How much longer can Tony Romo lead the Cowboys?
There’s been a lot of talk about windows opening and closing in Dallas throughout the year, with even the owner acknowledging the time to win is now. While a few vital pieces of the Cowboys’ championship puzzle are getting long in the tooth, the conversation really begins and ends with quarterback Tony Romo. If he’s playing at or near his potential, the Cowboys will have a shot to win it all.
Romo is no spring chicken himself, however, now entering his age 32 season. Romo sat on the Cowboys’ bench for a couple of seasons prior to eventually winning the starting job, and some people forget he was already 26 years old before getting that opportunity. With the production of most other positions in the NFL peaking well before age 32, it’s only natural to question how much fuel Romo has left in the tank. Here’s the answer. . .
I’ve tracked the production of quarterbacks over the past two decades in terms of Pro Football Reference’s approximate value
(AV). You can see that quarterback play tends to remain remarkably stable well into the mid-30s. It peaks at age 30, which is later than most positions, but never drops below 89 percent of that peak through the subsequent six seasons. Most positions see a precipitous drop in production right around age 31.
Comparing Romo’s career to that of the average quarterback, we see some similarities. Romo’s peak production came in his age 29 and 30 seasons, dropping some last year in regards to AV. I’d argue 2011 was actually one of Romo’s best seasons, but he’s posted superior bulk stats and yards-per-attempt in prior years.
Nonetheless, the overall outlook for Romo has to excite Cowboys fans. At a time when many are scared that Romo might not have too much left to give the ‘Boys, I disagree. If Romo’s career outlook resembles that of past quarterbacks, he has a minimum of five years of outstanding play left in him.
But what about 2012? NFL fans live in the now, and right now, Romo is primed for a big season. The graph above suggests this year will be quite similar to Romo’s 2011 season. Using a regression of Romo’s completion percentage, yards-per-attempt, and touchdown/interception rates, I’ve previously calculated that Romo will fall somewhere near the following stat line. . .
- 339 for 522 (64.9 percent completion percentage) for 4,238 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
That’s almost a mirror image of 2011. Luckily for the Cowboys, the quality of Romo’s 2011 season—one in which he posted a career-high 102.5 passer rating—was plenty good enough for the ‘Boys to advance deep into the playoffs.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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