Tony Romo Was (Statistically) Better Than Troy Aikman but Wasn’t a Hall of Fame Finalist and We All Know Why
Troy Aikman and Tony Romo will forever be linked as former quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys. Or perhaps they’ll be connected due to their ridiculously large salaries as broadcasters. Either way, the two certainly have things in common.
But Cowboys fans and Cowboys haters alike know what the two don’t share — the honor of being called a Super Bowl champion.
Aikman, of course, won three Super Bowl titles in four years in the 1990s, winning Super Bowl MVP in the first. But Romo didn’t even win three playoff games total, let alone three Super Bowls, going 2-4 in six postseason appearances. Of course, things could have gone differently had a particular call involving Dez Bryant gone another way. And we’ll get to that.
So outside of Super Bowl wins, what’s the other significant (and noticeable) difference at this time between Aikman and Romo? That would be that the former owns a gold jacket as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the latter does not. Aikman, who retired in 2001, was elected to the Hall on his first try. On the other hand, Romo got his first crack at Canton a few months back and didn’t even make the list of 26 semifinalists. No, I didn’t say finalists. I said semifinalists.
Now, I’d venture to guess that if you asked most football folks who is more deserving of the Hall of Fame, the vast majority would say Aikman. But I’d also imagine that they’d start their respective arguments with how he led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins. If you’re looking at cold, hard numbers, however, maybe the debate shouldn’t be as one-sided as it currently is. Just take a look at the regular-season stats of each.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. Romo played in the era in which the NFL became more of a passing league than a running league, right? And you’d be right in thinking that. But in 165 regular-season games, Aikman threw 4,715 passes. Romo threw 4,335 passes in 156. So there goes that argument.
At 97.1, Romo currently has the ninth-highest passer rating in NFL history, just one spot behind Tom Brady. Take active quarterbacks out of the equation, and he ranks second behind only Drew Brees. Just behind Romo on the list are Steve Young (96.8) and Peyton Manning (96.5). Now, I’m not saying that Romo is better than either of those legends. But it bears pointing out.
Aikman, by the way, ranks 71st on the list. Oddly enough, the man right in front of him on the list is yet another underappreciated Cowboys quarterback, Danny White, who’s tied for 69th with a rating of 81.7. But I digress.
Super Bowl wins clearly matter as it pertains to the Hall of Fame
Look, the reason Romo will never be put in the same category as Aikman or make the Hall of Fame is quite simple, the aforementioned three Super Bowl wins. Or really just Aikman’s overall postseason career compared to Romo’s. Take a look.
As you can see, I replaced the passer rating in the postseason table with Super Bowl wins to get that point across. For the record, Aikman’s passer rating in the postseason was 88.3. Romo’s was 93.0.
But it’s always going to come down to those Super Bowl wins. Romo’s two best shots at a title were in 2007 and 2014. In the former, the Cowboys went 13-3 and were the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But they were upset in the Divisional Round by Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Those would be the same Giants who went on to beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
In 2014, Romo had one of his best seasons. He led the league in completion percentage (69.9%) and passer rating (113.2) and threw for 3,705 yards and 34 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. He finished fourth in the NFL MVP voting and led the Cowboys to a 12-4 record and the NFC East title.
A win over the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round set up a Divisional Round date with Aaron Rodgers, who won the MVP that year, and the Green Bay Packers. And we all know what happened there. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys trailing 26-21, Romo hit Dez Bryant with a deep ball near the Packers’ end zone that would have set up an easy touchdown.
But the pass was ruled incomplete. Green Bay got the ball back, ran out the clock, and that was that. The Packers then lost the NFC Championship Game in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks, who then lost to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Now, some of you may be thinking that even if Bryant’s catch hadn’t been ruled incomplete that the Cowboys also would have lost to the Seahawks in the NFC title game, especially since the game was played in Seattle, where Russell Wilson & Co. were essentially unbeatable at that time.
In fact, they only lost one game at home that season. That was a Week 6 defeat at the hands of Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. Obviously, there’s no way of knowing what would have happened in a rematch, but knowing the Cowboys could go into that hostile environment and take care of business makes the conversation a lot more fun.
Listen, I know all of this is moot as Romo’s playing days are done and he’s never going to win a Super Bowl. And I’m honestly not even trying to make the point that he was better than Troy Aikman. I know it may look that way given some of the arguments I’ve made here, but that’s genuinely not what’s happening here.
And I’m not even saying that every quarterback who wins a Super Bowl should be in the Hall of Fame. With all due respect to guys like Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, that shouldn’t be a thing. All I’m saying is that Romo should be given a bit more credit than what he is currently and should be looked at a little closer for the Hall of Fame.
Those playoff losses can’t all fall directly on him. Okay, maybe that one against Seattle where he fumbled the snap late in the fourth quarter on a chip-shot field-goal attempt from Martin Gramatica can kinda go on him. But you get what I’m saying.
Put Romo on those 90s Cowboys teams and put Aikman with Romo’s Dallas teams and I’m betting you’d get about the same results.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference