Breaking down what’s happening with Romo

let’s start with our concluding point: Tony Romo is playing
some of the worst football of his career.

After a 4 interception performance against the Giants, not only does he
take over the league lead in interceptions, but he does it by a healthy
margin with 13. Three others have 10 picks, the likes of Matt
Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Andy Dalton.

Interceptions are not the be-all, end-all of Quarterbacking, but to have
elite QB rating numbers and efficiency, you are going to have to have 2
to 3 times as many touchdowns as interceptions.  Drew Brees
has thrown plenty of picks in the last 5 seasons (72), but when you have
167 touchdowns during that same stretch (+95), odds are pretty good
that you are having success.

Heck, the all-time interception king is Brett Favre, with a likely
untouchable total of 336, but given his equally all-time leading
touchdown totals of 508, was seen as much more good than bad

Romo is +73 for his career, but a painful -4 for his season.
 And his 13 picks is already the 3rd most of his 7-year career.
 After always being amongst the league leaders in QB rating
with numbers in the mid to high 90s, he finds himself below Jay Cutler
and right next to Michael Vick in 2012, with a 78 QB rating (very close
to Quincy Carter’s 71-type numbers).

Even worse, Romo-apologists like me are so perplexed by his performance
that a slam-dunk decision about getting his contract extension done now
looks like a confusing dilemma moving forward after the last few duds in
front of the home audience.

What is happening to one of the more efficient QBs of this era? In almost all metrics, since he has come into the league, he
is no worst than 5th when it comes to QB rating behind Aaron Rodgers,
Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning.  That is the entire
list.  Anyone else?  And Romo has them on statistical
metrics of the individual variety.

It is tough to narrow down specifically what is happening, and honestly,
to blame one aspect of the offense is to let others off the hook.
 But, the following items are true.

*  Romo has turned the ball over more than anyone in the sport this year
*  Romo has 0 TDs and 5 interceptions on 3rd and 4th downs
*  Romo has the 33rd worst QB rating on 3rd Down of 34 qualifying QBs (Skelton, Arz)

Those are the 3 most disconcerting numbers to this point.  On
1st and 2nd down, he hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t been horrible,

But, 3rd Down. And what, pray tell, do the Cowboys do almost
exclusively on 3rd Down? They run their
shotgun-spread-them-out offense.

This year, Romo from shotgun is hitting 2 Touchdowns and 8
interceptions.  Add to this 12 sacks from this alignment, and
you see that many, many bad things are happening with 20 negative plays
and just 2 Touchdowns to compensate.

From under center, we see 7 Touchdowns and 5 interceptions, with only 1
sack against. This number is far from great, but again, at
least it qualifies for acceptable.

Now, how do those numbers jive with Sunday?  Actually, all of
the sacks came out of shotgun.  But, on Sunday, 3 of the 4
interceptions came from under center.  Which means, that Romo’s
ratio was far more impressive (7 TDs, 2  INTs) before the
issues were completely different on Sunday.

On Sunday, believe it or not, the Cowboys ideas were sound.
 They tried to run their offense from under center.
 They took smart shots down the field from a play-calling
department (1st and 10) and they were sabotaged by the execution of
their quarterback throwing into coverage and their receivers perhaps not
bailing out their QB with sound routes or challenging the ball a little
better (in the case of the Corey Webster pick).

They even tried to stay with the run for a reasonable amount of time –
of course, later in the game, they would concede that 3rd and 1 and 4th
and 1 were no place for running plays.  But, when the Jason
Pierre Paul interception hit – resulting off a simple screen play – the
game plan had to be disassembled because they were down 23-0.

Romo does not have very good pass protection, and the Giants were making
sure to demonstrate that almost at will on Sunday.  On
Thursday, I want to break that down and find out which pass protectors
are having the most trouble (that might be a real challenge).
 But, given that very few teams give up fewer sacks than the
Cowboys, we cannot say that this is the exclusive issue, can we?
 When Rodgers has taken 28 sacks and yet has a 21 TD/4 INT
ratio, is it fair to blame this mess all on the offensive line for 13
Romo sacks?  On the other hand, maybe Rodgers is the exception,
because the other list of QBs who are sacked a lot are also a list of
losing QBs and high INT QBs.

Over the course of his career, Romo is better under the center with a
101.5 rating, versus a 91.5 rating from shotgun.  But, there is
nothing wrong with 91, so either way he has been quite proficient no
matter  how they align their offense.

But, in 2012, everything has gone south.  Surely, it is mostly
based on 2 games (Chicago and New York) and we shouldn’t over-react to a
small sample size when we have 7 seasons to look at.  He is
one of the most efficient QBs in this entire generation, but something
is desperately wrong.

Getting DeMarco Murray back would really help. Better pass
protection would help.  Romo fighting the urge to do too much
would help.

But, I wonder how the play-calling will react to this. Will
they now go in an offensive shell and try to win a game 17-14?
 Or will they trust the philosophy and simply try to clean up
the poor decisions and execution?

Data from Week 7 vs New York

Run-Pass 17-66
Starting Field Position D 26
1st Down Run-Pass 8-30
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go 5.96
2nd Down Run-Pass 7-21
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go 6.43
3rd Down Run-Pass 1-15
3rd Down Conversions 7-14, 50%

We are going to look at a lot of data, but I am not sure how much of it
is useful in a game where a team falls behind so early.  You do
wonder about how a team can look so poorly within their first 15 plays.
 But, for the life of me, it seems that the play calls were
generally sound, the execution was what was horrid.


Here are the passing charts to see what was being accomplished on Sunday.

Blue is a completion. Red is incomplete. Yellow is a touchdown, and
Black is an interception. The passes are lines from where Romo released
the pass to where the pass was caught. This shows you his release point
and where he likes to throw when he slides in the pocket.

Clearly, there was almost nothing over the top to be found by the Giants.

1st Half

2nd Half –

Here is a chart dedicated to the huge day for Jason Witten, below:  

Drive Starters
The 1st play of each drive can often reveal the
intent of a coach to establish his game plan. How committed is he to the
run or pass when the team comes off the sideline? We track it each week
here –

Wk 1-At New York: 9 Drives – 5 Run/4 Pass
Wk 2-At Seattle: 9 Drives – 3 Run/6 Pass
Wk 3-Tampa Bay: 13 Drives – 7 Run/6 Pass
Wk 4-Chicago: 11 Drives – 3 Run/8 Pass
Wk 5-At Baltimore: 10 Drives – 8 Run/2 Pass
Wk 6-At Carolina 10 Drives – 6 Run/4 Pass
Wk 7-New York: 14 Drives – 4 Run/10 Pass
Season: 76 Drives 36 Run/40 Pass – 47% Run

2011 Total: 181 Drives – 79 Run/102 Pass 44% Run


Shotgun snaps are fine on 3rd Down and in the 2 minute drill. But, we
track this stat from week to week to make sure the Cowboys aren’t
getting too lazy in using it. They are not efficient enough to run it as
their base, and with a 15%/85% run/pass split across the league, there
is no way the defense respects your running game. When shotgun totals
are high, the Cowboys are generally behind, scared of their offensive
line, or frustrated. High Shotgun numbers are not this team’s calling
card for success.

There is no question that in this particular game, it was going to be a
situation where the game-plan was scrapped, and the shotgun was
primarily used.  Honestly, I expected more than 48 when
predicting the final numbers on Sunday.

Wk 1 – NYG: 15/54 27.7%
Wk 2 – Sea: 29/56 52%
Wk 3 – TB: 34/63 54%
Wk 4 – Chi: 50/68 74%
Wk 5 – Balt: 19/79 24%
Wk 6 – Car: 22/64 34%
Wk 7 – NYG: 48/83 58%

2012 Season Total: 227/467 49%

2011 Total – 445/1012 43.9%

Here is the breakdown by groupings:

Before you study the data below, I would recommend that if the numbers
for the groupings are unfamiliar, that you spend some time reading a
more expanded definition of the Personnel Groupings here.

Totals by Personnel Groups:

Package Plays
Yards Run Pass
11 7 75 4-9 3-66
12 15 68 4-13 11-55
13 1 -2 1-(-2) 0-0
21 4 10 1-3 3-7
22 1 2 1-2 0-0
23 6 2 4-1 2-1
S01 0 0 0-0 0-0
S02 6 19 0-0 6-19
S11 41 126 1-(-1) 40-261
S12 2 8 0-0 2-8
Knee 1 -1 1-(-1) 0-0
Totals 83 441 16-25 67-417

* – Knee Plays are not counted in play calls.

23 personnel got plenty of work down at the goal-line twice for 6 snaps,
and seemed to demonstrate that do not have the ability to get a yard.
 This might be the best explanation why they did not attempt
the run on 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1 later in the game.  This is
not a physical offense and won’t be until it is emphasized more by the

Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:

Package Plays Yards Run Pass FD/TD
11 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
12 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
13 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
21 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
22 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
23 2 1 1-1 1-0 0/1
S01 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
S10 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
S11 14 89 0-0 14-89 5/0
S12 0 0 0-0 0-0 0/0
Totals 16 90 1-1 15-89 5/1

Overall, the offense found a lot of yards out there, but when 6
different drives end in turnovers, you really should have no chance. 
The fact that they did have a chance in the end and nearly pulled it off
speaks more to the internal fight and the job of the defense.

But, from a standpoint of preparing all week and then going out and
executing your plan, this has to be defined as a complete and total
failure from the entire offensive unit.

In the last decade, there have been 61 occasions when one team has
turned the ball over 6 times.  The team doing the deed is 3-58.  The
exceptions were the Cowboys miracle in Buffalo (2007), the Bears winning
in Arizona in the “They were who we thought they were” game, and a
Jacksonville win in Cleveland in 2010.

It seems rather needless to say that this is the only statistic worth
discussing from Sunday.  Everything else were just numbers on a page.