ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws the ball in the second quarter against the New York Giants on September 8, 2013 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Tony Romo is gaming the system right now. With his 105.0 passer rating and 8:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Romo has made it appear that he’s playing great football. He’s made it appear that he’s leading the Cowboys’ offense and that factors outside of his control are killing the team’s chances. He’s made it appear like he’s an improved decision-maker.
But playing quarterback isn’t all about minimizing turnovers. Yes, Romo has cut down on his picks. That’s awesome and, given interceptions or no interceptions, there’s obviously no choice.
But that’s not the real dichotomy, here. The real decision is between an aggressive, high-variance style of play that leads to interceptions at times but also creates big plays to lead the offense, or an ultra-conservative style of play that typically results in another form of a turnover—a punt.
On Sunday, Romo was again acting as Houdini in San Diego. A 73.0 percent completion rate. Two touchdowns and no interceptions. A magnificent 108.4 passer rating.
But here’s the dark side of his illusion: 6.60 YPA. No individual stat best predicts team success like YPA. Romo’s 6.68 YPA in 2013 is the lowest he’s ever posted. And it’s not even close.
Turnover minimization should be one of the Cowboys’ goals. It should be an important goal, too. But it shouldn’t be the only goal. The offense can’t continue to minimize turnovers at all costs, regardless of whether or not they move the ball. Open up the offense, let Romo get the ball downfield, and stop playing for another 8-8 record.
A few more thoughts on yesterday’s loss. . .
It will be a good day when the Cowboys finally realize that they can throw the ball up to Dez Bryant in pretty much any one-on-one situation and he’s going to win. He took over a game with a limited number of targets, again.
Are people starting to warm up to the fact that Jason Witten isn’t all that good anymore? His blocking has been sub-par for a few years (yes, his blocking) and he’s horribly inefficient as a receiver. Actually, he’s been declining as a receiver for the last five seasons. That’s why I projected him at fewer than 900 yards receiving this year. He’s currently on pace for under 800.
One of the reasons that we should be a little concerned about Terrance Williams, who had seven catches but a couple drops and a big fumble, is that he’s already 24 years old. Even though he’s a rookie, he should be playing at a higher level than other first-year receivers because of his age. It’s age, not NFL experience, that’s typically correlated with early success. That’s one reason we can remain so high on a young guy like Tyron Smith while questioning Williams’ future contributions.