Like it or not: Tony Romo is worth the money

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Last year, the Denver Broncos awarded Peyton Manning with a 5-year, $96 million contract despite the fact he had four recent neck surgeries and he hadn’t played a down of football in more than a year. Manning is proving to be worth every penny of his contract. The Broncos are one of the main favorites for the Super Bowl this season, and Manning is still dominant, proving that GM John Elway’s risk is paying off.

Worth it? The Broncos are Super Bowl contenders, so yes.

Then the New Orleans Saints forked up the money to lock up their franchise quarterback, signing Drew Brees to a 5-year, $100 million deal. Brees certainly earned his contract after saving the Saints’ franchise. The entire team has functioned through his arm and Sean Payton’s leadership. Brees puts up gaudy numbers and was coming off three straight postseason appearances (the Saints had gone 13-3, 11-5 and 13-3 in the last three seasons respectively) and a Super Bowl victory and MVP award in 2009.

Worth it? He earned it. We can’t win without him, so yes.

Joe Flacco was next in line, but the Baltimore Ravens waited a year too long. Flacco bet on himself, played the 2012 season without holding out for longterm deal, won the Super Bowl, and the Ravens were practically forced to make him the richest player in the NFL. He signed a 6-year, $120.6 million contract. Flacco isn’t necessarily “elite.” He’s never had 4,000 passing yards OR more than 25 touchdowns in a season. But his 11-0 TD/INT ratio in the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl win (defeating Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and the 49ers), and the Super Bowl MVP award left the Ravens no choice but to pay the man.

Worth it? It had to happen. He’s clutch and he’s won a lot of games with the Ravens, so yes.

The Green Bay Packers knew it was necessary to get super star QB Aaron Rodgers‘ deal done, so GM Ted Thompson inked him for 5-years and $110 million with a year left on his current deal. Rodgers won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP and an NFL MVP award in 2011. He’s incredible every season and is still in his prime. The Packers would be NOTHING if his backup, Graham Harrell, was starting.

Worth it? He’s the best QB in the NFL, and he’s still in his prime, so yes, definitely.

And then there’s Tony Romo. Romo has won ONE playoff game in his career, and the Cowboys haven’t even had a winning record in the last three seasons. In fact, Romo choked away the Cowboys’ postseason chances in the last two seasons with crucial mistakes late in games. Despite all this, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys awarded Romo with a 6-year, $108 million contract extension?

Worth it? 

Yes. 

No, I’m not drunk or high. No, I’m not a Romo fan. And No, I do not like the self-proclaimed “America’s Team.”

I truly believe it was absolutely necessary and smart to resign Tony Romo to the huge contract extension. Besides Jerry Jones, I may be the only person outside of Dallas (and possibly inside Dallas too) who thinks this, but there are a lot of reasons.

It’s important to understand that paying a quarterback $20 million a year eats up 1/6 of the team’s salary cap (about $124 million right now). Logically speaking, the quarterback is just one player, so paying him that kind of money leaves only 5/6 of the payroll for 52 other players. In that sense, it’s absurd to pay an individual player that much money, as it puts your team at a huge disadvantage to acquire talent elsewhere.

But is that what a quarterback is really worth, a sixth of your salary?

Simple supply and demand will tell you otherwise. There are only about 16 quarterbacks in the NFL that CAN possibly win a Super Bowl if the right team is built around him. In other words, teams have to have 1 of about 16 players in the NFL in order to achieve their ultimate goal, winning a Super Bowl, in today’s passing-based league. So the market value for a solid quarterback is actually a lot more than 1/6 of a team’s salary; it’s tremendous. Only about half the teams in the NFL have a quarterback they can win a Super Bowl with. So when there’s a chance your team is losing one of those commodities, you naturally have to pay a hefty price to keep him, or else 10+ other teams will.

Accessing the value of a quarterback is another reason the you can’t just look at the surface ($108 million, 1/6 of the 53-man team’s entire salary). When accessing value, you ask yourself: what is your quarterback’s value to your team in terms of having success, compared to the other players. In other words, how much better is your team with quarterback X ? Or, how much worse is your team without quarterback X ?

VALUE QUESTION: Is Drew Brees only worth 1/6 of the team’s success? Of course not.

Without Brees, the Saints literally have no chance of even sniffing the postseason. The franchise’s success is dependent on him (and Sean Payton, apparently). This is because if the Saints, for whatever reason, chose not to resign Brees, the Saints’ current starting quarterback would be Luke McCown. Looking at it that way, in terms of value, Brees is actually closer to be being worth 5/6 of the team’s salary.

The Cowboys have come within a game of the postseason two years in a row. No one is mistaking Romo for “Mr. Clutch,” as he’s failed to produce on the big stage in both crucial moments. But it’s time to silence the Tony Romo trash-talk, because the reality of the situation is that the Cowboys would have been TERRIBLE without Romo last season.

Don’t blame Romo for the team’s average season.

The team’s offensive line was atrocious. LT Tyron Smith took a huge step back from a promising rookie year. RT Doug Free was a sieve, allowing a sack or pressure practically every drive. The interior line play was pathetic. The Cowboys’ running game was nonexistent, ranking 31st in the NFL. In fact, the Cowboys had ONE 100-yard rushing game all season (week 1), and injury-prone Demarco Murray played less than half the team’s offensive snaps. As if dealing with horrendous pass protection and no running game all season wasn’t enough, Romo to was forced to throw to Miles Austin, whose injury killed his separation and explosiveness, hampering him all season, and Dez Bryant, who is talented, but can’t run routes to save his life. Bryant didn’t even look like he grasped the playbook until a late-season tear, and I counted 4 interceptions by hand that Romo threw because of a Bryant miscommunication. It’s no wonder Jason Witten had a career year; Romo had to force-feed the ball to him all season, as he was the Cowboys’ only reliable target. Romo threw a career high 648 passes, 90 more than his previous high. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys’ defense was depleted with injuries to four starters (DT Jay Ratliff, DE Kenyon Coleman and LBs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter), forcing only 16 turnovers all of last season, one of the lowest marks in the NFL.

The Cowboys were forced to ask Romo to do way too much because they didn’t have anything else. There’s only so much a quarterback can do.

In his last two seasons, Romo has an impressive 60-29 TD/INT ratio, has thrown for more than 9,000 yards and has an average QB rating of 97.

If that’s not telling enough, take a look at Romo’s career numbers.

Romo has averaged 280 passing yards per game (#1 in the NFL) in his career. His 177-91 TD/INT ratio is elite. His completion percentage is higher than 65% in the last three seasons. And his career 7.9 YPA is higher than Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. What’s more impressive: Romo has NEVER had a QB rating below 90 in his 7-year career. Only Aaron Rodgers can claim that.

FACT: Tony Romo has the best QB rating of ALL TIME in the first 55 minutes of games. Romo also has the greatest QB rating in NFL history in the 4th quarter until the three minute mark.

So while I would never try to argue his clutch gene, I would whole-heartedly assure you that the media sensationalizes Romo’s struggles in the last 3 minutes of games, while ignoring the first 57 minutes of games. If you think Romo is overrated or is a bad quarterback, it means you are basing that opinion on how he plays in THREE minutes of a 60-minute football game… Because in the first 57 minutes, the numbers indicate he may be one of the greatest QBs in NFL history.

It’s time to stop blaming Tony Romo for the Cowboys’ struggles. Fans tend to overrate Romo because the media is obsessed with the Cowboys, and Romo is always in the news when the team struggles. But in terms of on-field production, Romo is severely underrated, in my opinion. Again, no one is calling him clutch. He’s been really terrible in big moments (Peyton Manning had this reputation for a long time, too), and fans see his struggles, especially because the media overhypes it, and assume it tells the whole story of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s not necessarily true.

Romo is one of the Cowboys’ best players. He’s certainly in the top half of the league’s quarterbacks. His career numbers are elite. He’s a great playmaker. And he has carried the Cowboys on his back the last two seasons. More importantly, because of the supply-and-demand for good quarterbacks, as well as his production and value to the team, he’s worth every penny of his 6-year, $108 million contract extension. Like it or not, it’s true.

*Photo Credit: noonsportstimes.com


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