Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tony Romo was a Miracle

You could argue that Dallas Cowboys fans have a distorted view of reality on many topics. It happens when you have a rich and successful history.  A Cowboys fan thinks that a franchise-altering QB comes around every 15 years, or so.  You would, too, if you went from Roger Staubach to Troy Aikman to Tony Romo.  The worst of those 3 would be the best QB in franchise history in many organizations - just ask Chicago or Tampa Bay or Atlanta.
A Cowboys fan thinks 20 years is a Super Bowl drought and that 3 years without a new Hall of Famer being inducted is a bias against the organization.  Let's just say that most Cowboys fans have lived a pretty charmed life - even with the recent lack of playoff glory.
But, I have to draw the line on one particular topic today.  That is, this obsession that fills the email box by well-meaning Cowboys fans about "finding the next Tony Romo".  What that means is that we will spend way too much time in August debating who we should back in the 3rd QB derby, undrafted free agent Dustin Vaughan or undrafted free agent Jameill Showers.
Let's cut to the chase.  As Jerry Jones once said famously in a bar (as some dude was rolling with his camera phone), "Romo was a Miracle."  He was absolutely right.  Jerry knows.  You just don't find a star QB in the undrafted free agent bin.
Oh sure, it has happened in NFL history.  In fact, Romo will need another 2 healthy and productive seasons to become the all-time leader amongst undrafted QBs in TD passes.  Currently he ranks behind Warren Moon (291) and Dave Krieg (261) with 242.  That places him in front of a few undrafted QBs who actually won Super Bowls, Steve Young (232) and Kurt Warner (208).  Young was not a miracle, but rather a USFL guy who bypassed the NFL draft and that is a pure technicality that would not really put him in this category at all.  Everyone knew he was going to be great.  Warner was absolutely a miracle, too.  There were others who were quite good.  Bobby Hebert, Jon Kitna, Jeff Garcia, Jake Delhomme, and even Jim Zorn.
But, the well has dried up in the modern game.  Really, really dried up - making Romo the modern miracle that may not be duplicated.  Since he has come along in the 2003 draft class, the QB position has yielded almost nothing besides #9, league wide.
Here is a chart (sorted by TD passes) that demonstrates the above declaration that Tony Romo was, in fact, a miracle.
1.Tony Romo3515133,27024211097.6
2.Shaun Hill35438,038493085.5
3.Matt Moore31405,342332879.2
4.Brian Hoyer29324,557191976.8
5.Quin Gray36121,32813591.4
6.Austin Davis26102,00112985.1
7.Case Keenum27102,19511876.2
8.Matt McGloin2581,67691074.5
9.Cleo Lemon36162,1858771.8
10.Thaddeus Lewis3071,2965481.4
That is pretty amazing, right?  There are no QBs since 2003 who have managed 50 career TD passes as an undrafted free agent.  Only 2 others - Shaun Hill and Matt Moore have even 20 touchdowns.  It looks like Brian Hoyer will get every chance to go on a run in Houston, but when we examine the way the league covets QBs more than ever, we quickly see that just about anyone with any chance gets selected in the 7 rounds of the NFL draft.  Even more so, a scan of the 32 QBs in the league, almost all of them were selected in the 1st round.
Here is a chart made by Scott Kacsmar from Football Outsiders about this very topic and it shows where the projected #1 QBs (as of June) were selected in the draft:
QB Club
Brady and Romo were the only 2 (now Hoyer) who weren't taken in the Top 3 rounds!  If you want a starting QB, you almost assuredly must take him in the Top 60 picks.  And, honestly, the Top 25 is more like it.  The odds of someone slipping through the cracks these days are getting longer and longer.
That isn't to say that Vaughan and Showers have no chance at NFL employment as a 3rd QB and perhaps could develop into a decent backup at some point.  It is simply to say that you can stop with the "find another Romo" ideas because the odds are somewhere between slim and none.  There aren't other undrafted free agents who will start at a high level for a decade and even factor into the MVP discussion kicking around in this league.
It seems like the odds are quite stacked against the idea of even getting an undrafted QB to play in 20 games, let alone on his way to 200.  We think it is possible because we remember Romo running around as the 4th QB and only saved on the roster because Quincy Carter was cut for drugs.  Romo was given a chance and pounced on it.  Circumstances worked in his favor and once he was given a sniff in 2006, he never turned back.
But, don't take that to mean that lightning strikes twice.  We will keep looking and keep raising an eyebrow when a player like Showers makes a couple nifty plays, as long as we keep our ideas in perspective.  In today's QB-starved league, it is tougher than ever to fall through the cracks of the draft process at this position.  Those who do, generally fall for a good reason.
There may be another Romo some day.  And it is fun to watch these guys with a fair amount of optimism about their ceilings, as long as we don't quit our jobs because we plan on winning the Power Ball lottery.  In the mean time, what about Romo's successor?  Well, I would assume he will need to be grabbed in the 1st round sometime soon.  It is generally the only way.
Miracles generally don't occur in the same place twice in a row.

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