KC Joyner, writing for ESPN Insider, says that Tony Romo is a Top 5 Quarterback. That term, “Top 5″ automatically gets people riled up. We’ll go through it in a second. First, Joyner’s rationale is based on several factors. One is what he calls “superior route depth metrics” which basically means that Romo did well on throws once we account for the types of throws. He is particularly good at deep throws and those that stretch the field.
In addition, Joyner points to Romo having what he calls a low bad decision rate (BDR), at only 1.8%. Last year, Romo did finish tied for 4th in interception rate, behind only Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, and Sam Bradford (and even with Brady). Romo’s bad decisions were very noticeable and high profile, including an interception at the end of the Jets game in a tie contest, and two interceptions that were returned for touchdown against Detroit that fueled a large comeback.
Joyner also cites Romo’s 4th place rank in ESPN’s QBR. By almost any measure, Romo was near the top five, for last season. He was 4th in passer rating (so that QBR rating isn’t vastly different), he was 5th in yards per attempt, he was 5th in touchdown rate, he was tied for 4th with Eli in adjusted net yards per attempt.
There were a clear big three last year–Rodgers, Brady and Brees. The debate starts after that, and critics will always point to Romo’s record (the Cowboys were 8-8 last year) and lack of playoff wins. He impressed me last year with his toughness, as the line struggled at times in 2011. It’s also true that relative to other quarterbacks, he’s got it pretty good: Witten is a top tight end, the combination of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, when healthy, is an above average combo (they weren’t always healthy last year and Romo still played well).
So, if we mean Top 5, as somewhere within the Top 5, then maybe. Most people would put Eli Manning right now ahead of him. Manning came on with his best season last year and continued to elevate his play, and is a year younger. Their regular seasons were pretty similar until the end, and then Manning took a team to a title. I think we have to put him ahead on the list.
His brother, Peyton is the X-factor. Is he healthy? If Manning plays like himself from 2009 and 2010, he is top 5, and there are no more spots. Will Big Ben be healthy? Roethlisberger played dinged up last year, and it affected his numbers. He can be considered right at the cusp of the top 5 as well. Then you have others like Rivers and Schaub and Vick.
Romo is right around the Top 8. I think he gets too much blame. The problem is, at age 32, he really needs to have one of those seasons that change minds now. I ran the most similar seasons at age 30-32 to what Romo did last year, after league adjustments. (and this is something I’m planning on doing for all QB’s throughout the offseason as I set my projections). #1 was Matt Hasselbeck in 2005, followed by Theisman in 1979. Romo just turned 32, and a fair amount of his comps did miss games or slide down a bit the next year. Those bad decision rates tend to regress, and the interception rates for his comps were league average a year later.
It’s very possible that Romo was much better than people think last year, but key plays swung his season. Going forward, though, with young players like Cam Newton and Matt Stafford looking to build off great seasons at age 23 or less, Rodgers, Brees and Brady still dealing, Eli appearing to be at his peak, Rivers looking to rebound (and a year younger), Peyton returning, etc., that Romo projects at more the 7 to 10 range in 2012. However, if the defense plays better and the offensive line play rebounds, the perception of Romo may be the thing that improves.
[photo via US Presswire]