Dr. Jeckyll or Mr. Martz? A Chat with ESPN’s K.C. Joyner


Cowboys Nation begins a week-long chat with ESPN Insider and Scientific Football publisher K.C. Joyner.  K.C. brings his fresh 2012 metrics to the discussion of all matters related to the Cowboys offense and the team’s passing defense.  Today, he suggests the team’s game planning was out of sync with its personnel in 2012.

Cowboys Nation:   We can start this going in ten different directions with the Cowboys.  There was a lot of flux last year on the offense. Every name player went up, went down, had injury issues. Every player has question marks entering the 2013 season.

Let’s begin with the lightning rod, Tony Romo. I imagine his bad decision metrics skewed the wrong way in 2012, especially after he was coming off a career year in 2011.

K.C. Joyner:  I’m looking at him now.  Romo tied for 24th in bad decision percentage, [with a 2.3% number].  He tied with Colin Kaepernick.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad to be tied with a first-year starter who was thrown in halfway.

To put him in perspective, Phillip Rivers had a 2.4% bad decision metric and he was seen as having a bad year.  Ben Roethlisberger had a 2.4, and it was hardly his best year.  From that perspective, Romo’s 2.3 looks bad, but I’m of two minds with Tony Romo.

Upside, 2.3% if you’re a risk taker of the caliber of Tony Romo, where he likes to take a lot of chances, make a lot of risky passes down the field, that’s not a bad rate for a guy like him.

I think the Cowboys don’t really have a very cohesive sense of where they want to go as a team.  By that I mean they have Tony Romo on offense, you’ve got a gunslinger, a guy who can take a lot of chances.  What I think is they’ve decided they want to center this offense around Tony Romo, but they don’t want him to be a bad decision maker.  So they’re throwing more safe passes.  We’re going to give him a lot more safe reads. This is speaking in general of the 2012 season.  Things changed as the season progressed, but in general they had him try safer things.

But you look at the Cowboys offense and think, you’re trying to run a safer offense, and I’m not sure that’s where you want to go.  You have Romo, you have Miles Austin, you have Dez Bryant.  You’ve got some guys who can really stretch the field, guys who can really threaten defenses.  If you have that kind of talent and you’re not attacking vertically, because these are two guys who can torture a defense at will if they’re playing as well as they can…

I have a theory as to why that is, so overall, when you’re looking at Tony Romo, his 2.3 bad decision percentage would not be bad if he was playing in a higher-risk offense, but when they’re dinking and dunking, it’s not as good a rate as it might appear.

CN:  From a metrics perspective, compare what he did with what he did the year before.  How much of a metric decline did he have from the first season to the last?

KC:  Let’s put it this way.  From a volume rate versus a percentage rate, Tony Romo had fifteen bad decisions in 2012 and he had ten in 2011. From a volume rate, ten to fifteen is a lot, but from a percentage rate, he only rose one half of one percent.  Now, that’s significant in BDR. One percent jump is huge, and half is significant.