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Romo might be Witten's quarterback, but he's not an elite one

by | Senior NFL Columnist

Maybe Witten is trying to encourage Romo. He also might have put more pressure on him. (Getty Images)  
Maybe Witten is trying to encourage Romo. He also might have put more pressure on him. (Getty Images)  

Hearing Dallas tight end Jason Witten rave about Tony Romo reminds me that it's time for a refresher course on elite quarterbacks, who they are and what constitutes them ... because Witten, apparently, has no idea.

That's not a knock on the guy. Terrific player. Stand-up person. Solid teammate. But no clue when it comes to elite quarterbacks.

He thinks Romo is one, but he's wrong. Tony Romo is a good quarterback. Tony Romo is a tough quarterback. Tony Romo is a winning quarterback. But Tony Romo is not an elite quarterback.

To qualify, you must win big games and win them consistently. You must do more than win an occasional division title, too. Getting to a Super Bowl would be nice. Winning one would be even better.

Last time I checked, Romo was oh-for-two there.

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Nope, elite quarterbacks are the best of the best of the best, and when I think of an elite quarterback, I think of someone like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Brady has been to five Super Bowls, winning three of them, and was the league's first unanimous MVP. Manning is a four-time MVP and has been to two Super Bowls.

I think of Ben Roethlisberger, too. And Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. But Tony Romo? Sorry, but you must win more than one playoff game to make the list. Romo has been the Cowboys' starting quarterback for the past six years, and he has won a lot more games than he has lost, which is great. But then what? Well, then you look at his playoff record, and it's not so great.

In fact, he has one victory there. Period. And that was in the wild-card round. The guy has been to the playoffs three times and is 1-3 -- including a home loss to the Giants when Dallas had the NFC's best regular-season record.

Yeah, I know, he has thrown for five touchdowns in a game and produced numerous 300-yard efforts. He also ranks second among the game's leaders in career passer ratings. But I don't care about those numbers. I want someone who can win in the clutch, and when I think of clutch performers, I don't think of Tony Romo.

I mean, all he had to do last season was beat the Giants once down the stretch, and Dallas makes the playoffs. But he didn't. Instead, he looks terrific in Game One, throwing for four touchdowns and 321 yards in a 37-34 loss, but when he could've closed out his opponents in the fourth quarter, he didn't -- missing a wide-open Miles Austin with a third-down pass that would've clinched the victory.

He wasn't all that bad in the return match, but neither he nor his teammates could make the critical plays that might've launched Dallas, not New York, to the playoffs.

My point is: Elite quarterbacks excel in big games, and that's where Romo comes up short. In fact, when you look at his record from December on, it's not so good. OK, it stinks. He's 12-18. Now look at his playoff record. In four starts, he has four touchdown passes and two interceptions and averages 208 yards per game, never throwing for more than 244.

More important, he lost three of four.

Eli Manning took a lot of flak last year when he called himself an elite quarterback ... but then he went out and proved it. Manning doesn't have the career passer rating that Romo does, but he does have two Lombardi Trophies, two Super Bowl MVP awards and an 8-3 playoff record. Tell me which quarterback you would rather have.

Me? I want someone I can count on in big moments, and that someone is not Tony Romo. Not yet, it's not. So don't tell me he's an elite quarterback. That term is as overused as it is misused, and there's no better example than here.


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