Among other stats, Romo fares equally as well. In adjusted net yards per pass attempt (ANY/A), Romo ranks fourth all-time (7.03), falling short of only three of the greatest to ever throw a pass in Rodgers, Manning, and Brady. Likewise, Romo owns the fifth best completion percentage (65.3), tied with future Hall of Famer and possible GOAT, Peyton Manning.
From 2006-2014 when he was a full-time starter, he headlined the fifth highest scoring offense, trailing only the teams of Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers. In addition, Romo won the seventh most games (75), all while starting fewer than any other quarterback ahead of him. In 30 of those wins, or 40%, Romo manufactured game-winning drives, including this one that ended in a clutch touchdown pass to Jason Witten after a botched snap:
The highest praise on Romo has been his clutch play. Ticketcity created a metric to assess a quarterback’s play in the fourth quarter. The algorithm is based on game-winning drives and TD passes, fourth quarter comebacks, and TD-to-interception ratio. After factoring in all the stats, Romo ranks as the best fourth-quarter passer (100.00), edging out Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan.
However, success isn’t determined by statistics alone. Championships matter, which is why Romo is not discussed in the same tier as Manning or Brady. Having never advanced past the divisional round, Romo was an abysmal 2-4 in the playoffs. To put it in perspective, that’s the same postseason record as Alex Smith.
In fact, Romo was not the same player when it came to the playoffs. Romo’s playoff passer rating (93.0), ANY/A (5.87), and completion percentage (61.6) are all significantly lower than his regular season equivalents.
Unfortunately, instead of a highlight game-winning pass, the playoff moment Romo will best be remembered for is his fumbled hold for the potential game-winning field goal against the Seahawks.
With 1:19 left in the game, the Cowboys were down 21-20 to the Seahawks in the 2007 NFC Wild Card game. On fourth-and-one, the Cowboys attempted a 19-yard field goal to take the lead. In what should have been an easy three points, Romo botched the hold and attempted to run it in the end zone before being brought down from behind. Unlucky as it was, Romo became known for this play, as well as the rest of his playoff woes.
A statistically dominant quarterback, Romo never found the postseason success necessary to be considered a Hall of Famer. His abrupt retirement leaves many fans questioning what could have been for the once promising passer. If it weren’t for his injuries and playoff struggles, Romo could have been well on his way to earning a spot in Canton.
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