If you look at Tony Romo's statistics, you might wonder why the Cowboys aren't Super Bowl contenders every year. To cop a phrase from Bill Belichick, sometimes "stats are for losers." And the Cowboys will be losers for as long as Romo is under center.
The problem with the Cowboys' quarterback is that you have no idea who you're getting from game to game or quarter to quarter. That type of inconsistency is a disaster in waiting come playoff time. Beyond all else in today's pass-heavy league, you need to know what you're getting out of your quarterback from week to week, especially if you depend on the pass as heavily as Dallas does. Romo's sideline demeanor expresses it best. Sometimes you're getting the goofy, smiling Romo that probably just threw a touchdown pass, and other times you're getting the sullen, head-down Romo that probably just fumbled a snap or threw a game-clinching interception.
At first glace when you take a peek at Romo's career stat line, you see six consecutive seasons with a quarterback rating over 90, completion percentages in the mid-60s and a career 8.0 yards per attempt. Those are elite numbers, so why can't Romo succeed?
It all comes down to decision making and lack of clutch play. Sunday's game against the Giants is a perfect example. Romo nearly took the Cowboys out of the game before it even started by throwing three interceptions in the first 16 minutes of play. Of course, Romo then turned into a completely different quarterback for the next 2 1/2 quarters, displaying everything that makes him so appealing to head coach Jason Garrett and owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
But, when the game was on the line, the bad Romo reared its ugly head again and threw an interception when the Cowboys needed clutch play most late in the fourth quarter. Dallas' defense nearly bailed Romo out, giving him one more shot at a win, but two throws just too deep and one throw just too shallow negated any chance at a victory for America's team.
The Cowboys have never put true pressure on their supposed franchise quarterback. They had the ancient Brad Johnson and Jon Kitna as his backups for years, then turned to Kyle Orton -- who has proved not to be a viable starter in the NFL -- this season. They also have Stephen McGee, but a mid-round developmental quarterback isn't going to put true pressure on Romo.
The Cowboys need to follow in their division-rival Redskins' footsteps and draft a future-franchise quarterback. Sure, Robert Griffin III doesn't come along every year -- or possibly ever -- but there are first and second round QBs every year that the Cowboys could develop to start over Romo.
The problem with replacing Romo is that he gets the Cowboys just close enough to having "successful" seasons, and that keeps fans coming back. To try to develop a young quarterback means the risk of throwing around words like "rebuilding." And fans don't like rebuilding.
That of course, is the problem with having an owner/general manager like Jones. Personnel decisions come with pocketbook in mind, just as much as playbook. If the Cowboys want to get over being "just good enough," they'll need to take a risk on a young QB that won't turn into, well, Tony Romo in the fourth quarter.