In an effort to show full disclosure, I am a crazy Dallas Cowboys fan. No offense, but it’s very likely I’m a bigger fan of the Cowboys than you are of your team. I hate to get off on the wrong foot here, but it’s true. Would you go to Philadelphia dressed (literally) head to toe in your favorite teams gear and square off with 68,532 (plus standing room) of the nastiest, rudest fans in the NFL (probably the country) for three and a half hours? Probably not. You love your team but, no need to go on a suicide mission to prove it. I personally don’t get many chances to cheer for my first love live and in person so I have to go into the lion’s den (New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh) and suck it up, knowing that just by wearing my gear I’m in essence a walking, breathing middle finger to thousands and thousands of drunk fans who like picking fights.

So I may have a serious bias on this topic. But to try to disprove that I will use a combination of truth and logic and I’ll let you decide. First, most people who love something so deeply (a team, a person, a musical artist, television show… anything) will likely be the harshest critic too. I don’t take it easy on my team, the Cowboys have a terrible general manager (who doubles as the owner, as you likely know) in Jerry Jones. He’s managed to run Tom Landry AND Jimmy Johnson out-of-town. You know, the only two guys who have brought that awesome Lombardi Trophy back to the state of Texas. Yet he stays loyal to “his” guys, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett, the yes men coaches who suck up just the right amount and win just enough games to keep the team relevant. With a terrible general manager and head coach who is in over his head the Cowboys already have the deck stacked against them. Then you can add what has slowly deteriorated into the worst defense in the NFL and now let’s try to win big!

tony-romo-si-1ct2wdpThat’s the expectation for the Cowboys. It’s likely a combination of fans and media who continue to put pressure on this team as if it’s the early 1990’s, and they actually have the roster or financial advantages to win playoff games and titles. The truth is, in the new NFL of hard salary caps and free agency frenzies, parody is in and no team looks the part more than the Cowboys. With all of the things working against Dallas there has been one beacon of hope the past few years, the offense. Led by quarterback Tony Romo, star wideout Dez Bryant, a reformed and potent offensive line (led by three recent first round picks) and a quality back in DeMarco Murray, this team can do one thing well, score. And you have to in today’s pinball scoring league where defense has all but been legislated out.

This brings me to the man of the hour, Tony Romo. Possibly the most polarizing player in the league (come on Johnny, you know you want that title). Romo doesn’t really earn it though. He does his best against dire obstacles (the aforementioned horrible front office and defense) and bails the team out of self-made fires as much as nearly any signal caller in the league. Last season when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos came to town, Tony went 25 for 36 passing with 506 yards and five touchdowns. Dallas lost. Romo threw a late interception that led to the game winning field goal, with 2:15 left to play. Of course it was his fault. It’s not like the team could have forced one punt the entire afternoon. Or kept Denver under 50 points. There’s really only so much one guy can do.

Romo should be the guy that casual fans root for. Unlike the Manning’s, Luck’s, Rodgers’ or Brees’ of the world he wasn’t even drafted into the NFL. He didn’t go to Tennessee, Ole Miss, Stanford, Cal or Purdue like them. He went to Eastern Illinois. It shouldn’t be hard to cheer on an undrafted small school guy who went out and earned it the hard way. My guess is no one plays that angle, the media is too busy on nonsense like who’s dating who or where players go on vacation than what happens between the lines.

One of the problems sports fans get into when debating who’s better than who is that the situation is more important than any single factor, even an individual’s level of talent or dedication. This goes for football more than any other sport. In the NBA, one player changes everything, the roster only holds 13, in baseball 25, football teams have 53. There are so many intangibles to the success or failure of a football season. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Case in point, ex-49er Kyle Williams. He was a JAG (Just Another Guy) on the 2011 San Francisco 53 man roster. When his number was called (twice) to field punts from the New York Giants in the NFC Championship, he fumbled both away and the Giants won and went on to take the Super Bowl title. There’s an awful thin line between winning and losing, and a guy who few people (outside of California) remember is as much responsible for the Giants advancing to the title game as some of the lower guys on New York’s roster.

The fairest method to compare Romo is with his contemporaries who have played a similar number of games and have put up comparable statistics. Below are four quarterbacks who have been NFL starters for nearly the same amount of time.

QB 1- 143 Games – 219 TD’s – 122 INT’s – 63.3% Completion – 92.6 QB Rating
QB 2- 132 Games – 221 TD’s – 104 INT’s – 64.4 % Completion – 96.0 QB Rating
QB 3- 136 Games – 208 TD’s – 101 INT’s – 64.6% Completion – 95.8 QB Rating
QB 4- 153 Games – 229 TD’s – 171 INT’s – 58.5% Completion – 81.2 QB Rating


QB 1 is Ben Roethlisberger, QB 2 is Philip Rivers, QB 3 is Tony Romo and QB 4 is Eli Manning. An individual player is only responsible for so many wins and losses- it’s not nearly as many as most people think- the fortune of a team is not determined by a single man in the NFL, no one has that power, teams win and lose together. The only way to compare players is against their contemporaries by using numbers, it’s still not perfect but it eliminates defense and special teams from the equation unlike wins and losses. It’s something baseball fans realized a few years before football fans have come around to it. In 2010 Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award with a record of 13-12. His excellence on the mound wasn’t overshadowed by the deficiencies that surrounded the rest of the Seattle Mariners team.

It’s difficult to make a compelling argument that Eli Manning is a better player than Tony Romo (or vice versa). The same applies for Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers. Although its rare to hear anyone drag Rivers’ name in the mud the way Romo’s is. It’s likely because he plays for a more popular team but that’s a silly reason. We’ll never know what Romo or Rivers could have done if they were Steelers or Giants or what Manning or Roethlisberger could have done as Cowboys or Chargers, but I believe, and always will, that you define teams by wins and losses and players by their numbers.

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