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Shutdown Mailbag: Is Tony Romo actually a clutch quarterback?

Jay Busbee
Shutdown Corner

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Watch out for that Gilberry, Tony. He's a crafty one. (Getty Images)

It’s a new season, friends, and that means we’re throwing the doors wide open to you and your questions, complaints, rants and one-liners here in the Shutdown Mailbag. You know the drill here: unburden your football soul via email at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or via Twitter at @jaybusbee. Now, gather ‘round. We’re kicking off in – where else? – Dallas:

The “boilerplate sports bar analysis” to which Adam refers is the consensus opinion that because Tony Romo has won exactly one playoff game in his career, he’s somehow an underachieving, underperforming, un-clutch quarterback. Cannot possibly imagine how we as an NFL community could have all made that leap together.

Anyway, the linked article is to Cold Hard Football Facts, which is taking on the heroic mission of proving via statistics that Romo and the Cowboys are not, in fact, choking dogs when the pressure’s on. Hell of a challenge, yes, but CHFF spends nearly 2,500 words to show us that, hey, that one playoff win aside, Romo and the Cowboys really aren’t gaggers! Or at least, not as bad as we think!

For instance, did you know that “Romo’s 100.7 career passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime (playoffs included) is the highest among all quarterbacks since 2000 (minimum 150 attempts)”? Or “Romo has seven straight seasons with a passer rating of at least 90.0 (minimum 200 attempts). Only Steve Young (1991-98) and Peyton Manning (2003-10) have ever done that. Romo’s 95.6 passer rating is fifth all time.” Or “A whopping 18 of his 19 clutch wins (94.7 percent) have included a comeback”?

It’s an admirable statistical defense of Romo (as well as an outright jab at more highly-regarded quarterbacks like Rodgers, Rivers and Newton), but by the end of it, you’ve got your fists balled against the side of your head and you’re rocking back and forth like Jesse Pinkman trying to keep the sweet-sounding poison of Walter White out of your skull. It sounds so, so good, yes, but you know it’s WRONG, Mr. White!

Yes, Romo is a better quarterback than he gets credit for, particularly given that he was undrafted. Yes, some other quarterbacks get love, awards and even Super Bowl rings when they don’t deserve it. But that big ugly 1 – that lone playoff win – is what hangs around Romo’s neck no matter how many Week 8 miracles he engineers. Unless and until he’s able to put a few more postseason wins on the board – and that window is slamming shut -- he and Cowboy fans will have to deal with the disregard. Comes with being America’s Football Royalty, y’all. No trophies for Good Job, Good Effort. Deal with it.

More to the point: you think Jerry Jones would rather have a statistically proficient regular-season loser or a functionally illiterate lucky-bounce Super Bowl champion? Yeah, thought so.

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Will Brady Quinn be the Jets starter by week 3? - Stuart Nichols

Nah, he’ll have already had his shot. The Jets will be bringing Browning Nagle back by then.

I cannot remember being more excited to watch a team implode than I am the New York Jets. Their combination of hubris and incompetence is unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. The late-‘90s Bonilla-Rickey Mets, the Kobe-Shaq-Payton-Mailman Lakers, the early Dan Snyder fantasy-team Redskins – these were teams that were always careening toward a cliff, but they at least played halfway decently before they went over. The Jets may somehow figure a way to lose 18 games this year.

The best part of this team is that its toxicity seeps outward from the quarterback slot to envelop anyone who comes within its orbit. Think about it: the Jets’ crappy play has contaminated generally indifferent team ownership, their glad-to-be-gone alumni, every media outlet tasked with covering this dumpster fire on a daily basis (too many links to mention), and even the governor of their own state. That’s the kind of institutional futility you just applaud, for we may never see its like again.

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Hey, speaking of the Jets, let’s take a little commercial break. We’ll feature a different classic commercial in this space every week; this time around, we remember better days in green and white:

Holy sweet heaven, what an amazing commercial. The ‘70s were the best ... well, if you were a white male, of course. Like PED chemists against anti-doping testing councils, Namath, Farrah and the rest of that crew were running laps around censors who weren’t even aware a race was going on.

Who’d be the best candidates for that ad today? I’m going Eli and Miley.

(Got a favorite old football commercial? Hit us with the link.)

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Let's say you find a magic lamp and the genie gives you one of two options. One, you can have a luxury suite on the 50-yard line for Atlanta Falcons games for the rest of your life. Or, two, your living room is equipped with a $200K sound system, as many televisions as your favorite sports bar and a kitchen that spits out wings, burritos and pizza each fall Sunday. Which one are you taking? - Kevin, Lisle, IL

Are you allowed to negotiate with genies? Because I feel like that Falcons pot needs some sweetenin’. I get the jacked-up living room, and it’s not just going to be for football. I’ll never see the sun again. BUT, if you start throwing in options like, I dunno … a free helicopter ride to and from the game (we could go right in through the iris of the new Falcons stadium, like I was a Bond supervillain), then it starts to tip the balance a bit more.

Because let’s be honest: the sublime joy of an NFL game is an exceptional moment in time that is bookended by hours and hours of pure hell. Traffic, jersey-clad meatheads trying to out-mook each other, that number that keeps popping up on your cell that you ignore until you remember it’s your kid you were supposed to help with a project due tomorrow, post- (and, in Philly, pre-) game vomit spackling the parking lot … the in-game experience isn’t exactly the well-scrubbed nirvana the beer commercials would have you believe.

Which is exactly why a plush living room and a wing-spitting kitchen is the NFL’s worst nightmare. I would not be surprised to see Roger Goodell mandating that certain homes be blacked out, not just certain cities. So you’d be stuck either going to the game or watching it at the home of your one friend who’s still making those “I’m going to draft Aaron Hernandez!” jokes. A steaming stadium urinal trough would seem like heaven in comparison.

Oh, and either way, there'll have to be a price paid for this sometime in the afterlife, I'm sure. I'll be reincarnated as a locker room laundry basket or something.

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Yeah, so, apparently it’s not enough for nerds to have dominion over the rest of humanity via the Internet and blockbuster movies; they’re wanting to get geeky-ass smart watches on all our wrists too. Here’s an article on Qualcomm watches, which, if they’re anything like the Chargers’ stadium with which they share a name, will be outdated and rather pointless given all other possible nearby options.

Anyway, now that we’re firmly in the FOOTBALL ON YOUR PHONE era, it’s not long before the NFL figures a way to route its games onto your phone – right through your wallet, of course. And upon contemplation, I am in favor of it. Why? It’s a lot easier to covertly view a game on a watch than a cell phone. It’ll make dull college classes, ill-scheduled weddings and poorly-timed funerals tolerable. Throw in a wireless Bluetooth ear bud and your only concern is not shrieking in rage when your quarterback* throws a pick-six that costs you the week.

Oh, and Andy Reid would spend an entire game looking for his Magic Talkin' Watch, then realize it was on his other wrist.

*-Tony Romo, of course. Zing.

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This preseason there has been a lot of continued talk on how teams will tackle the Read Option throughout the NFL. Something that seems to be flying under the radar is the increased use of The Pistol alignment by teams, not just in conjunction with the Read Option but also independently.

I would like to know how many teams this preseason have used The Pistol alignment. I am aware that even Peyton Manning has been lined up in The Pistol although we all know he won't run the Read Option. I would like to know how many teams have used it and also how often. - J.R. Rogers

So we all know what we’re talking about here: the Pistol formation is a relatively new offensive alignment where the quarterback sets up a few yards back of the center, but not as far back as a shotgun, while the running back lines up directly behind (rather than beside) him. It’s generally geared to read-option show ponies like Russell Wilson, and it’s the kind of thing that gets offensive coordinators salivating onto their Applebee’s napkins.

Now, J.R., given the fact that most everybody associated with the NFL, even up to and including several head coaches, gave up on watching the preseason somewhere around the middle of the Week 2 games, I can’t give you precise numbers, and moreover, I’m a little concerned that you’re even asking. Still, you know the usual suspects: 49ers, Seahawks, Redskins, Panthers, and the aforementioned Broncos. Wikipedia tells us that the Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs and Bills have also experimented with it, as well as the Lions, which has to be some kind of death knell for the formation. Seriously, when the Lions jump on board a trendy scheme, it’s like your mom twerking. (And now whenever someone mentions the Detroit Lions, you’ll be imagining your mom twerking. You’re welcome.)

By the way, what’s the over-under on somebody petitioning the NFL to end the use of violent offensive scheme names like Pistol? I’ll say three months. Once they get rid of the Redskins name, they’re comin’ for you, Shotgun. And then we’ll get to hear Jim Harbaugh barking out vein-popping demands for his Gummi Bear Rainbow-Sparkle formation. I cannot wait.

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All right, friends, that’ll do it for this week. Think you can do better than this week’s round of letter-writers? Take your shot by emailing jay.busbee@yahoo.com and hitting me up on Twitter at @jaybusbee. This is also a reminder that you can tune in to our twice-weekly podcast, the catchily-named Shutdown Corner Podcast, right here on iTunes. And come on back to Shutdown Corner every day, multiple times a day, for the best NFL coverage in the known universe.

Enjoy the games, everybody!

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