There is no ambivalence toward Tony Romo. Either you love him or you loathe him. Sometimes it happens in the same breath. But don’t blame Romo for what happened on Friday. That was a Jerry Jones production, through and through.
What would you do if your boss came up to you and dangled a contract that paid you $108 million over six years, on top of the $11 million you were going to get paid this year? And all you have to do is throw a football?
Where do I sign?
Don’t blame Romo for for agreeing to a deal that dwarfs every other quarterback’s in the NFL. Blame Jerry Jones.
Don’t blame Romo for getting paid or for agreeing to a deal that dwarfs every other quarterback’s in the NFL, save the ones that have won Super Bowls.
Don’t blame him for getting more guaranteed money ($55 million, if everything falls into place) than the current Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco, agreed to a month ago.
Blame Jerry Jones.
The Jones factor
Jones has a history of overpaying players. He also has a history of overpaying aging players. Now, Romo isn’t exactly eyeing an NFL rocking chair. He’ll turn 33 next month.
But when his deal expires, he’ll be 39. And you know that contract is back-logged with heavy cap hits as Romo gets older. The Cowboys had little choice but to gamble on Romo for the long term. They need some of Romo’s cap space this year just to sign their rookie draft picks. In fact, the $5 million in space they cleared is just enough to do that.
To Jones, money is belief. Jones believes that Romo can get his Cowboys back to a Super Bowl. You may not agree. In fact, to some, Romo has hit his ceiling as a player.
Statistically, in some ways, he’s darned near brilliant. He’s thrown for 4,000 or more yards four times. He threw for a career-high 4,905 yards last year. He leads the Cowboys in all-time touchdown passes.
But his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a hair under 2-to-1 (compare that to Tom Brady’s 2.71 ratio). He throws picks in bunches. And he has enough “Oh no, Tony!” moments to fill an NFL films special. And there's the matter of the one career playoff victory.
The age factor
It’s not unheard of for a quarterback in his 30s to reach a Super Bowl. In fact, if you look back at the age of every starting quarterback in every Super Bowl, you’ll find a large number of starters older than 30. But 33 years old appears to be the point of diminishing returns.
Only four quarterbacks have started a Super Bowl for the first time after their 33rd birthday — Brad Johnson (34), Earl Morrall (34) Johnny Unitas (37) and Rich Gannon (37). Their combined record is 2-2, though Gannon’s Oakland Raiders had the misfortune of facing off against Johnson’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Plus, Unitas played in Super Bowl III at age 35, but he didn’t start due to an injury. Morrall started instead. Unitas started two years later in Super Bowl V against Dallas.
However you look at it, Jones is counting on Romo bucking history. The majority of Super Bowl starters get to the big game for the first time in their mid- to late 20s, especially those who play on dynasties like Joe Montana (25), Terry Bradshaw (26) and Brady (24).
If you’re objective, Jones really had no choice. There was diddly-squat on the free agent market.
Allowing Romo to play out 2013 with a $16 million cap hit would have forced the Cowboys to release several players just to sign their rookies. They have no future plan at the position.
The quarterback class in this draft is solid, but nothing like last year. Franchise quarterbacks don’t drop to the middle of the first round unless it’s a miracle, like in the case of Aaron Rodgers.
No, Jones had no choice but to drive up a Brinks truck to Romo’s front door and ensure he’ll be employed longer than President Obama. But nothing is objective when it comes to Romo, especially for Jones, his No. 1 cheerleader.
For Jones, it’s Romo or no go from here on out.