Tony Romo had a stellar collegiate career at Eastern Illinois. Three times he was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year (2000-2002) and won two conference titles which led to him having his jersey retired by the university.
Romo went undrafted in 2003 before he was signed by the Dallas Cowboys. No one expected much of this unknown quarterback. However, once he took over as the Cowboys starter in 2006, he dazzled fans with his ability to extend plays and his flair for the dramatic. He retired in 2017 as the organization’s all-time leader in passing yards (34,183) and passing touchdown (248).
Even though he was highly productive during his playing days, Romo is often viewed as a quarterback that was overrated and wasn’t clutch when it mattered the most. In 2022, he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame, which many people scoff at, but they shouldn’t. First, let’s take a look at what gives Romo a strong case to be inducted into football immortality.
Ranking high on all-time quarterback list/4th quarter clutchness/NFL records/broadcasting career
Regardless of what people say about the importance of winning championships, and it is very important, players get into the Hall of Fame mostly because of their individual performance, not team accomplishments. With that in mind, Romo has a tremendous case for Canton when you dive into the numbers for quarterbacks.
Efficiency. That’s probably the biggest feather in Romo’s cap. His 97.1 passer rating is the ninth-best in league history. You always want your signal-caller to have an accurate arm, and Romo had that to a tee. He finished his career with a completion percentage of 65.3, tied for 10th all-time with Peyton Manning, who was just recently selected to the 2021 Hall of Fame class.
Protecting the football is a quarterback’s most important job. Many will tell you because Romo had some head-scratching moments late in games that he was a turnover machine, but that’s false. His 2.12 touchdown/interception ratio ranks 15th all-time.
Romo also didn’t mind pushing the football down the field as his 7.89 yards per attempt ranks eighth all-time.
The fourth quarter is where quarterbacks are expected to shine the brightest. As mentioned earlier, Romo had some bad moments late in games due to his gunslinger style, but he was also very clutch. From 2007 to 2016, he led all quarterbacks with a 103.5 rating in the fourth quarter or overtime. Also, his 23 fourth-quarter comebacks and 27 game-winning drives from 2006 to 2014 ranked first for all quarterbacks. For his career, he ranks 17th in fourth-quarter comebacks (24) and 21st in game-winning drives (29).
The former undrafted free agent also has several NFL records. Playing away from your home field is always tough, and the Cowboy’s all-time leading passer has the record with 41 consecutive games of registering a touchdown pass on the road. In 2014, Romo had his best season leading the NFL in passer rating (113.2) and completion percentage (69.9). He also set a record for games with at least a 135.0 passer rating during a single season with six. His last league record has to do with, you guessed it, the fourth quarter, as his rating for his career in the final period is the best all-time.
Romo has found a second career in the broadcast booth as a lead color analyst for CBS Sports. His exceptional ability to break down the game could help him make the Hall of Fame as a contributor.
That’s a pretty impressive resume of Hall of Fame-worthy credentials. Now, let’s look at what will hurt Romo’s case for Canton.
Availability/lack of playoff success/playing in an elite QB era
Your best ability in sports, especially as an NFL quarterback, is availability. Unfortunately for Romo, that was an issue far too often during his career. In 2008, he missed three games with a broken pinky finger. Two seasons later, he missed 10 games with a broken collarbone. He only missed two games over the next four seasons, but the final two of his career were a nightmare. He was on the sidelines for 12 games with another broken collarbone injury in 2015 and only played in the Cowboys season finale in 2016 after a compression fracture in his back during the preseason.
The postseason is where quarterbacks get judged the most. Romo won 61.4% of his starts in the regular season (78-49), however, it dropped significantly in the playoffs to 33.3% (2-4). Also, his production took a hit as well. His postseason completion percentage of 61.6, yards per attempt of 7.1, and a passer rating of 93.0 were all lower than his career averages in the regular season.
Another factor that will hurt Romo’s case will be the quarterback era he played in. Guys such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning were in their primes when Romo played. They all won Super Bowls except for Rivers, and when factoring in their overall production, they’ll all make the Hall of Fame at some point.
Even though Rivers didn’t win a Super Bowl his 63,440 passing yards rank fifth all-time, making him a Hall of Fame lock in the future.
Romo was as underrated and underappreciated as any quarterback in NFL history. He had his low moments, but his successful ones give him a shot at making football heaven one day, which he rightfully should.