This Monday morning, Tony Romo is a clutch tough guy.
Last Monday morning, he was a guy that wilts under pressure and makes too many mistakes.
The reality is that he’s been the same guy all along. Romo has always been tough. He takes big hits and gets up, barring a broken collarbone. He makes terrific improvised plays and puts up historically good numbers.
There’s also always been the Bad Romo. He makes too many mental errors, whether it’s in the fourth quarter or in the first quarter. He could improve on “managing the game.”
The idea that Romo wilts in big situations is mostly a misnomer. ESPN’s Stats and Info put together a compelling piece that shows Romo has consistently played better in the fourth quarter since 2008 than the three quarters before it. He has the best yards-per-attempt in the fourth quarter since 2008. His TD/INT is second best.
ESPN also used their “QBR” stat to test Romo in “clutch” situations late in close games. By that measure, his numbers were more average than usual compared to the rest of the league.
They also looked at 17 “Big Games” Romo has played in since 2008. His numbers in those games were almost identical to his average numbers — although slightly worse. These numbers were put together before Sunday’s win in San Francisco.
The Cowboys have endured plenty of problems over the last six years, but Romo isn’t particularly high on the list. He’s not a top-five quarterback, but he’s close. You can win with him. Far inferior quarterbacks have won Super Bowls or made it that far.
We can already hear the response. Wait, you say: You can “twist” stats anyway you like. Romo crumbles under pressure.
The stats are far from perfect, we admit. But they provide context. And the stats are closer to accurate than relying on your faulty memory. We often construct easy narratives after the fact to explain results. The causes of those results are too complicated to fit into a soundbite. We are uncomfortable with how much those results rely on random chance that has nothing to do with a quarterback.
Tony Romo chokes. Tony Romo is a hero. Tony Romo is the same guy he’s always been.