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Why Tony Romo's Completion Rate Is Too High

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tony Romo currently ranks first in the NFL with a 72.5 percent completion rate. That’s a good thing—you want your quarterback to be accurate, obviously—but if the Cowboys are going to make the playoffs, that completion percentage needs to come down. That might sound ridiculous, but there’s no way that Romo should be able to sustain that percentage throwing the types of passes he needs to throw for the Cowboys to win.

    I spent some time watching the Cowboys’ loss to the Chiefs in Week 2, and Romo had chances to get the ball downfield. Right now, he’s playing with such an emphasis on turnover-minimization that he can’t effectively lead the offense. There needs to be a balance. Romo needs to protect the football and still take his shots downfield.

    Thus far in 2013, Romo has thrown the ball 20 yards or more on just five occasions (he has more completions of 20-plus yards, but those were on catch-and-runs). Only one quarterback in the league has attempted fewer downfield passes.

    It’s okay to throw the ball short, certainly, especially if it’s used as a substitute for the running game. It makes sense to utilize hitches and slants and screens when you’re averaging 3.2 YPC on the ground. But it can’t be all short stuff all the time, or else defenses can lock in on underneath routes in the same way they can the run.

    We should really be more concerned with Romo’s yards per attempt. And right now, he ranks 27th in the NFL at 6.2 YPA—behind Terrelle Pryor, Chad Henne, Geno Smith, and EJ Manuel. Nice. Most of those passers have a much lower completion percentage than Romo (Manuel is close at 68.2 percent), but YPA is way more important.

    To judge quarterback effectiveness, I created a very simple metric that counts both YPA and completion rate (at a two-to-one ratio), rewarding quarterbacks both for being efficient and consistently hitting receivers.

    Rank Quarterback Power Rating
    1 Aaron Rodgers 94
    2 Peyton Manning 87
    3 Matt Ryan 85
    4 Russell Wilson 75
    5 Philip Rivers 74
    6 Ryan Tannehill 73
    7 Drew Brees 72
    8 Matthew Stafford 71
    9 Michael Vick 68
    10 Eli Manning 67
    11 Jay Cutler 66
    12 Andrew Luck 62
    13 Andy Dalton 56
    14 EJ Manuel 55
    15 Colin Kaepernick 54
    16 Robert Griffin III 51
    17 Christian Ponder 50
    18 Matt Schaub 49
    19 Carson Palmer 47
    20 Sam Bradford 46
    21 Tony Romo 44
    22 Terrelle Pryor 43
    23 Alex Smith 36
    24 Chad Henne 36
    25 Geno Smith 23
    26 Ben Roethlisberger 23
    27 Joe Flacco 19
    28 Cam Newton 18
    29 Josh Freeman 14
    30 Brandon Weeden 12
    31 Jake Locker 9
    32 Tom Brady 4
    33 Blaine Gabbert 1

    Romo ranks 21st right now, even in a metric that accounts for his high completion percentage. That’s obviously not going to get it done.

    With Dez Bryant playing outside, it would be foolish to not get him the ball as much as possible, especially downfield. Until the Cowboys are willing to use a more high-variance offensive strategy, they’ll continue to be a mediocre NFL team.