Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grading Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo's 2009 Performance

by Jonathan Bales
Written on May 19, 2010

Thus far, we have dissected the ‘09 play of the Cowboys players at every position other than quarterback.

We saved the best for last.

Grading quarterback is much different than doing so for the other positions in that statistics, while plentiful for the position, are less indicative of a quarterback’s success than for other players. The primary responsibility of a quarterback is to lead his team to victory, no matter what it takes. Some quarterbacks put up huge numbers, but simply are not winners.

Tony Romo is not one of those quarterbacks. Yes, he has the ability to put up flashy stats, but he is also a tremendous leader. While that statement is far from a consensus opinion, particularly among ill-informed fans, we whole-heartedly believe it to be the case. If you doubt the commitment of Romo to the Dallas Cowboys, read here.

Nonetheless, we have compiled a wide range of statistics and analysis on Romo’s play in 2009. Some of these numbers are taken from previous articles, and some are unique. These numbers (representing on-field play), though, will only make up half of our final grade for Romo. The other half will consist of leadership and intangibles.

Grades -Tony Romo

On-field Play: A

There is really no doubting that Tony Romo is an immensely talented quarterback. In 2009, he threw for 4,483 yards and 26 touchdowns. More importantly, however, he threw only nine interceptions all season, including just six over the final 14 games. Romo also fumbled just six times less than any other season of his career. This ability to protect the football was the primary reason for the success of the Cowboys last season.

Below are a few notes regarding Romo’s success in various situations last season.

Romo was surprisingly off-target the most when throwing to the right side of the field (23.3%), compared to the middle (18.2%) and left (21.5%).

Despite this, Romo had higher passer rating when throwing to the right side of the field as compared to the middle or left (shown in the chart below).

In the no-huddle offense, Romo averaged just 5.77 yards-per-attempt (excluding spikes)–far worse than his 8.15 overall yards-per-attempt.

Romo is generally successful in making audibles, particularly when he read blitz, averaging 1.9 “extra” yards-per-rush and 1.5 “extra” yards-per-pass.

Romo is much more efficient with Jason Witten in a route, averaging 9.4 yards-per-attempt when in those situations, compared to just 7.4 when Witten stays in to block.

Romo is only slightly more effective on play-action passes compared to regular drop-backs (8.3 yards-per-attempt compared to 8.1). He is 3.23 times as likely to throw a screen pass following play-action as he is to do so on a straight drop-back.

Leadership/ Intangibles: A-

Again, Romo is a very good leader. While not an extremely vocal player, he lets his play speak for itself. He is also perhaps the team’s hardest-working player. When that label goes to your team’s biggest superstar, you know the path is set for the rest of the players to follow.

Overall Grade: A (94.0)

Romo will never be able to fully escape criticism–that simply comes with the territory of playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. However, to those watching carefully, it is apparent that the Cowboys have secured one of the league’s top signal-callers.

Without Romo, where would the Cowboys be? Sometimes it is difficult to realize how special someone is until you lose them. Michael Irvin perhaps put it best when he said:

Can we get Drew Bledsoe back out here (for) just a week so you guys can really fall back in love with Tony? Let’s put Drew Bledsoe back out here, because sometimes when you have a pretty girl for awhile, you forget how pretty she is. But when you throw the ugly girl next to her, you say, ‘No, I’m really doing well.’ Maybe we need to bring Drew out so we know we’re really doing well.

Irvin is right. Let’s not let Romo’s consistency tarnish our love for what we brings to the table year in and year out. To further jog your memory on what it is like to have an “ugly girl” at quarterback, take a look at the list of Cowboys’ starting quarterbacks between Troy Aikman and Romo.

Quincy Carter
Anthony Wright
Ryan Leaf
Clint Stoerner
Chad Hutchinson
Vinny Testaverde
Drew Henson
Drew Bledsoe
Brad Johnson

Anyone else think Tony Romo is a little more “beautiful” right about now?