The regular names are still being thrown around: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers. These Super Bowl-winning men, like most years, are highly valuable to their respective teams, and with the season at an end, talk has reached a peak about who exactly is most valuable.
This year, there is a new contender, a man in the past much maligned and one coming in with extra baggage who has seemingly been ignored or at least brushed off in the talk for MVP. However, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo shouldn’t only be considered in the conversation for Most Valuable Player in the NFL, he should be leading the way, and win.
The narrative around Romo has often entailed poor performance in December, as the Cowboys QB will never be able to live down past embarrassments. It also involves talking about the collaborative big names around him, including his larger than life owner Jerry Jones as well as stars DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant. What’s more, despite being the quarterback on America’s most popular (and polarizing) team, Romo never gets enough credit.
That’s because he isn’t the media darling other quarterbacks are. He doesn’t do commercials like some stars (Manning, Rodgers), he doesn’t go on radio to tell fans to ‘relax’ and suddenly become some folk hero (Rodgers), and he doesn’t curse on the sidelines and get fired up (Brady). For some reason, everyone warms to these guys but not Romo: his bar is set much higher.
He does get excited, he does get passionate, he just doesn’t have the same wild look to him and unfortunately enough, that appearance comes into play. He isn’t considered an elite quarterback and that’s wrong.
What follows are the reasons that Romo has been unfairly analyzed and why he should not only be considered, but be awarded the Most Valuable Player this year in the NFL.
10 The Cowboys are in the Playoffs
This is rather basic, but it’s how it works. Sorry J.J. Watt, the Texans aren’t in the playoffs so you can’t be the MVP (also, you beat the Jags twice, Titans twice, Raiders, Redskins, and Browns, so come on). If your team doesn’t make the postseason, it doesn’t matter how great you are. You play to win the game, and Tony Romo and the Cowboys are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, winning the NFC East en route to a three seed with a 12-4 record. It's tied for the best record in the league alongside the Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers.
9 Romo Wins on the Road
Romo has led the Cowboys to a most impressive feat: an undefeated record on the road. Home field advantage across the league may not be as powerful as it used to be, but to go into hostile territory eight times in the year, including to Philadelphia and New York, and to win each and every time is staggering. The Cowboys also went into the hardest place to play in the league and beat up the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the team’s first loss on home field since 2011. This is a regular season award, yes, but leading a team away from home could help the Cowboys immensely in the playoffs.
8 Week One Was Fluky
Every team has a couple of weird games, and if we’re going to prove that Tony Romo has had a great season, we should analyze the couple off weeks. Week One around the league is often a weird one and not indicative of the season. This year, the Titans crushed the Chiefs, the Dolphins beat the Pats, and the Cowboys lost 28-17 to the 49ers, with Romo throwing three picks. All of those were in the first half, by the way, with Romo rebounding in the second but failing to complete a 25-point comeback. Regardless, Dallas would go on to win six in a row after that, with Romo throwing three more picks total in the span.
7 ... So Was the Eagles Game
At home on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys laid an egg to Chip Kelly, Mark Sanchez, and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys ceded first place to the Eagles, and looked as if two weeks later they would fall again to their divisional rival on the road. Well, they didn’t, despite many analysts thinking a repeat of the Thursday game would happen. It didn’t happen because the Cowboys were playing that first game on short rest, and Romo wasn’t good because of that. He normally doesn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and takes weekly shots to help alleviate pain in his back. After a hard fought 31-28 win at the Giants on Sunday night, the Cowboys played a game they simply weren’t prepared for. It was an aberration as the Cowboys haven’t had a similar game, and they would crush the Eagles two weeks later on proper rest.
6 Romo Won with a Crazy Schedule
As the most popular and watched football team, the Cowboys have been subject to the desires of the league to put them on nationally televised games as much as possible. The Cowboys hosted the Saints Week Four on Sunday night. Week Eight, they hosted the Redskins on Monday Night Football. Week Ten, they traveled to London to play the Jaguars, and after the subsequent bye, they played the Giants on Sunday night. Five days later on Thanksgiving, they hosted the Eagles, only to play again the following Thursday night at Chicago. Then of course on Week 15, they were sent back to Sunday night to play the Eagles. That’s six of 16 games on National TV, including four in a row after the bye, and another played on a different continent. All teams are not scheduled equally.
5 Romo has Stats that Matter
Never do statistics tell the entire story of a game or season, but they are certainly part of the conversation. It doesn’t matter how they compare to others seasons, but against other quarterbacks this year they are noteworthy (because everyone is figuratively on the same playing field). Never mind total touchdowns or yards, those can be misleading (Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for six scores in a game, Brees led the league in yards, and the best passer in Week 17 was Geno Smith). Romo finishes the year first in completion percentage, first in quarterback rating, and only nine interceptions. He only threw for 3,705 yards, but you often don’t need to throw for a ton when you consistently lead your team to victory.
4 He Props Up the Defense
The knock against the Cowboys coming into the season, and the reason many thought they would be .500 at best, was their defense. Instead, the defense has played much better than anyone thought, but they are still in the middle of the pack. They allow 355 yards and 22 points per game. They're 28th in the league with just 28 sacks, but are near the top in takeaways, which is part is due to teams playing from behind and being aggressive. All of it is to say that this isn’t a great defense propping up an offense, this is an average defense aided by an offense that gets ahead and scores often.
3 Romo Helps the Ground Game
With the league’s leading rusher by his side, it’s easy to overlook Romo and turn your attention to Murray. What we’ve come to learn over the years though, and what is more present than ever, is that the position of running back is dependent on an offensive line, and that most running backs are replaceable. Murray has had a great year, but games still fall on Romo, and he is still making big plays. Running games open up the pass and vice versa, and Romo has taken advantage of every opportunity. Murray is a free agent at the end of the year, and due to his monster year and his probable large wage demands, he'll likely be gone.
2 Romo is the Cowboys MVP
In order to win this award, you have to be the best player on your team, and Romo is more valuable than both Murray and Dez Bryant. Now, their game-changing and record-setting wide receiver might be the best at that position in the league right now, but this is still a balanced partnership. Because of the weapons on offense, Bryant has often seen single coverage, and Romo has gotten it to him time and time again. Still, Romo spreads the ball around: Terrance Williams has eight TDs, Jason Witten has five TDs, while Cole Beasley and Gavin Escobar all have four.
1 Romo is Clutch
After a division loss on Thanksgiving, Romo and the Cowboys won four straight, all in December, to end the season and take the NFC East. Romo would throw 12 touchdowns and just one interception in that span (the lone pick was to Washington in the second half of a blow out). His passer rating in the second half of games is 117, and in the final two minutes, his rating is a point and a half higher. What’s more, Romo has fourth quarter winning drives on the road at New York and Seattle, and an overtime drive that saw the Cowboys beat the Texans. His QB rating has gotten better each month, and in December it’s at a staggering 133. You can just go down the line with every statistic that describes clutch play, trailing by a score, playing late in the game, and Romo is stellar. The biggest knock against the Cowboys and Romo over the last few years was that they wilt under pressure: not anymore.