Everyone in the sports world knows by now that Tony Romo has called it quits on his professional sports career (NFL and NBA). He leaves behind a legacy that was magnified under the Dallas spotlight, yet somehow is still belittled of its greatness.
Romo has some produced some pretty incredible statistics and has won a lot of games in the NFL (78-49 record). He also owns the 4th-best passer rating in NFL history (97.1), trailing only Aaron Rodgers, Russel Wilson, and Tom Brady.
Along with the flashy stats come the blemishes in which no QB is immune. Early in his career, he was known as a choke artist after ending games throwing interceptions. The last two years of his career (following a phenomenal 2014 season) have been marred by both injury and a rookie wunderkind QB, which ultimately led to his retirement.
The stats can make up for his early career mistakes and his later stage injuries. But, what many people will remember about Romo will be his inability to finish a playoff run with a win. Despite his success in the regular season, Dallas teams under Romo produced a paltry 2-4 record.
Throughout popular NFL opinion, regular season statistics will hold more weight in an “is _____ elite” discussion than playoff success. Romo is undoubtedly deemed “elite” among a vast majority of analysts and fans because of his stats.
Meanwhile, a certain quarterback in Baltimore has been debated about whether he is elite for the past six+ seasons. No, he is not flashy in the regular season, but he has shown the ability to rise his level of play in career games. He shows up when it matters most. Despite ranking 8th overall in career playoff victories (so far), owning arguably the best post season run of any QB ever, and being a Super Bowl MVP, he is not “undoubtedly elite” like his peer Tony Romo.
Now, this is not a debate whether Flacco is an elite quarterback. This is a debate wondering: who would Baltimore have been better off with between 2008-present, Flacco or Romo?
This is a tough question that could easily go either way. First, I can honestly say that I’d prefer Flacco in this debate.
I’ll start with this. Between the 2013-2016 seasons (post-Super Bowl), the Ravens have had one successful season, and three disappointing ones by Baltimore standards. Do I think that, with Tony Romo at QB, Baltimore would’ve have been drastically improved during these seasons? The answer is no, I do not.
Baltimore had no offensive line, run game, or play-makers at wide receiver in 2013. Romo plays his best ball with great protection and confidence in his running backs. He would’ve faltered in 2013 as well.
Romo played his best season in 2014, with the best offensive line in the NFL and the league-leading RB to take pressure off him. Flacco, coincidentally, played his best season in 2014 as well, with the best starting offensive line he’s ever had, a solid running game, and the tandem of Steve Smith Sr. and Torrey Smith. Baltimore blew through Pittsburgh in the playoffs and held two separate 14-point leads against the Patriots in the divisional round, ultimately falling to the eventual Super Bowl champs. Do I see much improvement in that team with Romo under center? I do not.
2015 was the season of injury for both QBs. Although, in the few games Romo played, he looked great, meanwhile Flacco was under-performing as his teammates succumbed to injury one after the other.
2016 could have had a different ending with Romo under center (maybe a post season berth?), but with so many imperfections on the roster there’s no telling how far he could’ve carried the team. Romo also suffered a broken back in the preseason, which led to the emergence of rookie sensation Dak Prescott. Flacco ended up starting every game coming off his first critical injury of his career.
Now, the years 2008-2012 are hard to figure out. Romo was in his prime, while Flacco was learning on the go as a rookie starter.
Romo would have been undoubtedly brilliant with the teams Baltimore fielded in those five seasons. He has never had the luxury of a defense fielding the quality that Baltimore employed during that time. Could Romo have won a Super Bowl (or two?) with those teams? I think so, with 2008 and/or 2011 coming to mind right away.
But, as history shows, Baltimore won nine playoff games and a Super Bowl in that time. Any Ravens fan should be proud of the way those teams played with their young QB under center. You couldn’t ask for much more from them, mainly because they delivered a Lombardi Trophy for the city. (That’s also a big reason this is such a difficult debate.)
And now, Romo is retired and Flacco is entering an age where many common era QBs see high success. If Baltimore’s QB retired this past season, would they feel confident they could acquire a player that could keep this team trending back upwards?
I believe if Ozzie Newsome had the chance to go back and choose Joe Flacco all over again knowing what he knew now, he most certainly would.