Sheehan ’12: Tony’s terrible tragedy

Sports Columnist
Friday, October 7, 2011



The captain of collapses. The man who is constantly redefining chokes. The best loser in the history of the NFL.

Tony Romo’s been called all of these things, and not without reason. The embattled Dallas Cowboys quarterback found himself on the receiving end of pundit and fan ire this week after throwing three interceptions to help the Detroit Lions mount a comeback win last Sunday. With the Cowboys holding a staggering 27-3 lead with less than 26 minutes left, Romo and the Cowboys’ offense took to the field aiming to deliver the back-breaking touchdown that would effectively seal the game.

Then Romo threw a pick six. And just like that, his Pandora’s box opened yet again.

The rejuvenated Lions offense marched all over a previously staunch Cowboys defense. Calvin Johnson showed why they call him Megatron, catching two touchdown passes as a part of the Lions’ roaring comeback.

Meanwhile, Romo threw two more picks, one of which was also returned for a touchdown. The cherry on top of the “Oh god, is Tony really doing this again?” sundae was his baffling call on the Cowboys’ final chance of the game. On a fourth-and-20, Romo threw an under route pass to Felix Jones that was only good for seven yards. Game over. Yet another Romo meltdown completed.

America loves it! Why feel bad for Romo? The guy is the quarterback for the second-wealthiest sports franchise in the world. Before he got married this spring, Romo went through model girlfriends like Kleenex. That marriage, by the way, was to a former beauty pageant winner. (He apparently loved being a stereotype.) Romo also caused some controversy when he was dating Jessica Simpson and a picture surfaced of the couple in Mexico right before a big playoff game.

Romo’s career can be summed up in one picture of him sitting dejectedly after muffing the hold for a game-winning field goal in the 2007 playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. A womanizing, overblown, spoiled young kid who just cannot get his football act together. Bench him, Dallas! Bench that bum!

But Romo has the fourth-highest quarterback rating of all time. Seriously, look it up. He’s well ahead of Dan Marino, John Elway, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and even legendary Cowboys Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. In this week’s loss to the Lions, Romo had 331 yards passing and three touchdowns. Even during his worst stretch in the Lions game, beginning with his first interception, Romo was 11-20 with an average six yards per completion. Certainly not good numbers, but I wouldn’t call them awful.

Lost in the story of Romo’s collapse was the fact that he played with a cracked rib and a punctured lung. The same cracked rib and punctured lung he played on last week as he helped the Cowboys grind out a win against the division-leading Washington Redskins. The same cracked rib and punctured lung he sustained in the middle of a furious game against the suddenly impressive San Fransisco 49ers. The game that Romo demanded to return to when his team was down 10 in the fourth quarter. The game that Romo won nearly single-handedly with a spectacular throw to a rookie that previously had never caught a ball in an NFL game. The game that Dallas won in overtime.

There’s no denying that Tony Romo has been a part of more late-game collapses than any other active quarterback in the NFL, but there is a reason Tony isn’t sitting on the bench and eating Doritos yet. He’s actually been one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the league this year. In fact, Romo has been one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL since he became a starter four years ago. He has just had horrendous luck in terms of when he begins to throw interceptions.

This is the real reason that the relationship between Cowboys fans and Tony Romo is like that couple that just won’t break up because they are too afraid to be alone. Romo will win a game and cook the Cowboys fans a lovely, romantic dinner, then two days later he’s throwing four interceptions, forgetting that it’s the fans’ anniversary and taking them out to Chili’s for dinner. One minute, they are screaming at each other about how much they hate the others’ parents. The next, they are making out in the corner of a party for a comically long period of time.

Tony’s become a tragic figure, a guy who honestly tries his best and does pretty well. The problem is that all of his screw-ups are so much bigger than the things he does right. He’s under the most scrutiny of any quarterback, but even when he plays injured to try to help his team, he gets nailed for a loss that was also a by-product of bad defense and a terrible running game.

He might have once been the womanizing quitter that I painted in the beginning of this column. But the Tony Romo I saw last Sunday was not the same guy. The man I saw was getting pain-numbing shots on the sideline because he was playing injured. That same guy threw for over 250 yards and three touchdowns in just over half of the game. He’s the guy who’s quietly been the best quarterback in football that everyone calls a loser. He’s also the guy who lost the game.

There’s the real tragedy of Tony Romo. He’s the guy who’s worked hard to make himself better. He’s the quarterback who does all the things you want him to do. The problem is that he cannot get out of his own way and now he has become synonymous with the athlete who cannot win the big games. But he is not giving up, and the laws of probability owe him some favors.

One of these days, the chips are going to fall your way, Tony. And I’m going to be watching and cheering you on when they do.



Sam Sheehan ’12 would like to give Tony Romo a big hug. Talk sports with him at or follow him on Twitter @SamSheehan.