Throwback Thursday: Tony Romo as Rodney Dangerfield

Famed stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield took a single catchphrase – “I don’t get no respect” – and parlayed it into a 40 year career in the entertainment industry. The lack of respect Tony Romo received throughout his career wasn’t nearly as profitable, unfortunately.

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NFL Network has been releasing its annual “NFL Top 100” in piecemeal the last few weeks. The annual list is a player-voted ranking of the top 100 players in the league heading into the upcoming season.

The order of the top 10 is still to be released, but we know for sure that Ezekiel Elliott is in. Outside of Elliott, six other Cowboys made the list: Travis Frederick at 87, Sean Lee at 79, Dez Bryant at 60, Zack Martin at 58, Tyron Smith at 18, and then you have Dak Prescott at #14.

Prescott’s #14 ranking is higher than Romo ever achieved in the list’s seven year existence. In fact, Prescott is ranked as the league’s fifth-best quarterback, behind only Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Tom Brady.

What prevented Romo from ever making a serious dent in the list isn’t quite clear. The list leans heavily on performance from the prior year, rather than overall body of work.

In 2011 Romo was coming off a season in which he only played six games, and had an 11-7 TD/INT ratio. Even with his lack of playing time, and uncharacteristic struggles, Romo managed to come in at #72 on the inaugural list. #72 overall was good for #9 among quarterbacks.

The 2012 list saw Romo drop significantly, which didn’t seem to make much sense. Romo had ranked top five in passer rating, touchdowns, completion percentage, and game-winning drives in the previous season. For his work, Romo was dropped 19 spots to #91 overall on the 2012 list. He managed to slip from the #9 ranked quarterback to #12.

Romo saw a spike in interceptions during the 2012 season (19) which is likely what pushed him off the 2013 rankings entirely. 14 quarterbacks made the list that year, which meant at best his peers viewed him as the 15th best quarterback heading into the 2013 season. Even with the high amount of turnovers, Romo managed to finish 10th in passer rating and sixth in touchdown passes in 2012.

Romo reemerged on the list before his career year in 2014. Heading into that season he had landed generally where the league viewed him in 2011: #71 overall, #12 quarterback. But the #12 quarterback ranking still didn’t match Romo’s standing in a number of critical statistical categories. Romo had cleaned up his turnovers, and managed to finish fourth in touchdown passes (31) eighth in passer rating (96.7) ninth in completion percentage (63.9%) and fourth in game-winning drives (4).

Of course we all remember Romo’s torrid 2014, which was the best season of his career. Romo threw 34 touchdowns, only nine interceptions, and completed just under 70% of his passes. Romo’s completion percentage, passer rating, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, and game-winning drives were tops in the NFL that year. Romo was named a second-team All-Pro, and was a ticky-tack call away from an NFC Championship game appearance. Even with all of those numbers overwhelmingly in his favor, Romo still barely managed to crack the top 40 on the 2015 list. Romo would finish #34 overall, and was ranked as the eight-best quarterback behind Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Brady, and Rodgers. Of those eight, only Rodgers (1.0) and Roethlisberger (9.9) had come within 10 points of Romo’s league-high 113.2 passer rating.

Romo was hurt for almost all of 2015, so it’s no surprise he didn’t see the list in 2016. But for years he was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league, and was consistently placed behind inferior colleagues.

As we close this little diatribe, below is a breakdown of the 2012-2015 quarterback rankings, with the previous season’s passer rating in parentheses. Bolded players had lower passer ratings than Romo.

2012

#12 Tony Romo (102.5)
#11 Joe Flacco (80.9)
#10 Michael Vick (84.9)
#9 Philip Rivers (88.7)
#8 Peyton Manning (N/A)
#7 Matthew Stafford (97.2)
#6 Cam Newton (84.5)
#5 Eli Manning (92.9)
#4 Ben Roethlisberger (90.1)
#3 Tom Brady (105.6)
#2 Drew Brees (110.6)
#1 Aaron Rodgers (122.5)

2013

#15? Tony Romo (90.5)
#14 Colin Kaepernick (98.3)
#13 Matthew Stafford (79.8)
#12 Ben Roethlisberger (97.0)
#11 Russell Wilson (100.0)
#10 Cam Newton (86.2)
#9 Eli Manning (87.2)
#8 Andrew Luck (76.5)
#7 Joe Flacco (87.7)
#6 Matt Ryan (99.1)
#5 Robert Griffin III (102.4)
#4 Drew Brees (96.3)
#3 Aaron Rodgers (108.0)
#2 Tom Brady (98.7)
#1 Peyton Manning (105.8)

2014

#12 Tony Romo (96.7)
#11 Nick Foles (119.2)
#10 Joe Flacco (73.1)
#9 Philip Rivers (105.5)
#8 Ben Roethlisberger (92.0)
#7 Andrew Luck (87.0)
#6 Cam Newton (88.8)
#5 Russell Wilson (101.2)
#4 Aaron Rodgers (104.9)
#3 Drew Brees (104.7)
#2 Tom Brady (87.3)
#1 Peyton Manning (115.1)

2015

#8 Tony Romo (113.2)
#7 Drew Brees (97.0)
#6 Ben Roethlisberger (103.3)
#5 Russell Wilson (95.0)
#4 Andrew Luck (96.5)
#3 Peyton Manning (101.5)
#2 Tom Brady (97.4)
#1 Aaron Rodgers (112.2)

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