Credit: Getty Images
Tony Romo and Philip Rivers have a lot in common. Why are fans' perceptions of the two quarterbacks so different? (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Tuesday, Oct 16 at 5:17 PM
Go to Buffalo or Cleveland or Atlanta and ask a football fan what he thinks about Tony Romo, and you will get a a strong opinion one way or the other. Nationally, Romo may be the most polarizing figure in the NFL.
Go to any of those NFL cities and ask fans about San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, and my guess is that their answer will be, "Yeah, he's pretty good. I like Rivers."
Put a star on Rivers' helmet six years ago, and he's the polarizing player. Make Romo a Charger and he's enjoying a nice career in relative NFL anonymity. Why? Because they're the same guy.
The tale of the tape:
Rivers 102, Romo 82
Career passer rating:
Romo 97.3, Rivers 95.4
Rivers 173, Romo 156
Romo 81, Rivers 87
Rivers 4, Romo 3
4th quarter comebacks (according to pro-football-reference.com):
Rivers 13, Romo 13
Game winning drives (pro-football-reference.com):
Rivers 16, Romo 14
Regular season record:
Rivers 66-36, Romo 49-33
Rivers 3-4, Romo 1-3
So why is Tony Romo the most polarizing figure in the NFL? His playoff results are a little worse than Rivers, but take a look at each team's record since 2006 when both became starters (keeping in mind that Romo didn't take over for Drew Bledsoe until midway through the season). The Chargers are 66-36 since the start of the 2006 season; the Cowboys are 58-43. Rivers has more playoff wins, but he's also had better teams (14-2 in 2006, 13-3 in 2009).
What about attitude? Romo has been criticized for not yelling at his guys enough, while Rivers has been petulant at times. To me, Romo looks like a better teammate than Rivers, for whatever that's worth.
The star? Now we have the answer, because what else could it be? 'Starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys' is one of the highest-profile positions in American sports, and with it comes more scrutiny than the player would otherwise be subject to. In Dallas, Cowboy fans are waiting for championship number six. San Diego has never had a Super Bowl champion, so the standard is lower. Romo is following Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. San Diego's most decorated quarterback is Dan Fouts. That plays a role too.
I have been a staunch Romo defender for years. This week is the first time I've really understood how ridiculous I look to those I've argued with over the years. This doesn't mean I've changed sides, because I still think Romo is a very good quarterback. But I'm done arguing his place near the top of the league's elite.
That doesn't mean I was necessarily wrong to argue for Romo. But part of the argument was based on his future, that Romo's career arc would continue to rise and he would eventually play for a team that won a playoff game or two, and maybe got to a league championship or the Super Bowl. And then that playoff success would add up and start to match his regular season success. But we're now seven years into this, Romo is 32, and the Cowboys have one playoff win since 1996. And right or wrong, a quarterback's legacy is based on his team's post-season success -- just look at how John Elway is perceived compared to Dan Marino. Had Terrell Davis never come to Denver and Elway not won those two Super Bowl, he would barely be in Marino's neighborhood.
They may be the same guy, but Romo and Rivers aren't looked at in nearly the same way. Romo's only chance to change fans' perception of him is to have some major success in the playoffs. If Rivers continues to do what he's done, we'll all remember him as a "very good quarterback" and wonder why he never won a Super Bowl.
When Ted Madden isn't writing about misrepresented QB narratives, he's tweeting about that sort of thing. Follow him @TedMadden