Cowboys Romo: What 'Elite' Looks Like

'I think,' Tony Romo said to start training camp, 'over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me.' We are almost halfway through the Cowboys 2014 campaign ... and suddenly, the 'best Romo' is an 'elite Romo' - even after the contract extension some thought he'd never live up to.



When the Dallas Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a massive contract extension in 2013 (which I believed they had to do), the narrative suddenly changed for Romo and the Cowboys. Since he was now being paid top money, he needed to perform like a top quarterback.

For a while, that contract looked like it may be one of the worst in NFL history. After two back surgeries and a terrible outing by Romo versus the San Francisco 49ers, many of us (including myself) were crunching the numbers to see how many more years the team might have to survive with him. At that point in time, it looked like he may be finished as a top quarterback in the NFL. I was certain that we had seen the last of Romo-as-Houdini many of us have taken for granted over the years.

Fast-forward six weeks and Tony Romo has returned to playing at an elite level. Romo and the Cowboys have won six straight games and Romo is possibly playing quarterback at the highest level of his career. Since Week 1, Romo has thrown for 1,508 yards with 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He has had a quarterback rating of 113.8 since Week 1; only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have posted a better passer rating so far this the season.

But as 6-1 Dallas prepares for its Monday Night meeting with visiting Washington, Tony Romo's great statistical start shouldn't surprise you. Since Romo signed his contract extension during the 2013 offseason, Romo has been on fire. Here is how he compares with some of the top quarterbacks in the NFL since signing his extension:

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As you can see, only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers have thrown more touchdowns since Romo signed his extension. And since that time, only five quarterbacks have posted a better passer rating. But what is even more impressive to me is just how dominant Tony Romo has become in the fourth quarter in games compared to the rest of the NFL. Check out how he has fared when compared to the same list of quarterbacks in the fourth quarter:

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Only Romo, Rodgers, Luck and Cutler have had their fourth-quarter QB rating rise in the last year and half. Romo has the third fewest interceptions and the third highest quarterback along with throwing the second most touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo also has been very protective of the ball in the last two seasons. If you remove his awful first half of the San Francisco game (in which Romo was clearly rusty and not himself) Romo has thrown only 13 interceptions in the last season and a half.

But here's the difference between Tony Romo from a few years ago to now: He's not trying to carry the load. In previous years, I compared Romo to NBA All-Star Allen Iverson. During his prime, Iverson was asked to carry a below-average team by putting up gaudy stats and trying to cover up for bad teammates and defense. Romo has been asked to do the same.

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Remember the words ...

"I feel personally like I've just started to come into the player that I wanted to be six, seven years ago," Romo said in July. "I think -- and I've said it before -- but I think over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me that I've had throughout my career.”

Last year, the Dallas Cowboys averaged 27.4 points per game, good enough for the fifth-best offense in the NFL. This fall, the Cowboys have continued their offensive dominance, averaging 28 points per game. And steadily, Romo has been an important piece of it all. If you are looking for what "the best Romo'' looks like ... if you are looking what what "elite'' looks like ... look no further than the post-contract-extension quarterback of the 6-1 Cowboys.






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