A Chat with K.C. Joyner, Part III: Finding the Romo Sweet Spot

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Part III of my chat with ESPN Insider K.C. Joyner gets to the Romo of the matter, and looks at that elusive sweet spot, where Romo’s play-making and bad decisions are in positive balance.

Cowboys Nation:  Let’s go to the main player.  This is a game that still hasn’t gone down for Cowboys fans.  We’re crazy if we don’t start at the top.  We can discuss him in the Lions game, but I’d like you to position him in a broader context.  Looking at him from the pre-season until now, I’m seeing some of the bad habits that bit him early in 2009.  This is a guy who is a danger to himself on 1st-and-10, which should be a quarterback’s down.

I may be overplaying it, but he has three interceptions this year which came on 1st down where he goes back, looks the safety one way and then fires, as if on automatic, to his primary, who in each case has been double or triple covered.  The situation has people going nuts, thinking, it’s 1st-and-10.  Why are you doing that?

K.C. Joyner:  I’m going to compare him to Brett Favre.  There were times in Favre’s career where he could be the best decision maker in football.  You mentioned 2009.  I just pulled up a chart on bad decisions and that season Brett Favre was tied for the lowest bad decision percentage in the league.

Now, we know Favre is a gunslinger.  He’s a guy who over his career would just fling it.  There’s no receiver who’s covered in his eyes.  He thinks, “I can get the ball in there.”  Lots of times it seemed he was just saying, “what the heck.  I’m taking the chance.”  But that ’09 season proved he could play a tighter game.

Tony Romo, that same year, had a 1.4 bad decision percentage.  It was 3rd best in the league.  So Romo is capable of being that type of quarterback.  That brings up Jon Kitna, who early in his career was one of the worst bad decision makers in the game.  I almost named the metric after him.  He was the poster child for bad decisions.  Last year he was 2nd in bad decisions.  He was that good.

Quarterbacks can make up their minds to play more under control.

CN:  What is his bad decision percentage a month in?  We have to take them with a grain of salt, because the sample sizes are going to be small, but how does he compare to seasons past?

KC:  I have not broken down the Lions game.  I saw it and I’ve seen the mistakes.  I can say that through three games he had a 3.0 bad decision percentage.  It’s surely higher now, maybe 3.5 percent.  Three percent is the cutoff point for gunslinger types. You want to be below 3.0 percent.  If you’re a dink-and-dunk type, and play in a safer system, 2.0 is the cutoff.

I have no doubt Romo is above the 3.0 percent mark.

CN:  Let’s talk about Romo’s support.  In the Washington and the Lions games, he had very few capable receivers targets.  This isn’t meant to excuse bad decisions, but he’s not playing with all the bullets in his gun.  Miles Austin has missed two games.  Dez Bryant is playing hurt and is good for about 20 minutes a game.  I think it’s very impressive that they moved so well and scored 30 points with Laurent Robinson as their primary receiver in that game, but when he went down there were no dependable, capable receivers on the field for Romo to throw to.